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Reviews for November 23rd, 2018

Becoming Astrid

Directed by Pernille Fischer Christensen

      Astrid Lindgren (Alba August) lives with her father, Samuel (Magnus Krepper), and mother, Hanna (Maria Bonnevie) and three siblings in Sweden. The apple has fallen far from the tree, though, because she's a free thinker and aspires to become writer. She finds a job as an intern at a local newspaper working for the newspaper's editor, Reinhold Blomberg (Henrik Rafaelsen) who becomes her mentor and nurtures her passion for writing. He also becomes her lover and gets her pregnant while he's in the process of divorcing his wife. Astrid gives her baby away to a caretaker, Marie (Trine Dyrholm), in Denmark because of the Swedish law prohibiting women from having a child outside of wedlock. Marie raises the child as her own, but the situation become complicated when Astrid visit Marie a few years later to reunite with her son.

      Becoming Astrid is a mildly engaging, yet heartfelt biopic of Astrid Lindgren, the author of Pippi Longstocking. There's nothing exceptional about the screenplay by Kim Fupz Aakeson and writer/director Pernille Fischer Christensen because it plays everything rather safely as it charts the events from Astrid's youth. It's book-ended by showing Astrid as an elderly lady reading fan mail at her desk, but the book-ending isn't really necessary plot device and feels tacked-on as well as contrived. Why not jump right into the story of Astrid's days of youth? There's a lot of meat within that story. At least the screenwriters didn't jump back and forth between the two time periods which would've made it much more difficult for audience to be absorbed into the story of Astrid. There are indeed some poignant moments and a little depth to be found throughout the film, but they're far and few between. When they do arrive, they don't derive from the screenplay; they derive from the performances. The scenes toward the end as Astrid tries to reconnect her motherly bond with her son are particularly heartbreaking and are the only ones that truly stick in one's mind long after the end credits roll.

      Becoming Astrid is very lucky to be so well-cast because its cast breathe much-needed life into the film. Alba August gives a raw and tender performance as Astrid which is convincingly moving enough to provide a window into the character's soul, especially during the film's more nuanced moments. The always-reliable Trine Dyrholm also gives a strong performance. They're both very talented actresses who manage to rise above the mediocre material. The film pales when compared to other far more provocative, engrossing and well-written biopics this year such as Green Book and the bold and brilliant The Favourite. It's better than the lackluster and clunky On the Basis of Sex and last year's underwhelming Goodbye Christopher Robin, but it could have been a much more powerful experience if the screenplay were more profound and compelling.

Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Music Box Films.
Opens at Film Forum.

The Favourite

Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos


Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Fox Searchlight Pictures.
Opens in select theaters.

Write When You Get Work

Directed by Stacy Cochran


Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Abramorama.
Opens at Village East Cinema.
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