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Now Is Good Is Really Very Good (Or At Least I Thought So)

Written by Devtome wiki contributor: Bomac

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Watching Now Is Good caused me to applaud in the middle of the movie, at the point where Dakota Fanning's character says the name of the movie in answer to a question. Why would I do that? Blame it on the sister of Hollywood powerhouses, Penny and Garry Marshall, Ronny Hallin.

She once said in a meeting I was in, that it was common practice in her neighborhood growing up, for the people in the theater to applaud when the title of a movie was ever spoken in the dialogue of the move.

In the 30 plus years since she said that, I think I've thought of her every single time I've watched a film where that happens. It's weird how things can stick in your brain like that. I think I could be in my final moments, in any given lifetime, and someone could have a movie playing in my hospice room. If the dialogue in the film said the movie title, I'd muster my last ounce of strength to applaud, while thinking about Ronny Hallin. People might later ask whoever was in the room with me, if I had any final words. They'd say, no, but he applauded in the middle of Say Anything when Frasier's dad was was talking to Ione Skye.

Another one of the instances where something just takes over my brain for the rest of my life, is vocalese lyrics. That's where some knucklehead writes lyrics to a song that had no lyrics, or what I like to call, an instrumental. Not only that, but every note in the song is a precise syllable in the lyrics.

When Manhattan Transfer first came out with the vocalese version of Weather Report's, then two year old,already classic song, Birdland, I was loving it. I couldn't get enough of it, but at some point it occurred to me that even when I heard the instrumental version I was sub-vocalizing the lyrics.

Weather Report's version was no longer the same experience. I wanted it back. Years went by and it was the same. Decades went by without a change. I have long since given up any hope of being able to hear Birdland like I used to hear it… But I digress.

I imagine that Now Is Good caused quite a few movie audiences to applaud… at the end, that is.1) It's not often that an audience applauds a movie, but from my perspective, that's how good this movie was for me and about half the online reviewers. The other half seemed to hate it.

That's a pretty normal reaction for sad movies, even when they are really well done. Half the audience is willing to go along for the ride, while the other half bitterly complains about being manipulated and even worse, being bored to tears. (Well, at least everyone sheds tears of some kind.)

Since the premise of the movie is a 17 year old female 2) dealing with her impending demise, you can't cite me as a spoiler when I say that this 17 year old cancer patient, Tessa, who has decided to stop all treatments, doesn't go into spontaneous remission. I can imagine how much more severe the negative reviews would have been from the same people who panned the movie because it was so typically sad. They'd tear it to shreds for being unrealistic.

There is a scene in the film that affected me more than any movie since the scene in the Elephant Man when John Hurt said, “I am not an animal. I am a human being.” It was Tessa's father. I don't want to completely ruin it for anyone, so I'll only say that there is a scene where, within one second I was transported to a different place.

I hadn't been crying before that. Not a drop of moisture to be found in my upper facial area, but in probably less than a second, it was like the floodgates had opened. Even as I recall the scene now I have tears and am almost re-experiencing it for the first time.

Then, even as I was empathetic in the moment with Tessa's father, I was also appreciating what I was seeing and how powerful the performance was to change my reality to such an incredible degree, so suddenly.

I had the two things going at once. I was flowing uncontrollable tears and getting all ugly face, while simultaneously repeating aloud, “Whoa!”, over and over, in appreciation for a classic moment in film. It was simultaneous extreme subjective and objective experiences, the likes of which I don't recall a movie having ever taken me to such a degree.

Surprisingly, there was a moment in the Brad Pitt zombie movie, World War Z that gave me a similar, quick emotional transition, although not nearly as deep, (and it didn't elicit any exclamations from me.) If you saw that film (which I probably only saw because I didn't know it was a zombie movie), it's the scene where we see him writing a note, and then he holds it up to the security camera and the message is revealed. Very powerful, and for me, the only moment of personal emotion in the movie, but what a moment it was, albeit a quick, non lingering one.

By the way, I don't know what to think about the zombie trend. It's bizarre. My guess is there is something deeper going on, like a Tavistock Institute 3) psyop, or something. When George Romero made his first campy zombie movie, Night of the Living Dead, on a shoe string budget in the 1960s, I'm sure he would have laughed you out of the room if you told him how pervasive the genre would become in 40 years time.

Of all the zombie movies I have seen, by far the best was the comedy, Return of the Living Dead. I've seen some online reviewers pan that movie, totally oblivious to the fact that is was a comedy, a brilliant send up. There are so many great lines in that movie, but I think my favorite is when Freddy said a cuss word, as it became apparent that zombies may kill all of them; and his boss, Burt, played by the great James Karen said, ” Watch your tongue boy if you like this job!4) But I digress.

No doubt, some people didn't take kindly to Tessa's flawed character. She takes advantage of her family and virtually everyone who comes within 3 feet of her (except for her best friend, and later, her love interest) with callous (and understandable to a point) self centeredness, and virtually no attempt at empathy for most of the movie.

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It can be especially heart breaking to see how much her father, played to perfection by, Paddy Considine, loves her, and how little she lets him know the feeling is mutual. Most of us may think we'd react differently if we were in her shoes, but it can be one thing to imagine something like that and another thing entirely, to experience it. I'd like to think I'd behave better than she did, but I hope to never find out for sure.

I didn't have the (lack of) Tessa's likeability factor getting in my way of appreciating the film or caring for her, I think, because Fanning's deeply nuanced performance made it evident that Tessa was not always intrinsically mean spirited. She's a kid dealing, as best as she knew how, with the fact that she's dying – right at a time when she should be experiencing the next stage in life instead of the last stage of cancer.

I saw one reviewer, a woman from Britain, who seemed to take offense that a British actress couldn't have played her British character. (It wasn't as if her performance suffered due to not nailing the accent.) Is that really supposed to be something we should keep a scorecard for and feel slighted for the talent pool of one nation, when an actor from another nation gets the role?

If there is actually a group of people who find that offensive, I can't see me ever joining their ranks. In fact, I tend to relish it when an actor pulls off a successful switch of accent. I don't know if I remember seeing an American actor playing a Brit before, though it must have been done. I'm just always seeing actors from elsewhere play US Americans. (Think of multiple characters played by Traci Ullman and Toni Collete on their respective TV shows, The Traci Ullman Show and The United States Of Tara.)

I know there is the viewpoint that it's wrong for an able-bodied actor to play the role of a disabled individual. I tend to appreciate that perspective, even if I might not commit to abide by it 100% of the time, in my fantasy life where I'm a director of a number of films that are mostly not that bad. (Yeah, for some reason I put a governor on my fantasies. None of my make believe movies have ever been nominated for a single award, save for my third one, which which was nominated for three make believe Golden Raspberries – and won one.)

I'm one of those guys for whom a woman becomes three times more attractive if she speaks with a British accent, so Fanning's beauty, for me in this film was through the freekin' roof. Beyond that, I found her performance deep, mufti-layered and flawless. If you only remember Fanning as the incredibly precocious little girl being interviewed on late night talk shows, you should really see some of her films from recent years. She has transitioned from being a one in a billion kid to a one in a million actress.

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Now Is Good is an all around quality production. It is likely to suck you in, even if you hate sad themed movies. From the direction and performances to the dialogue, cinematography and the score, the producers assembled an extremely talented team to make this captivating film.

Reviews | Movies


1) Or should I say half of the audience?
2) Note to my fellow feminists. I'm going to have to disagree with you on the “no female” rule. “Female” is not only for puppies and kittens. If you use the word male in the same sort of instances you use the word, female, it is in no way sexist. Ironically, many feminists who have a problem with my use of female there, would not have an issue if I said the word girl. Here's the thing, if the story was about a 17 year old male who was as intellectually developed as Tessa is, I would be just as reluctant to refer to him a 17 year old boy. At 17, people tend to be young women and young men. For me, “boy” and “girl” seems demeaning, so I would rather say, female and male. In the case of a male, I may want to say, guy, but when I say, gal (the counterpart to guy) for a female, it comes across like I'm my long deceased grandmother, who was born a few years after the 19th century. All that said, I wouldn't be opposed to calling Tessa a girl if I were highlighting the fact that she was dying at such a young age… And in fact, later on, in just such a reference, I do refer to her as a kid. If that seems contradictory, so be it. At that age, individuals tend to be straddling two worlds as they move into adulthood. Most of the time I prefer to think of them as young adults. And yes, I definitely consider my a feminist, and in fact, I almost always use the second person singular female, instead of male, in an attempt to try to balance the inequality in second person referencing in literature.
4) OMG, that's such a classic movie moment. It brought me to tears, laughing, on many occasions.

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