Movie Review: The Daytrippers (1997)


Title: The Daytrippers
Release Date: March 5, 1997
Director: Greg Mottola
Production Company: Cinepix Film Properties
Summary/Review:

It came to my attention that there is an indie film from the 1990s starring both Hope Davis AND Parker Posey and I had somehow never seen it.  Davis and Posey play sisters Eliza and Jo who live on Long Island.  Eliza is married to Louis (Stanley Tucci), and grows suspicious when she finds a love note behind his dresser.  Eliza’s parents Jim (Pat McNamara) and Rita (Anne Meara) insist on driving into Manhattan so she confront Louis at his office, with Jo and her snobbish boyfriend Carl (Liev Schreiber) along for the ride.

In a day of madcap capers, the family looks for Louis, argues amongst themselves, and meets every type of white middle class New Yorker you can imagine.  There are some funny bits and Meara and McNamara are dead-on in the portrayals of Long Island parents.  Davis is solid as the good older child holding it together while cracking around the edges, while Posey is great as the wilder younger child.  The denouement of the movie is something that feels like it was supposed to really shocking in the 1990s but is just disappointing in 2022.

Overall this is an enjoyable, good but not great little film.

Rating: ***

 

Book Review: Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson


Author: Kevin Wilson
Title: Nothing to See Here
Narrator: Marin Ireland
Publication Info: HarperAudio, 2019
Summary/Review:

Lillian, the narrator and protagonist of this novel, is a working class woman in Tennessee trying to make ends meet when she receives an invitation to a job from her old friend Madison.  As a teenager, Lillian excellend at academics and earned a scholarship to an elite private school for girls.  Madison was her prosperous and seemingly perfect roommate, and they maintained their uneven friendship for years after Lillian was expelled, for reasons I won’t divulge here.

Now, Madison is married to a US Senator and living on a sumptuous estate.  She invites Lillian to be a “governess” for the Senator’s twin 10-year-old children from a previous marriage, Bessie and Roland Roberts, after the death of their mother.  The problem that Madison needs Lillian to keep under wraps is that the children literally burst into flames when they’re upset. The fire doesn’t consume the children but can cause considerable property damage.

Over the novel, Lillian forms a bond with the children, deals with the machinations of the elite, and begins to realize what she wants from her life. This novel is equally parts silly, charming, and satirical and made for an enjoyable read.

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: To the Back of Beyond by Peter Stamm


Around the World for a Good Book selection for Switzerland

Author: Peter Stamm
Title: To the Back of Beyond
Translator: Michael Hofmann
Publication Info: New York : Other Press, [2017]
Summary/Review:

A family returns from a vacation to their home in Switzerland, and after putting their kids to bed, the father and husband Thomas simply walks away from the house leaving his wife Astrid and two children behind.  The short novel alternates with scenes of Thomas hiking across the mountains and Astrid trying to continue her life and waiting for his return.  This is not the first book I’ve read about a man leaving his family behind which is apparently some male fantasy I don’t share.  It’s unclear if this book is intended as an indictment of toxic masculinity or a celebration. This is a well-written book, but not one I can really review because it depresses and infuriates me so much.

Recommended booksThe Cold Song by Linn Ullmann and The Year of the Hare by Arto Paasilinna
Rating: **1/2

Book Review: Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi


Around the World for a Good Book selection for Ghana

Author: Taiye Selasi
TitleGhana Must Go
Narrator: Adjoa Andoh
Publication Info: Penguin Audio (2013)
Summary/Review:

I was surprised that my Around the World for a Good Book selection for Ghana turns out to have a good portion of the narrative set close to home in the Boston, Massachusetts area.  Selasi’s novel is a story of immigration, family, the long term ramifications of choices made, and an attempt to peer beyond the stereotypes of Africa and Africans.

The novel is set around the family of Kweku Sai, long isolated from one another, coming together in Ghana for his funeral.  Kweku immigrated to America where he became a celebrated surgeon, but after being unjustly fired, the great shame causes him to leave his family and return to Ghana.  His wife Fola was a law student who gave up her career to support Kweku, and faces difficult choices when forced to raise 4 children on her own.  The eldest son Olu follows his father into medicine, but his father’s abandonment leaves him fearful of commitment.  The sister-brother twins Taiwo and Kehinde bear the scars of being sent to live with Fola’s brother in Nigeria after Kweku’s departure and the sexual abuse they suffered there. The youngest child Sadie didn’t know her father at all and until shortly before the main narrative begins had been very close with her mother.  All of their stories are told in extended flashbacks intertwined with the present day story.

This is a heartbreaking and harrowing novel and should come with a big trigger warning.  It unfortunately tends toward the melodramatic although there is honesty in the family dynamics portrayed.  Thankfully, this is also a story of redemption and healing, although it is still hard to not feel unsettled after reading.

Recommended booksThe Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri  and Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan
Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: The Anniversary Present by Larry Thomas


Around the World for a Good Book selection for Fiji

Author: Larry Thomas
TitleThe Anniversary Present
Publication Info: Suva, Fiji: Pacific Writing Forum, [2002]
Summary/Review:
I read one play in this collection by the contemporary Fijian dramatist Larry Thomas (of whom it is difficult to find much information online).  The story is about an older married couple, the wife proud of the new set of furniture she’s received from her irascible husband.  Other characters include their adult daughter and ne’er-do-well son-in-law, an estranged son, and a nosy neighborhood.  The story feels very familiar, and I couldn’t help imagining the story playing out on the set of All in the Family.  Nevertheless, it is a Fijian story where the characters speak in the creole of the more disadvantaged members of the society and the conflicts among Fijians and Indians underlie the story.  I feel that without more background information I am missing out on a lot of the greater meaning of the drama, but still found it an interesting read.

Rating: ***