Spling reviews Rafiki, Late Night and Time Freak 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 romance drama, a comedy drama and a sci-fi comedy drama.
Starting off with a film now on Showmax…
When love blossoms between two Kenyan girls, they’re forced to choose between happiness and safety.
Director: Wanuri Kahiu
Stars: Samantha Mugatsia, Sheila Munyiva and Neville Misati
– Rafiki means “Friend”, a lesbian love story that was banned and then unbanned in Kenya
– co-written by Kahiu and South African filmmaker, Jenna Bass, the coming-of-age drama centres around Kena and Ziki’s blossoming romance
– immersing us in Kenyan street culture from foods, kiosks and music, it branches into politics and religion, presenting a great cross-section of Nairobi life
– set against a political campaigning and family feuds, the real focus is on the two good Kenyan girls who are expected to become good Kenyan wives in a guarded partriarchal society
– the colour scheme is beautiful and intentional, allowing the production design, hair and wardrobe to fuse into a kaleidoscope of rainbow colours
– this vibrant spirit underpins Rafiki, a colourful and wonderfully textured picture about a doomed romance
– it doesn’t quite match up to its Romeo & Juliet aspirations, but paints a real world of hopes and fears as the two collide
– encountering homophobia, parental disdain and forces that seek to pull the young lovers apart, the tender, rose-tinted romance has a grittier side
– it’s a brisk film at 75 minutes, which touches on various aspects of Kenyan society
– while important and lovingly crafted, it doesn’t quite reach its full potential as a character study, star-crossed romance or awakening in a prejudiced society drama
– the lightness of touch makes it more artful and even poetic, but the drama and characters build and build only to dissipate in a final open-ended flourish
A solid 7 on the splingometer
Moving on to a movie now on Netflix…
A late night talk show host revamps her writing team in an effort to save her career.
Director: Nisha Ganatra
Stars: Emma Thompson, Mindy Kaling and John Lithgow
– Late Night is a 30 Rock style fish-out-of-water comedy drama about a chemical plant worker pursuing her dream of writing for a popular talk show.
– As screenwriter and co-star, Kaling has special insights as a writer and brings this to her performance, understanding the comedic undertones and character dynamic.
– While Late Night’s co-star pairing of Kaling and Thompson may seem bizarre, it informs the characters and works surprisingly well as comedy counterpoints.
– Kaling slowly reveals a more confident and defiant streak as Molly, while Thompson plays Katherine Newbury in a funky Golden Globe-nominated performance as if a hybrid version of UK talk show host, Jonathan Ross, and The Weakest Link’s Anne Robinson.
– From the outset, the idea of a long-running talk show host and their protege may have faint echoes of Trevor Noah’s remarkable The Daily Show takeover – carrying the same spirit of long overdue change.
– Kaling’s writing is brave, crisp, timely and fresh… tackling real issues with sensitivity without flaking out.
– Late Night revels in its fresh approach and handling of contentious gender, race and political issues…
– Talking about the ultimate meritocracy that is comedy, she uses her collective talents to help empower, reset stereotypes and dismantle the patriarchal perspective that still haunts comedy today.
– Late Night does lose its way a bit in the second act, trying to balance its entertainment and message objectives, but it’s underpinned by strong performances.
– While the co-lead pairing is unexpected and a little awkward as their stories compete for centre stage, it works surprisingly well.
– It may lean quite heavily on it’s 30 Rock “inspiration” but keeps a good and consistent level of tension, humour and emotional connection.
A solid 7 on the splingometer!
And finally a movie now streaming on Showmax…
A genius teenage boy invents a time-machine to fix the worst parts of his failed relationship.
Writer-Director: Andrew Bowler
Stars: Asa Butterfield, Sophie Turner and Skyler Gisondo
– the premise seems to have been loosely modelled on the success of Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon, taking the concept of a brilliant young physicist into the realm of time travel as a character named Stillman
– Butterfield is best known for The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Hugo and Ender’s Game, a child actor who has carved out a career beyond his teens
– Playing opposite Game of Thrones’s Turner, they’re a cute and likable on-screen couple with believable chemistry
– While Butterfield may be in his 20s, he has a Topher Grace quality making him seem slightly miscast at times in this time travel romance comedy drama
– It’s a small movie but has charm and spirit thanks to his Bill & Ted bromance with his cheeky sidekick played by Gisondo
– Time travel movies always encounter theoretical problems and Time Freak uses the sci-fi idea as a story concept rather than trying to explain the science… it’s usually better that way
– Jumping from moment to moment through time, it keeps a good pace, allowing for some Groundhog Day style comedy and self-reflection
– While a good-natured teen dream machine, it touches on the dramatic consequences of pursuing clinical perfection in a relationship with a thought-provoking message.
– It’s generally silly, knockabout fun with some sweet romance and fun what-ifs… but there’s definitely a darker side to this science-fiction story that could have made it lot creepier as a dramatic focus point.
– As it stands, it’s a cute, lightweight, entertaining and lively distraction.
A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer
So just to wrap up…
RAFIKI… solid performances and important themes constitute this tender, timely and vibrant rainbow romance drama… A solid 7!
LATE NIGHT… strong co-leads, a solid cast and sharp writing keep this self-aware 30 Rock-style comedy drama on its toes… A solid 7!
TIME FREAK… while lightweight, a charming cast elevate this fun, silly and sweet knockabout sci-fi comedy romance drama… A satisfactory 6!
For more movie reviews, interviews and previous Talking Movies podcasts visit splingmovies.com.
And remember, Don’t WING it, SPL!NG it!