Reviews & More: Believe It

Constance Wu (left) and Jennifer Lopez in a still from "Hustlers."

“You and I travel to the beat of a diff’rent drum…” If those lyrics sound familiar, then you might also know it was 18-year-old Linda Ronstadt’s singing debut with a group called The Stone Ponys in 1967. She soon went out on her own and proceeded to sell more than 100 million records over the next nearly 40 years, branching out toward the end of her career from being a rock icon to exploring light opera, the classic American songbook (with arrangements by the equally iconic Nelson Riddle) and an album sung entirely in Spanish with a mariachi feel. Sidelined by Parkinson’s disease, she is still with us and still totally capable of narrating an amazing documentary named “Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice.” And what a voice it was! A rich alto with soprano overtones, a magical instrument that only got better with age and seasoning. The woman herself? A fascinating amalgam of Mexican and Midwest heritage, free-thinking, private, political and with an adventurous life we read about in the newspapers—dating Jerry Brown, in his first governorship, for example. Alternating between performance clips from the past (oh, the bell-bottoms and the hair! oh, the amazing songs!) and today in retirement and surrounded by family, this is a moving, historically fascinating, thoroughly enchanting film. I plan to see it again.

Jennifer Lopez is a force of nature, one of those who is not just talented but blessed with amazing charisma. “Hustlers” is her movie, a showcase for her many gifts, not the least of which is as an actor. She struts through the film, taking over every scene she is in and riveting our attention even when we might want to turn it in another direction. The movie itself is a mixed bag, a hodgepodge of views of women in various states of undress, justified female retribution and a failed feminist statement, all sewn together under the banner of “based on a true story.” The first half goes on too long with scene after scene of women who strip at clubs, making it look quite glamorous when the reality is tawdry. The second half picks up the pace somewhat, leading to a resolution that tries to be about the enduring strength of female friendships but just feels artificial. 

I recommend you do not binge-watch “Unbelievable,” now streaming on Netflix. It’s too emotionally difficult to take in at one sitting. On the other hand, I heartily recommend you do watch it. Also based on a true story, it is simply shattering in its superb storytelling, writing, acting and directing. This eight-parter deals with the aftermath of a 2007 rape of a teenager in Washington state that is reported but which is not believed, mostly due to the historically macho perspective of policing and the complete lack of empathy for victims of sexual abuse. This victim, Marie (played with heart-breaking brilliance by Kaitlyn Dever) is a product of foster homes and rootlessness who has been trying to get her life together. The incident shatters her already fragile hold on hope for a decent future. Fast forward to 2011 when two female detectives in Colorado (again, brilliant performances by Toni Collette and Merritt Wever), each from different precincts, each total personality opposites, start to uncover a string of reported rapes that have never been solved and work together to catch a serial rapist. Each of the eight episodes goes back and forth between Marie’s story and the police detectives, furthering the investigation but leaving us hanging with frustration until the next chapter does the same thing. Kudos go to creators Susannah Grant, Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman for giving us this rich, nuanced, thoroughly human drama. And kudos, too, go to the supporting cast who play other rape victims and police, too many to single out here. In my opinion, “Unbelievable” is the best, most human, most complex police procedural I’ve seen in a long, long time.