Movies I’ve Recently Seen: Hillbilly Elegy | Barefoot in the Park | Mystery of the Wax Museum | The Kid from Spain

As usual, I’m listing the films from best to worst, but something strange happened. The older the films got, the worst they got. As a lover of classic cinema, that feels strange.

A Hillbilly Elegy (2020)

This powerful drama isn’t really about hillbillies. They’re more like ex-hillbillies. The extremely messed-up family at the center of the film leave the hills in the first few minutes of the movie. They’re immigrants from the hills to a somewhat less poor part of America. But they took their problems with them. Mom (Amy Adams) is a heroin addict. Grandma (Glenn Close) tries to hold the family together, but she’s a heavy smoker and getting old. Meanwhile, J.D. (Gabriel Basso) is trying to leave that life behind. How far behind? He’s finishing Yale law school. But when he’s about to have that important interview, disaster strikes, and he must go back home and take care of things. Based on the real J.D. Vance’s non-fiction memoir. Directed by Ron Howard.

B Barefoot in the Park (1967)

As you’d expect from Neil Simon, the one-liners are often funny but rarely believable (he wrote the screenplay from his own stage play). And yes, it’s fun to watch Jane Fonda and Robert Redford when they were both young and gorgeous–and already good actors. They play a newly-married couple who find that the first few days after the honeymoon turn rocky. They have a lousy apartment. She just wants to make a home out of their lousy apartment and have constant sex, but he’s much more practical. (I suspect this is the most sexist film Fonda ever made – yes, more than Barbarella.) Charles Boyer and Mildred Natwick play an older couple falling in love.

C- Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)

This pre-code horror movie starts terrifically, but after the prologue, it becomes stupid. Yes, there’s some sexy banter of the sort that would be outlawed in Hollywood only a year later, but there are far better and sexier movies of that time. If my memory serves, the 1953 3-D remake House of Wax is considerably better (which isn’t saying much). The most interesting thing about this movie is that it’s one of the last films shot in blue-less, two-color Technicolor.

D+ The Kid from Spain (1932)

You’d expect something funnier from the screenwriters and director of Duck Soup. The movie contains a few small laughs, and only one extended comedy sequence that really works. And as you’d expect for a film starring Eddie Cantor, he sings in blackface. It’s set mostly in Mexico, and there’s no one from Spain. Otherwise, the jokes are either lame or rare. I know that many love this one, but I don’t know why.