MOVIE OF THE WEEK February 25, 2022: FAMILY SQUARES

In a pandemic-weary world where pretty much everyone is suffering from Zoom fatigue, it’s notable that Stephanie Laing’s Family Squares makes the experience of watching people interact via little boxes on one another’s computer screens both entertaining and genuinely engaging. It helps, of course, that they’re played by the likes of Ann Dowd, June Squibb, Henry Winkler, Margo Martindale, and Judy Greer — if only all virtual gatherings could be so star-studded!

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FAMILY SQUARES – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

For writer-director Stephanie Laing, her wry comedy Family Squares, is highly personal since it was inspired by the loss of her mother back in 2019. It’s also a love letter to her family that is stacked with an outstanding ensemble cast who use Zoom to communicate with one another while occupying virtual cubicles.

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FAMILY SQUARES – Review by Leslie Combemale

It is Stephanie Laing’s sophomore film as director, but much of the power of Family Squares is in the story. She co-wrote the screenplay, which was conceived as a COVID film, channeling experience from loss in her own life. It was originally called Spring Hope, after the small town near her family farm, and was based on a farm visit with her kids to say goodbye to her dying grandmother. Cut to a few years later when she was sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner in New York. She got a call from LA that her mother was dying, and had to said goodbye over FaceTime. These elements came together during the pandemic. Laing was considering the fact that over 200,000 Americans had died without being able to spend the last moments with each other in person, and found a way to tell all these emotional stories while keeping it real and funny and relatable.

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FAMILY SQUARES – Review by Liz Whittemore

Family Squares resonated with me on a very personal level. Everything from the weeping to inside jokes about which family members didn’t know how to locate the mute button made me smile. Writer-director Stephanie Laing understands the complexities that exist within a family unit. This massive all-star cast includes Henry Winkler, June Squibb, Ann Dowd, Judy Greer, Margo Martindale, Elsie Fisher, Casey Wilson, Bill Magnussen, Scott MacArthur, Sam Richardson, Zoe Chao, Timothy Simons, Jessica Miesel, and Maclaren Laing. Four generations of actors come together for one joyous and funny film.

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MASS – Review by Susan Granger

Make no mistake. This is a difficult psychological drama to watch, as first-time writer/director Fran Kranz delves into the grief of two sets of parents whose children were involved in a high-school shooting. How do people cope with this kind of tragedy? And how do they ever move on? During the uninterrupted conversation, questions abound as resentment leads to understanding. Eventually, each character experiences a personal epiphany in trying to make sense of a senseless tragedy.

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THE HANDMAID’S TALE Season 4 – Review by Susan Granger

With so many new dramatic series, Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 4 somehow got put on a back-burner, begging to be binge-watched. Lacking its previous topical urgency but retaining its feminist rage, the fourth season begins where the relentless third left off, as heroically tormented June Osbourne (Elisabeth Moss) dispatches a plane filled with 86 children and numerous women fleeing from the tyranny of Gilead into Toronto, Canada.

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Ann Dowd on MASS, Forgiveness and Motherhood – Leslie Combemale interviews

Ann Dowd is one of four in the ensemble cast of the new film Mass, written and directed by Fran Kranz. In it, two couples, Gail and Jay (played by Martha Plimpton and Jason Isaacs) meet with Linda and Richard (Dowd and renowned stage actor Reed Birney) and talk about their sons, both of whom died as the result a school shooting. Linda and Richard’s son was the shooter. Their meeting, which in Mass unfolds in real time, reveals their shared grief and complicated emotions. As parents, guilt looms large, and forgiveness, of each other and of themselves, may or may not happen as part of the proceedings.

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MASS – Review by Pam Powell

If you don’t know the name Fran Kranz, you soon will. While this actor has a healthy resume, it’s his sharp eye for story telling that most assuredly will catapult this first-time writer and director into the stratosphere with his writing and directorial debut of Mass starring Ann Dowd, Jason Isaacs, Martha Plimpton, and Reed Birney. With a keen ear for dialogue, a skilled eye, and deft direction of this passionate ensemble cast, the result is one of the most harrowingly complex and captivating films in recent memory.

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MASS (Sundance2021) – Review by Leslie Combemale

Somber chamber drama Mass, actor Fran Kranz’s writing and directing debut about two sets of parents dealing and confronting each other after the loss of their sons in a mass shooting is a very tough watch. It teeters at the edge but never crosses the border into grief porn, and that’s to the credit of the ensemble cast and a well-crafted story arc in the screenplay.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK January 3, 2020: SPEED OF LIFE

What if, instead of being a space oddity, the infinitely creative David Bowie was actually a time and space oddity, and his passing literally ripped a hole in the universe? That’s the intriguing premise of Liz Manashil’s charming indie dramedy Speed of Life, which centers on an avid Bowie fan named June whose life takes a very unexpected twist after Bowie’s untimely death in 2016.

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