The Good, The Disappointing & The Downright Miserable: Devi’s June 2024 Viewing Roundup

June 4th, 2024

After beginning the first half of the year with a solid run of consecutively pleasing films, I’ve hit a real hit or miss patch this past month. Nevertheless, there have been a few winners, so I’ll start with those and work my way down:


EVIL DOES NOT EXIST (in theaters): This is another film that, like PERFECT DAYS, would likely make for a mind-numbingly boring screenplay. The bulk of the film depicts incredibly mundane occurrences without much in the way of plot. Unlike PERFECT DAYS, there were scenes in the film that felt a bit slower than need be. Nevertheless, the overall experience was remarkably engaging and the subtle tensions rising throughout culminate in an ending that’s provided much fodder for online discussion. My own first reaction to what initially felt like an abrupt confusing ending to such a deliberately paced film was dissatisfaction—not unlike how I felt at the end of MAY/DECEMBER and several other recent films with equally ambiguous endings. However, by morning, after my mind had time to wrap itself around the entire experience, I was fairly blown away. Thanks to directors like Spielberg, contemporary audiences grown lazy under the weight of heavy-handed storytelling that leaves little room for us to think, feel and process on our own. If you likewise find that insulting and boring, this may be the film for you.

BABES (in Theaters): This female buddy comedy has been likened to the “BRIDESMAIDS OF BABYMAKING” and I could not disagree more. Whereas BRIDESMAIDS, directed by a man, featured so-called female friends at each other’s throats and relied on unfunny (IMO) gross-out humor for the sake of being gross, BABES, directed by a woman, depicts a supportive female friendship that becomes strained due to the pressures of motherhood in a patriarchal capitalist society that sets women up to fail and employs surprisingly funny depictions of gross-out humor to make poignant points about what happens to a woman’s body during pregnancy. It also features one of the most romantic, feminist (albeit heartbreaking) depictions of a hetero-normative one-night stand I’ve ever seen. And for the first two-thirds of the film, the script features clever, laugh-out loud storytelling. Alas, the final act feels rushed, cliché and unworthy of the rest. A shame, because this would have gone from an amusing film to something truly special had it taken some extra time to conclude with a bit more depth.


PROBLEMISTA (streaming on Prime): I love Tilda Swinton and the previews for this film looked ever so promising. And it’s not without its merits. There are some clever insights, intriguing concepts and no lack of eye-candy to enjoy. However, it ultimately felt like the writer came up with a bunch of cool ideas and cobbled them together with little regard to how they would build into a meaningful journey.

I SAW THE TV GLOW (in theaters): This was another film that seduced me with a promising trailer only to let me down with a cobbled together bunch of really cool ideas and images that ultimately led nowhere. Too bad. The first act kept me engaged, raising interesting questions about where the characters’ journeys were headed, but then it seemed to descend into a parade of clickbait imagery to trigger periodic dopamine spikes that departed from any meaningful character insight and pulled back to focus simply focus on events sans sufficient information to arrive at a satisfying conclusion. Given the strength of the film’s visuals and atmosphere, I do hope to see director Jane Schoenburn armed with a better developed screenplay in the future.


THE FALL GUY (streaming Amazon): My partner and I endured the first 30 minutes with utter displeasure, but at that point even when the story finally appeared to be kicking off, it still didn’t grab our interest, so we walked out. what went wrong? Personally, I take no pleasure in watching stories about whiny, brooding manbabies – a role which seems to have become Ryan Gosling’s specialty. I also don’t appreciate female characters who bend over backwards to accommodate them.

BACK TO BLACK (in theaters): Given the poor critical reception of this film, labeling it as bland, tiresome and cliché, my expectations were already low. Sadly, not low enough. While I agree with the general consensus that Marisa Abela did a tremendous job embodying her character, the script was so miserable there was simply no saving this film. For anyone who’s seen the documentary, you are well aware that Amy Winehouse’s father, as well as her husband, played a key role in her downfall (as we’ve likewise seen with other female pop stars – Whitney Houston, Britney Spears, etc.). However, in this film, for which I hear the father served as a consultant in shaping the story, he’s portrayed as a supportive and loving parent of a troubled addict. Much like  SPENCER, The Princess Diana biopic, BACK TO BLACK paints our female protagonist simultaneously as a headcase who invites her own misfortunes and a victim of emotional trauma without offering any context whatsoever. A sad but unsurprising state of affairs. Both of these intelligent and talented women deserved better.





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