film review: HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Written & directed by Mike Leigh
Produced by Simon Channing-Williams
Cinematography by 
Dick Pope
Edited by Jim Clark
Music by Gary Yershon
Cast: Sally Hawkins, Eddie Marsan, Alexis Zegerman & Samuel Roukin
U.K., 2008, 118 minutes

[Article originally appeared: http://www.rabbireport.com/archives/2008/10/nyff-08–review.htm]

Mike Leigh is one of my all-time favorite filmmakers and I recently had the pleasure of making his acquaintance. I mentioned in a brief conversation just prior to a press conference for the 2008 New York Film Festival screening of “Happy-Go-Lucky”, that I had been obsessively watching his BBC television plays from the 1970s (“Abigail’s Party”, “Nuts in May”). While he expressed his appreciation, he also expressed some rancor. He was very frustrated with the quality of those tele-plays we have over here, complaining that they were unauthorized and of terrible quality. Attempting to be as upbeat as possible, I exhorted how the impact of the dramas shown through and, really, who cared about the quality. He thanked me tersely, and I could tell that he was somewhat less impressed. When moments later I asked if I could take a quick photo of him and his star, Sally Hawkins, they politely looked my way and I could hear him mutter to her, “he writes for a web site.”

Sally Hawkins in Mike Leigh's HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

You’d be hard pressed to find any character in the movies today quite so happy or go-lucky as Poppy, as played by the irrepressible Sally Hawkins (“Vera Drake”, “The Painted Veil”). Constant movement is integral to Poppy’s nature and as the film opens, we observe her breezing about London on her bicycle, waving and smiling at passers-by. They are all off camera and, frankly, who they are and whether they are returning her waves is beside the point. It’s clear from the get-go that Poppy is a ray of sunshine, nonplussed by the stoic book clerk she meets in the film’s first scene. “We didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye” is her reaction moments later when she discovers her bike and sole means of transportation, has been pilfered. But that’s okay because she was meaning to learn to drive anyhow. Poppy’s glass is always half full regardless of how much life she gulps down.

Read more

film review: AMEXICANO

Directed by Matthew Bonifacio
Written by Carmine Famiglietti
Produced by Matthew Bonifacio & Carmine Famiglietti
Cinematography: 
William M. Miller
Edited by Morty Ashkinos & Ilya Magazanin
Music by Kerry Muzzey
Cast: Carmine Famiglietti, Raúl Castillo, Jennifer Peña, Michael Aronov & Manny Perez
U.S., 2007, 84 minutes

“Amexicano” tells two stories, the first a light hearted ethnic comedy about the growing friendship between an Italian American and a Mexican immigrant both struggling with their co-dependency for each other and the stronger need for a paycheck. The second story is a much darker one about just how precarious the life of an illegal immigrant can be. While this often charming indie film presents a vivid and convincing portrait of both sides of the coin, its turn in narrative might feel abrupt to some. If that’s the worst that can be said about director Matthew Bonifacio’s film which premiered at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival last year, then he should feel proud of the outcome.

Carmine Famiglietti & Raúl Castillo in AMEXICANO

Bruno (Carmine Famiglietti) is an unemployed underachiever living in a basement apartment in Flushing, Queens. Prone to laziness and late with his rent, Bruno is given the opportunity to do some contracting work for his landlord and friend, Alex (Michael Aronov). When it’s clear that the work is too much for just one man, Alex suggests that Bruno pick up one of the many Mexicans who populate a particular corner on Northern Boulevard. After choosing one bad apple -a bully (a convincing Manny Perez) who ends up playing a pivotal part later in the story– Bruno ends up hiring Ignacio (Raúl Castillo) , a hard working and dependable soul. The two are initially suspicious of one another; Bruno claims that English should be the only language spoken in the United States while Ignacio who gives the impression of not speaking any English at all, keeps the small talk to a minimum. But we learn that Bruno is no Archie Bunker (neither was Archie Bunker, when you got down to it.-Ed.), despite the inclinations he expresses at first. And it’s through his growing admiration of Ignacio’s work ethic that Bruno shags off his own lazy tendencies, both work-related as well as bigotry-wise. Read more