The stage mom is usually perceived as aggressively pushing their child into the spotlight, so that they themselves can vicariously experience stardom.
The reverse is very much the case in(15A), which stars Jackie Weaver as Maybelline Metcalf, a quiet, conservative choir mistress in the rural Texas town of Red Vine. When Maybelline receives word that her only son, Rickey, has died in San Francisco, the tragedy is compounded by the fact that Maybelline and her husband Jeb (Hugh Thompson) have been estranged from Rickie for the past ten years, and largely because the homophobic Jeb couldn’t cope with the fact that his son had grown up to become a successful drag queen.
Travelling to San Francisco for the funeral, Maybelline is initially terrified when she meets Rickey’s soulmate Sienna (Lucy Liu), his partner Nathan (Adrian Grenier), and the flamboyant cast of drag queens who take to the stage at Rickie’s club, Pandora’s Box.
Soon, however, Maybelline discovers that she has more in common with Rickey’s friends than she might have believed – the songs they lip-synch to might be different to those performed by a Baptist choir, she tells them, but the wigs and the egos are the same – and a painful process of coming to terms with her rejection of Rickey begins…
Brad Hennig’s script, which is directed by Thom Fitzgerald, is a little too accommodating in terms of how easily Maybelline overcomes the obstacles placed in her way to become the stage mother (or drag mother) of Pandora’s Box; that said, Maybelline is entirely pragmatic in the way she adheres to the Christian principle of love thy neighbour, and the result is a charming, sweet-natured tale of tolerance and acceptance, and especially when it comes to self-forgiveness.
Jackie Weaver is magnetically empathetic in the lead role (the final scene, played out to Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart, is real tear-jerker), and she gets strong support from Lucy Liu, Mya Taylor and Allister MacDonald. (cinema release)
(12A) stars Patrick Stewart as the aging concert pianist Henry Cole, who is experiencing a severe crisis of confidence in the wake of his wife’s death.
When Henry meets the young New Yorker journalist Helen Morrison (Katie Holmes), who was herself once a promising musician, their meeting of minds galvanises him to play again, and to perhaps even hope that Helen might some day become something more than his inspiration.
Written by Louis Godbout and directed by Claude Lalonde, Life with Music (aka Coda), is a slow-burning affair that isn’t afraid to delve deeply into the big issues, with Holmes’ voiceover invoking Friedrich Nietzsche and his theory of eternal reoccurrence as Helen ponders life’s ineffable questions.
Meanwhile, Henry’s crisis of confidence is as much existential as it is professional, and largely because music has defined Henry’s life to such an extent that the two are virtually interchangeable: when he says that the concert pianist inhabits ‘a realm of small differences’, for example, he could just as easily be talking about his experience of life as the minute variations he brings to the work of Schumann, Beethoven and Chopin.
Itself as delicately nuanced as the music it celebrates, Life with Music will reward the patient viewer, with Patrick Stewart and Katie Holmes both in excellent form and dovetailing neatly as an urbane but psychologically detached genius and an emotionally intelligent muse, respectively.
The soundtrack, of course, is to die for, with Serhiy Salov performing selected works from Bach, Rachmaninov, Liszt, Scriabin, Scarlatti and Schubert, among others. (various streaming platforms)
(15A) stars Drew van Acker as Corey Gage, who, if not the world’s greatest spy, is certainly its cheesiest.
When the globe-trotting Corey bumps into cosmetic saleswoman Pam (Poppy Delevingne) during a mission, it’s love at first sight, and soon Corey and Pam are settling down to the American Dream of a suburban three-bedroom house with white picket fence – all of which obliges Corey’s spy buddy Smuts (Blake Anderson) to stage an intervention to haul Corey back into the spy game.
Written by Mark Famiglietti and Lane Garrison, and directed by Drew Mylrea, Spy Intervention is an intermittently amusing spy movie spoof, although, given the many and varied clichés associated with the spy flick, it’s surprising how many of the punchlines and gags fail to land (on the evidence here, neither Drew van Acker nor Poppy Delevingne are natural comedians).
The performances too are unexpectedly subdued, and only Natasha Bassett, in the role of femme fatale, delivers the kind of scenery-chewing turn that might, if more of her co-stars had risen to her challenge, have given the ludicrous storyline some badly needed energy and momentum. (various streaming platforms)