Monthly Archives

October 2018

Book Review: WHISKEY IN A TEACUP by Reese Witherspoon

Oscar-winning actress and Emmy-winning producer Reese Witherspoon already leads a popular book club on Instagram, so it seems a natural next step for her to write a book. The title, Whiskey in a Teacup, refers to Witherspoon’s grandmother’s description of Southern women: “delicate and ornamental on the outside… but inside we’re strong and fiery.”

The book is a pleasant collection of lifestyle and decorating tips, personal anecdotes, and recipes of Southern staples like fried chicken and cornbread chili pie that are simple enough for even novice cooks. Witherspoon shares her pride for her roots and love for her Nashville childhood traditions (midnight barn parties!), some of which she has adapted for her adult life.

She goes Christmas caroling—in Los Angeles. She transforms her home into a pumpkin patch for Halloween—with 47 pumpkins in the front yard. She reveals she’s a highly competitive bowler and, as a child, ran two successful businesses (selling lemonade and personalized barrettes) and wanted to be president of the United States.

Some of her most interesting stories are about her grandmother Dorothea, a civil rights supporter and schoolteacher with a master’s degree, who always wore dresses, even while gardening, and looked like a movie star. Dorothea bought books for young Reesey and read them aloud in different voices, striking a spark that became Witherspoon’s love of performing.

Witherspoon’s voice in Whiskey is conversational, with elements of her perky onscreen characters, and when she writes “Y’all come back and visit sometime, ya hear?” fans will want to accept the invitation.

This review originally appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers and is reprinted here with permission.


Mini Movie Reviews: FIRST MAN and WIDOWS

Fall has so many things to love: weather that doesn’t make me feel roasted alive, Halloween decorations going up 9 weeks early, soup…and industry movie screenings of award contenders! Even when the movies aren’t great, we get free popcorn and drinks so who’s complaining?

Following are mini reviews of two I’ve seen.

First Man (Oct. 12)

Daniel McFadden/Universal Pictures

Ryan Gosling reunites with his Oscar-winning La La Land director Damien Chazelle for this Neil Armstrong biopic, culminating in Armstrong’s landing on the moon.

The visuals are awe-inspiring and the acting is beautifully subtle—from Gosling and Claire Foy as Armstrong’s first wife, Janet—but perhaps Chazelle stayed too close to Armstrong’s stoic spirit.

While I admire the movie and respect the craftsmanship, I can’t say I was deeply moved by it. But see it in IMAX and you can almost cross off a trip to the moon from your bucket list, because Chazelle makes you feel like you’ve already been there.

Widows (Nov. 16)

20th Century Fox

“Hoo-weee, this movie’s intense.” That was the first thing I said to Mr. PCN when Widows ended.

Based on the novel by Lynda La Plante (Prime Suspect), this heist thriller was adapted for the screen by Gillian Flynn and Steve McQueen, with the latter also directing.

Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, and Elizaeth Debicki give gritty, riveting performances as women whose men left them in a bad way. Their lives are threatened when shady characters want the women to repay their former lovers’ debts. The women give payback, all right.

The characters are strong but messily and realistically so. They’re not wonder women but regular folk tired of being messed with. Tony winner Cynthia Erivo joins the trio later in the heist’s planning stages, but they find she’s a quick learner.

Remember how Daniel Kaluuya’s character was unnerved by all the creepy white people in Get Out? His performance in Widows made me feel like that. He is a nasty piece of work here.

Flynn does what she does best—give us portraits of complicated women capable of whatever men do, with all the good and ugly and in between. McQueen ratchets up the tension so much, I was often holding my breath.

Heist movies aren’t my favorite subgenre, but this one is less about the score than people in desperate situations finding their mettle. It’s a character study—on steroids.

Which fall movies are you excited to see? Stay tuned for more reviews as the screenings ramp up!