- Film Guide
Well, this is it. Despite the welcome extension of the festival’s length this year, we all knew it would have to end sometime. Fortunately for you, intrepid film viewer, we’re ending this year’s festival not with a whimper but a bang. As is often the case, our Closing Night Film is perhaps the buzziest of all the films at our festival (previous closing night films Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire and Buried can attest to that), and in the case of this year's entry The Sessions, the buzz is almost deafening.
Based on the life of polio-stricken poet/journalist Mark O’Brien (played by Oscar-nominated actor John Hawkes) who spends most of his life inside an Iron Lung, The Sessions focuses on O'Brien's desire to finally lose his virginity at the ripe age of 38. It’s recommended that he hire a sex therapist who would be sensitive to his very specific set of circumstances, which is how he meets Cheryl Cohen Green (Helen Hunt). She sets up a finite series of meetings (the titular sessions) between the two with the goal of helping Mark overcome any emotional and physical obstacles in the way of embracing his own sexuality.
Hawkes, who has already proven himself as one of the finest actors of our time (Me and You and Everyone We Know, Winter’s Bone, Martha Marcy May Marlene and countless other appearances can attest to that), is a lock for an Oscar nomination with his nuanced performance as Mark, conveying multitudes through limited means. Helen Hunt matches him stride for stride, with the two of them creating a beautiful, intimate portrait as the film progresses. It’s rare for mainstream American cinema to approach sexuality frankly without making a crude mockery of the entire process (can’t promise, but I’m pretty sure no pies will be penetrated during the course of this film), and even rarer for a film walking such a tonally dangerous tightrope to come out on the other side as a life-affirming hit. Earning rave reviews everywhere it goes, the film is sure to be in the Oscar conversation at year’s end, and lucky for us, we’ll get to start that conversation early!
And remember, just because the curtain is closing on this year’s festival doesn’t mean the fun has to end. For Milwaukee Film Members, the party doesn't stop. They have 11 more free monthly screenings until next year's festival begins, which means never having to go more than a few weeks without our beaming, handsome faces in your life. I and the entire staff at the Milwaukee Film Festival sincerely, warmly, gratefully and ecstatically thank you for your support this year. What we do simply would not be possible without your support, and every line wrapping around the block, every huddled conversation taking place under the marquee, every round of applause during the end credits-- that’s what makes this festival great. Hopefully I’m lucky enough to be here again next year to word-serenade your eye-ears with more of my blog-songs. Until then, I’ll see you at the movies!*
*I wear night-vision goggles. It’s my thing.
THE SESSIONS screens today (Thursday), 7 PM at the Oriental Theatre. Advanced tickets are no longer available online. Rush tickets for any unclaimed seats will be made available on a first-come, first-serve basis, and go on sale 15 minutes prior to showtime. Rush tickets are $10, cash only. (No discounts.)
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Tom Fuchs is returning for a third year as our featured festival blogger, telling you all about our daily festival picks. Tom has been on our shorts programming committee for all four years of the Milwaukee Film Festival.