Opening this weekend are two of the most buzzworthy movies of 2016 – The Girl on the Train and Birth of a Nation. Both movies which have a very good choice of being remembered during award season, have the benefit and detriment of being buzzworthy. Back in the day when MTV played music videos all the time, the “Buzzworthy” icon would flash before on screen when they wanted their audience to pay special attention to the video that was about to play. It was MTV’s way of saying “THIS IS WHAT IS COOL IF YOU WANT TO BE COOL TALK ABOUT THIS.” Not much has changed – buzzworthiness is still what determines what we talk about today, while coolness is often replaced with controversy.
Both if this week’s movies are certainly that. The Girl on the Train, an adaptation of one of the biggest books of 2015, stars Emily Blunt as the titular girl, who slowly realizes that she is the lynchpin in a suburban tragedy that she herself cannot remember. Birth of a Nation, the most talked about movie of this years film festival circuit, has been at the center of controversy since it premiered earlier this year. While the movie itself has been heralded as a work of art by writer, director, and star, Nate Parker, is also the source of the controversy. Just Google it if you’re interested.
I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions about each of these movies, but here is what I am more interested in than both the box office success either film: separating the art from the artist.
Emily Blunt is, in my opinion, the best and most deserving movie star working today. She has been stellar in every movie she has been in, from a cameo in Charlie Wilson’s War to a scene stealing supporting role in The Devil Wears Prada, to being the best thing about Into The Woods, to being an action hero in Sicario and The Edge of Tomorrow. Her presence and performance can elevate the material. If the movie succeeds it is because of her and if it fails it is not her fault. I feel this way because I trust her as an actor.
For Nate Parker and Birth of a Nation, the controversy surrounding this movie has to do with him and not the movie he has been working on for nearly his entire career. Can this movie stand on it’s own or will the weight of personal opinion of Parker the man derail the work of Parker as an artist?
THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN
SYNOPSIS (via Wikipedia): Rachel Watson, an alcoholic who divorced her husband Tom after she caught him cheating on her, takes the train to work daily. She fantasizes about the relationship of her neighbours, Scott and Megan Hipwell, during her commute. That all changes when she witnesses something from the train window and Megan is missing,presumed dead.
BIRTH OF A NATION
SYNOPSiS (via Wikipedia): Nat Turner, as a child, is taught to read so he can study the Bible, and be a preacher to fellow slaves. When Turner’s master takes him across the country on a preaching tour to profit from his preaching, Turner begins to see the scope of slavery, and decides to become a different leader.