“Call Me by Your Name”
“Call Me by Your Name,” directed in splendid fashion by Luca Guadagnino, is one of the most creative and interesting films released in 2017. Centered in an exquisite villa in Lombardy, Italy, it focuses on the meaning of love, both found and lost. It has justifiably been nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.
The film centers on a family led by Mr. Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg), an anthropologist dedicated to his wife and son as well as his work. Stuhlbarg enhances any movie as clearly reflected by his role as the New York Times Publisher Abe Rosenthal in “The Post” and his performance as a communist spy with a heart in the memorable “The Shape of Water.”
Stuhlbarg is matched by Amira Casar, who plays his intelligent and family-oriented wife Annella. However, it is their 17-year-old son Elio who commands their attention. Nominated for a Best Actor Oscar, you watch Timothée Chalamet’s heartbreaking performance as a teenage boy occupying most of his time writing music, playing both a guitar and piano, reading whenever possible, taking time to swim in a local lake while charming nearly every young girl that he meets.
Things change for everyone with the arrival of Oliver, a 30ish intern working under the direction of Mr. Perlman. As Elio shows Oliver the countryside on bicycle excursions, a friendship begins to develop that evolves into something emotionally deeper. Armie Hammer’s role as Oliver reminds you of the promise he displayed as one of the Winklevoss twins in “The Social Network” (2010).
Watching Oliver dance with some of the local girls, Elio is jealous that most of these young local girls are smitten with the older man. As Elio wrestles with his on-and-off relationship with Marzia (Esther Garrel), Oliver dominates his thoughts from the time he wakes up in the morning to going to bedat night.
Slowly, but surely, an earnest romance between two men evolves in a fashion seldom seen on the big screen. Oliver doesn’t want to offend the family giving him free room and board, nor does he want to enable a 17-year-old boy to go down a path that both may regret. Yet, their attraction to each other resembles two flies caught in a spider web, and you know that they both are eventually going to throw caution to the wind.
Most of us know that the heart is a lonely hunter, and no one can dictate the consequences when two people are attracted to each other. They are as likely to end up in each other’s arms as an old nail ends up attached to a young magnet.
While you know Oliver is going to have to leave, wait until you see a scene close to the end of the film where Mr. Perlman tenderly addresses his devastated son. Rather than condemn him, he tells his son to embrace the experience even if it now becomes a memory. Father reminds son that to ignore your heart is to risk the very meaning of life.
Advice for the ages.
Written for the screen and directed by Aaron Sorkin, “Molly’s Game” was a film far better than the Oscar-nominated “Phantom Thread.” Based on a true story, it covers the metamorphosis of Molly Bloom from a young, Olympic-class skier to the host of a high-stakes poker game taking place in both California and, eventually, New York.
Bloom, a beautiful woman played by the equally beautiful Jessica Chastain, began her development as a young skier under the guidance of a demanding father played by Kevin Costner. Ironically, to a certain extent this film resembles “I, Tonya,” in that you had two Olympic hopefuls raised and guided by emotionally brutal parents. Though Allison Janney’s Oscar-nominated role as the mother in “I, Tonya” disintegrated into a woman who tried to secretly record her daughter’s confession of a crime, at least Costner’s father recovered a little dignity in the end.
However, this film centers on Molly’s realization that she had the talent and discipline to run a poker game for the wealthy and famous. The games themselves involved some intriguing characters played by Michael Cera, Chris O’Dowd, Bill Camp and Brian D’Arcy James, and Molly quietly noted their strengths and weaknesses as she amassed her own small fortune.
Unfortunately, things came crashing to a halt in New York when she was arrested by the FBI for running a poker game involving the Russian mob. The most intriguing part of the film involves her relationship with her criminal defense lawyer Charlie Jaffey, played with spunk and style by the talented Idris Elba.
Mercifully, no personal relationship developed between lawyer and client, which elevated the movie on a professional level. As counsel wrestled with the unfortunate reality of trying to get paid for his services, an event that will surprise no lawyer in the audience, he discovered that Molly would rather face the possibility of prison than be forced to cooperate and reveal knowledge of her poker players. Dedicated to honoring her word, she would keep that information private even if it meant avoiding a conviction.
Chastain has long demonstrated her immense talent as an actress. Think of her great performance in “The Help” (2011), her powerful role in a movie I loved, “Lawless” (2012), the memorable “Zero Dark Thirty” (also 2012), “A Most Violent Year” (2014) and “The Martian” (2015).
Finally, as a criminal defense lawyer, there is a wonderful scene near the end of this film that encompasses what many of us hope happens in court on certain cases. In that regard, Graham Greene gives a great performance as Judge Foxman, the federal judge who will decide Molly’s fate. Despite the wishes of the government, the judge was able to compare Molly’s conduct to actions tolerated daily on Wall Street, and he was determined to do what was fair and just rather than what was expected by the United States Attorney’s Office.
While I liked a lot of things about this movie, none surpassed that moment in court. I was left wishing that all judges had the moxie to follow the common sense displayed by Judge Foxman.
• Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or the office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.