Puzzle, a near-perfect midlife movie!

If the best measure of the perfect story is to show realistically how the main character can change and grow, than this is the perfect product. I’m happy to see more films recently focused on introvert loners who blossom out into the world in a beautiful way, and this is one of those. We all have unique skills we may not know we have, this is that story.

Puzzle_(2018_film)Agnes (played by Kelly Macdonald) has had no opportunities to develop herself or her unique skills. She is a middle-aged housewife with no self-confidence living in a small town. She is devoted to her church and her husband and grown sons’ needs, hardly ever noticing her own. That is until she realizes how much she loves doing jigsaw puzzles. So she makes a trip into New York City to buy new puzzles, completely out of her comfort zone. While there she happens to see a sign requesting a puzzle pardner. Agnes is a true introvert, not comfortable with strangers, but she loves doing puzzles so much she takes a chance and meets up with Robert (played by Irrfan Khan).

They eventually enjoy many deep, intellectual conversations as Robert keeps encouraging Agnes to become her full Self, brilliant as she is. As he does her priorities change. She discovers the rebel within who soon becomes angry and assertive, discovering and caring most about her own needs for the first time in her life.

Who knew there is a national and world jigsaw puzzle competition? Who knew that “puzzles are a way to control the chaos of the randomness of the world.”

An appropriate sidelight: “Kelly Macdonald’s career began while she was working as a barmaid in Glasgow. She saw a leaflet advertising an open casting session for Trainspotting and decided to audition, winning the part of Diane…”

LOVED this great quote from Wikipedia about this film:

 “They [the puzzlers] fall in love out of their mutual respect and for the ability to see countless random events in their lives taking the shape of a perfect picture similar to the fragments of a jigsaw puzzle. This is due to their realization that at the end of the day there are only right choices no matter how many wrong pieces might have been fit into wrong places. This helps them to discover their inner selves…”  Wikipedia on Puzzle (2018)


“Can You Ever Forgive Me?” a story for every frustrated writer in the world!

Anyone for Melissa McCarthy playing a serious role? Oh come on, you’ll love it!

Most of us started out as frustrated writers, doing our best to publish anything just so we could finally proclaim, “I am now a writer.” I know I struggled mightily as a freelance writer before I realized the dilemma before me. Everyone said I needed to “find my voice” but that could not happen as a freelance writer, when every editor was changing my pieces to their voice! It finally drove me so crazy that I started a blog over ten years ago… but back to Lee Israel’s dilemma.

forgive meLee Israel “made it” as a celebrity biographer in the 1970s and 80s. In 1991, she was 52 and ready to write her next book when her agent, played wonderfully by Jane Curtain, informed her that nobody wanted to read her books anymore. To me, her dilemma was the classic writer midlife crisis story. Israel’s life collapsed around her. She went on welfare, and found herself unable to pay a $40 vet bill for her beloved cat Doris. Desperate for any kind of income, she stole several letters from an archive at the New York Library for the Performing Arts, hiding them in her shoe. She sold them to a rare book store for $40 each and later claimed she felt no guilt about the act, as the letters “were from the realm of the dead – Doris and I were alive”. That way of thinking describes Lee’s character to a T.

Yes, she got caught after a few years and suffered for her crime, but I so understood her desperation as a writer today. Who is reading books anymore? Who is spending time thinking about anything for more than a millisecond? We live in the land of the permanently distracted now and it’s only getting worse.

Lee was one tough old introvert writer. She later wrote Can You Ever Forgive Me?, her fourth and final book, while working as a copy editor for Scholastic magazines. The memoir was a defiant statement, although the sincerity of her appeal for forgiveness remained much in doubt. She wrote at the end: “I still consider the letters to be my best work.”

What I like about two movies I almost didn’t see: Bohemian Rhapsody & First Man

Bohemian RhapsodyAfter I watched the Oscars, I decided to see a couple movies that I had skipped over before. I skipped “Bohemian Rhapsody” because I figured it was a concert movie and I wasn’t completely sure who Queen was anyway. I know I can be pretty out of it sometimes… I skipped “First Man” because I have never been that interested in space flight. It sounded like a “male movie” to me. Mike convinced me to reserve these two at the public library, just in case we were missing something good. He was right. As most of you know,  Bohemian Rhapsody is a 2018 biographical film about Freddie Mercury, lead singer of the British rock band Queen. When Rami Malek won the Oscar for best actor, they were exactly right! What an amazing performance! What an interesting character!

What I liked best about this film, besides watching tremendous acting and great music, was the way the makers included a truly sad part of our history as human beings.  The way gays were treated back then, and especially if they contracted HIV/AIDS, is an embarrassment to all of us. I thought the writers dealt with this issue very well in this film.

First ManThen I watched “First Man” last night. The two things I took away from this film: exactly how courageous our first astronauts were, and the price they and their families paid for that courage. Who knew that Neil Armstrong had a two and a half year old daughter who died of a brain tumor in 1961? Although Neil Armstrong was obviously the hero of this story, I focused on his wife, played wonderfully by Claire Foy. Didn’t these guys get any kind of counseling for what they were going through? Their wives sometimes seemed like the real heroes, sitting at home with their children wondering if they still had a husband. And when their husbands did come home, how traumatized were they? Since back in the sixties men were raised to hide all emotions except anger, the wives bore the brunt of all of those confusing  and repressed feelings. I was left wondering if either our astronauts or their families had any idea of what they were getting into when they signed up for this mission.

If any of this sounds interesting to you, see these two excellent films!