Welcome to the first episode of the Incluvie Movie Highlights! We shine a spotlight on our favorite new movies that stand out for diversity and identity. Is Everything Everywhere All at Once too weird, or just the right amount of weird? How is it so revolutionary to see a science fiction film star Asian Americans? CODA - is it good or bad for deaf representation? Why do Serena and Venus not star in a movie about their own lives in King Richard? Is Marry Me too cheesy for a romantic comedy? We get into this and more!
CATHY: Welcome to the first episode of the Incluvie Movie Highlights. We shine a spotlight on our favorite new movies that stand out for diversity and representation, and share our thoughts! From Incluvie.com, I’m Cathy Yee.
HAZEL: And I am Hazel Bolivar, on today’s episode we will be covering two Academy Award winning movies you should watch if you haven’t already. Jennifer Lopez in the luxurious romantic comedy Marry Me, and the critically acclaimed new Science Fiction film Everything Everywhere all at Once.
CATHY: Let’s get into it!
CATHY: For our first highlight, we’re starting off with CODA! At the recent 2022 Academy Awards, CODA won Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor - with Troy Kotsur. Directed by Sian Heder, the film features Ruby Rossi, who is a CODA, aka child of deaf adults. Her whole family is deaf except for her, and notably, she discovers a passion for singing. Her family can’t hear her - literally and figuratively. She balances singing with her family’s fishing business. The movie did a fantastic and super fair job with casting - all of Ruby’s family members were played by deaf actors including Daniel Durant as the brother, Marlee Matlin as the mom, and Troy Kotsur, who gave the Academy Award winning performance as Ruby’s dad.
HAZEL: The casting of this film is incredibly significant given that in the past, deaf characters have often not been played by deaf actors, take for example the 2014 film The Belier Family, which CODA is an adaptation of, where the deaf mother and father characters are played by hearing actors. CODA’s wins at the Academy Awards serve as a significant moment in Hollywood for deaf representation, and disabled representation generally. In an interview with Variety, Daniel Durant points out that, “In the disability community, there are so many skilled actors waiting for jobs,” and that “That talent is just waiting for you.”
CATHY: You know, with this fantastic cast, there was actually some really important advocacy work behind the scenes. Marlee Matlin talked about how she needed to “put her foot down” to stop the studio from having a hearing actor play Frank. Troy Kotsur was cast, and he did an unbeatable job. He brought authenticity, a lot of heart, and was not to mention hilarious - in his ASL. A lot of the ASL that Troy signed was actually improvised on the spot! Definitely added to his award winning performance.
HAZEL: Along with the praise that the film received came a number of important critiques that I hope will not only lead filmmakers to create projects that better represent deaf communities but inspire studios to hire deaf creators to be the writers and directors of their own stories. Incluvie movie critic Daleyna wrote in her review for the film that throughout the course of the story, being a CODA is presented as being burdensome because of Ruby’s family having a heavy reliance on her, a reliance that ignores the many spaces where interpreters are often required to be available, such as a court or a hospital. Daleyna’s review also asks the important question of what it would mean for the film to have been about a non-white family, which opens up hope for future films that tackle an intersectional view of what the experiences of deaf people of color are.
CATHY: CODA has sparked an important conversation highlighting just how important authentic casting is for fair representation. I really loved this movie. Gotta say, most movies bring me to tears anyways… but this was definitely one of the best. Ruby’s choir teacher Bernardo, was really cool - played by Eugenio Durbez, from Mexico City. I give CODA a 5 / 5 for the Movie Score, and a 4.5 / 5 for the Incluvie Score.
HAZEL: I also really enjoyed my time watching the film, and I think it is a very solid movie that, though it has its flaws, has done a lot to move the conversation of deaf representation in Hollywood forward. Given all of that I would rate the film a four out of five for both its Movie Score and Incluvie Score. CODA is currently available to be streamed on Apple TV+, and if you would like to read Daleyna’s full review that we mentioned earlier, be sure to check it out on Incluvie.com.
CATHY: Next to highlight is academy award-winning King Richard! It tells the story of Serena Williams and Venus Williams’ dad - Richard, aka King Richard, as he helps bring his daughters to become the tennis world’s greatest. Will Smith plays the dad, Richard, while young Venus and Serena are played by Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton. The movie shows their early days in Compton, living life, and playing tennis. I’m actually super excited - but I got to see Serena Williams in real life a few days ago - in Miami!
HAZEL: Oh Really?
CATHY: Yeah! She was speaking at the eMerge tech conference. In her speech, much like the movie, she emphasized humility and humbleness.
HAZEL: That’s really cool!
CATHY: I know! Anyways, I was wondering why the movie about the Williams sisters didn’t star them at the center of their own stories… but turns out they’re both the executive producers, and wanted to make this movie for their dad.
HAZEL: Oscar drama aside, Will Smith gives an incredible Academy Award-winning performance as Richard Williams that the producers Tim and Trevor White put serious attention to having come off as authentic. The producers go into the process of making the film in an interview with Variety, where they emphasize how essential having Serena and Venus on board as consultants who generously provided feedback and stories were for them. I find this care to be incredibly important because, though this was not a legal requirement to create the film, it brings a tangible realness to the project.
CATHY: The realness clearly shines through, as it shows the challenges that the Wiliams family faced fighting to get Venus and Serena - to break into the predominantly white sport of tennis - as young Black girls growing up in Compton with limited resources. A scene that really stood out to me is when Richard has a business meeting with 3 white men in a fancy tennis club, and he challenges the patronizing way they talk about how impressed they are with his daughters’ success given their “situation and background.” There are so many ways this story is a positive piece for representation, Incluvie movie critic Daleyna writes in her review that “King Richard's depiction of a Black father is one that never falls into a stereotype. He’s not absent; he’s extremely present. The movie highlights his strengths while refusing to hide his flaws. The representation of a supportive Black family and confident young Black girls is so positive.” King Richard was a great biopic. I give it a four point five out of five for the Movie Score and a five out of five for the Incluvie Score.
HAZEL: I absolutely agree, I was moved throughout the film by the family story at the core of the biopic, and even as someone who isn’t the biggest fan of tennis, I was on the edge of my seat during the games that take place in the film thanks to the excellent editing work of the project. Overall I would also give the film a four point five out of five for the Movie Score and a five out of five for the Incluvie score. I am excited to see if any sequel movies will be made, given that Serena Williams showed some interest in making more films about her and her sister’s stories in the future in an interview with Insider, which I will absolutely be excited to see if they are made.
CATHY: Yes! I would love to see more films that focus on Serena and Venus Williams themselves. I’m sure there are plenty of incredible stories there, and I hope we’ll be able to see them in the coming years. King Richard is currently streaming on HBO MAX, and if you would like to check out Daleyna’s full review of King Richard, and reviews for other Oscar winning films like West Side Story, Drive My Car, and Encanto, then be sure to visit Incluvie.com. After a quick break, we’ll move on to our last two highlights today, Marry Me and… Everything Everywhere All at Once!
HAZEL: Next on our list of highlights is Marry Me a film directed by Kat Coiro that stars Jennifer Lopez playing Latin American superstar Kat Valdez, who after finding out her fiance Bastian, played by Colombian singer Maluma, is cheating on her during their live wedding ceremony, decides to impulsively marry a random math teacher in the crowd, Charlie Gilbert, who is played by Owen Wilson.
CATHY: This is definitely a more lighthearted romcom, and flips the script of the 2002 Maid in Manhattan, where Jennifer Lopez plays a maid who ends up involved with a wealthy man. In this story however, JLo is the wealthy pop star who decides to be with down to Earth Charlie, a single father math teacher, who still uses a flip phone and wants nothing to do with the fame and social media lifestyle of a popstar.
HAZEL: I was definitely not expecting to enjoy this film as much as I did, and to be completely honest, I loved it. It is a perfectly done and perfectly enjoyable romantic comedy. Nell Minow, writing for RogerEbert.com notes that the “script might as well have been written by an algorithm to hit every rom-com beat, from the meet-cute to the magical connection to the setback to the happy ending, but it deserves extra credit for what it avoids. There are no silly misunderstandings, contrived situations, or cartoonishly awful people.” I completely agree with this sentiment, I would say the film is very disciplined in the way that it exists within the romantic comedy genre, and the music for it is really catchy and still stuck in my head. It was a lot of fun to watch.
CATHY: Fun is the perfect word for Marry Me, it’s really great to see Jennifer Lopez effortlessly being the star that she is, especially in a romantic comedy where women over thirty are rare to find. I was actually surprised to see that a sizable amount of reviews were negative, bashing the film for being heavy on product placement and being cliche at times, which aren’t particularly out of place for a film in this genre.
HAZEL: I feel that when you see this film for what it is, it is a very easy film to enjoy. I would say the film itself is very aware of what it is too, not taking itself all too seriously and poking some fun at itself for its heavy use of product placement. Overall I give it a solid four out of five on the Movie Scale, and for the Incluvie Score I would rate the film a four point five out of five for having Jennifer Lopez in the lead role, and celebrating the world of Latin Pop.
CATHY: I would agree with those ratings completely, a four out of five for the Movie Score and a four point five out of five for the Incluvie Score. If you want to watch Marry Me for yourself, it is currently available to be streamed on Peacock.
HAZEL: Our featured highlight for this month is a critically acclaimed science fiction multiverse family drama film that tackles generational misunderstanding, coming out, and the dread that accompanies doing your taxes. If this sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. Of course we are talking about the newly released Everything Everywhere all at Once written and directed by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert.
CATHY: The film stars Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn, a Chinese immigrant mother who runs a laundromat with her husband Waymond, played by Ke Huy Quan, from the Goonies as a kid way back when. She struggles with doing her taxes, stresses about her father’s approval and throwing a Chinese New Year party, and also fails at connecting with her daughter Joy, played by Stephanie Hsu , who’s queer and not skinny, to her mother’s disapproval.
HAZEL: This all sounds simple enough, but while at an IRS building getting paperwork sorted, the multiverse opens up and Evelyn must make sense of the many lives that could have been in order to stop an all powerful version of her daughter from a different universe from ending the world with a bagel, which again, if it sounds like a lot, that’s because it is.
CATHY: A lot for sure, and at times a bit too much for me to fully get immersed in the story, with its chaotic and weird storyline. Hot dog fingers. Racoon-touie. An everything bagel as a blackhole. At its core though, it is a really compelling piece of art, and a breakthrough for Asian American representation. Most Asian American movies - well are very rare to start - focus so much on the pain and hardship of the immigrant experience - it’s important in it’s own right, but for me that gets really sad and old after a while. It’s exciting and refreshing to see an Asian American family story that gets to be completely ridiculous, silly, action-packed - and notably in the science fiction genre! Everything Everywhere has a lot of heart. At it’s core it’s a coming out story, mother daughter story, and husband and wife reconnecting story. It’s really everything, and everywhere.
HAZEL: And, all at once. It definitely is a lot, but for me the ridiculousness brought me closer to feeling Evelyn’s struggle trying to understand her daughter. I personally related to the story as a queer child of immigrant parents, and the loneliness that can be felt from having such a different worldview and understanding of myself that I feel my parents would never be able to understand. The absurdist nature of the premise makes the journey Evelyn is on to heal her relationship with her daughter more visceral. Laura Zornosa of the New York Times wrote an article titled “How ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ Helps to Heal Generational Trauma,” within which licensed psychologist Peggy Loo sees the film as being a useful exercise for people who have been through trauma. She explains that, quote “Trauma can shrink the imagination” and that “To heal, we need to be able to see farther than what we’ve known and been exposed to.” She relates that to the movie, by noting that its multiversal plot makes viewers have to “suspend reality to keep up with the plot” and serves to “flex the imagination.”
CATHY: That’s incredible. Mental health is so important. This movie being a flex for the imagination is an understatement, but the strangeness of the story does a lot to bring the issue of generational miscommunication on screen in a really unique way. Aside from the over-the-top scenes, the generational differences and separation on display in the film exists in ways that are down to earth and familiar for a lot of people. Take for example a scene where Evelyn is talking to Joy before she gets in her car, and she tells her “you’re getting fat.” It’s a quick insult, but it’s something that a lot of Asian Americans have heard before from their immigrant moms.
HAZEL: I have also heard that one before as a Latinx American person.
CATHY: Then it is relatable for an even wider group of people! All of that being said, I’m glad I watched Everything Everywhere All at Once. I felt it was a bit too weird, but I do want to watch it again actually, with subtitles. I’m incredibly happy to see such an imaginative and wacky film be about the intergeneration conflicts within an Asian American family, and delve into their experiences so deeply. Also, seeing Michelle Yeoh in such a role was bizarre and cool. Of course she does kung fu in the movie. Overall, I give Everything Everyhwere All at Once a four point five our of five for the Movie Score, and five out of five on the Incluvie score.
HAZEL: I personally absolutely loved the film. I was blown away by how much heart it had, and it made me feel a lot of things, which is a testament to the film’s strength because I am not the most emotional person in the world by any means.
CATHY: This is true.
HAZEL: Beyond that, it is so technically impressive to watch, from the editing to the writing to the special effects, I can’t see this film as anything less than a complete masterpiece. For that reason I would rate Everything Everywhere All at Once a full five out of five for both the Movie Score and the Incluvie Score, if you haven’t seen it yet, you absolutely must. Everything Everywhere All at Once is currently only available to be seen in theaters. Also, if you would like to read more of Cathy’s thoughts on Everything Everywhere All at Once along with what we’ve talked about in today’s show, be sure to visit Incluvie.com.
CATHY:That’s our show for the month of April, thanks so much for listening, and be sure to join us next time for more, Incluvie Movie Highlights.
CATHY: This episode was hosted and executive produced by me, Cathy Yee, and co-hosted, produced, and edited by Hazel Bolivar. You can visit Incluvie.com to see the incluvie score for a movie and read reviews focused on diversity and identity in media. You can also follow us on Twitter and Instagram, or support us on Patreon @incluvie, that’s I-N-C-L-U-V-I-E.