The 32nd Philadelphia Film Festival by Max Markowitz
Philly Film Festival 2023
The 32nd Philadelphia Film Festival has come and gone, and it was a gorgeous year for cinema and a lovely experience for the Philly community. Every screening had a large number of eager audiences excitedly awaiting to get inside the cinema doors. The opening and closing night parties were packed and everyone was chatting passionately nonstop about their favorite films and Oscar predictions. I’m so excited to see every film I saw at the festival again. I am even more excited for audiences everywhere to have their chance to see them. For all my thoughts on the festival, you can visit my site, moviecritic.today here. Continue scrolling for my review of three films that were of particular excellence!
Alexander Payne’s, The Holdovers is bound to become a new annual holiday tradition for audiences across the globe. I can’t imagine a warmer holiday season than one that includes sitting on the couch as it snows outside with a warm mug of tea or cocoa in your hands, a toasty blanket wrapped around you, and watching The Holdovers. OK even if you are in Florida, this film will make you feel that you are celebrating the holiday in New England. Funny and heartfelt performances with a fun script, The Holdovers is a toasty warm holiday delight about an unhappy, lonely, and disliked school professor (Paul Giamatti) in the early 1970s who opens himself up to human connection when he is obligated to look after a troubled student (Wonderful newcomer Dominic Sessa) over Christmas Break. With the company of the witty kitchen manager (Da ‘Vine Joy Randolph) who’s grieving the loss of her young son who died serving in the Vietnam War, these three people have a Christmas to remember. Not since Nancy Meyer's The Holiday have I been so charmed by a holiday film. A true treasure to be kept close to the heart for all time!
William Oldroyd’s follow-up to Lady Macbeth is a stylish and intense Hitchcockian thriller that’s the perfect film to end 2023 with a bang! Like The Holdovers, Eileen is set over Christmas Week, but these films couldn’t be more different. In a small seaside town in 1964 Massachusetts, Thomasin McKenzie’s Eileen is a shy and mousy young secretary at a boy’s juvenile prison with an angry fire burning inside of her as she battles loneliness, low self-esteem, and sexual frustration, all the while tending to her nasty alcoholic father’s (Shea Whigham) needs. The arrival of confident and glamorous new psychologist Rebecca (Anne Hathaway) awakens something in Eileen she never thought possible. Immediately seduced by Rebecca’s charm and encouragement, she starts to blossom into a more truthful version of herself as she submits to the new friendship. Christmas Eve eventually arrives, and Rebecca confronts Eileen with a favor involving the dysfunctional mother (Marin Ireland) of one of the troubled inmates, forcing both Eileen and Rebecca to question how much they’re willing to break so they don’t break themselves. Riveting, risqué, and unpredictable, this empowering noir thriller is one of the most refreshing films I’ve seen in ages, a career-defying turning point for McKenzie and a phenomenal deliciously dangerous side of Hathaway audiences are lucky to bear witness to.
The Teacher’s Lounge
Germany’s official submission for the 96th Academy Awards for Best International Feature, The Teachers Lounge is a pulse-inducing mystery with a lot to unpack in its portrayal of contemporary education politics. Carla Nowak (Leonie Benesch) is a new and dedicated teacher at a large middle school who wants to be liked by students and faculty alike. A series of thefts at the school leads Carla to document the possible culprit on video. The culprit’s face is not captured but certain details in the video indicate the identity to be that of a mother of a bullied student who also works in the school office. Initial outrage turns to stubborn silences eventually filled in by politically passionate students who smell the blood of racial bias in the waters of their school. As Carla attempts to gain control over a situation increasingly slipping out of her hands, she must decide where her loyalty truly lies - the safety and well-being of her students or the faculty who’s concern lies mostly with preserving their image - all the while remaining not 100% certain of the theft's identity or motives. Benesch’s performance is a bold and long overdue battle cry for the educators who find themselves at odds with parents and faculties who don’t share the same moral values as the education system continues to spiral into a global war zone. Sony Pictures Classics has bought U.S. distribution so I’m certain once the Oscar nominations come out, this brilliant and timely mystery will be brought to a screen near you!
Enjoy weekly screenings, accompanied by Max's reviews of feature films at the following a.cinemas: AKA Central Park, AKA Sutton Place, AKA Rittenhouse Square, AKA University City, AKA White House, Hotel AKA Alexandria, AKA Beverly Hills, and AKA West Hollywood.