I was really, really skeptical about this one (it was on the husband’s queue), but was happily proven wrong. This documentary about 8 children from across the country who compete in the 1999 National Spelling Bee was eye-opening, thought-provoking, and occasionally heart-warming. It was interesting to hear their stories and compare their experiences, both in terms of how they trained for the competition, and their differing perspectives on what the event meant to them and their families. Several of the contestants have immigrant parents, and their ideas about America and the opportunities available here were pretty surprising. You’ll find that it’s painful to watch as they fall, one by one. I amused myself throughout by conjecturing about where they were now (check the bonus features for the answers), but was really engrossed in their stories. It was also fun to try to spell the words they were dealing with. We did pretty well, but man! There are some crazy words out there. You gotta watch out for vowels. They’ll get you every time.
Definitely, Maybe (2008)
I hereby declare Ryan Reynolds the stronger actor (as compared to his ex, Ms. Johansson). I don’t think our expectations were terribly high for this rom-com, but with a cast that includes Abigail Breslin, Isla Fisher, and Rachel Weisz, maybe they should have been. Fine, you can throw in Elizabeth Banks, too. I personally don’t like her much. Anyway. Mr. Reynolds plays Will, who is in the midst of a divorce when his daughter Maya (Breslin) asks about his past relationship with her mother. He makes it a game, telling her about his relationships with three different women, and asking her to guess which is the woman he eventually married. The story is believable, the writing is excellent, and the cast is very satisfactory. I thought that the twists and turns of the story were realistic in an appreciated way … the ending is not the happy one that we (and Maya) expect, but it’s a good one anyway. Reynolds is so awfully good at the wry, sarcastic delivery, and has some really great moments, particularly with Breslin, who I always think is charming. His trio of lady-loves all handle the quick and snappy dialogue just as well. Best of all, perhaps, the always superlative Kevin Kline nearly steals the show in a small role. If you like rom-coms or any of the actors appearing in this movie, I highly recommend it.
What’d you watch this weekend?