Must See Movies(s) of the Week: Lincoln AND The Sessions

November 18, 2012 3 Comments

TWO movies to MUST SEE  in one week?

Isn’t that some of what Thanksgiving is all about?  I am certainly grateful for the movie bounty available for us this week and decided to choose two films.  Two films that couldn’t be farther apart AND yet, they both celebrate human triumph against unspeakable tragedy and insurmountable odds.

Lincoln, of  course, is Steven Spielberg’s much hyped film about our 16th president in the final months of the Civil War.  Daniel Day Lewis, who can chew scenery with the best (Gangs of New York and There Will Be Blood) gives a subtle, human portrayal of an icon.  Or maybe it is just the fact that Lincoln is a large enough presence to handle such big forces (Lewis and Spielberg).  The film focuses on Lincoln’s ultimate decision to push through the ratification of the 13th Amendment, which would forever ban slavery.  Lincoln’s painful dilemma is that this would potentially prolong the bloodiest war in American history.  Spielberg does a wonderful job of re-creating the drama in a deadlocked Congress (sound familiar?????  exactly!).

Tommy Lee Jones (Thaddeus Stevens), David Straithhorn (Seward) and Hal Holbrook (Preston Blair) and Sally Field (Mary Todd Lincoln) inhabit their characters and avoid the stuffy, near parody of other historical efforts.  Cinematographer Janusz Kaminsky is a master of chiaroscuro and John Williams’s score does not drown out the feelings.  There is personal pain which is as palpable as that occurring on the battlefield.  History comes alive and we sit on the edges of our seats as squabbling politicians argue their way through the roll call voting to take their place in history.  Spielberg’s decision to end the film where he does (it’s nearly three hours long) has been criticized.  I was very moved by the choice he made.  You’ll have to see for yourself.  And of course, the movie would have felt different had our own election ended differently.  But it didn’t.

The Sessions is a much quieter film about a 37 year old man who has lived in an iron lung machine since contracting polio at the age of 6.  Director Ben Lewin tells the story of Michael Obrien (played sensitively by John Hawke).  He senses his life slipping away and consults his priest (played by William H. Macy) for permission to pursue a sexual experience ‘outside the bounds of matrimony’).  He has recently fallen in love with an attractive caregiver, who has rejected his proposal of marriage.  Restrained to a gurney armed with a breathing tube, he exists peripherally in the world, charming and droll, but detached.  Helen Hunt is the sensitive sex surrogate hired to assist him in his quest.  The movie stutters a bit with the feelings that develop between therapist and client, leaving many questions unanswered.  Still, we begin to feel Michael Obrien’s pain (the POV is often directed by his gaze).  There are also numerous “sessions” in the film:  those between Michael and his priest-friend-confessor are of equal intensity and pathos.  There is a documentary by Jessica Yu called “Breathing Lessons” which confirms much of the film’s story.

This is not a film about sexual surrogates.  It is a film about the essence of  being human and the essential necessity of touch and love.  And that is a MUST SEE…..enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday and the opportunity to share in the film feast!  Jolyn Wagner

Must See Movie of the Week
3 Comments to “Must See Movies(s) of the Week: Lincoln AND The Sessions”
  1. Brian Murphy says:

    We second Jolyn’s reaction to THE SESSIONS. This is a really thoughtful and interesting film about human needs defining humanity—Brian and Toni Sanchez-Murphy

  2. The Sessions is a challenging film. The previews highlight all the cute moments, but the movie itself is not. What is it about the subject matter that has to be diluted down by a jokey view? A film has to entertain (or does it?) but how does one stay honest and get people to buy tickets? Hmmmmmm….

  3. Bruce Russell says:

    “The Sea Inside” is a movie about a quadriplegic who wants to die, even though lots of people love him and care for him and he has what seems to be a worthwhile life full of conversation, imagination, and intellectual stimulation. Mark O’Brien in “The Sessions” does not want to die, though he is condemned to a life lying flat on a gurney or in an iron lung. He wants to have an orgasm before he dies, or maybe I should have said “wants to make love before he dies.” Why this difference in attitude towards life and death in people in similar circumstances? I’ve never been able to answer that question.

    And why didn’t Cheryl (Helen Hunt) leave her husband to be with Mark, whom, it seems, she fell in love with? Her husband seemed like sort of a lump of flesh (despite being a philosopher!) Would she have left if Mark had been “able-bodied”? Would his early caretaker have married him if he’d have been able-bodied? I think they would have. I guess it shows that love is necessary, but not sufficient, for having a long-term relationship with another. What must be added?

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