Infinitely Polar Bear

Infinitely Polar Bear is a movie about a man with a mental illness. It gets a few things about the condition right and one big thing wrong. Mark Ruffalo gives a strong performance as a bipolar person who is trying to manage his illness.

People with mental illness often smoke a lot. Cameron (Ruffalo) has an unfiltered Lucky in his mouth throughout most of the film. The story is set a few decades ago when smoking was generally permitted in public places.

Other family members may shun relatives with mental illness. This is especially true if the family is of an upper economic status. Cameron’s family fails to give him the support he needs—emotionally and fiscally.

Many people with mental illness decide at some point that they are well enough that they no longer need to take their medications. Cameron tries that trick.

The story begins with Cameron’s breakdown. He is institutionalized where he receives strong medicine. He is released to a halfway house and soon after gets his own apartment in Boston.

His wife Maggie (Zoe Saldana) and their young daughters (Imogene Wolodarsky and Ashley Aufderheide) live separately from him. When Maggie gets a scholarship to Columbia University in New York, he takes the girls. Sometimes he is up to the challenge and at other times he fails miserably.

The film’s story wraps up more neatly than those of many families dealing with mental illness. The message is “simply take you meds and things will be fine.” As anyone who has a family member with a mental illness will tell you, it’s just not that easy.

Writer/director Maya Forbes has handed Ruffalo a juicy opportunity to exercise his acting chops and he is up to the task. Infinitely Polar Bear has strong performances by actors playing memorable characters who are moving ahead in their lives. But their destination is for the Hallmark Channel happy ending crowd, not for those of us who can handle a more realistic and honest outcome.

The Hundred Foot Journey


The Hundred-Foot Journey has excellent credentials. Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg are among the film’s producers. The great Helen Mirren is the main star. The film is set in France. It’s based on a popular novel. It promises and delivers gorgeous food images.

But it’s not a particularly good movie.

The Kadam family is forced to leave India. Their ultimate destination is France. They take over a building directly across the street from a Michelin-starred restaurant owned by Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren). The Indians, led by Papa (Om Puri), are boisterous in sharp contrast to Mallory and her refined crew. They are just 100 feet away. (And I’d always thought France was on the metric system!)

One of Mallory’s cooks, the gorgeous Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), befriends young Hassan Kadam (Manish Dayal), sharing cookbooks with him and encouraging him to elevate his ambitions. He gets hired by Mallory, passes Marguerite on the kitchen pecking order and, thanks to his spicing up the food just a bit, brings the restaurant up a notch to two Michelin stars.

He then moves on the to big leagues, nabbing a chef gig in Paris. He leads an active social lifestyle, but begins to miss the folks back home.

Why does The Hundred-Foot Journey fall short of greatness? The characters are not particularly compelling. It’s pleasant to watch Hassan and Marguerite’s chaste budding romance, but I wasn’t particularly concerned about their ultimate fates. Meanwhile, it’s not a surprise when Papa and Mallory are shown to have soft spots in their hearts despite their tough exterior personalities. Still, I did not have a soft spot in my own heart for either of them.

Despite my misgivings, here’s why you may want to see The Hundred Foot Journey: It’s rated PG. No language, sex or violence. It’s like a Hallmark Channel movie with a bigger budget. Also, the food looks great. (Although this year’s other foodie movie, Chef, caused me to leave the theater hungrier than THFJ did.)

The film’s message—that different cultures (and cuisines) can combine to deliver great outcomes—is an admirable one. It’s also one that can be observed in dining establishments and other businesses around St. Louis every day.










Endless Love

14-year-old girls will love Endless Love. Maybe some of their moms will like it, too. Guys may appreciate it because of its potential to put their ladies in a romantic mood. But Endless Love is not a good movie.

David (Alex Pettyfer) and Jade (Gabriella Wilde) exchange glances at their high school graduation. Throughout 4 years of school, he’s never spoken to her! Coincidence of coincidences: David valet parks Jade’s family’s car when they go out to dinner that day. He takes her for a joyride in another guy’s cool car. Voila! Instant attraction!

Jade has a graduation party. David is there. They flirt. They kiss. They fall in love.

In short order, they consummate in front of a roaring fire. (The movie is set in Atlanta where it is hot right after graduation. Not exactly the best time to build a fire in the fireplace.) From that night on, they can’t get enough of each other.

The movie shifts its focus a bit to Jade’s father Hugh (Bruce Greenwood). His efforts to protect his daughter are not due merely to his knowing what teenage boys like to do to teenage girls. The death of Jade’s older brother two years earlier has caused her dad major grief and Jade is now the family’s shining star. Jade’s mother Anne (Joely Richardson) supports her daughter’s romance and has a bit of a mom-crush on David herself.

When Jade turns down her summer internship to stay home and party with David, the lovers have fun but dad is not happy. There’s a good bit of Hallmark Channel level melodrama that leads up to the film’s climax. Spoiler alert: Unlike Shakespeare’s precocious lovers Romeo and Juliet, neither David nor Jade die at the end.

Endless Love may click with teens because its sexual content is mild. The language is tame. Even when the kids get stoned, we don’t see them smoking onscreen. The rating is PG-13. (The 1981 Endless Love starring Brooke Shields and Martin Hewitt was rated R.)

Endless Love caters to those who are in love with the idea of being in love. The two stars, Pettyfer (age 23) and Wilde (age 24), are attractive but their acting chops need to be honed a bit. You can send your teenage daughter to see Endless Love, but if you are over 17, you should view at your own risk.


Like most recent crowd-pleasing biopics, 42 presents a series of opportunities, challenges and successes for its hero. As we saw in films about Ray Charles and Johnny Cash, and now here for Jackie Robinson, talent and determination win the day.

Jackie Robinson is played ably by Chadwick Boseman. The movie’s depiction of Robinson reveals few flaws, other than a temper. No addictions, no womanizing here. He has a wife, but few other characteristics that flesh him out as a real person, not just a ballplayer.

The story of Jackie Robinson is also the story of Branch Rickey, the white man credited with bringing Robinson to the bigs. Harrison Ford plays Rickey with restraint. Not many of those intense tirades we’ve seen in other Ford roles, but a couple of good speeches give Ford his moments to shine.

After Rickey determines that Robinson has the guts and the self-control to handle the abuse, Rickey deals with managers and players who aren’t happy that Robinson is part of their team.

Acceptance is slow in coming, but winning ballgames helps heal some of the hard feelings. Robinson leads the Dodgers to the 1947 pennant, is named Rookie of the Year and the audience leaves the theater with a warm, Hallmark Channel-like upbeat feeling.

Following Django Unchained, hearing the “n” word in a mass market film like 42 is not so shocking. I heard the word four times through the first half of the movie. But after Robinson joins the Dodgers, he hears the word many more times—mostly from Phillies manager Ben Chapman. Chapman is played by Alan Tudyk, who was Steve the Pirate in Dodgeball.

42 attempts to capture the feeling of 1946 and ’47. On some levels, that goal is achieved with the typical tools: cars, phones and costumes of the era. What the film fails to communicate is how big baseball was in those days, as compared to other amusements. The depictions of real ballparks of the era are partly successful. The film has a major anachronism with a shot of modern seating in a minor league ballpark.

42 is not a great movie, but tells its story in an entertaining enough way to click with many groups of moviegoers: men and women, white and black, baseball fans and non-fans. Like Ray and Walk the Line, 42 is destined to be a crowd-pleaser.


The Odd Life of Timothy Green

This movie is too sweet. No, really, it’s TOO sweet.

It’s a fantasy about a childless couple who get—for a while—this sweet little kid named Timothy. Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton (who may remind you of Conan O’Brien just a bit) are the couple. CJ Adams plays Timothy.

After giving up in their effort to conceive, they drink a lot of wine and write down on small pieces of paper what their fantasy kid would be like. This is an odd thing to do, under the circumstances, but that’s the movies for ya! They take the papers, put ‘em in a box and bury the box in the yard. Also odd behavior.

After a violent storm, Timothy magically appears. Here’s the problem with this fantasy: everything else in the movie is perfectly normal. It’s hard—for one of us, at least—to buy into the fantasy when nothing else in the movie is particularly fantastical.

Timothy’s presence in their lives for a few months demonstrates to the couple the joys and pains of parenthood. And moves them so much that, in fact—actually in fantasy, the story is told in flashbacks while the couple are at an adoption agency.

TOLOTG is basically a Hallmark Channel movie with better actors and production values. It’s rated PG and is okay for all but the very young. I’ve seen tweets suggesting you bring tissues. If you cry easily, that might be a good idea. Yes, the ending is sweet. Just a bit too sweet for me.