At the movies
“I Feel Pretty,” a comedy-drama opening April 20, marks the directorial debut of the screenwriting team of Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, both 46. In addition to “Pretty,” their writing credits include the box-office hits “Never Been Kissed” (1999), “He’s Just Not That Into You” (2009), “The Vow” (2012) and “How to Be Single” (2016).
Amy Schumer, 36, stars as Renee, a cosmetics company employee who struggles with low self-esteem, perceiving herself as not pretty. These feelings hold her back until she gets knocked out in an exercise class and wakes up believing she is a supermodel. Armed now with self-confidence, she begins to live her life fearlessly. Emily Ratajkowski, 26, plays a regular at the gym who Renee looks up to because she’s stunningly pretty. However, Emily’s character, too, struggles with insecurities. Throughout most of the film there is one looming question: What will happen to Renee when the effects of the fall wear off and she realizes she isn’t a supermodel?
Also opening April 20 is “You Were Never Really Here,” possibly the sleeper hit of the year. It was screened last year at Cannes, where it received a rapturous reception from the critics and the audience, who gave it a seven-minute standing ovation. Director-writer Lynne Ramsey got the Cannes best screenplay award and Joaquin Phoenix, 43, the best actor award.
Phoenix plays Joe, a combat veteran and former FBI agent who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. As the film opens, he is a freelance gun-for-hire and his specialty is rescuing young women who are being trafficked as prostitutes. He’s hired by a New York state senator who recently learned where his daughter, forced into prostitution, is being held.
Saying more would really be a spoiler! Be warned, there is a lot of violence, and a lot of plot twists. One footnote: Alessandro Nivola, 42, has a small but important role as the governor of New York. His paternal grandmother was Jewish and I spoke to him back in 2008 when he starred as legendary record executive Leonard Chess in the biopic, “Who Do You Love?” He doesn’t play a nice guy in “Never Really Here,” but he couldn’t have been nicer when I talked to him. (Amazon bought this film at Cannes and I suspect it will be streaming before year’s end).
The young Picasso is Jewish
The Nat-Geo series “Genius” told the life story of Albert Einstein in the premiere of its 10-episode season last year. The new season starts April 24 with the life history of Pablo Picasso (1883-1973). The role is shared by Alex Rich, 29, as the young Picasso (ages 17-40) and Antonio Banderas as the older Picasso (40-plus). As in the “Einstein” episodes, the series is not a completely linear biography, and scenes in the same episode might feature the younger and older Picasso. This is a great breakthrough role for Rich, whose credits include a recurring role as Florian in the hit TV series “Glow.” Alex was raised mostly in Naples, Florida, but he and his family have many ties to the Bay Area. His mother, Debra Rich, is a UC Hastings Law School graduate who lived in San Francisco in the late 1970s. Alex lived with his parents (his father is former Navy SEAL Larry Rich) in San Rafael from 1992 to 1994 where he attended Congregation Rodef Sholom preschool and Brandeis-Hillel Day School. He’s a Stanford University graduate who majored in Mandarin (he also speaks French, Spanish and a little Hebrew). He was a participant in the Birthright program.
Another Jewish thespian, Seth Gabel, 36, has a recurring role as Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918). Apollinaire was a French poet, playwright, novelist and art critic. He was a strong defender of Cubism and Surrealism who is credited with coining the term Cubism (Picasso, of course, is considered to be the greatest Cubist painter). Gabel also appeared in the “Einstein” series. His father-in-law, Ron Howard, co-produces “Genius.” Gabel’s great-great-uncle was actor-writer Martin Gabel (1912-1986). Martin was a frequent guest panelist on “What’s Your Line?” His wife, Arlene Francis, was a regular panelist. Their son, Peter Gabel, 71, is a former law professor and longtime Bay Area resident. He is an editor at Tikkun, the Jewish magazine.