Each month, the Indie Prof reviews a current film in the theater and second film or series available on DVD or instant-streaming service. Follow “Indie Prof” on Facebook for updates about film events and more reviews.
Little Pink House (2017)
You just got divorced and moved to a new town. You find a cute little house on a river that needs some work, and you paint it pink. The economy is depressed, but you have a good job. You settle down in your new life, and you’ve finally found some peace and quiet. Soon after, the city wants to buy your house to redevelop the area (and to entice a pharmaceutical company to move there). You refuse to move. They invoke eminent domain and start demolishing houses. You hold your ground. Your case goes to the Supreme Court and…
Such is the true story of Susette Kelo, the subject of the new film Little Pink House from first time writer/director Courtney Balaker. Kelo was a working-class nurse in late 90s New London, CT when the city tried to evict her and demolish her house. She was an unwilling spokesperson at first, but she grew into a leader as she tried to save her home and the homes of dozens around her. Played by the excellent Catherine Keener, she is an unlikely hero, and she rises to the occasion.
The film is straightforward; there is no stylizing and no aggrandizing. The story of a simple person is simply filmed, and that is no slight. Rather, it is high praise. Balaker (a former actor and producer) keeps the camera and the action trained on Kelo and her cause. There are no too-pretty actors playing the parts, and the director stays out of the way of those actors and the story. That is the mark of a great director, as is directing the actors: Keener is fantastic, as is Jeanne Tripplehorn as the corporate mouth-for-hire.
The film highlights the issue of municipalities using eminent domain for political and corporate gain; since the case was decided in 2005, Kelo has become a political advocate for the cause, and she has helped initiate laws shielding residents from such a fate. Her move to New London changed her life and set her on a new course. Balaker’s move to writing and directing has similarly set her on a new course. To greatness, I predict.
Oh, and about the ending: well, just go see the film.
You’ll like this film if you enjoyed Michael Clayton, Erin Brockovich, and/or Roger and Me. Starts on 5/4 at the Esquire.
Human trafficking, gay priests in the Church of England, immigration, PTSD, sexual harassment, political gamesmanship, gender discrimination, and terrorism are just a few of the prominent subjects of this new mini-series (4 episodes) on Netflix. And oh yeah, there’s a murder, so the episodes also work as a procedural drama. Set in modern-day London, the show has a lot to say about the current British society, and while it gets bogged down under its own weight at points, it still functions as searing social commentary to go along with dynamic visuals, editing, sound, and solid acting. The show is worth a mini-binge.
The action begins with the murder of a pizza delivery man on the streets of London. The detective in charge of the case is Kip Glaspie (Carey Mulligan), a former teacher and even before that, a star pole-vaulter. Glaspie is tough, thoughtful, not-entirely-by-the book, brusque at times, and pregnant (Mulligan was pregnant during filming). She has a chilly relationship with her partner on the case and much of the time she just does her own thing. In short, she is very much like most of the male characters in police procedurals. But of course, she is doubted at every turn while most of those male characters are seen as moody, troubled geniuses. That presentation is part of the point here.
The secondary characters are too numerous to detail: a gay priest, troubled low-income workers, immigrants living in a storage unit, a mouthy politician, unseemly agents, and a British solider with PTSD who is sexually harassed by her slimy boss. They are all part of an impressive ensemble and give depth and heft to the proceedings. Mulligan is particularly good, eschewing the cutesy roles into which she has been pigeonholed. There is no cuteness to her cursing, snarling, conniving, pregnant detective. And while the writing betrays her at points, she is good enough to overcome it.
The technical aspects really shine: the cinematography is particularly stylish and inventive, the editing wanes between slow pacing and quick cutting depending on the action, and the music is eclectic and energetic. Director S. J. Clarkson (Jessica Jones and Orange is the New Black) shows her chops corralling all of the stories and presenting them vividly. But in the end, it is the biting political, social, economic, and religious commentary on contemporary British society that energizes the show and makes it worthwhile. This is a timely show for a mini-binge.
You’ll like this if you enjoy Jessica Jones, The Killing, and/or The Fall. Now streaming on Netflix.
*Vincent Piturro, Ph.D., is an associate professor of Cinema Studies at Metropolitan State University of Denver. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.