Mass (2021) Review

Mass (2021)

Directed & Written by Fran Kranz

Starring: Reed Birney, Ann Dowd, Jason Isaacs, Martha Plimpton

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film stars Reed Birney, Ann Dowd, Jason Isaacs, and Martha Plimpton as grieving parents who meet to discuss a tragedy involving their sons.

My Opinion:

This is one of those 2021 movies that wasn’t released until 2022 in the U.K., so I’m counting it as a 2022 release (I refuse to go by American release dates anymore – it’s too confusing). Finally! A decent 2022 film! This has been a very disappointing year so far on streaming services. This is my ranking now:

Fresh – 7/10
Mass – 7.5/10
The Tender Bar – 6.5/10
Turning Red – 6/10
No Exit – 6/10
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – 4.5/10

I’m hoping to see 2022 U.K. release & Best Picture Nominee Nightmare Alley on Disney Plus before the Oscars this weekend to see where that ranks but it’s two and a half hours long so very unlikely the hubby will agree to watching that one. It doesn’t have a chance of winning anyway plus I don’t know why I’m so desperate to see all the Best Picture nominees when the Oscars piss me off more & more in recent years. I think I’m finally finished with the Oscars now if they don’t consider Best Original Score important enough to be awarded live. I’m a huge fan of movie music & know there are movies I love thanks to the score more than anything else (Mandy, Suspiria, The Good, The Bad And The Ugly for example). Imagine movies without John Williams, Ennio Morricone, Thomas Newman, etc etc etc!!!!! So screw you, Oscars!

Oops. I’ll stop ranting and talk about Mass. It’s a good film but obviously a very heavy topic. I’m not a big fan of dramas, either, so it’s always hard to know where to rank stuff like this when I’m a fan of fiction, fantasy & escapism. It’s not like I can say I “enjoyed” this movie as much as, say, A Quiet Place Part II which I watched before this one & liked a lot. And although Mass is fiction it’s a very real and sadly far too common occurrence (in America) & one I find very upsetting. Which is why for now I’ve ranked freaky horror comedy Fresh above Mass even though Mass is of course the better film & I’ve given it a higher rating. Yes, my ratings & rankings are confusing. Ha! Just thought I should try to explain that. And I’ll try to get a review done for Fresh this week…

I guess this might be a spoiler if you know nothing about Mass plus the plot synopsis doesn’t mention it but I’m going to say what it’s about (I think the plot is pretty well known). It’s about two couples who meet to talk to each other six years after a school shooting involving their two sons. They discuss what happened & who is to blame & what could have been done, etc. They meet in a church in a room that has been reserved for them & the whole movie is set there. There are no scenes or flashbacks involving the incident – it’s just these two sets of parents discussing what happened.

I’m not going to get into gun control & the mass shootings that are such a huge problem in America. All I’ll say is that I don’t understand it & it all seems completely insane to everyone living outside of the U.S. This movie thankfully doesn’t go into the main issues too much (mainly gun control vs mental health). They touch on the topics but the focus is more on how this incident has affected the two families. I also didn’t feel the movie forced an agenda, so that was good. I hate movies with an agenda, even when it’s something I totally agree with. The four actors did a good job, especially Ann Dowd and Martha Plimpton as the grieving mothers. All was also revealed by the end, which got pretty intense, and I felt sympathy for all four characters. I can’t imagine being in that situation but I think I’d find it impossible to ever forgive.

Mass is good & I’d recommend it for the performances but you need to be in the right sort of mood for a heavy drama. Too bad it’s not going to change anything in America. Sandy Hook didn’t, so nothing ever will.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Running On Empty (1988) Blind Spot Review

Running On Empty (1988)

Directed by Sidney Lumet

Starring: Christine Lahti, Judd Hirsch, River Phoenix, Martha Plimpton, Steven Hill

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
The eldest son of a fugitive family comes of age and wants to live a life of his own.

My Opinion:

Here’s a quick list of links to my 2016 Blind Spot Reviews so far, including where I’d rank Running On Empty:

11. Eyes Without A Face – 7/10
10. An Education – 7/10
9. Phenomena – 7/10
8. Magic – 7/10
7. Summer Wars – 7/10
6. True Romance – 7/10
5. THX 1138 – 7.5/10
4. Running On Empty – 7.5/10
3. Play Misty For Me – 7.5/10
2. Battle Royale – 8/10
1. Natural Born Killers – 8/10

This was a slight cheat for my Blind Spot list as I think I saw at least part of this film at the time but didn’t remember it. I’m not sure why I never fully explored it as I absolutely loved River Phoenix and I was completely & utterly obsessed with Stand By Me. That remains my most-watched movie to this day due to the multiple times I watched it at the age of 13/14. And, no, I’m still not over River’s death! You know how some of you younger bloggers feel about Heath Ledger?? River was the Heath of my generation. So damn talented… What a sad loss for the acting world – River was already fantastic at such a young age.

So, I’ll start with River’s performance in Running On Empty. He’s the true star of the film & his role won him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor (although I’d call it a lead role). I still often wonder what he’d be like today, at the age of 46, and how many Oscars he’d have (he’d most certainly have some). He’d be another Leonardo DiCaprio. Yep – there are some damn fine actors from my generation! Anyway, he was great playing a boy of (17?) in this film and he had just the right mix of maturity yet boyish playfulness. I sometimes get annoyed when teenagers are too mature in films – it’s not believable.

So, yeah – River is the best thing about this movie but there are strong performances from everyone involved. Christine Lahti is probably the most moving as a mother who knows she may need to let her son go in order to give him a chance to live a normal life. Judd Hirsch plays the father who insists that the family will always stay together, on the run, no matter what. And Martha Plimpton plays a girl who, along with the opportunity to go to a prestigious college, makes River’s character long to lead a normal life instead of always having to move from place to place & assume new identities every time his fugitive parents are in danger of being discovered. They’re a very close-knit family and you can’t help but want them to be able to somehow live happily ever after despite the mistakes the parents made in the past (they’re ex-hippies who bombed a napalm laboratory, seriously injuring a janitor who wasn’t meant to be there).

I think this is a sadly overlooked Sidney Lumet film as he’s done so many absolute classics (12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network, etc). It’s a shame as Running On Empty is a very good film with moving performances (especially from River – it’s amazing that I somehow missed out on this one as a fan of his). It has, admittedly, maybe not dated all that well in the same way a lot of 80’s films haven’t so it won’t necessarily be one that a younger generation will go for. If you grew up on 80’s films, however, this is a must-see that I think plenty of people didn’t see. I’m not sure why it didn’t get more attention but I’m glad that River Phoenix at least got an Oscar nomination. And I’m glad I finally took the time to watch it! And to once again have him break my heart… River did 80’s coming-of-age dramas perfectly.

My Rating: 7.5/10

**Yes, this Jackson Browne song was in my head the whole time. No, it’s not in the movie. Hmm – I should add this movie to my list of My Top Ten Movies With Song Title Titles! FYI – Stand By Me was number one on that list…