Film Review: Union

union still

Whitney Hamilton writes, directs, and stars in Union, a sort of sequel to her 2005 film My Brother’s War (and both films are based on her novel, Firefly). Hamilton was inspired by the over 400 women who disguised themselves as men in order to fight for their side in the American Civil War. Union focuses on one such woman (Hamilton), who assumes the identity of her dead brother, Henry. Hamilton channels directors Jane Campion and Kelly Reichardt for her western romantic saga with a splash of verité. The film suffers from a lack of editing and some spotty peripheral performances, but fans of the genre, and those craving a nuanced queer romance will find much to love.

[The protagonist’s true gender identity is never expressly stated but since Virginia calls her partner “Henry” even when they’re alone together, I will use male pronouns from here on out. My apologies to Hamilton if this is a misrepresentation of the character.]

Union opens with a gritty re-enactment of the battle of Gettysburg. While fighting for the Confederate side, Henry is wounded on the battlefield and calls out to his love, Virginia (Virginia Newcomb), before passing into unconsciousness. When he wakes in a Union hospital, his biology is betrayed, which saves him from hanging, but also lands him an unwanted engagement to the man who stays his execution. Henry escapes and sets off to reunite with Virginia. Along the way, he is helped by some Native Americans who revere his gender duality but haunted by a promise he made to his former paramour who died in his arms. Meanwhile, Virginia also faces an unwanted betrothal at her brother’s insistence, fights to keep soldiers from stealing her farm, and takes in a pregnant widow.

Cinematographer William Schweikert delivers some truly breathtaking shots of the night sky and nature. Liberal use of what I assume are drone cameras gives the micro-budget film an epic quality. History buffs will appreciate the commitment to authenticity. Hamilton basically became a Civil War reenactor to get in good with people who had access to period costumes and the locations she needed. She was able to film in actual historic buildings and locations in Alabama and Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, it feels like many of the extras and tertiary roles are played by said reenactors, who aren’t as good with line readings as they are with historical accuracy.

The leads, on the other hands, deliver like gangbusters, particularly Newcomb who brings a young Sissy Spacek intensity to the proceedings. She wears her prairie dresses and hardened scowl like a second skin. Hamilton and Newcomb also have tremendous chemistry and when they’re apart, you feel the hole left by their absent sweetheart. They absolutely glow through their tender, candle-lit love scene, a welcome respite from the near-constant peril these characters face from beginning to end.

The trouble lies in the editing, which employs a confusing non-linear story and too much time spent away from the electric leads. If Hamilton turned around 40 minutes of Union into epistolary voiceover exposition, it would have helped with pacing and kept the focus on the bold women at the center of the story. When Hamilton does employ epistolary voiceover, it works very well with the genre, because this was a time when letter writing was an art. It was very possible that every letter contained your last words to someone you loved.

I very much enjoyed the recurring motif of a Shawnee man telling Henry’s story to his people. This is where some of the more beautiful imagery comes into play and it draws a parallel between two types of marginalized people in the early 19th Century. Union also adeptly addresses how prevalent the patriarchy was in a woman’s life. It was considered every woman’s duty to give themselves over to a man and to child-rearing. Anyone who chose another path risked their very life in doing so. Overall, Union is a valuable addition to the underrepresented genre of LGBTQIA+ historical cinema.

Union is currently streaming on HBO, itunes, VUDU, Fandango, Direct TV, Youtube, Google Play, Amazon Prime and other platforms.

 

Film Review: Human Capital

human-capital

Marc Meyers (My Friend Dahmer) directs this non-linear, Rashomon-style morality play based on a 2004 novel by Stephen Amidon and adapted by Oren Moverman (The Messenger, I’m Not There). Led by a stellar ensemble cast, the story weaves together the lives of three families from disparate economic classes. While a mystery surrounding a deadly hit-and-run accident does the film a slight disservice, the performances are enough to give Human Capital a look on VOD.

Meyers is the second director to bring Amidon’s novel to the big screen, the first being Italian director, Paolo Virzì in 2015. The story opens on a waiter finishing up his workday. He asks for time off to have a date night for his wife’s birthday and hops on his bike to head home. This is all the time we have with him before he is struck by an SUV and left for dead on the side of the road. This accident becomes the centerpiece of the drama that unfolds between 3 families connected by their teenagers only to see the parents clash, both directly and indirectly, over economic disparity.

Read the rest at Hammer to Nail!

Paid in Puke S1E7: Midsommar/The VVitch

On this episode, we get pagan AF, as we dig deep into Robert Eggers’ 2015 film, The VVitch, and Ari Aster’s 2019 film, Midsommar! Wouldst thou like to live deliciously? Of course thou wouldst! We have a little bit of trouble coming up with a Lunchtime Poll, but we get there eventually.

midsommar the vvitch episode art

Our discussion also spawns our first t-shirt! Get your #WitchLife merch in our new store! Black Phillip-approved!

Paid in Puke S2E6: Bring it On

Happy St. Pad’s! On this unrelated episode of Paid in Puke, we’ve got s-loads of spirit for Peyton Reed’s ahead-of-its-time (a few Hot Probs aside) anti-appropriation film, Bring it On, starring Kirstin Dunst and Gabrielle Union.

bring it on epsiode art

We also reveal the songs we would use for our floor routine and there’s a lengthy plug for Baxter’s band, No Refundz.

Paid in Puke S2E5: Like a Boss

On this episode of Paid in Puke, we discuss the myriad ways we were disappointed by Miguel Arteta’s 2020 comedy, Like a Boss, despite the stellar cast. There are some redeeming qualities, including the Lunchtime Poll question it inspired: What small business would you start with your bestie? It wouldn’t be a novelty product makeup boutique, that’s for sure.

like-a-boss-movie-review

At least Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne are delights, no matter what terrible scripts they are handed.

Film Review: DOSED

Tyler Chandler’s directorial debut, Dosed, begins with a frightening statistic from the World Health Organization: 1.6 billion people suffer from anxiety, depression, and addiction worldwide. While you watch this documentary, 127 people will commit suicide. Then we meet Chandler’s friend, Adrianne, a young Canadian woman who admits that opioid addiction causes her to risk her life on a daily basis. She has repeatedly tried to get clean through legal channels, but it creates an unsustainable cycle of methadone, painful detox, and inevitable relapse. Adrianne knows that if she can’t end this pattern soon, she will take her own life as a means of escape. She is desperate to try anything. Fortunately, Chandler has recently heard that plant psychedelics can help…

dosed-poster

Read the rest on Hammer to Nail!

Paid in Puke S2E4: Dick

In this episode, we go through the looking glass to discuss Andrew Fleming’s (The Craft) 1999 political teen comedy, Dick! This genre-inventing film exposed Kirstin Dunst and Michelle Williams as premiere talents but they have still been woefully underutilized all these years.

Dick ep image

We might break a record with tangents on this episode, because we somehow manage to get all the way to The Wizard starring Fred Savage and Jenny Lewis. We also have a real bummer of a conversation about our first celebrity crushes who disappointed us.

Also, Amy has an announcement!