There’s something for everyone this week.
On network TV, “This is Us” wrapped up season one and is now available on several streaming channels. It’s a terrific concept for a series: We track the lives of sort-of triplets (two fraternal Caucasian twins, one black foundling) from birth to the present when they’re in their mid-thirties — but not in a linear fashion; the stories go back and forth in time to follow them and their dedicated but all-too-human parents at various ages. The cast is gifted and all can cry on cue because, oh yes, there is need for lots of tears in many tender moments. If I sound slightly disenchanted, it’s because, while I watched the show faithfully, all too often I felt manipulated. The last couple of episodes were chock full of tender, tear-inducing scenes and, by that time, I was detaching more and more.
Nevertheless, I’m a fan. I care about these people. Kate (Chrissy Metz) has a life-long “weight problem” and is currently morbidly obese but not at all an object of ridicule as are most fat people on TV. About time, too. Kevin (Justin Hartley), the good-looking ladies’ man, consistently makes truly poor life choices. For me, the most interesting one of all is Randall (brilliant Emmy-winner Sterling K. Brown) as the black child raised in a white household and who pushes himself to be loveable. Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore are the parents and their scenes together crackle with real connection. “This is Us” is a huge hit....but I could do with a little less poignancy and leaking tear ducts.
In mainstream movie houses, there’s “Logan,” which, for X-Men/Wolverine fans — and I raise my hand — is a must-see. Forget the last two Wolverine films; this one actually has a story and a script worth paying attention to. One caveat: Yes, it’s a violent genre, one that appeals to video game players, but does there have to be so much over-the-top-and-then-some gore? So much hacking and slashing and dismembering and brutality, especially as doled out by a prepubescent girl with Wolverine-like knives that sprout from her knuckles? We seem to be in a post-restraint filmmaking world and I fear for my grandchildren. Even so, as I said, the storyline is terrific, beginning with Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), burned out, suicidal, declining in his mutant abilities. What’s keeping him alive is taking care of Charles/Professor X (Patrick Stewart), 90 and on life support. And then some mutant kids show up and everything changes. “Logan” is one of the best of the entire X-Men franchise.
In art houses, I found “Personal Shopper” a mesmerizing experience. This film, written and directed by Olivier Assayas, is part ghost story, part travelogue, part fashion show, and part mystery/thriller, and the various elements somehow blend into one cohesive whole. Kristen Stewart is the film’s centerpiece and, except for when it puts terror in our hearts, the camera rarely pans away from her. Nor should it. There is no way on earth anyone watching the actress’s 17-year-old self in the “Twilight” saga, with her robotic line readings, slumped posture and lifeless characterization, could have predicted that she would one day become a 26-year-old nuanced, quintessential film actress, but that’s what happened. Stewart plays Maureen, an American who is in Paris to wait for a sign from her late twin brother that he is settled and at peace. She earns a living as a personal shopper to a wealthy woman constantly in the spotlight. Other characters are part of this world, including a boyfriend in Oman, a grieving sister-in-law and a mysterious man with a secret, but the film belongs to Stewart — and good for her. Incidentally, kudos for the sound editing, especially footsteps over creaking floors. I still shudder when I remember them.