Posted in Movie Review

Baby Ruby

Rating: 4 out of 5.

In this psychological horror, we follow Joséphine (Noémie Merlant), a French woman living in the United States, who is a very successful entrepreneur/model/blogger. Her life is seemingly “perfect”. She has a husband (Kit Harington) and is about to give birth to a child named Ruby. But after she gives birth, Joséphine slowly begins to spiral, suspecting that people surrounding her are suddenly trying to harm her; including Ruby.

One could say “Baby Ruby” is simply about the horrors of having a child, with a smattering of very dark humor concerning the process of caring for an infant. But more accurately, “Baby Ruby” is a horror movie specifically dealing with the theme of postpartum depression. And how playwright turned writer/director Bess Wohl blends these elements together is impressive to say the least, especially for a debut feature. 

From the opening scene, “Baby Ruby” is set completely in the world of horror. But the visuals go further than just seeing an exhausted first-time parent. Wohl’s horror inspired visuals work hard to capture the feeling of raising an infant, through the eyes of a woman who is home alone with said infant all day long. For a portion of this movie the only background noise we get is the sound of a baby relentlessly crying. Wohl then presents a world where Joséphine begins to ask for help and is met with dismissive responses that range from, “It’s normal for babies to cry” to a slew of microaggressions masked as advice.

When I say that this has dark comedic elements, nothing in “Baby Ruby” is laugh out loud funny, but more so a satirical critique on the things that are normalized in the United States healthcare system surrounding giving birth and caring for an infant. All of the dark humor scenarios in this have been seen before in your standard comedy about raising young kids. Wohl takes these tropes and plays them not overtly for laughs, but more to illicit anxiety and fear. In its darker moments, the sharply written script addresses the idea of someone believing their baby is capable of being angry to the point of violence, the idea of being angry with your own baby and the idea of being afraid of your own baby.  

The performance from Noémie Merlant only adds to the viewers ability to empathize with this character, even when what she is seeing becomes less and less believable. Through the performance we see Joséphine as someone who is thrown into a situation that she is told she will instinctually be able to handle. And even as she begins to sink, is still expected to maintain her “girl boss” persona.

Final Thought: As someone who is never going to give birth, “Baby Ruby” is not a horror movie made for me. I understand that. I also understand that some of Wohl’s punchlines were meant to garner a trauma response only from those who’ve given birth and/or raised an infant. That said, as a childless millennial, I really admire this movie; in its technical construction, its story and most importantly in its willingness to shine a light on some of the darker aspects of the “things we don’t talk about”, that people who give birth go through when raising a child.

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Posted in Movie Review

Creed III

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Being the first movie in the “Rocky”/”Creed” franchise without Sylvester Stallone playing his infamous Rocky Balboa character, and also Michael B. Jordan’s directorial debut, walking into “Creed III” I was more curious than anything about how all of this would turn out. But the story told is strong enough to stand independently and the inclusion of an antagonist played by Jonathan Majors, allows “Creed III” to be considered one of the better movies of the lot.

The story sees the now retired, accomplished veteran boxer turned boxing promoter Adonis Creed, wealthy and happy with his successful wife (Tessa Thompson) and daughter by his side. Everything seems to be going well, until his childhood friend, Damian (Jonathan Majors) who we discover has been in prison for eighteen years, resurfaces. Damian was once the biggest rising star in amateur boxing history, destined to become a world champ, when his dreams were taken from him. And as he was forced to watch the rise of Adonis from prison, his resentment grew, believing that an incident from their childhood was the reason Adonis has the life Damian was always meant to have.

It’s a “retired fighter, forced into one last fight” story. It’s a story we’ve seen many times before, especially in the “Rocky” franchise. This story is strong, but with formulaic beats that feel nostalgically appropriate, resulting in an engaging buildup and effective “final battle” sequence. But what really elevates this above simply a Mr. T vs. Rocky remake are the performances of the two leads. Smartly, Jordan (as a director) realizes this and both him and Majors share a significant amount of screen time throughout.

“Creed III” asks Jordan to transform into the elder statesman, fully taking over the role that Stallone has been playing for a while now. And he does this well, giving a performance that is one of the most grown up of his career. Although, Jordan’s performance is outshined by Majors’ elevation of the standard “Rocky” antagonist (something of a boxing version of Killmonger). He is a villain on paper, but Majors delivers a performance that quietly commands our attention, asking us to not just sympathize with Damian, but to understand his motivations and anger. Bottom line, it is a joy to watch these two high caliber actors play against each other.

Director Jordan does a really good job at the helm. And as the movie progresses, his creativity behind the camera really expands past simply giving us solid camera angles during boxing choreography. During the movie’s final act, Jordan makes it clear through some very creatively and almost interpretive dance inspired visuals that he has something to say about unresolved Black male trauma, and does it in a way one rarely sees beyond the anime arena. That said, the original “Creed” film was directed by Ryan Coogler, one of the best directors working today (one of the best Black directors of Black cinema). So, in a side-by-side comparison, it is a bit obvious that some of the Black-centric intimacy of this script (which Coogler has screenwriter credits) is not hammered home as well is it could’ve been. Also, the pacing meanders a bit at times, and then proceeds to speed up a bit too much just as things begin to feel like this is a two hour drama (the actual runtime is one hour and fifty-six minutes). But none of that prevents “Creed III” from being an entertaining accomplishment, giving lovers of the franchise everything they need to feel at home.

Final Thought: Maybe a hot take, but the absence of Stallone goes unnoticed. I would argue that this Rocky-less story contains a much less clunky narrative than “Creed II”. That is something I’ve always felt was a struggle within the “Creed” movies; balancing between telling the Adonis Creed and Bianca Creed story, while attempting to fit a Rocky story in there without making it seem as though Rocky has become an afterthought. “Creed III”, with its flaws, sees the creative team behind these films spread their wings, making me hopeful for the future of this franchise.

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