Talking Movies: American Factory, Last Christmas and Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Spling reviews American Factory, Last Christmas and Roman J. Israel, Esq. as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.


Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…

This week, we’re talking about a documentary, a romance comedy drama and a thriller.

Starting off with a film now on Netflix…


An American auto manufacturing plant in a small Ohio town closes only to reopen years later as a Chinese auto glass factory.

Directors: Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert

– When a General Motors factory closed and the greatest economic recession since the Great Depression took its toll, many factory workers were left stranded and unemployed
– the news of Fuyao Glass arriving brought some hope with it as many of those ex-employees found employment once again
– this Oscar-nominated documentary explores the culture clash between America and China as a Chinese billionaire makes it his mission to get an auto glass factory off the ground using American workers, guided by their more experienced Chinese counterparts
– as China invests more and more in America, it’s interesting to see how their business principles are coming into effect in the distinctly different culture
– one preoccupied with individual rights and the other sacrificing personal freedoms in exchange for greater output, the change management is uneasy
– quite blunt and frank, the Chinese try to accustomise to the Western-centric attitude of their co-workers with the help of translators
– through workshops and seminars, they attempt to understand the differences in culture in an effort to harness and even exploit their work force
– serving as a timely examination of these shifts in power and work ethics, American Factory shows the proliferation of China in America and explores some of the potential threats to the American way of life
– a thorough, personal and fascinating behind-the-scenes tour of the factory’s precarious situation this fluid and smart documentary is thought-provoking and shows that both cultures have a lot to learn from each other

An excellent 8 on the splingometer

Moving on to a film on circuit…


A down-on-her-luck singer working as an elf in a year-round Christmas store meets a peculiar man.

Director: Paul Feig

Stars: Emilia Clarke, Emma Thompson and Henry Golding

– While Emilia Clarke is best known for Game of Thrones, she has demonstrated her versatility playing a number of Bridget Jones type characters in You Before Me and now Last Christmas
– coming from Crazy Rich Asians are her co-stars Henry Golding and Michelle Yeoh, who are equally at home in this unconventional romcom, playing a charming suitor and an eccentric store owner
– the film is inspired by the George Michael song, which also serves as a recurring theme with many variations
– the heartwarming Christmas theme echoes throughout the film allowing for a schmaltzy yet heartwarming tone similar to Love Actually
– it may seem like a lightweight stocking filler, but it’s surprisingly layered, touching and even thought-provoking
– the curious political slant is directly aimed at Brexit focussing on a collection of characters from varying walks of life who find themselves in England
– embracing a number of Christmas themes it also serves as a social commentary, empathising with the less fortunate and charitable works
– while Bridesmaids director Paul Feig offers some sharp-witted comedy, it’s brought back to its heartwarming default by Clarke and her likable on-screen persona

A solid 7 on the splingometer!

And finally a film now available to rent…


A driven, idealistic defense attorney becomes embroiled in the trappings of his newfound success.

Writer-Director: Dan Gilroy

Stars: Denzel Washington, Colin Farrell and Carmen Ejo-go

– Washington is a fine actor, whose committed and considered performances make him a regular contender come award season
– playing his quirkiest role yet, he stars as an idealistic yet hamstrung defence attorney who believes in a better world
– a savant with what appears to be touches of autism, the character portrait deals with the man who comes out of his shell to influence the world and in so doing be influenced by it
– coming from the mind of the director who brought us Nightcrawler, this alternative and unconventional thriller centres on Washington’s bold lead performance
– central to every scene, he’s ably supported by Colin Farrell as a complex antagonist in the wings
– demonstrating an appreciation of the law, it’s a curious and introspective journey for a man whose noble ambitions are restrained by a severe lack of opportunity
– just as he’s about to succumb to the trappings of his new lifestyle and attempt to auto-correct, the paranoid yet brilliant man begins a quest of self redemption
– Washington’s curious and compelling lead performance guides this smart and even surprising drama, leveraging whimsy and delight, yet remaining quietly harrowing, unpredictable and thoughtful

A solid 7 on the splingometer

So just to wrap up…

AMERICAN FACTORY… a timely and fascinating clash of cultures compels this fluid and smart fly-on-the-wall documentary… An excellent 8!

LAST CHRISTMAS… Clarke’s whimsical charms thrive in this surprisingly layered and thought-provoking romance comedy drama… A solid 7!

ROMAN J. ISRAEL ESQ… a captivating performance from Washington enrichs this bold, curious, intelligent and deft character portrait turned thriller… A solid 7!

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