(Photo from IMDB)
This article contains spoilers. Content warnings: mentions of death, self-harm, and terminal illness.
There aren’t many feelings like the sensation of clicking your seatbelt buckle together, knowing that you’ll soon be soaring off into the night sky. The first few minutes of a flight are magical. No matter how many times an engineer explains the physics to me, the fact that a giant metal tube can travel tens of thousands of feet above the ground will always feel a little surreal.
Of course, that awe is soon replaced by the creeping understanding that you’re now stuck in a giant metal tube, tens of thousands of feet above the ground, with a few hundred other people just as cramped and unhappy as you are. What’s a penny-pinching traveler to do besides peruse the selection of in-flight entertainment? Wi-fi is expensive, after all.
“Father of the Bride” – 4 crabs
This 2022 rendition of the 1991 classic, directed by Gaz Alazraki, features a Cuban-American family in turmoil as they prepare for eldest daughter Sofi’s surprise wedding. Ingrid, Sofi’s mother, wants to divorce Billy, the eponymous father, due to his workaholic nature.
Just before the parents can announce the divorce, Sofi returns from law school and announces that she will marry a fellow classmate in a month’s time. Chaos ensues as the family attempts to plan a wedding on short notice and manage several interpersonal conflicts.
If I had watched this movie in the comfort of my own home, I doubt it would receive this high a rating. After all, there were plenty of cheesy moments, and I think the trope of “overbearing father dislikes hipster boyfriend” is a little overused. The mom, Ingrid, also got on my nerves throughout the two-hour runtime.
However, most of the other characters were well-constructed and genuinely hilarious. I loved how this film incorporated the immigrant ethos and the difference between first- and second-generation immigrants, which is something that I and many other NJIT students can probably find relatable. It also poked fun at wedding planners and social media influencers.
A particular highlight was the Castillo family, the relatives of Sofi’s fiancé Adan. From the über-rich, beer company-owning father to the stepmother who is younger than Adan himself, they presented plenty of eye-popping moments that occasionally made me sympathize with Billy’s hesitance towards joining their family. Despite their numerous quirks, however, they were a wholesome and enjoyable group to watch.
(Photo from IMDB)
“The Imitation Game” – 4.5 crabs
Somehow, I managed to reach 2023 without watching this film, which was released in 2014 and directed by Morten Tyldum. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as trailblazing cryptanalyst Alan Turing, the movie follows Turing as he works in Bletchley Park as a codebreaker in the Second World War. It is based on the book “Alan Turing: The Enigma” by Andrew Hodges.
Keira Knightley plays Joan Clarke as the second lead, a brilliant mathematician who contributed deeply to the decoding effort despite facing obstacles from her family, university, and government due to being a woman.
This movie was fantastic and deeply touching. It would have been easy for the film to either get too far into the technical aspects of decoding messages or to not explain it at all. Yet it achieved a good balance between personal stories and science.
I read about these events after the film had ended in order to see whether the details had been accurate; unfortunately, they are. Despite Turing’s tremendous contributions to the war effort and to computing as a whole — he is considered the father of artificial intelligence — he was prosecuted for “homosexual acts” in 1952.
When sentenced, he chose a brutal hormonal treatment known as chemical castration over jail time in the hopes that he would be allowed to continue his work. In 1954, Turing was found dead at home; however, there is debate on whether he committed suicide, as he had reportedly been in good spirits throughout the treatment and trial.
This film stuck with me for a while; it was thrilling, poignant, and humorous throughout the section about Bletchley Park. Knightley and Cumberbatch play characters who are easy to root for, and other real-life figures such as Hugh Alexander, Peter Hilton, and John Cairncross round out the group. To its credit, the film did not shy away from depicting the horrendous treatment that Turing endured due to bigotry and prejudice.
(Photo from Goodreads)
“Sharp Objects” – 4 crabs
Everyone raves about “Gone Girl,” but personally I’m a bigger fan of Gillian Flynn’s 2006 debut novel “Sharp Objects.” The story revolves around Chicago journalist Camille Preaker, who has been struggling since the death of her younger sister at a young age. Her boss gives her an assignment about missing girls turning up in Preaker’s hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri.
Journeying back to Wind Gap, Preaker meets her controlling mother and a 13-year-old half-sister, who are both hiding secrets. The atmosphere of this book is also so well constructed; as Preaker keeps running into the same people, the audience gets a sense of the claustrophobia that many face in small towns.
I won’t say much else about the plot, but this book is truly one of the most gripping mysteries I’ve ever read. It takes many traditional “missing girls” tropes and turns them on their heads. However, none of the twists feel random; upon reread, clues are sprinkled throughout each chapter and make sense with what we know of the characters.
(Photo from Goodreads)
“It Ends with Us” – 2 crabs
Oh, Colleen Hoover. After months of every book recommendation list containing at least two of her titles, I finally decided to bow to fate and give her a chance. A plane was the ideal locale for this, as I couldn’t run away screaming no matter how much the book deserved it.
A quick summary first: Lily Bloom is a recent college graduate who meets neurosurgeon Ryle Kincaid after her abusive father’s death. They start a relationship, and it quickly becomes serious after Bloom successfully opens a flower shop. However, Kincaid starts to physically assault her during what he terms “fits of anger.”
Interspersed with this plotline is the story of Bloom’s childhood love, Atlas Corrigan. Eventually, the adult Bloom and Kincaid happen to find Corrigan, causing conflict in their relationship and further abuse by Kincaid. The book deals with the generational trauma that is passed down by abuse survivors and the difficulties of leaving such a relationship.
Many aspects of this book ran true and felt very raw and personal. The book is based on Hoover’s parents’ marriage, and readers can certainly feel her pain in the writing. She captures the struggles of an abusive relationship very well; I liked the last line in the novel, which connects to the title in a way I had not expected.
The problem is that the novel feels more like an exaggerated cartoon. The characters are not very multidimensional, so the gravity of the story isn’t given any weight. Their personalities can be summed up in two or three words.
I also absolutely hate the names; although some might think this is an unimportant detail, a name is the first impression of a character. For lack of a better description, 2014 Mrunmayi would have loved them.
Some of the dialogue is so horrible that I genuinely contemplated deleting this book off my phone and sitting there in boredom for the next eight hours of the flight. It’s a shame because the message of this book is really great, and it deserved much better.
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