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Movie Review

Movie Review: First Reformed (2017) Nov 6, 2018

Movie Review: First Reformed (2017)

Rating: star star star star star (2 stars out of 5)
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried, Cedric the Entertainer
Director & Writer: Paul Schrader
Producer: Christine Vachon
Awards: FEST International Film Festival 2018, Best Director - Paul Schrader
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Run Time: 1h 53min
Premiere Date: 18 May 2018
Country: USA
Price: FREE
Screening Location: Alliance Francaises, Bangkok, Thailand
Event: monthly free movie showing

*** SPOILER ALERT ***

Alliance Francaises
Alliance has long been a drifting presence to me. Back in the Manila and Toronto, it's where I took-up French lessons. In Cebu, that's where I'd go for their monthly free movie screenings. On some occasions, they would host cheese and wine nights. I like this place. I'm glad that this tradition continues here in Bangkok.

Chai MateoChai
It was either free yoga at Ratchathewi or free movie at Alliance. I invited Chai and asked her to make a choice. The movie won. It's been a while since I saw Chai. With my fast-approaching departure, it was fitting to spend time with her again.

Synopsis
First Reformed is Paul Schrader's unbridled movie about a tormented priest (Ethan Hawke) in a suburban congregation who is torn about his past, his alcohol-induced suicide pursuit, climate change and loneliness.

Ethan Hawke
Ethan Hawke is best remembered for his role as a rookie cop in Training Day with Denzel Washington. He is also known for his dialogue trilogy movies Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight. He never makes bad movies. This is also one of the compelling reasons I saw this movie (oh yes, it's also free).

Paul Schrader
With classic Robert de Niro films Raging Bull and Taxi Driver under his belt, Paul Schrader has been on the block long enough to command respect and deferential reverence amongst his peers and industry insiders. It was intimated at the screening by producer Christine Vachon that this is perhaps one film where Paul was given unbridled freedom to do as he wished. For that alone, his fans were on their toes in anticipation of this film.

Movie Review: First Reformed (2017)

The Sanity
The movie started slow on its setting in a sleepy town in upstate New York. I saw an ageing Ethan Hawke (no, it's not make-up) increasingly consumed by his despair. The movie had a gloomy foreboding feel to it the entire time. After a long slow pace, the movie took traction with the emergence of a deeply disturbed activist rebelling against the ravaging onslaught of humanity against the planet without regard to its own survival. He blows his brains out without executing his plan to blow himself up as a suicide bomber.

With Ethan's declining health and perhaps inevitable end, he unilaterally took on the task being the suicide bomber. This is where the sanity of the movie stopped.

The Insanity
The above scene was followed by the wife of the dead activist on top of Ethan while both were on the floor as a prelude to sex. Lo and behold, they levitated and galactical fireworks exploded. Next, Ethan wraps himself bloodied by a barb-wire, and before he could drink Drano, the sewer-declogger, the woman shows up and they embraced on long passionate kisses. And before the audience could come out of the initial shock of what just happened, movie credits started scrolling up - the movie was finished! I had one thought bubble: What the Fuck?

Christine Vachon
After seeing the full film, there was a Q&A with Christine answering questions from the moderator and the audience (me being one). I was glad she was there. She provided grounding to the spaced-out movie to the extent it was logical. I asked her if the movie was really meant to be ambiguous or had a strong message that somehow fell into the cracks. She said Paul is never ambiguous. But she confessed not knowing herself what the ending was all about. That was more surprising for me. A producer who funded the movie is not even privy to the intentions of the director? I'm not suggesting Christine question Paul...but just to get a sense of what this whole movie she is funding is all about. That's just fair. She further added that she saw her role simply as an enabler...to ensure Paul gets to accomplish what he set out to do.

Ending Thoughts
This film, despite of, or perhaps because of its disconnected ending garnered awards and nominations - no kidding! Film Independent Spirit Awards, Ghent International Film Festival, Gotham Awards. It implies that these award givers..."get it". So, my plea, for my sanity's sake...spell it out for me please?

Ethan Hawke never makes bad movies...until now. Why? Why did he agree to make this movie knowing fully well how twisted, incoherent and ungrounding the ending was? How can I have the same confidence watching his next movie with this uncertainty I might be wasting my time and money?

As for Paul, I ask the same question...why? From the rough-hewn grit of Taxi Driver to a priest who wrapped himself in barb-wire and had sex with a very pregnant woman whose husband just a few days ago blew his brains out under the counsel of that priest? What were you thinking? Did you go into an acid binge and realized you only had 3 days left to finish the film? Or was this a miscalculated prank to show everyone you can make us eat your shit...because "you are an artist"? Sorry for being irreverent. If you were just a new kid on the block, I would have been forgiving. But dude...Taxi Driver...Raging Bull...and then this? C'mon !!!!

--- TheLoneRider
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Reader Comments:

Rachel ConsingRachel Consing
(Nov 9, 2018) I saw American Beauty about 10 years ago, and I must admit I couldn't figure it out. I was all the more baffled when it won as Best Picture. Not apologizing to those who understood the movie.

Leave a comment? (copy-paste article-date)

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Useful Information

Bangkok Blogs by TheLoneRider
  1. 30 Days - Goodbye Bangkok Nov 8, 2018
  2. Revolving Peoplescape of Bangkok Oct 8 - Nov 8, 2018
  3. Food and Friendship at Dalad Vietnamese Oct 8 - Nov 8, 2018
  4. Movie Review: First Reformed (2017) Nov 6, 2018
  5. Doing Online Work at The Work Loft Nov 5, 2018
  6. Window Seat [His Precious] Nov 1, 2018
  7. Surreal Odyssey at Bangkok Float Center Oct 29/31, 2018
  8. Bangkok Halloween with Rinna and Steve Oct 27, 2018
  9. Push-Ups Oct 22/24, 2018
  10. Pad Thai at Thip Samai, Bangkok Oct 16, 2018
  11. Birthday Walkabout Oct 16, 2018
  12. Coming to Terms with Donations Oct 14, 2018
  13. Feelin' Da Blues at Adhere the 13th Blues Bar Oct 12, 2018
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  15. A Web Mandate in Bangkok Oct 8, 2018
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  18. Movie Review: Mindfulness and Murder (2011) Sep 22, 2018
  19. Yoga Inversions at Now's Fitness Gym Sep 19, 2018
  20. Flow Yoga with Teacher Kea at Now's Fitness Sep 18, 2018
  21. Movie Review: Under Construction (2015) Sep 15, 2018
  22. Walking Tour of Little India Sep 15, 2018
  23. Vinyasa Yoga with Teacher That at Now's Fitness Sep 14, 2018
  24. Abs Workout with Teacher San at Now's Fitness Sep 13, 2018
  25. Vinyasa Yoga with Teacher That at Now's Fitness Sep 14, 2018
  26. Abs Workout with Teacher San at Now's Fitness Sep 13, 2018
  27. Exercise Ball Workout with Teacher Bie at Now's Fitness Sep 11, 2018
  28. Exploring the Amphawa Floating Market Sep 9, 2018
  29. Exploring the Tree-Engulfed Wat Bang Kung Temple Sep 9, 2018
  30. Parting of the Maeklong Railway Market with a Passing Train Sep 9, 2018
  31. Exploring Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Sep 9, 2018
  32. Horse Racing at the The Royal Bangkok Sports Club Sep 8, 2018
  33. Fight Class with Teacher San at Now's Fitness Sep 7, 2018
  34. Exploring the Bangkok Art Book Fair 2018 Sep 6, 2018
  35. Circuit Training with Mild at Now's Fitness Sep 5, 2018
  36. Gentle Flow Yoga with Nuch at Now's Fitness, Bangkok Sep 4, 2018
  37. A Yogi Lost in a Modern Gym - Now's Fitness Sep 3, 2018
  38. Abundance at On Nut, Bangkok Aug 30-Sep 1, 2018
  39. Outside Looking In Aug 29, 2018
  40. Back in Bangkok After 5 Weeks Aug 27, 2018
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  50. Hotel Review: Riva Surya Bangkok Oct 20, 2014
  51. Exploring the Shopping Malls of Bangkok Oct 6-20, 2014
  52. Bangkok's Street Food Delight Oct 6-20, 2014
  53. Bangkok Revisited 3 Oct 6-20, 2014
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Bangkok Cost Index

as of Sep 4, 2018: US$1 = Baht 32 = Php 53

  • Bht 60 sm, 90 big one mug draft beer
  • Bht 13 1.5 liter drinking water
  • Bht 220 one hour massage
  • Bht 60-80 muesli breakfast
  • Bht 60-80 tom yum soup in modest eatery
  • Bht 25-30 coffee
  • Bht 30-50 pad thai
  • Bht 350 Adventure Hostel lodging
  • Bht 20-30/load laundry, coin operated machine
  • Bht 7 bus ride
Transport Maps of Bangkok
  1. Chao Phraya Express, MRT, BTS, Khlong boats, Airport Link
  2. Bus Routes: 1-14
  3. Bus Routes: 15-30
  4. Bus Routes: 32-49
  5. Bus Routes: 50-70
  6. Bus Routes: 71-88
  7. Bus Routes: 501-516
  8. individual bus routes
Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Night Train from Bang Sue Train Station
  1. take the MRT train to Bang Sue Station. Take the #2 Exit to the provincial trains
  2. Proceed to Counter 2. You will see an information booth, a train schedule chart and the ticket counter. Choose the train and pay at the ticket counter.
  3. daily train schedule:
    • 8:48am - #7 Train, arrive Chiang Mai 7:30pm, not sleeper, B638
    • 2:06pm - #109 Train, arrive Chiang Mai 4:05am, sleeper
    • 6:31pm - #9 Premium Train, arrive Chiang Mai 7:15am, sleeper, B938 upper deck, B1038 lower deck
    • 7:56pm - #13 Train, arrive Chiang Mai 8:40am, sleeper, B768 upper deck, B838 lower deck
    • 10:22pm - #51 Train, arrive Chiang Mai 12:10pm, sleeper, 3rd class B270 (non sleeper), 2nd class B438, B728 upper deck, B798 lower deck
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