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MATHEW BOURNE’S “SWAN LAKE” MASTERPIECE RETURNS FOR A SIX PERFORMANCE ONLY RUN AS A MOVIE NOVEMBER 13 THRU 16 2020

Jack Lyons, Theatre and Film Critic
Member American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA)
Member Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (ATAS)

Good News for long-suffering aficionados of the world of ballet.   As I have often stated, my beat is theatre and film criticism.  But I recognize a genuine, gold-plated winning musical production, no matter the format when I see one.

On December 13, 2019, my review of L.A.’s Center Theatre Group of Los Angeles production of Mathew Bourne’s groundbreaking ballet “Swan Lake” appeared in the Desert Star Weekly and on desertlocalnews.com.  That review appears below as published last December to act as a guide and way of informing ballet and musical fans that “there is another bite at the apple” available to Southern Californians.

This a rare opportunity for those who missed this brilliant production when it performed as a 2019/2020 regular-season production.   For ticket information to this special production offering to the public, contact the Ahmanson Theatre at 213 -628 – 2772.

Click for my review: L.A.’s Center Theatre Group of Los Angeles production of Mathew Bourne’s groundbreaking ballet “Swan Lake” by Jack Lyons

SHOWTIME SCREENS THE INCENDIARY POLITICAL POWER PACKED DRAMA “THE COMEY RULE”

Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic. Member American Theatre Critics Association
Member Academy of Television Arts and Sciences

PART ONE:  The Comey POV

On the subject of “timing” in politics it is said that nothing is ever coincidental or random.  It’s always well thought out and planned for maximum impact; right down to the “leaks”.  Showtime TV channel premiered its long awaited two-part political drama series “The Comey” Rule”, on Monday and Tuesday, September 27 and 28, 2020.  

It screened two nights before the 2020 Presidential debates that the country was salivating to see on practically every TV set in America.  Coincidence?  Or was it by design?  Television programmers are clever manipulators when it comes to maximizing audience ratings, and of course, monetizing their film product revenue dollars.  Regardless, “The Comey Rule” movie will no doubt please some and upset others depending on your political party affiliation and for its treatment and/or bias of its potent subject matter: The 2016 Presidential Campaign.  

I prefer not to dwell on the public hullabaloo and the circus-like political firestorm surrounding the firing by President Trump of former FBI Director James Comey in May 2017.  Those are actual historic events familiar to all  I’m interested in seeing how this first rate, complicated, and very compelling movie by screenwriter and director Billy May, was able to pull-off the making of one of the most powerful, thorniest, and anticipated movies about the FBI verses the President of the United States of America, in a long, long, time. 

There are echoes of the writing style and familiar character types that screenwriter/producer Aaron Sorkin created with the brilliant casts of individual and ensemble performances in his “West Wing” set–stories from 1999 to 20006.  That’s pretty heady company for comparison.  “The West Wing” garnered tons of awards in its seven seasons on TV.

In the film drama “The Comey Rule,” writer-director May bases his script on many sources.  First and foremost, however, is Jim Comey’s 2018 tell-all book “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership”.   It is a principal source that has been fleshed out with authenticated facts, notes, memos, interviews with high level Washington insiders and political players on both sides of the aisle.  It provided rich anecdotal information for journalists who then authored books on the first three years of the Trump presidency.  The research and time spent on the script has been exhaustive in its veracity and plausibility.  Once again truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

There have been volumes written that include conversations from government eyewitnesses familiar with the Comey/Trump affair that led to Comey’s ultimate firing.  In short, there is a wealth of research to support May’s screenplay. But ultimately it will be the viewers who will determine the success of the film by an outstanding huge cast.

There are over seventy roles for actors in this compelling production, with fifteen of them playing themselves as journalists, White house staff, and elected or appointed government officials, culled from archival television footage of the 2016 Presidential Campaign. The sensational story is well documented with an ending already known to the audience who have been waiting four years for someone to offer clarity on what really has been going on with a group of people who are loyal to one man, and are sworn to “Omerta”-like secrecy to protect him.  

James Comey, the ex FBI director is a truth-teller to power.  He’s a dedicated, decisive, intelligent, highly principled, FBI officer whose raison d’etre in life is the “Bureau” as it’s known in Washington D.C.   He’s a cool, composed, customer, when under stress, who “walks on water” in the eyes of his close knit staff of seven highly skilled analysts. 

It’s impossible to list the many deserving actors who bring this potent motion picture to life.  However, there are always stand-outs:  Led by actor Jeff Daniels, fresh from his Tony Nominated Lead Actor performance on Broadway in “To Kill a Mocking Bird”, plays James Comey. 

His portrayal is a study in how actor’s stay in the moment when story-wise, chaos is exploding all around them. It’s a finely judged performance that floats all the boats in Billy May’s highly-charged, politically explosive showdown with President Trump who is sensationally played by Irish actor Brendan Gleesen.  More about him later.

The main sticking point between Trump and Comey is the FBI director’s refusal to politicize the FBI for Trump’s “personal war” on his perceived enemies.  The president wants Comey to agree to a loyalty oath as a way of leveraging his cooperation when National Security Advisor Mike Flynn becomes compromised by Russian GRU agents and diplomats. A request for leniency for Flynn comes personally from Trump; asking Comey to let this pass as Flynn is “really a good guy”.  The FBI director eloquently refuses to let Flynn off the hook for his political indiscretions with Russia as a violation of FBI policy and rules. His decision, however, motivates President Trump to seek revenge.  

 PART TWO: The Trump POV

The movie is about our newly practiced American politics; warts and all under Trump. It’s no more Mr. nice guys.  Just raw, brutal, win at all costs hard-ball.  The actors sound like characters from “The Soprano’s” in their portrayals at times.  The only prop missing in the “highlight” dinner scene between Trump and Comey as solo diners, was a baseball bat, a favorite “convincing tool” of Al Capone back in his day when his problems didn’t go away quickly enough. (Just joking; as the President often says these days). But mobsters over the years have had unique and odd ways of eliminating their competition.

The performance of actor Brendan Gleesen as President Trump, however, is no joke.  Unlike his Saturday Night Live (SNL) comedy sketch impression as Trump, Gleesen’s frighteningly menacing and thug-like portrayal is an eye opener. As the antagonist in the movie, Gleesen preens, glowers, and speaks in low breathy exchanges intended to intimidate.  It’s a highly nuanced, eerily, performed characterization, that will, no doubt, be discussed long after Mr. Gleesen moves on with his career. Great stuff from both Daniels and Gleesen.

Part One, was getting to know Comey, his supportive wife Patrice, sensitively played by Jennifer Ehle, and thanks to an old theatrical device of a character/interlocutor; in this case the duplicitous Rod Rosenstein, is deliciously played by Scoot McNairy in a performance that would please Shakespeare’s Iago.

Comey’s brilliant staffer/analysts team led by Michael Kelly as Andrew McCabe; Comey’s number One, includes Amy Seimetz as Trisha Anderson, Steven Pasquale as Peter Strzok, Oona Chaplin as Lisa Page (who are having an affair at work), Jonathan Banks as James Clapper, Brian d’Arcy James as Mark Giuliano,, and Sean Gallagher as Jim Rybicki deliver solid support.  Holly Hunter as US Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and Michael Hyatt as US Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and Kingsley Ben-Adir as Barack Obama, have smaller but important key roles. 

I believe it’s safe to say that most American viewers are familiar with the term “drain the Swamp”.  Four years ago the incoming players promised to drain the swamp and ‘Make America Great Again’.  Some in the country are still waiting for that to happen.   

Today, we have a politically divided country that appears to be doing very little to bring the nation together. Instead, we’re mired in partisan chaos, protests, looting, police violating their sworn oaths to protect the public and property from violence, random shootings etc.  

Film director Billy May, and his inspired cast offer his view of the first three years under the presidency of Donald Trump. Part Two is a peek into the machinations of how our two-party democracy system works under Trump and his Republican party enablers.   The more the country knows, the more we become concerned as to just how much there is to know and how to handle that information when the American people begin to process the truth.

Remember, a great nation deserves great art.  Support the Arts!

INTRIGUING PLAY ABOUT PRESIDENT LINCOLN AND ABOLITIONIST FREDERICK DOUGLASS STREAMS AT NORTH COAST REP THEATRE IN “MOVIE FORMAT”

By Jack Lyons Theatre and Film Critic. Member of American Theatre Critics Association

Covid-19 may still be with us but that hasn’t slowed down the creative theatrical efforts of North Coast Repertory Theatre (NCRT). The Solana Beach equity theatre company under the creative leadership of artistic director David Ellenstein, officially celebrated the opening of its 39th season last month.

Theatre is addictive. And loyal NCRT audiences have been hungering for the oldest of the fine art forms – live theatre – to re-open.  San Diego and north county live theatres have been chomping at the bit since Governor Newson closed down all brick and mortar entertainment venues in California six months ago.  He lifted the ban on Wednesday, September 23rd for movie theatres, but not yet for live theatre performances.

Undaunted, by the ban and the pandemic NCRT decided to think outside the traditional ‘theatrical box’, as a way of keeping in touch with its subscriber base. Translation:  NCRT current production is a play written in 2012 by award-winning prolific regional theatre playwright Richard Helleson, titled “Necessary Sacrifices”, directed by Peter Ellenstein.

The first thing we need to clarify at the outset is this quasi-historical, drama being streamed to viewers and NCRT audiences in “movie style” format is that it is not the famous 1858 Presidential debates between Republican Abe Lincoln and Democrat Stephen Douglas both of Illinois vying for the Presidential nomination of 1860.

“Necessary Sacrifices” deals with the relationship between US President Abraham Lincoln and the acclaimed abolitionist Frederick Douglass.  Douglass was an escaped slave who became a prominent activist, author, public speaker and a leader in the abolitionist movement during the Civil War.

America’s Civil War is probably the most written about conflict in our nation’s history, yet it’s still a story without an ending one hundred and fifty-five years after the war ended.  Yes. We reunited our country into a single nation again, however, if one looks back some fifty-five years, as well as what one is seeing taking place in America of 2020, one could make a case that the conflict is still festering; not as an overt shooting war, but more like legal political guerilla warfare.  But I digress.

Playwright Helleson, a Californian by birth, is considered to be an expert on “Southern-based issues” having written several plays when it comes to stories about the Civil War, or what older entrenched Southerners used to refer to as “the war of the late unpleasantness”.

What North Coast Repertory Theatre has mounted is Helleson’s intelligent, insightful, engaging play where two literary giants:  Lincoln and Douglass, meet in August of 1863 in the White House to discuss the immediate future of the Republic and beyond, in respectful and honest dialogue.  Lincoln the great Emancipator and Douglass the passionate abolitionist, each with agendas seeking common ground of agreement that only hard sacrifices can achieve.

Douglass tells Lincoln that all the black man, free or slave, is asking from the white man is respect and dignity; one human being to another.  Lincoln is empathetic but knows the climate of the country and the Congress at the moment is in their ‘punish the South’ mood. He tells Douglass, in all honesty his hands are tied.  “”I’m just an old mule at the front of the line of old mules.” He resignedly replies to Douglass (or as Bill Clinton might have said, “I feel your pain”).  However, the dilemma of who can remedy the situation, is why Douglass came to the White House to see him.  Lincoln gently reminds Douglass, “I swore an oath to uphold the Constitution.  In the long run it’s really a States Rights issue”.

The Congress is always in the driver’s seat.  Political plays and movies used to be a way for the average citizen to learn the basics of how our government worked. Politicians by nature serve more than one master.  But ultimately it’s the people who have the power to change the status quo via the elective process.

Hawthorne James as Frederick Douglass, is a magnetic actor.  When the camera is on him, so are all eyes.  It’s a nicely nuanced performance.  As an audience, we’re pulling for Douglass to succeed in his mission of having Lincoln intercede for equal pay and the recognition of bravery in action and death benefits for the families of the segregated colored Union army units.

Ray Chambers as Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, has the tougher image battle for the audience.  Not many can remember what Frederick Douglass looked like in real life.  But every school boy and girl over the age of five know who Abraham Lincoln is, how he dressed, and what he wrote and said.

To his credit and that of director Peter Ellenstein, Mr. Chambers creates a President Lincoln persona that both compliments his performance and resonates with the audience (like Daniel Day Lewis did with his portrayal of Lincoln in the eponymous movie and the persona he created).   Both Mr. James and Mr. Chambers acquit themselves with honesty and conviction in their portrayals of real historical figures.  “Necessary Sacrifices” is a talky two-hander play. However, I feel the time spent with them is well worth it.

In the technical department led by Director Ellenstein, Aaron Rumley’s cinematography and editing skills hit the mark.  Set and Scenic renderings is courtesy of design wizard Marty Burnett who recreates the 1863 Oval Office; providing plenty space for the actors to work their magic.

Costume designs by Elisa Benzoni are spot-on, with camera operators Chris Williams and Aaron Rumley, and music provided by Michael Silversher, along with Hair and Wig design by Peter Herman, make it a compelling North Coast Repertory Theatre production to see.

For tickets to see “Necessary Sacrifices” contact the NCRT Box Office at 858-481-1055.

Remember, a great nation deserves great art.  Support all the arts.

HBO TV SPECIAL “COASTAL ELITES” FILM NAVIGATES THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC WITH HUMOR

Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic. Member American Theatre Critics Association
Member Academy of Television Arts and Sciences

This insidious, if not invidious, Covid-19 pandemic has engulfed the world in fear and chaos.  It also has taken with it over 950,000 unsuspecting lives as of September 17, 2020, most of whom didn’t understand or believe what was happening to them.

Society In times of plagues or pandemics has learned to embrace some unorthodox methods of coping when dangerous events in life’s journeys are present.  People resort to wrapping themselves in the safety net of comedy or satire, especially during this on-going quarantine mandate period of 2019-2020.   Without humor, society would be in worse shape than it already is.

HBO’s just released film “Coastal Elites”, navigates the COVID-19 experience in a comedic and satirical way (for a deadly subject matter)  with five vignette monologues, by five actors; each breathing life into playwright Paul Rudnick’s spot-on slices of pandemic life during this unprecedented experience, and all deftly directed by Jay Roach.

Leading off the first of five segments is one of America’s finest comedienne/Broadway/singer and actor’s is the irrepressible Bette Midler.  “The Devine Miss M”, as she was known back in her cabaret days in the 60s, has, over the years, perfected the persona of America’s Jewish mother comedy image, with a Yiddish-fueled saucy tongue that is blessed with impeccable comedy timing and talent. She hasn’t lost her star quality edge as an actor and comedienne over the years either. Her  Miriam role is biting, funny and flirts with over-the-top moments. 

As obsessed NYC school teacher Miriam Nessler, Midler’s take and the effect on her students and Trump’s role in the pandemic is classic Midler.  It’s a 20 minute comedic rant that leaves the viewer exhauster by her stamina and focus.  It’s ageless Midler returning to her early form.

Next Batter up is beautiful, slender, stunning Isa Rae as Callie Josephson, the uber-rich socialite daughter and classmate of vapid Ivanka Trump.  Rae, or Rudnick, or both, have a field day recalling the shallowness and obsession with possessions and money, in a segment titled “The Blonde Cloud”.  Ivanka Trump is a true chip off the old money tree block revered by the Trump family, in Rae’s scathing comedy turn.

Apparently actors and psychiatrists are kindred souls; that’s why there are so many of them and they’re proud of it. Segment three features actor Dan Levy as gay actor Mark Hesterman, revealing to his psychiatrist during their regular session his most recent audition for a role that didn’t quite turn out the way he imagined it should.

He explains that VP Mike Pence is partly responsible for the gay community’s negative image and the paucity of openly gay acting roles (could this be a case of the pot calling the kettle black?).  Comedians, however, view life’s vicissitudes from a different mind-set.  Thank God that they do or we would all be so anxious and up-tight we wouldn’t be able function at all.  We have seen this rodeo before.  Dan Levy, however, shines his special comedy spin on Gays vs. Trump/Pence in a political light perhaps a little too forcefully.

Sarah Paulson as Clarissa Montgomery, a meditation guru who delivers her performance as a sweet but somewhat of an unsure guru of her of her own advice.  Later, as we listen to her and her message of easing the anxiety and depression of the pandemic for her clients, she reveals her failed attempt to get her Republican family to stop drinking the “kool-ade” that they have been steadily gulping down since 2016 via the cup of “cult mentality” – to the now newly updated – “herd mentality” label, but to no avail.  Her dilemma, no doubt, resonates with many in similar circumstances.

The final and fifth vignette of “Coastal Elites” is the best of the five; at least for me.  It sums up the 2019-2020 pandemic POV more soberly than comedic when viewed through the eyes of Sharynn Tarrows, a young, dedicated, volunteering Wyoming Nurse – who is terrifically, poignantly, and understatedly – played by Kaitlyn Dever.

Nurse Sharynn, who came to NYC to help her colleagues fight the pandemic is the one that hits home the hardest and is the most poignant of playwright Rudnick’s screenplay characters in “Coastal Elites”. One can really feel the ordeal that NYC health professionals went through and are still going through when viewing Dever’s outstanding performance.

One must remember that “Coastal Elites” bills itself as a comedy-satire movie, even though were looking at a series of stand-alone, static, comedy monologues in the age of Trump. I doubt the Trump family or its Red Maga Hatted supporters will read or care what is said by playwright Rudnick, or director Roach, and the actors who perform as the characters.  But I do think people with a sense of humor will smile, laugh and enjoy the antics of those of the political circus we all seemed to be trapped in these days.

 Remember, a great nation deserves great art.  Support all the arts!

WORLD OF BALLET BRILLIANTLY BLENDS WITH THE ARTISTRY OF FILM

By Jack Lyons Theatre and Film Critic. Member of American Theatre Critics Association Member Academy of Television Arts and Sciences

The Royal Ballet Company-based choreographer Kenneth MacMillan, is one of a few British choreographers that has introduced the blending of classical ballet in the modern dance era with filmmaking techniques familiar to movie audiences; with great success. 

The other choreographer is the bold and daring Mathew Bourne, of “Swan Lake” fame and his company of all male dancers portraying ‘the swans’ in traditional, classically mounted productions that toured across America over the last several years.

Boasting successful productions on their resumes, British filmmakers Michael Nunn and William Trevitt, brought their groundbreaking production “Romeo and Juliet” – as a ballet/movie without dialogue – to worldwide film audiences in 2019.  Their movie is engagingly accompanied by a glorious score written by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev.  MacMillan’s wonderfully inventive choreography is performed by an inspired cast of more than thirty dancer-characters, is the key element that drives the soaring music and appealing dance sequences taking the audience back to colorful Verona Italy, of 1595 A.D.

Ballet is not normally my beat.  I’m a theatre and film critic. But I know a genuine, special, creative work of artistry when I see it.  So, hold on before you decide to switch channels from the opening scene of the PBS “Great Performances” presentation of “Romeo and Juliet (R & J) when and if this terrific production becomes available again on PBS. 

As long as this pandemic has most of us quarantined in our homes we are free to choose and explore other entertainment options. Perhaps, it’s time to cultivate our classical side of ‘fine art’ options.  For a change, instead of watching an NFL or an NBA game, or worse, some old game show reruns; remember everyone has a story to tell. And no one wrote stories as profoundly affecting than the Bard of Avon.

When William Shakespeare, the greatest writer/dramatist in the history of the English language, put pen to paper to write, the results were often individually as well as societally, life altering as was his tragic love story and fate of two young teenagers: Romeo Montague who was 16 and Juliet Capulet who was just 14.  That’s very, very, young by today’s legal and social standards.  However, in 15th century Verona Italy, the average life expectancy was a little over 40 years of age.  Their tragic, star-crossed, story that captured the hearts of millions over the centuries has been called “the greatest love story ever written”.

Whether one is into ballet or not, this new blending of two celebrated art form disciplines – dance and film – has opened the way to viewing and appreciating not only the gracefulness and precision of ballet but the magic and unlimited range and power of the movable movie camera with its close-up advantage that is denied to fixed performing space venues.  “The Red Shoes” movie of 1948 exposed the world of ballet to a wider audience and everyone has benefitted from its success.  

Classical ballet as performed by England’s Royal Ballet Company in this new film version by filmmakers Michael Nunn and William Trevitt, feature two new sublime, glittering, and accomplished principal dancers.  Lissome, waif-like, lovely, 26 year-old Francesca Haywood as Juliet Capulet, and dashing, handsome, athletic, first soloist, 23 year-old William Bracewell as Romeo, are a dynamite pair of gifted dancers who also display some latent acting chops signaling a future in movies or TV, as well as ballet; might just be in their futures. 

The solid corps de ballet cast of performers numbering over thirty, gives one the same touching and poignant experience that the stage musical and subsequent “concert readings” and TV anniversary presentations the musical  “Les Miserables” gave to its audiences over the last 30 years.  Despite the   large cast of ”R & J” there are always standouts.  Marcelino Sambe as Mercutio and Matthew Ball as Tybalt, set the Romeo and Juliet story in motion as the feuding Montague and Capulet families who constantly quarreled publicly, must now deal with the deaths of Mercutio by Tybalt and Tybalt by Romeo, just hours apart.

Thanks to the stunning architecture of Budapest, Hungary, where “R & J” was filmed Nunn and Trevitt have come up with a winning hybrid combination of ballet and motion picture format.  Tt’s a richly textured movie with tons of details, authentic-looking gorgeous costumes and many poignant moments that stick with one, despite the fact that there is not one word of spoken dialogue throughout its 90 minute running time.  It’s a breakthrough method of how one can now enjoy the ballet without having to squint at the stage through one’s aging eyes from the balcony.  Perhaps, all ballet’s someday will be presented in this manner.  Until then, make sure you see this production the next time it screens.

THE 1997 DEMI MOORE – VIGGO MORTENSEN MOVIE “G.I. JANE” – STILL A RELEVANT MOVIE IN 2020

Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic. Member American Theatre Critics Association
Member Academy of Television Arts and Sciences

It’s been a little over 100 years since American women received the right to vote.  Throughout history women have always been relegated to second-class citizen status: labelled the weaker of the sexes in almost every aspect of their lives. 

Almost all of women’s legal and societal rights have been derived from men be it through marriage or through the largess and compassion of their immediate families.  Frankly, it’s a wonder that they even talk to us at all, considering the way we’ve treated them over the centuries.

When the 1997 movie “G.I. Jane” was released women in Israel were already hardened combat veterans.   In the US. Military, however, women trying to integrate the male dominated ranks of combat soldiers were met with severe resistance from the heads of the armed forces.  “Women will become a distraction and a liability in combat.  Combat requires physical strength as well as stamina to handle the rigors of war and combat”.  

Those remarks were the most frequently heard excuses.  Many more like it back in those days, poisoned the well of public opinion of having women being integrated into US combat units alongside men.  Translation: if ‘there is no crying in baseball’, then there is no way women can be in combat roles,  thus safely keeping it an all boy’s run exclusive club.

Practically speaking, very few people on either side of the issue in the movie wanted it to succeed. It was too hot a potato for the politicians and the military to deal with.   They just forgot to tell the selected candidates of trainees who kept grinding away.  The lessons learned during their training period, however, would no doubt, save lives in the future.

In the “G.I. Jane” movie the fictional story takes place at US Navy Seal training facility over a 3 month period where candidates for this super-elite unit must pass the most rigorous and intense combat training regimens in the US military.  The “experiment” of integrating US Navy men and women in combat is the idea of Texas U.S. Senator Lillian De Haven, solidly and puckishly played by Academy Award winning actor Anne Bancroft in a neat little gem of a performance. 

The film is also blessed with sensationally powerful performances from Demi Moore and Viggo Mortensen, whose on-screen chemistry in their scenes has the ring of authenticity and the proportions of a “David vs. Goliath” confrontation with Moore being a female David who represents personal integrity in the face of Mortensen’s Navy system of by the numbers Rules and Regs. For him it’s a case  conform or drop out.  Their struggle is mesmerizing in its execution.  No spoiler alerts from me but It’s a movie whose training sequence scenes are almost too real to watch, let alone film.  The cinematography of Hugh Johnson is first-rate in validating my observations and the swift-paced editing by Pietro Scalia keeps the rapt audience glued to the screen.

For the record, however, no female has ever been selected to become a US Navy Seal.  Although we’ve seen this sort of film before i.e, “Private Benjamin”, a light Goldie Hawn comedy set against the backdrop of a female vs. male army life.”  “An Officer and a Gentleman” and “A Few Good Men”, are serious movies that spring to mind. What separates “G.I. Jane” from such plot lines is its laser-like focus on commitment and dedication to get any job or assignment done, and do it as a team. Navy Seals never leave anyone behind on any mission.  That is a core value training order never to be violated.

The film based on a fictional story by Danielle Alexandra, who co-wrote the screenplay with David Twohy, is deftly directed by the acclaimed uber-action movie director Ridley Scott.  He’s the director who scared the wits out of half the world with his space thriller movie “Alien” some 40 years ago that made a star of Sigourney Weaver. He also directed “Gladiator”, with Russell Crowe, and the iconic girl-girl road trip movie “Thelma and Louise”.

It’s the superb direction of Scott that makes the screenplay elements of grit and guts, plus the rough and tumble excesses of high-octane action sequences to the nth degree that make “G.I. Jane”, so compelling to watch.    

The film stars Demi Moore as US Navy Lieutenant Jordan O’Neil selected to be the first female chosen for Navy Seal training.  Viggo Mortensen who plays Master Chief John James Urgayle, in charge of the Navy Seal training facility, as a modern day Captain Bligh with a touch of Mr. Hyde of Jekyll and Hyde fame thrown in for good measure.  One can think what they want about past roles Ms. Moore chose to play – which covers a wide range – but one cannot deny her talent and dedication as an actor through the years.  For me, Ms.  Moore is akin to one sampling scotch whiskey for the first time. After a few drinks it becomes an acquired taste and a bond is forever formed.

I remember the daring and the boldness of Katherine Hepburn and Bette Davis in their younger days. They weren’t exactly everybody’s favorite cup tea back then but matured into acting icons as they got the opportunity to extend their reach in the roles they played.  I’ve come to appreciate that stoic look on Ms. Moore’s lovely face in repose, to her steely-in charge stare when cracking orders as she swings into action.  In the world of the stage and television, actor Mary Louise Parker possesses those same character traits and skill sets that allow for her to grow and succeed as well.  Both actors are fierce, unafraid, and creatively ambitious as performers and they’re both a joy to watch.     

Viggo Mortensen, as Master Chief, is in charge of all he surveys in the training facility.  Military D.I.’s (short for drill and training instructors) are one step removed from God in military hierarchy thinking.  And woe betide the individual that forgets it.  The excellent cast of supporting characters in “G.I. Jane” make the premise of the story not only moving but a believable exercise of what takes place in the lives of our military men and women.

Military stories are usually favored by men.  But in “G.I. Jane” the ladies have a worthy hero character for whom to root.   “G.I. Jane” the movie has been selected by AMC’s TV channel to stream as their movie of the month for September.  As long as we’re all quarantined at home, it’s the perfect time watch this semi-inspirational movie again. Especially, since the women’s rights movement recently celebrated 100 years of getting the vote on the road to full equality for all women.  I reviewed it on September 4th. Check your local TV listings for date and time of screening.  It’s definitely worth a second look.