Review: Brooklyn and Master of None

 

master of none-brooklyn-film review

Spoiler alert for both Brooklyn and Master of None.

A while ago my sister and I left the babies with our husbands and went to one of those theaters where you can sip mojitos and gorge yourself on fried pickles while you watch your flick of choice. A truly indulgent, wholly recommended experience. We went to see Brooklyn, and even if there hadn’t been alcohol, greasy food, and the plushest of seats, the film would have still stayed with me long after I left the theater.

It’s the love story of an Irish immigrant named Eilis and an Italian-American boy named Tony, and it’s a simple, beautiful ode to the immigrants who built new lives in this country and, in doing so, helped build this country.

A few weeks after I saw the film, I binged the first season of Master of None, Aziz Ansari’s humorous but often dismal show centering on life as a millennial in New York. Watching the two of them side by side was like a comparative cultural study on young romance.

The first striking difference that caught my attention was how the leads meet in each. In Brooklyn, Eilis and Tony meet at a dance for the young Irish community–an event that is a means of providing a wholesome way for young men and women to foster friendships and courtships. There’s a good-natured priest chaperoning and the whole thing is completely devoid of drama. Afterwards, an innocently smitten Tony walks Eilis home and the scene is marked by their sweet conversation as they begin to get to know one another. In Anna Keating’s review over at The Catholic Catalogue, she notes how refreshing it is to witness a relationship unfolding unhampered by charmless technology there to complicate things.

The very first scene of Master of None depicts Ansari’s character, Dev, and a girl named Rachel in the midst of a hookup after having met at a bar earlier that evening. After the condom rips, they both panic and awkwardly sit in silence in the dark on their phones trying to find an Uber to take them to a convenience store where they can buy plan b for Rachel. When Dev insists on paying for the plan b pills, there’s a strange, inverted chivalry that stands in stark contrast to the aforementioned scene in Brooklyn. There’s more awkward silence in the cab and any dialogue they share painfully underscores how little they know or truly want to know one another.

Most excellently portrayed in both Brooklyn and in Master of None is the dilemma of commitment. Rachel reappears in Dev’s life several months after that first night. They eventually do date, have a long-term relationship, move in together, and talk about marriage. However, they’re both deeply fearful of marriage and have many inhibiting assumptions about it: that happy marriages are built on an easy love free of hesitation or fear and that saying yes to marriage means saying yes to a life of predictability and boredom. Ultimately, they are too scared to say no to other life possibilities, and so they are unable to say yes to one another.

In Brooklyn, when tragedy strikes Eilis’ family and she plans to return to Ireland for a short trip, Tony convinces her that they should get married. Despite her hesitations, Eilis happily agrees. When Eilis goes back to Ireland where nobody knows of her American marriage, she discovers that this place which previously didn’t offer her a hopeful future now does. She is forced like Dev and Rachel and all of us to choose between different possible lives. Unlike the characters in Master of None, however, Eilis has the courage to commit. And unlike in Master of None, there’s a lovely quiet implication that a good marriage is not boring and that people have a limitless depth to their being that makes committing yourself to one person an adventure in itself.

I think this excerpt from Carolyn Pirtle’s review of Brooklyn over at Notre Dame’s Church Life Journal sums up well the tensions of having to make these life choices:

“What Brooklyn shows us is that, while it is possible to imagine a plethora of life scenarios in which one might be equally happy, it is also possible to choose—and not just possible, but necessary. For if you never say no to anything, you never really say yes to anything either. Saying yes to the one thing may mean saying no to all of the other things, but ultimately, it gives you the freedom to pour your entire self into prolonging that initial yes over the course of a life by affirming it over and over again.

And one more quote that I find apt and would like to share:

“Nearly all marriages, even happy ones, are mistakes: in the sense that almost certainly (in a more perfect world, or even with a little more care in this very imperfect one) both partners might be found more suitable mates. But the real soul-mate is the one you are actually married to.”
-J.R.R. Tolkien

If I had to pick just one, I would whole-heartedly recommend Brooklyn as my movie night pick, but if you’re like me and enjoy thinking about cultural issues and social trends over a bowl of popcorn, I’d recommend both. Happy Monday!

Advertisements
Review: Brooklyn and Master of None

Weekly Edit

image

Gifts from the Internet

On childhood and how we’re overcomplicating it:

  • Completely agree with this. I have very real memories of being stressed out about homework in elementary school.

“I believe that play should be the only work that kids do as homework,” said Karen Fitch, a Silicon Valley mother of a third-grade boy, and a former teacher. “Children are in school for hours on end; they don’t need to work on school subjects at home.”

  • Kids need less. Less toys. Less extracurricular activities. Less technology. This article is feeding my minimalistic aspirations for all stages of life:

“We enroll [sic] them in endless activities. And fill every space in their rooms with educational books, devices and toys with the average western child having in excess of 150 toys. With so much stuff children become blinded and overwhelmed with choice. They play superficially rather than becoming immersed deeply and lost in their wild imaginations.”

  • I don’t know how much I feel comfortable sharing about my child on here, which is why I tend to err on the side of caution. But I do follow plenty of bloggers who share all about their children. Many of these blogs made me less afraid and more excited about becoming a parent, so I’m very grateful to them and I wonder if I’m being too cautious. On the other hand, my child is his own person and I wonder how he will feel ten, fifteen, twenty years from now if I’ve put no limit on what I put out there about him. Of course, his entire generation will probably be dealing with these issues. Here’s some more food for thought on this issue:

“With the first babies of Facebook (which started in 2004) not yet in their teens and the stylish kids of Instagram (which started in 2010) barely in elementary school, families are just beginning to explore the question of how children feel about the digital record of their earliest years. But as this study, although small, suggests, it’s increasingly clear that our children will grow into teenagers and adults who want to control their digital identities.”

  • Lastly, something that I do struggle with. I want to be the sort of mother who can just be with her six month old all day absorbed in the wonder of all his tiny developments buuuut then I’d be a saint. Which I’m not. Technology dependency is such a vicious cycle in which the more I spend on social media, the more I feel the need to be on it when I’m not. I really don’t want my son’s first memories to be his mother hovering overhead eyes glued to the phone in her hand or said phone all up in his business snapping away photos. But this is pretty much the case currently.

Yums!

One of the challenges of domestic life that I tackle with great fervor is the leftover game. I relish the opportunity to upcycle them in as creative and delicious a way as possible. Sometimes, I’m like “Daaaamn girl! You can cook!” and sometimes it’s more like “Well at least we saved on groceries…” This week was all about leftovers.

  • I cooked chicken breasts, the last of an artichoke heart jar, and onions in last week’s aioli with a clear-the-fridge chopped salad (celery, sweet peppers, carrots, grapes, goat cheese-balsamic dressing). It probably would have earned a respectable 3.5 star rating except that I tried to quick defrost the chicken and the texture made me want to swear off chicken for good.

 

  • We made fajitas last weekend. I was in charge of the refried beans and Spanish rice (neither were great for the record.) I only had saffron chicken stock on hand (another leftover) so the rice so was more paella style. And then we just couldn’t seem to eat our way through it over the next few days so I thought: what if Spanish food and Sicilian food had a baby? What would that look like? Arancini de paella that’s what. I just added an egg to the rice, refrigerated it for a few hours, and used this as a guide for the rest of the process. 5 stars (at first it was 3.5 and then I couldn’t stop craving them and they improved upon reheating).

 

  • Then we couldn’t eat our way through the rest of the fajitas (By the way, here’s the secret for impressing people with tex-mex: homemade tortillas. Not actually daunting. You just need this and water and then you’ll be given lots of honor, praise, and glory.) So I made tortilla soup: threw the chicken and vegetables in more of the saffron chicken broth, boiled, simmered, shredded the chicken, loaded with cilantro, lime, avocado, queso fresco, and toasted tortilla strips. I will not lie. I had a daaaamn girl moment. 5 stars.

Other honorable mentions from this week:

  • In honor of Elizabeth’s 90th, we had Queen Mother’s Cake from our fave Queen Mother of desserts.
  • I married into the last name, Ramos, which has, as a perk, being able to call the Ramos Gin Fizz my signature drink. So, this email from a friend for a cocktail based on a Ramos Gin Fizz and named in honor of my son made me laugh (and enlist my resident mixologist to make me one):

“I give you…the Gin Léon

a shot and a half of gin
two and a half shots of almond-coconut milk
a half shot grand marnier
the juice of a large slice of lemon
about a teaspoon of honey

Mix thoroughly and enjoy.

This drink is the child of a Craving for a Ramos Gin Fizz and the Limitations of What I Keep in My Apartment. There’s definitely no fizz, and it’s not a fully grown Gin Ramos. So it’s just a Gin Léon.”

et cetera

 Let’s talk music. Because I love music recs. Which is why it’s helpful to have a friend who writes for an Indie music magazine and a husband who sends you songs while he’s at work with captions that he thinks you’ll appreciate. (e.g.: “If I were a funky astronaut, this would be my jam.”“To brighten your day.”, “Hipster advice to live by.”) Here was our week in music:

  • Monday was rough. I was taking care of my nephew and my son and had plans to load them up in the car, drive to my parents, and enjoy grandparent time. I timed leaving the house perfectly for when they both needed naps…and then I couldn’t find my keys. Which was fine until my perfect putting off of naptime meant errbody was getting cranky. So I turned the house upside down frantically asking…no…demanding that St. Anthony reveal where my keys were. The keys were not found and we all cried it out. Then I turned on some music and we all bounced about and felt better. So if some morning you find yourself a prisoner of your own home treating St. Anthony like a culprit with your charges nonstop howl-whimper-wailing, you might try turning up the music and letting your inner aerobics instructor go wild. This is my go-to Spotify playlist on such occasions.

 

  • On the other hand, maybe you’re looking for something to satiate your inner romanticist. This playlist has been our sweet naptime jam.

 

  • Not music but a further ode to the role Spotify plays in keeping stay-at-home mom life sane–did you know there are audio books on there? Like really, really good audio books. I’ve been trying to decide whether to get rid of my premium subscription because the subscriptions are piling up (but I hate hate hate hate hate hate hate ads). With Ogden Nash poetry read by the man himself and Shakespeare recited by Alan Rickman and Ralph Fiennes, I think I’m now listening enough to justify the subscription. No more trying to submit my ears to a whiny-voiced (though oh so generously volunteered!) librivox recording for me. The best discovery so far has been the collection of Oscar Wilde fairy tales. These are some of my favorite stories in the world and the recording by Basil Rathbone is sublime. Particularly, The Selfish Giant. Listen and try not to be moved by it.

……………

Happy Feast of St. Pius V, a man whose list of accomplishments is both inspiring and exhausting. And also of St. Joseph Cottolengo, whom I had never heard of before but whose love for the marginalized pulls at my heartstrings.

Weekly Edit

The mother I want to be

 

cassat2

I want to be one of Mary Cassatt’s mothers. Or Rossetti’s St. Anne. Wise and tender. Luminous and lovely.

And my children’s earliest memories of me to be buried in a sunny haze like a bright and blurry impressionist painting.

But I’m wiry haired and red eyed. Can’t be helped by the most forgiving of filters. My cold, bitterly over steeped tea seems appropriately like a witch’s brew. The lullabies I come up with, flattened and sharpened out of shape as they are, probably sound violent to tiny ears. Too often I moan and wail as sleep regressions that can’t be helped are met with mood regressions that can be.

And then there’s the guilt as I let my attention be splintered and fractured. All my dreams of fashioning a golden childhood and gentle home lost to bright screens and loud noises. The guilt as a small face is awash in blue light at odd hours of the night.

But I continue to tap, swipe, type, and look away. Away from growing limbs and a blooming body and a bubbling font of smiles and coos. Joy unreserved. And undeserved by this mother enamored by those frozen prettily in paint.

The mother I want to be

Resolutions for the New Year

image

It’s still January, right? Right.

• Delete conversational fillers and footholds from my vocabulary because  they’re like insufferable you know.

• Develop a healthy relationship with social media because there’s so little time and so much living to do. And I don’t want to have to go down this path…

• Find the right beauty products/routine for my face and frizz because I’ve been rocking the same ponytail and make-up-tricks-I-learned-in-high-school-drama look for far too long.

• Stop binge-ing on all the sugar all the time because it would come as no surprise to me if all my teeth made a pact to fall out one day.

• Create and follow a realistic daily prayer schedge because I’m a half-heathen without one.

• Replace certain choice words with holy aspirations because, in the throes of diaper blowouts and teething trauma, “Lord have mercy” is probably better for my sanity and soul than “effffff this!!”

• Make the bed every day because we could use a little order and beauty in the mundane things.

•Memorize more poetry

To watch

To read (aiming for a low 10-15 of these)

•••

Happy Feast of St. John Bosco, patron of Christian apprentices, editors, publishers, young people, magicians, and juvenile delinquents.

“Servite Domino in laetitia!”

Resolutions for the New Year