Every year, the wisened staff of Milwaukee Film steps up to deliver you top tens that celebrate the year in cinema. Stay tuned through January to see what we have to say! Next up is Development Director Jessica celebrating the year that was in cinematic friends!
2019 Best (Friends in) Cinema
2019 was a wonderful year for the cinema and as I reflected on my favorite films of the year - it occurred to me that many of them had something warm and kind and ride-or-die in common - the importance of friendship.
From old-ass friends to new-ass friends and everything in between - companions, confidantes, and connections are vital to our health and happiness. These on-screen friends (listed alphabetically by film) uplifted their counterparts and won me over. Some spoilers herein.
Dedicated to my own beloved friends who make the world a far better place.
Mister Rogers in A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
Ummm.... wouldn't the world be a better place if we all had someone to care about us like Mister Rogers (Tom Hanks) cares about his interviewer - the sharply critical and psychically wounded Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys)? Thank goodness for the goodness of Fred Rogers and the gift of his friendship to the entire world.
Amy and Molly in BOOKSMART
Oh man, these besties (Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Hill) have THE most fun of anyone on this list as two booksmart goodie gumdrops who decide to party their way through their last night of high school. Sh*t gets real and their friendship is tested, but let's just say - everyone makes it to graduation just in time. If you love high school movies and mile-a-minute humor and appreciate that kids today are so much more woke than when I went to school - watch Booksmart!
Streaming on Hulu.
Billi in THE FAREWELL
Billi (Awkwafina) is a good friend to her beloved grandma, Nai Nai (Zhao Shuzhen). When Nai Nai is diagnosed with terminal cancer, the family comes together for a final farewell except as in accordance with Chinese customs, they don't tell grandma of her diagnosis. As a good friend, Billi wrestles greatly with the deception, but ultimately her love and friendship help her transcend her own beliefs to do what's right for Nai Nai.
Vic in GIVE ME LIBERTY
Hooray for this celebratory gem of a Milwaukee movie!!!!!!!! And for Vic (the Leo DiCaprio-esque rising star Chris Galust), a medical transport driver who routinely puts the air masks on others before he puts it on himself. Not literally, but almost! Vic is a caring caregiver to his grandfather and pretty much everyone that he encounters, but I wish dude would slow down for just a minute to catch his breath.
Ramona in HUSTLERS
Okay, so these ladies might be having just as much fun as the gals from Booksmart - for at least part of the film. Young stripper Destiny (Constance Wu) is quickly and warmly taken under the wing (or fur jacket embrace) of the seasoned and sexy Ramona (a resplendent Jennifer Lopez in the J-Lo Renaissance). Their girl group becomes a family as they make fast & hard cash and live large if only for a brief glorious moment. Alas it's bound to crash - taking their friendship down with them. But when the dust settles - it's clear the gals still care for each other deeply.
Russell Bufalino in THE IRISHMAN
Thank you for coming back into our lives, Joe Pesci – I didn’t know how much I missed you! While some of the actions of his mob boss character, Russell Bufalino, may seem like not a great friend to our Irish protagonist, Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) – you have to look at a friendship in the context of its full duration, which is exactly the gift that Martin Scorsese has given us in this mob epic. One of the most poignant moments of any film this year comes late in this one when Russell tells Frank why he did what he did – over their probably millionth conversation while having bread dipped in red wine. “I never wanted it to go that far. I picked us over him. F**k them. F**k them. F**k them.”
Yorki in JOJO RABBIT
Taika Waititi is one of my favorite working filmmakers - his humanism and humor even when sad things (sometimes very sad things) happen is a really special way to see the world and I'm so happy I get to live in his worldview a couple hours every year or so.
In Jojo Rabbit, young Jojo (the excellent Roman Griffin Davis) is a Nazi Youth whose best friend is an imaginary Adolph Hitler (for real). His real-life best friend is much much better - sweet young Yorki (played by Archie Yates), who often greets him with a hug, genuinely cares about his well-being, and keeps his secrets. The boys are forced to grow up faster than any young person ever should, but through it all - their friendship shines.
Marta in KNIVES OUT
What's the saying - with a family like this, who needs any enemies? I don't think that's a real phrase, but it should be for the unfortunate Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) whose one-hell-of-an-ensemble-cast family are each as sharp as the knife chair in his study. Harlan's one true friend is nurse Marta (Ana de Amas), a good listener with a heart so true she throws up even at the thought of lying.
Mont in THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO
Tender, empathetic, full of grace is how I would best describe the best-est of friends, Montgomery "Mont" Allen from The Last Black Man in San Francisco. Played by Jonathan Majors (who I hope will be a major star har har) - Mont is a loyal confidante and trusted companion to our protagonist Jimmie Fails (played by... Jimmie Fails). Even when he asks Jimmie to confront the truth, he does it with creativity and integrity.
Here's what Majors himself had to say about the role in a recent IndieWire article: “He’s quite gentle, and has an ability to show you the truth without hostility or picking a side. You feel like you’re understood by Mont, and I think that’s what we kind of all want in a friend.”
Streaming on Amazon Prime.
Cliff Booth in ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD
Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) has got (or had) it all - a beautiful home on Cielo Drive; a film & television career poised for the next act, a beautiful Italian wife -- but most importantly he has Cliff Booth (beautiful beautiful Brad Pitt in his very own Brad Pitt Renaissance), his former stunt double turned driver, house helper, etc. A loner kind of dude who may have killed his wife (I know - gross, but here's another take) - Cliff is more like a hired friend, but you get the sense that his loyalty is earned. The Manson family is no match for Cliff Booth!
Other Friends I loved watching on screen this year: