Coco Before Chanel (2009)

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Before Chanel no. 5 and the interlocking Cs, and before the iconic quilted bag and the classic Chanel suit there was Gabrielle Chanel, an orphan whose unorthodox fashion sense revolutionized the way we dress. And in the French film (with English subtitles) Coco Before Chanel we learn of Coco Chanel’s early years.

Gabrielle Chanel’s life began quite humbly. As the film commences, young Gabrielle Chanel, along with her sister, are left at a Catholic orphanage by their father. Though Gabrielle’s childhood seemed bleak, she did learn how to sew, and the simple austerity of the nun’s habits influences her design aesthetic. Years, later and now played by Audrey Tatou, Gabrielle is working as a seamstress at a dress shop and singing at a cabaret with her sister.

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While singing in the cabaret, Gabrielle meets Etienne Balsan (Benoit Poelvoorde), a man of considerable wealth. They strike up a friendship and he bestows her with the nickname, Coco, the name of a song she and her sister often sing. Before long Coco becomes his erstwhile mistress. She thinks his wealth may be beneficial in improving her life. Before long she is living with Balsan at his country estate.

Coco isn’t in love with Balsan, yet she bristles when he calls her his “geisha” and doesn’t appreciate when he tries to keep her hidden in the kitchen when he’s entertaining guests. Coco is not the type of femme to be ignored, and she finally asserts herself and introduces herself to Balsan’s friends.

One of Balsan’s friends is an actress and former lover Emilienne (Emmanuelle Devos). Emilienne grows fond of Coco, and is quite intrigued by her odd dress sense. At a time where women wore elaborate dresses and hats, overdone with lace, ribbons, plumes, flowers and other accessories, Coco’s simple, menswear-inspired designs were truly avant garde. But Emilienne grows to love Coco’s look, and begins to support Coco’s fashion endeavors.

At this time Coco also meets and falls in love with one of Balsan’s friends, Arthur “Boy” Capel (Alessandro Nivola), a wealthy English man. Boy adores Coco but he won’t marry her. He is betrothed to another. Not surprisingly, Coco is not happy with this news, and she makes sure Capel provides with enough money to set up her own dress shop. Coco may never share his last name, but she’ll be damned if she gets nothing out of the love affair.

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Throughout the film, we get brief flashes on Coco’s fashion influences. She cuts up Balsan’s ties, suits and shirts to fit her petite figure. She lounges around in men’s pajamas. While at the sea, she notices the fishermen’s striped jerseys, and soon they become part of her look. In another pivotal scene, we see Coco at a dress shop, administering instructions to the shopkeeper on the kind of dress she wants, black, and no corset underneath. Voila, the little black dress, the mainstay of every woman’s wardrobe, is created.

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It is these moments I wish Coco Before Chanel would have focused on. Only rarely do we get to see Coco become the Coco Chanel in scenes where she is draping and cutting of fabric, making hats and finding inspiration for her designs. I do wish the film focused more on the emerging designer, and not the romantic melodramatics among Coco, Balsan and Boy Capel. The romantic melodramatics stunted the film, and made it come across like another costume drama you might find on PBS. This narrative isn’t exactly original, and if Coco Chanel was anything it was original.

Though I’m sure Coco’s personal life was interesting, I wanted it in smaller doses. It was Coco’s ascent as a fashion designer and laser-focused work ethic on creating her clothing and her brand that I wanted to see. We do get a brief glimpse of this at the end when Coco presents one of her collections at her atelier in Paris. But these scenes are all too fleeting. Perhaps what is needed is a sequel, Coco After Chanel. Mais oui?

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The September Issue (2009)

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To a lot of us, fashion seems like a fluffy and superficial profession. But to countless fashion insiders everywhere it is a deadly serious business. This is a business where people know the difference between puce and plum, and where hemlines and necklines are of utmost importance. And that cute handbag you just bought from Target? Quite likely it’s a knock-off of a pricier designer handbag a fashion editor claimed was the “must have” of the season.

And there is probably no more important fashion magazine than American Vogue. At the helm is the British ex-pat Anna Wintour and Vogue is the bible to fashionistas everywhere. And no issue of Vogue is more important than the mammoth September issue, chock full of fashion and beauty layouts, articles, celebrity profiles and yes, lots and lots of advertisements.

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Documentarian RJ Cutler (The War Room, which focused on the 1992 Clinton presidential campain) turns his unblinking camera lens to the creation of the 2007 September issue of Vogue in the documentary The September Issue. The September Issue follows Wintour and crew as the September Issue begins with some nuggets of ideas to a fully-formed magazine on the newsstand.

The September Issue begins with Wintour reflecting on the power of fashion and how it can make some people nervous. Known mostly for her whippet-thin figure, swingy bob and dark sunglasses, it was a bit jarring to hear Wintour speak. Sure, she’s not warm and fuzzy, but there is a reflective side to her that makes her quite human.

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During the film we see Wintour meeting with staff to discuss the issue. We see her jetting off to London, Paris and Rome to attend fashion shows and meet with designers. Wintour can make or break a designer with one raised eyebrow so I wouldn’t be surprised if even established designers like Jean Paul Gaultier and Karl Lagerfeld felt a bit nervous about meeting her. But when Wintour likes a designer she is behind that person 110%. Wintour was an early supporter of Thakoon (one of Michelle Obama’s fave designers). Her support of him, dare I say it, is almost sweet.

Wintour is also the editor that put celebrities on the covers of Vogue over models, and the chosen celebrity for this September issue is British actress Sienna Miller. Sienna comes to the Vogue offices and is outfitted in beautiful couture gowns, many which will end up in the magazine. However, the staff is flummoxed by Miller’s hair, which is growing out awkwardly, and not quite up to the magazine’s standards. Later, Wintour is not happy with Sienna’s photo layout shot by legendary photographer, Mario Testino, and the design staff scrambles to make a viable cover.

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Though Wintour is at the top of the Vogue heap, she is not alone in making Vogue what it is. In September Issue, we get to meet editor-at-large (literally) Andre Leon Talley, the cape wearing and Vuitton-loving male Auntie Mame who seems to be employed to kiss Wintour’s skinny ass. I can’t imagine what Talley actually does for the magazine, but he definitely added a fun element to the movie. If he didn’t exist, a Hollywood  would have to create him.

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And then there is the brilliant creative director Grace Coddington. Coddington started out as a fashion model in the swinging sixties. But after suffering a horrific car crash, Coddington turned her talents to fashioned a role behind the camera. Coddington is the yang to Wintour’s yin. If Wintour is all about commerce and wondering if it will sell, Coddington is all about art and creating beautiful and over-the-top fashion layouts that are all fantasy.

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Not surprisingly, Wintour and Coddington don’t always see eye to eye. As the issue is being put together, Coddington is creating a 1920s Parisian cafe society fashion layout inspired by the designer Galianos. Coddington’s vision is pure magic, yet Wintour is not pleased with one of the photos, and wants it deleted. Coddington is not happy. This layout is her baby. Yet, I could see both their points. The shot is gorgeous, yet it doesn’t quite work with the rest of the photographs. The offending photo is cut.

However, Coddington does get to make one final decision. During a last minute photo shoot for another layout, Coddington taps the documentary’s cinematographer, Bob Richman, to join the model in a photo. He happily obliges. Wintour takes a look at the resulting photo and wants to airbrush Richman’s slight pot belly. Coddington nixes the idea, saying, “Everybody isn’t perfect in this world.” Richman’s belly stays in the picture. Finally, after months of preparation, the September 2007 issue of Vogue is released. It weighs over four pounds and is over 800 pages, the largest issue in Vogue history.

RJ Cutler’s “fly on the wall” film making style is what helps make this movie so interesting. You get to see everyone in their element without film maker commentary. I was stunned to see the staff look at the mock ups on a huge wall where pictures and layout can be moved by hand rather than doing it on a computer. I was also pleasantly surprised to see how un-Botoxed and unmade-up the staff was even though most of them, like their leader, is very, very thin. Also, I was surprised how plain the Vogue offices are. I was expecting something ostentatious and grand, but the offices are quite non-descript.

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But most of all, I was surprised how much I didn’t despise Anna Wintour. Sure, she isn’t at Vogue to make friends, but she isn’t the vicious harpy the media makes her out to be. Yes, she’s reserved and exacting but so are a lot of people in any cut throat business. And I doubt any negativity thrown Wintour’s way would be applied to a successful man. But still, Wintour does show some vulnerability as when she talks about her siblings, all of them in more serious professions, who are quite “amused” by her career.

September Issue is a fascinating look at both a legendary magazine and the talented people who make it happen. It is the “must have” for both fashion and film lovers.

Tribute: Audrey Hepburn

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“I never think of myself as an icon. What is in other people’s minds is not in my mind. I just do my thing.” – Audrey Hepburn 

If she had lived, Audrey Hepburn would have turned 88 years old today. Sadly, we lost her over twenty years ago. She never had the chance to reach this milestone. Being a huge fan of Audrey Hepburn, I could continue to mourn her death but I’d rather reflect on why she and her amazing life mean so much to me.

I first became interested in Audrey when I first saw the movie Funny Face as a teenager. In this movie, Audrey plays Jo Stockton, a mousy bookstore clerk turned haute couture fashion model. I figured I’d love this cinematic fairy tale for the Parisian sights, Fred Astaire dance scenes, smart and subversive humor and Givenchy fashions. But I had no idea I would become besotted with a wide-eyed gamine named Audrey Hepburn.

It was a mystery why Audrey grabbed me so much. Sure, she was beautiful, talented and charming, but so are plenty of movie stars. Audrey just had that “it factor” I couldn’t explain but I knew I wanted to see more of her movies and learn more about her as a human being. Who was the Audrey Hepburn beyond the flickering celluloid?

I began renting Audrey’s movies and watching them over and over again. Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Roman Holiday, Sabrina, My Fair Lady and Charade were just a few of Audrey’s movies I couldn’t get enough of. In these movies, she was both lady-like and spunky, at turns heartbreaking and strong, and so very Audrey. Sure, she made characters like Holly Golightly and Sabrina Fairchild household names, but she wasn’t afraid to court controversial topics like the possibility of lesbianism in The Children’s Hour or a nun questioning her faith in The Nun’s Story. And in her last movie, Always, she played an angel. Now she really is one.

And we can’t mention Audrey without discussing her impeccable sense of style with her friend and confidant, fashion designer, Hubert de Givenchy. Audrey helped introduce women to fashionable basics we now take for granted-big sunglasses, the little black dress, ballet flats to name a few. How empty our closets would be without Audrey’s influence. And she was always willing to give Givenchy the important credit for creating the “Audrey Look.” Audrey wore his clothing in her movies and her in personal life. She often claimed knowing what she’d be wearing in a movie helped her develop a character, and complimented Givenchy’s outfits for making her feel protected.

Like any other woman, Audrey had her share of joy and heartbreak in her life. Her parents divorced when she was a child, and she rarely saw her father afterwards. She nearly starved to death during World War II after the Nazis took over her homeland, Holland. As an adult, she was married and divorced twice, finally finding lasting love with the love of her life, Robert Wolders. Desperate to be a mother, Audrey suffered several miscarriages, finally giving birth to her first son, Sean, in 1960 with Luca following in 1970. Being a mother was Audrey’s greatest joy, and just like so many other mothers out there, she tried to achieve work/life balance and slowed down her career to devote time to her boys.

But Audrey’s care and concern went beyond her own children. In 1988, she got involved in UNICEF. UNRRA, UNICEF’s forerunner, helped Audrey at the end of World War II, and she wanted to pay them back. She became a Goodwill Ambassador and traveled around the world witnessing the atrocities of famine, drought, war, lack of education and how these issues damaged young lives. She took this new found knowledge and informed others, inspiring them to help.

It was during this time, I got to see Audrey in person. Before her untimely death, my friend Nora and I saw Audrey read from the Diary of Anne Frank, accompanied by the New World Symphony and conducted by the legendary Michael Tilson Thomas. Audrey was one of those people who spurned us to action, and to this day, Nora and I are involved in causes within our communities and abroad.

On a final trip to Somalia, Audrey fell ill. At first she thought it was a simple virus, but it was soon found out that she had colon cancer. And sadly, she lost her battle to cancer on January 20th, 1993. Nearly everyone mourned her death. Tiffany & Co. took out an entire page of the New York Times to memorialize her, and People magazine devoted a special issue in her honor. To this day, I can remember hot, sticky tears pouring down my face when Entertainment Tonight played “Moon River” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s as it showed scenes from her movie and her life.

After Audrey’s death, her sons founded the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund to commemorate her work on behalf of children everywhere. As for me personally, Audrey Hepburn has influenced me in countless ways. Probably the most important way is by improving my community and the world around us through self-education, volunteering, charitable giving, and donating my skills to causes I care about.

Audrey was like a lot of us, yet she compels us to aspire to things greater than ourselves. My life is richer because of her, and I know she will continue to inspire many others. You are missed my Huckleberry friend.

“The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mode but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives the passion that she shows. The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years.” – Audrey Hepburn

A  Night in With Audrey Hepburn by Lucy Holliday

Audrey at Home: Memories of My Mother’s Kitchen by Luca Dotti with Luigi Spinola

I Watch It So You Don’t Have To: Intern (2000)*

 

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If any industry seems perfect for satire and parody it’s fashion, especially the rarefied world of fashion magazines. Fashion doyennes decide where our hemlines will be this season with the same seriousness as preparing military readiness in the Middle East. Bulimia and anorexia are considered virtues. And Botox is as necessary as air and water. Ugly Betty was a successful television sitcom immersed in the world of fashion, and The Devil Wears Prada was a huge smash, so I had big hopes for the indie movie Intern. Sadly, Intern turned out to be as big of a Glamour fashion don’t as see-through jeans and pretty much every outfit you see on the Kardashians.

Dominique Swain plays Jocelyn Bennett, an intern at the fashion magazine Skirt. Jocelyn is apparently a photographer, though you never once see her take a picture, and she is fan of Skirt’s innovative layouts and photography. Sadly, in the brief moments we get to see Skirt, the actual magazine, you wonder if the layout was done by a third-grader on Power Point back in 1998. Yes, I know this movie was low budget, but you think someone could have tried a bit harder.

When Jocelyn isn’t making copies, faxing, running errands and cleaning up Skirt staffers’ desks, she’s pining away for the magazine’s art director, Paul Rochester (Ben Pullen). Paul is a fashion magazine rarity, a straight man. And he’s also allegedly related to Prince Charles. Paul is very fond of Jocelyn but at the moment he is involved with a bitch-on-heels fashion model named Resin (Leilani Bishop).

As Intern begins we find out a Skirt insider has been selling Skirt’s secrets to rival magazine. Jocelyn figures finding out who this insider is just might make her a hero at the magazine, and she goes about trying to find out which fashionista has betrayed Skirt. This also gives her a chance to get closer to Paul. Of course, mayhem ensues, blah, blah, blah. But by the time the movie reaches its dénouement, we really aren’t that invested.

I should have known this movie was going to be crap when it began with a cringe-worthy musical number. Most of the observances of the fashion industry, like when an editor makes herself vomit after finding out the milk in her coffee is 2%, not skim, fall flat. The dialogue is clunky, and when Paul tells Jocelyn that she has the whole world inside of her I audibly groaned. A majority of the performances are wooden; only Kathy Griffin as Cornelia managed to get a laugh out of me.

A lot of blame also belongs on Swain whose acting in Intern is amateurish. At times she rushes through her lines and she has no comedic skills. Her Jocelyn is supposed to be the heroine but in the end you don’t care about her and her future at Skirt. Plus, if Jocelyn is supposed to be so much in fashion why does she dress like such a frump?

A lot of fashion designers and other fashion insiders make cameos playing themselves, and I have to admit that I did have fun naming them. “Hey, there’s Diane von Furstenberg!” “Hey, is that Simon Doonan?” And Vogue editor-at-large, Andre Leon Talley seems to have the ability to poke fun at himself.

Sadly, those cameos can’t make up for a dimwitted film. Intern was written by Caroline Doyle and Jill Kopelman, two women who claimed to have worked at fashion magazines. Buddhist monks could have written a better script. If you want to watch the fashion magazine industry skewered to great effect, you are better off staying home and binge watching Ugly Betty.

*Not to be confused with the 2015 movie The Intern starring Ann Hathaway and Robert DeNiro.

Iron Jawed Angels (2004)

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“Well-behaved women seldom make history” – Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

On August 26, 1920 the women of the United States got the right to vote. This did not come to be without the tireless efforts of many women, some of them known, some of them nameless. I am very grateful for the women who literally put their lives on the line to give me the right to vote, so I highly recommend the movie Iron Jawed Angels.

Iron Jawed Angels tells the story of two very brave women, suffragettes Alice Paul (Hilary Swank) and Lucy Burns (Frances O’Connor). In the beginning of the film, the two have returned to the United States after spending time in England where they’ve been very involved with women’s suffrage. They soon join forces with Carrie Chapman Catt (Angelica Huston) and other seasoned activists in the National American Women Suffrage Association (NAWSA) to help American women get the right to vote.

However, NAWSA finds Paul and Burns much too frivolous and rebellious. Paul and Burns are seen as way too radical for Catt and her cohorts when it comes to gaining women’s suffrage. Both young suffragists want a constitutional amendment for American women to have the right to vote. The older suffragists want to use a more conservative state-by-state approach.

Before long Paul and Burns break away from NAWSA and start their own organization, which they call the National Women’s Party (NWP). One of NWP’s goals is to oppose any candidate who is against a constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote.

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After disrupting President Woodrow Wilson’s speech to Congress after he refused to meet with the suffragettes to discuss the issue, Paul and Burns go on a country-wide speaking tour to drum up support for their cause. They join forces with influential people like labor lawyer Inez Mulholland (Julia Ormond) and political cartoonist Ben Weissman. There is even a strong attraction between Paul and Weissman, but she holds off on romance because she wants to devote her time to the cause.

While in San Francisco, Mulholland passes away. Paul is devastated. She feels guilty because she convinced Mulholland to go on tour with them even though she was seriously ill. Very depressed, Paul goes back to her family’s home. But soon Burns convinces her that she is desperately needed. Both ladies go back to Washington DC to further the cause.

The country is now involved in World War I. The idea of women getting the right to vote is seen as silly during war time, and public opinion is not favorable towards the suffragettes. While picketing on the sidewalk in DC, the suffragettes are arrested for the trumped-up charge of “obstructing traffic.” The suffragettes refuse to pay the fine and are sentenced to sixty days in a women’s prison.

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While imprisoned, Paul goes on a hunger strike after being put in solitary confinement and denied any legal representation. The other suffragettes join Paul in the hunger strike, and later they are violently force-fed by the warden.

Paul starts writing about their experiences after a guard smuggles her a pen and some paper. One of the suffragette’s husbands, a prominent senator, is so horrified by the conditions the suffragettes are living in that he gets the word out. Formerly despised, the suffragettes are now supported by the American public who calls them “iron jawed angels.”

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Despite her misgivings about Burns and Paul, Catt is impressed by all the work they have done in name of women’s right to vote. She convinces President Wilson to support women’s suffrage and soon the suffragettes are released from prison. After getting the appropriate amount of states to support the Susan B. Anthony amendment, American women were given the right to vote on August 26, 1920.

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Iron Jawed Angels is wonderfully acted and truly riveting. The story of these brave women is not very well-known but so important. And despite covering a very serious topic, Iron Jawed Angels has its lighter moments. In one scene, a young suffragette sees the cutest hat a store window and just has to have it proving one can be a feminist and a fashionista at the same time.

Iron Jawed Angels should be shown in American history classes. Every young woman and young man in America needs to learn this story. After watching this movie, you will never take the right to vote for granted again.

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Retro Reels: The Women (1939)

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Several years ago the remake of the movie classic The Women was released. Featuring an all-star cast, including Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Eva Mendes and Candace Bergen, this version of the original The Women was a modern take on friendship and frenemies, and love and betrayal among the wealthy socialites of Manhattan. It took 15 years for the remake of The Women to make it to the silver screen. Apparently, from some of the scathing reviews this version received, perhaps Hollywood should have waited another 15 years. A.O. Scott from the New York Times called it, “One of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.” Ouch.

However, I highly recommend the 1939 original. Based on the 1936 play by Renaissance woman, Clare Boothe Luce, The Women was adapted for the screen by Anita Loos and Jane Murfin, and directed by the famous “women’s director” George Cukor. Like the 2008 remake, this version of The Women also boasted an all-star cast, including Norma Shearer, Rosalind Russell, Joan Crawford and Paulette Goddard.

Norma Shearer plays Mary Haines, a seemingly happy wife and mother of husband Stephen and daughter, Little Mary. At a posh salon where Mary and her friends frequent, Mary’s friend and cousin, Sylvia Fowler (Rosalind Russell) learns some hot gossip. Mary’s husband is having an affair with a mankiller shopgirl named Crystal Allen played by Joan Crawford (who else?).

Well, what’s the good of gossip if it can’t be shared? Sylvia tells this gossip to Mary’s friends. They conspire to set Mary up with the manicurist who told Sylvia the sleazy news. While at this appointment, Mary hears the rumor that her husband and Crystal are having an affair. Though she tries to ignore this gossip, she can’t help but be suspicious. After all, Stephen has been working a lot of late nights.

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After a trip to Bermuda to clear her head, Mary goes to a fashion show. While at the show, Mary learns Crystal is there. She finds Crystal in a dressing room trying on some of the clothing from the fashion show. Mary confronts Crystal about the affair. Instead of denying Mary’s charges, Crystal admits to the affair. She also tells Mary that Stephen is going to divorce her, and Crystal will soon be the next Mrs. Stephen Haines.

Not surprisingly, Mary is absolutely heartbroken. This horrifying news has legs, and before long Sylvia spills the beans to a local gossip columnist turning Mary’s marital drama into a tabloid scandal. Mary may be heartbroken but she’s not willing to be the fool in her husband’s folly. Mary decides to leave Stephen and she goes to Reno to obtain a quickie divorce.

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While on a train to Reno, Mary befriends some women also on the way to Reno for quickie divorces. Among Mary’s new BFFs are Countess DeLave (Mary Boland) and former chorus girl Miriam Aarons (Paulette Goddard). And to Mary’s delight, she also runs into her good friend Peggy Day (Joan Fontaine).

Once Mary and her friends get to Reno they set up shop at a ranch and wait for their divorces to be finalized. The owner of the ranch, Lucy (Marjorie Main) is a bit rough around the edges, but she offers plenty of sage advice to the ladies. They all discuss life, love and marriage, both the good and the bad. The Countess even gets her groove back with a local cowboy named Buck Winston and plans to marry him once she’s a free woman.

Other secrets come out at the ranch. Miriam admits to an affair with Sylvia Fowler’s husband, yep, Mary’s backstabbing frenemy, and Miriam is going to marry Sylvia’s husband after she leaves Reno. Peggy reveals she is pregnant and the other women convince her to patch things up with her husband.

Before long Sylvia turns up in Reno, her husband leaving her for Miriam. Sylvia and Miriam meet up and the fur flies, with Mary breaking up the fight. Miriam tries to convince Mary to stall her divorce and go back to Stephen. Alas, it’s too late. Stephen soon calls Mary and tells her that he and Crystal have become husband and wife.

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It is two years later, and Crystal is Mrs. Stephen Haines. However, once an adulterous slut, always an adulterous slut. Crystal is having an affair with Buck Winston who is now married to Countess DeLave (still with me?). Little Mary finds out about her stepmother’s trampy ways when she overhears Crystal talking on the phone with Buck. And that scheming Sylvia Fowler is now friends with Crystal. Once she finds out Crystal is cheating on Stephen with Buck, she figures this is some more gossip she can use in the near future.

At the same time, Mary is throwing a big bash to celebrate the Countess and Buck’s anniversary. After the bash is over, Mary is asked to go to another party by the Countess, Miriam and Peggy. But Mary is beat and decides she’ll stay home. While talking to her daughter, Little Mary, Mary learns that Stephen isn’t happily married to Crystal and Crystal is having an affair with Buck. Well, who can stay home after hearing this little tidbit? Mary dresses herself to the nines, heads off the party and is determined to get the truth out and Stephen back from Crystal’s clutches.

At the party, Mary gathers all the women into the ladies’ room. Taking no prisoners, Mary reveals to the Countess that Buck is sleeping with Crystal. She tells Crystal that Stephen is fed up with her. Mary manages to make Sylvia and Crystal enemies during this, and a local gossip columnist hears the women fight with each other. However, Crystal doesn’t care for Stephen anymore and informs Mary that she can have him. After all, Buck, who is now a successful radio star, can support her with his riches. Not so fast, the Countess claims. All of Buck’s success is due to the Countess’ money, and without it, he’s nothing. After learning this, Crystal realizes she needs to go to Reno to procure her own quickie divorce, and then it’s back to the perfume counter. Ultimately, our heroine Mary is victorious and she and Stephen reconcile and heal their broken family.

As I mentioned, the original version of The Women came out in 1939, one of the best years in the history of film. Though hugely successful both critically and commercially, it never garnered any Oscar nominations. The Women took a risk by having an all-female cast and making the men tertiary characters. And it wasn’t afraid to take a scathing look at Manhattan’s upper crust. The Women is filmed in black and white but it has a splendid fashion show by top Hollywood designer Adrian filmed in color for Turner Classic Movies. The dialogue, considered quite shocking at the time, is whipsmart and delightfully catty, and probably influenced a great deal of female focused movies and TV shows. Crystal’s infamous line, “There is a name for you ladies, but it isn’t used in high society…outside of a kennel” could easily be used in Absolutely Fabulous, Sex and the City or more current televised lady fare like Girls or Broad City.

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The Women is a cinematic good time, and a classic not to missed. Grab your best girlfriends, put on your silk robes and marabou trimmed slippers, break open a bottle of bubbly and bond over The Women.

Sing Street (2015)

sing_street_posterIt’s 1985 in Dublin, Ireland and life isn’t going well for young Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo). His parents’ marriage is falling apart. His stoner older brother, Brendan, (Jack Raynor) has moved back home after dropping out of university, and his younger siblings are a pain the ass. Conor is also attending a repressive public school (private schools are called public schools in Ireland) where he is bullied by his classmates and one of his teachers seems to revile him.

However, there is one bright spot in Conor’s life, the beautiful and mysterious Raphina (Lucy Boynton), Raphina lives in group home and has dreams of becoming a model. Conor is smitten and decides to impress Raphina by telling her he’s in a band, and he needs a model to perform in his band’s videos.

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There is one glitch, though. Conor isn’t in a band, but if he wants to capture Raphina’s heart he better form one right away. And he gets onto this monumental task by recruiting several talented lads at his school to form a band, write some songs and make some videos inspired by the top pop talents of the mid-eighties. In true rock and roll fashion, Conor changes his name to more rock-friendly Cosmo and hones a more stylish look, which often entails whatever certain musicians and singers are wearing in his favorite videos (and looks most pop and rock fans who remember the 1980s all too well, sported themselves).

Top of the Pops hits, videos on MTV and winning Raphina’s heart are Conor’s main goals in life, as is escaping his dreary home and school life. It isn’t long before Conor’s parents announce their separation. And to make matters worse, Conor also has someone else vying for Raphina’s heart, an older man with a bitchin’ ride. How can Conor compete with that?

Well, with his band, of course. Conor is proving to be quite compelling behind the microphone, and is writing songs with witty lyrics and catchy hooks. His bandmates are going from strength to strength as musicians. Helping him along the way, is Conor’s older brother, Brendon, who mentors his baby brother through the power of music and his extensive vinyl LP collection.hqdefault

And then there is Raphina, the lovely Raphina, who adds just the right amount of female beauty and star quality to the band’s music. And though Raphina has a boyfriend with a bitchin’ car, she can’t help but warm up to Conor. Her cool girl veneer tapers off, and soon she feels comfortable to reveal more and more about herself and her less than ideal life at the group home, her parental history, and her fears of making it as a model, especially considering it hinges on leaving Dublin to London, more of a fashion mecca back in the day.

But despite all of these challenges, Conor and his band keep on reaching for rock and roll glory, which includes a talent show at his school, which thrills some people and leaves others, most notably Conor’s least favorite teacher, less than impressed.

Sing Street is a charmer of a film, one that rarely casts a false note in the expert film making hands of John Carney who directed 2007’s Once. The acting is exceptional, and everything from the mid-80s fashions to the look of 1985 Ireland rings true. Sure, at times, I questioned Conor’s almost genius way of crafting a proper pop lyric without breaking out in a sweat or facing any writer’s block, but at the same time I couldn’t help but tap my toes and bop in my seat every time these infectiously catchy songs were performed by the band or conveyed in the videos. And I must give a shout out to Jack Reynor who is a scene stealer as Conor’s older brother Brendon.

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In the end, Sing Street fills you with hope, happy rock and roll memories, and singing a happy tune. It is a movie elixir that brings you joy, which is much needed in our troubling times. I can’t recommend it enough.