HERE AND NOW – Review by Cate Marquis

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Sarah Jessica Parker stars in Here and Now, a character study of a jazz singer diagnosed with a brain tumor, following her over the course of the day before she is scheduled for surgery. The New York-set drama is a sort of homage to French New Wave director Agnes Varda 1962 classic Cleo from 5 to 7.

Parker’s film was originally titled Blue Night and is one of two films this year with its present title. The drama references Varda’s film in a few ways, particularly through Vivienne’s French mother Jeanne, played by Jacqueline Bisset, and with a few French references. However, in Varda’s film, the singer waits for the results of a biopsy and worries she has cancer. The singer in this story, Vivienne (Parker), already has her diagnosis and is waiting for surgery with an uncertain outcome. The character’s starting point is much grimmer but she also sends her time seeking solace from those around her and saying good-bye in a fashion, without directly sharing what she knows.

Vivienne seems in denial about the diagnosis, or at least avoiding it. She goes about her normal day, with rehearsal and an interview, although she is distracted. Throughout, we wait for her to say something, to tell someone about what is happening. Several times she seems on the verge of sharing her diagnosis but pulls back.

The film also stars Common (who seems to be in every other film this year), Simon Baker and Renee Zellweger. With her overbearing mother (Bisset) visiting from France, hiding out at home is not an option for Vivienne. Instead, she wanders throughout the day, lost in her thoughts, saying good-byes of a sort, and hoping to find some solace.

The drama is well acted and Parker makes us care about Vivienne but there is some frustration as Vivienne is not a very forthcoming person. There are no big conversations about life; everything is oblique. The drama seems a bit rambling, like Vivienne her self, and throughout we are in suspense about whether Vivienne will finally share her secret and accept the support she needs. Her reluctance to speak is puzzling, and the audience experiences some frustration with her, although she eventually she makes a kind of connection with a stranger (Waleed Zuaiter), apparently of Middle Easterner descent, paralleling the Algerian soldier in Varda’s film. Vivienne reaches the end of her long night better able to face the next step.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here and Now is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for November 9, 2018.

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Cate Marquis

Cate Marquis

Cate Marquis is a film critic and historian based in the St. Louis, Missouri area. Marquis reviews film for the St. Louis Jewish Light weekly newspaper and Playback: stl website, as well as other publications. The daughter of artist Paul Marquis, she was introduced to classic and silent films by her father, as well as art and theater. Besides reviewing films, she lectures on film history, particularly the silent film era, has served on the board of the Meramec Classic Film Festival and is a long-time collaborator with the St. Louis International Film Festival, serving on various juries.