Movie reviews: 'Five Feet Apart,' 'Giant Little Ones' and 'Climax' open, March 15
CBS Films, 2019.

"Captain Marvel" is still going to dominate the box office this coming weekend, but that doesn't mean that there won't be more options and films to see. For most of this week's new releases, you might need to go to the independent theaters to find them, as many of them are seeing limited release, but for a "giant little one" in particular, it might be worth the trek.

Here are reviews for films seeing release this weekend, March 15, 2019:


"Five Feet Apart"

The "terminally-ill" romance has become a popular sub-genre of the Young Adult romance genre over the past few years. There was of course "The Fault in Our Stars," "Everything, Everything" and "Midnight Sun" just in the past couple of years, all featuring a love story between two teenagers drawn together by their dire circumstances. We now get "Five Feet Apart," the latest entry in this genre, but this is one that can't rise above the many cliches and contrivances we've come to know about this sort of film.

But it's not for a lack of trying. "Five Feet Apart" features some fine performances by its young cast, all of whom do what they can to elevate the script. Haley Lu Richardson is a revelation as Stella, and Richardson is a future house-hold name who has up until this point been relegated to "best friend" roles in movies like "The Edge of Seventeen." Here, she shines and doesn't deliver a false note, despite existing in an artificial world.

Her love interest is the brooding artist, Will (Cole Sprouse, Jughead on "Riverdale"), who meets Stella when he is put on a new trial drug meant to battle his cystic-fibrosis, an ailment shared by Stella. Their diagnosis requires them to remain at least five feet apart from one another, or they risk death. "The Kings of Summer" stand-out Moises Arias also elevates his character, the witty gay friend character that we've seen time and time again in movies like this, but here he manages to find nuance.

Unfortunately, the rest of "Five Feet Apart" isn't able to find any. Each character, on the page, is defined by a specific attribute (Stella is OCD, for example), and the longer the film goes on, the more you can feel the filmmakers trying to squeeze tears out of you. The performances almost make the journey bearable. Almost. We learn a lot about the horrible disease that is cystic-fibrosis, but other than that, the main take-away will be: Who is that girl? The answer to that question is: Haley Lu Richardson, an actress who is now just about five feet from stardom.

Grade: C+

Rated PG-13.
Genre: Drama, Romance. Run Time: 1 hour 56 minutes.
Starring: Haley Lu Richardson, Cole Sprouse, Moises Arias, Kimberly Hebert Gregory, Claire Forlani.
Directed by Justin Baldoni (feature-film directorial debut).


"Giant Little Ones"

It's a great week for the indy coming-of-age drama "Giant Little Ones" to see release. Up next to "Five Feet Apart," it is the superior film and shows what an authentic-feeling movie looks like (this one) up against characters that only seem to exist in the movies (like in "Five Feet Apart").

It's a real achievement. Writer/Director Keith Behrman puts a new spin on the "coming-out" story, but this is one that exists entirely in grey area. Led by a stellar cast of mostly unknowns, Franky (Josh Wiggins) is a typical high school boy, about to mutually lose his virginity with his girlfriend Jess (Hailey Kittle). But after a night of partying a bit too much goes off the rails, he ends up having a sexual encounter with his childhood, lifelong friend, Ballas (Darren Mann). Not knowing what this meant or how to process it, Ballas flips the script and starts spreading rumors about Franky all over school. The topic of homosexuality is a familiar one because Franky's dad (Kyle MacLachlan) had divorced his mom (Maria Bello) after falling in love with another man.

But nothing in "Giant Little Ones" comes easy, for the characters or for the audience. Is Franky gay? Is that an important label for him or for others? Or does what happened speak more to the suppressed emotions of Ballas and what's going on internally with him? Everyone in "Giant Little Ones" is finding themselves, and there is an innocence and authenticity to every beat. Maria Bello - the always great and often under-appreciated Maria Bello, who also produced this film - is pitch-perfect, but Kyle MacLachlan is award-worthy. Both of their roles are vital to the story, and they act as anchors to an otherwise unpolished ensemble...but unpolished in this sense is the highest form of praise.

"Giant Little Ones" offers no easy answers, it doesn't think for us and it definitely doesn't come to any definitive conclusions. What it does offer is a slice of life drama about discovery, acceptance and understanding...and it's probably the best film of the year that you won't have seen. Let's hope you do.

Grade: A

Rated R.
Genre: Drama. Run Time: 1 hour 33 minutes.
Starring: Josh Wiggins, Darren Mann, Hailey Kittle, Niamh Wilson, Taylor Hickson, Maria Bello, Kyle MacLachlan.
Written and Directed by Keith Behrman ("Flower and Garnet").


"Climax"

"Climax," the latest film from auteur Gaspar Noe (director of films like "Enter the Void" and "Irreversible"), is the sort of film that should be hung in a museum. It's art, that's for sure. But should you ever go see it in a theater? That's a much tougher question.

Who knows what the real purpose of "Climax" is, but for much of the film, you can't look away. It opens with a glorious single-take dance number, full of French dancers that have gathered in some sort of empty schoolhouse for a night of partying, drinking and dancing...things heighten when it is discovered that the sangria was spiked with LSD. We meet them all initially by getting to view their dance audition tapes, shown to us on an old TV. But you won't be able to figure out where this one is headed, despite its ability to mesmerize...for most viewers, this will lead to pure frustration (the theater this was screened in, literally ended up with two people left in it, with people filing out in droves at various points in the movie).

"Climax" is a cinematic achievement, one that bizarrely spins out of control and never lets up. It also does a great job of establishing a massive ensemble of characters that we seem to know quite intimately despite the lack of screen-time we have with them. But on all other levels, "Climax" is not the sort of movie that one recommends to others. Is there a point? Is the fact that there isn't a point, the point? Who spiked whatever it is that Gaspar is drinking?

A bad film has no redeeming qualities. "Climax" creates a new category all its own: A good film that feels like a bad film. It's a film worth seeing, and then never seeing again. It's utterly confusing to put a finger on what works, when so much feels like it doesn't.

Grade: C+

Rated R.
Genre: Drama, Horror, Music. Run Time: 1 hour 37 minutes.
Written and Directed by Gaspar Noe ("Enter the Void," "Irreversible").


All of these movies open Friday, March 15, 2019. Check here for show times.

Movies opening next weekend include: "Us" and "Gloria Bell."