Last week we saw two unique movies, “Life of Pi” and “The Sessions”…
“Life of Pi” is a very extraordinary film – part “Castaway,” part “Avatar”, and part “The Old Man and the Sea.” The cinematography, whether real or manufactured, is awesome. Based on a novel by Yann Martel, most of this movie tells the remarkable story of a Pondicherry, India youth adrift on the ocean in a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger. It’s all about survival, ingenuity, the universe, and the wonders of nature.
Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma) has reached mid-teenagehood, after suffering through elementary school and experimenting with several religions. He finally has a girlfriend, when his parents decide to move the family and its zoo to Canada for a better life. When the small ship sinks, Pi becomes an orphan, alone on a lifeboat with an injured zebra, an orangutan, a hyena, and a tiger that has been named Richard Parker.
It doesn’t take long for the tiger to eat the other animals. Although the lifeboat is equipped with fresh water and canned food, which Pi shares with the tiger, it doesn’t last forever. Pi rigs up a raft that ties to the boat, which becomes Richard Parker’s domain for a while. Pi also catches fish for both of them and learns to drink the rain. The pair float for months and make it through storms and sharks and flying fish. Eventually, they land on a Mexican beach and Richard Parker disappears into the jungle without a backward glance. Pi is rescued and, during his hospital stay, tries to relate all that has happened to him since the ship sank. No one believes him; if they do, they cannot record it for insurance purposes.
Telling this tale is adult Pi (Irrfan Khan), now in Canada and a Catholic, to whom a writer (Rafe Spall) has come for a potential book idea. He gets a doozy!…Pi at every age is charming, inventive, courageous, spiritual, and open-minded.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
After the above film, “The Sessions” definitely will yank you back to stark reality with humor and sex. We knew it would be funny with William H. Macy as a priest; however, there is nothing disgusting or salacious about this movie. It is about caring and giving, about challenge and triumph. Kudos to writer/director Ben Lewin for expertly handling the sensitive subject matter!
Mark O’Brien (incredible John Hawkes), having been a victim of childhood polio, spends most of his days in an iron lung. However, he has managed to obtain a college degree with the use of an electric gurney and acquire a job. Mark uses a pencil or wand in his mouth to dial the phone and type on a keyboard for his articles. Otherwise, he is totally dependent on others for everything. When the electric gurney cannot keep him from having or causing an accident, he must hire someone to push him around on a regular gurney, since he cannot sit up and use a wheelchair. A capable man, Rod (W. Earl Brown), takes care of him in the afternoon and evening, then usually leaves him alone at night.
The daytime housekeeper/caregiver is a grumpy older woman, who Mark fires, after she complains about having to push him everywhere. He chooses a pretty and engaged young woman, Amanda (Annika Marks), who is putting herself through college and never had a job like this before. Mark falls in love with her, but it isn’t meant to be and she quits. His next hire is nonglamourous Vera (Moon Bloodgood), who turns out to be totally competent, unabashed, and sensible.
It is at this stage, when 36-year-old Mark decides that it’s time to lose his virginity, but he is not sure God will approve of unmarried sex or how to make it happen. He approaches the local priest, Father Brendan (Macy), for guidance. Of course, this subject is not one about which a priest is often approached. After a brief contemplation, Brendan does not believe that God would find Mark’s quest to be sinful. After a chat with therapist Dr. Laura White (Blake Lindsley), it is determined that a professional sex surrogate, not a prostitute, is required. White recommends Cheryl Cohen-Greene (Helen Hunt) and a meeting is set up.
Cheryl is married to a philosopher (Adam Arkin), who doesn’t seem to have a job or mind what his wife does – have guided sex with disabled men. She has a matter-of-fact attitude towards her specialty and lets her clients choose the pace, although the sessions are limited to six.
Mark and Cheryl eventually achieve his goal and end the sessions after only four. Throughout this period, Mark confesses to Brendan all that goes on each time. Vera, having to push his gurney everywhere, is also aware of the progress and is most nonchalant about it.
Towards the end, a power outage lands Mark in the hospital, barely breathing. But while recovering he meets Susan (Robin Weigert), a volunteer, and they hit it off.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.