Whoopi Goldberg’s found a perfect vehicle in the entertaining Jumpin’ Jack Flash

Whoopi Goldberg, Jumpin’ Jack Flash (dir. Penny Marshall, 20th Century Fox, 1986)

Whoopi Goldberg and the late Penny Marshall are pioneers in 80s Hollywood comedy. The two women broke barriers in the industry, making their mark with their talents. Marshall, a former TV comedienne who found success on the 1970s sitcom Laverne & Shirley moved away from acting to become a successful director. Goldberg, a multi-talented wonder, was feted in the industry for two brilliant performances: her one-woman stage show, The Spook Show (1983) and her Oscar-nominated work in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Alice Walker’s seminal novel The Color Purple. The two were paired in the Marshall’s directorial bow, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, an action comedy that was the first of a series of comedy vehicles that saw Goldberg becoming one of the busiest and most popular actresses of the decade. In something akin to the kind of career Eddie Murphy enjoyed, Goldberg found herself in a string of action comedies that relied heavily on her comic persona. Though her film career started with a searing dramatic turn in Color Purple, the decade wound to an end with Goldberg anchoring silly comedies (with a smattering of prestige dramas that reminded viewers of her range)

The story is credited to David Franzoni, the first in his filmography, which would eventually include the Oscar-winning Ridley Scott film Gladiator. Working with Franzoni is the husband-and-wife team, Charles Shyer and Nancy Meyers (both credited under pseudonyms) who would go on to write and direct some of the most popular mainstream comedies of the 80s and 90s. And joining the group, is Marshall’s former Laverne & Shirley scribe Christ Thompson. Marshall was the second directing choice, after veteran director Howard Zieff was sacked. Initially, a starring vehicle for Cheers comedienne Shelley Long, the film production was chaotic when Marshall was brought on – for her first film as a director.

The story is the sort of 80s cold war espionage junk that thrilled audiences. There are many dated elements to the film – particularly the Red Scare stuff as well as the technology. Goldberg stars as Terry Doolittle, a computer desk jockey at a New York City bank. She’s a wise-cracking, irreverent member of her team, though she’s very popular with her coworkers and is a skilled and hard worker. One evening, as she diligently works at her computer (festooned with cool toys like Gumby and Pokey action figures), she gets a mysterious message on her screen, “Knock Knock.” The message is from someone calling himself Jumpin’ Jack Flash, a MI6 agent who is being hunted down by the KGB. Terry interacts with Jumpin’ Jack Flash, and through solving his riddles, makes her way to the British Consulate to convey a secret message. When she’s rebuked at the consulate, she’s plunged into a winding, crazy story of intrigue that sees her fending off scary thugs, ducking bullets, and being kidnapped by being dragged through the streets of New York, locked away in a phone booth.

As seen by the brief plot summary, Jumpin’ Jack Flash is ridiculous and silly. It’s a lengthy collection of threadbare Cold War cliches. Shadowy characters seem to lurk in every corner, threatening Terry. Marshall and Goldberg are saddled with a story that’s about a million miles beneath them and they do their best to enliven the film with their distinct talents. A comedy pro like Marshall does a solid job in telling this story but she struggles with the action scenes. The moments of violence in Jumpin’ Jack Flash feel nondescript, like any b-movie shoot ’em up. When the film is more low key, particularly when Goldberg’s Terry is interacting with characters she likes, there’s a sweet comic humanity to the film.

In fact, though Jumpin’ Jack Flash is largely an action thriller, it’s best moments are when Goldberg is allowed to be funny and when she interacts with sympathetic costars. When Marshall was hired to direct the film, she roped in some of her friends to fill supporting roles like Jon Lovitz, Jim Belushi, Phil Hartman, Carol Kane, and Mike McKean. Other good supporting work comes from a beguilingly young Annie Potts, Tracey Ullman, and Sara Botsford.

And then there’s Whoopi Goldberg. Though she’s a strong, versatile actress, capable of disappearing into her roles (look at her dramatic work, her low key comedic films, or her Oscar-winning role in Ghost), in this film, she’s essentially inserting her comedic persona in a script and running with it. She’s playing Terry Doolittle, but really we’re looking at Whoopi Goldberg caught up in a silly thriller story. She’s irascible, sharp, short-tempered, and intensely intelligent. She applies these character traits to Terry, but it feels as if Goldberg wasn’t sticking to the script but filling out the space in her scenes by being Whoopi. And when I say Whoopi, I don’t mean Whoopi Goldberg, the real woman behind the image, but the comedic image itself. When I write Whoopi, I mean the brand name Whoopi.

But Marshall does some nice intimate work with her star when Terry has heartfelt one-to-one moments with her costars. Carol Kane is her onscreen best friend and the two have a nice, easy chemistry (though the role is a brief waste of an actress of her caliber). And when Botsford’s Lady Sarah Billings comes through for Terry and provides her with some vital information, Terry’s face breaks into a wonderful, warm smile as she says in gratitude, “You’re a real lady, Sarah.” It’s always fun to see Goldberg’s vulnerability beneath the bravado and Marshall does a great job of pulling them out.

The other thing that Marshall does well is give Goldberg moments of physical slapstick. It’s clear that when Marshall and her Laverne & Shirley costar were throwing themselves into the Lucille Ball-esque antics on that show that she was making notes. She creates space for Goldberg to engage in some nifty physical humor reminiscent of Marshall’s (check out some episodes of Laverne & Shirley to see some brilliant comedic slapstick work) When Goldberg’s character is drugged, the actress does a funny job of conveying Terry’s desperate attempts to power through the narcotic’s soporific effects, stumbling her way through a fancy spa, and sliding down a banister. As she skitters through her scenes, her speech littered with slurred asides and blunt truths (she was shot with truth serum – yup, truth serum), and Goldberg does a masterful job of making a ridiculously improbable situation credible.

When the (extremely) convoluted plot is resolved, Terry gets to finally meet Jack. Again, it’s a lovely moment when Terry, dressed up to the nines, is waiting at the agreed-upon place for the rendez vous. It’s a touching moment because Terry’s a heroine and risked her life for this man she never met and yet has forged a closeness and connection. It’s a prescient part of Jumpin’ Jack Flash to have Terry and Jack create a deep and meaningful through the computer screen (something that seems normal now but was a novel and weird thing back in 1986)

Jumpin’ Jack Flash showed the industry that female directors and female action leads had potential audiences. The film’s solid box office (it make over twice its relative budget) gave Goldberg a tidy career as a comedy box office star. She would develop an incredibly prolific filmography larded with huge hits like Sister Act, prestige work like Ghosts of Mississippi, and her Oscar-winning turn in The Color Purple. She would see success on stage and television, as well. Marshall would become one of the most sought-after film directors of her generation, responsible for pleasing, feel good work including 1988’s comedy Big which became the first film directed by a woman to gross over $100 million at the box office. She would have a very respectable CV which included the Oscar-nominated Awakenings and the excellent sports comedy, 1992’s A League of Their Own.

The film would go on to become a minor, popular entry in both Goldberg’s and Marshall’s resumes. It’s the kind of movie that is perfect for a rainy Saturday afternoon. It’s undemanding and easy on the brain and good for a hearty laugh. It’s also a good way to see the beginning of Goldberg’s 80s career which led her to become a one-named brand. Yes, The Color Purple was her introduction to Hollywood (and what a boffo intro it was), but Jumpin’ Jack Flash is far more indicative and representative of the kind of movie star Goldberg would become during the rest of the decade. Even her brilliant, award-winning work in Ghost is closer in tone to Jumpin’ Jack Flash than The Color Purple. The film established Goldberg as the female alternative to male comedy stars like Eddie Murphy, Bill Murray, or Steve Martin; and so because of that, though it’s not a groundbreaking film, it’s an important one nonetheless.

As a special note: the title tune of the film’s soundtrack was a cover of the Rolling Stones classic done by Aretha Franklin. Produced by Keith Richards who worked on the track with Ronnie Wood, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” was a hit for Franklin, just missing the US top 20, and being the first single from her gold-selling 1986 album, Aretha.

Charlie Brooker offers a hilarious – but deeply depressing – take on this past year with ‘Death to 2020’

Charlie Brooker – the brilliant essayist and the creative mind behind Black Mirror has done the seemingly impossible: he’s created a work of mainstream art that is simultaneously hilarious and depressing. The uproarious mockumentary, Death to 2020 takes a barbed look at the disgusting  year we’ve had – and though it’s a fantastic work, it’s incredibly distressing to watch. I laughed a lot, but I cannot say that I enjoyed the film. It’s a thoroughly 2020 film, one that perfectly encapsulates the year it mocks.

Narrated by Laurence Fishburne, Death to 2020 features a cast of comedic pros – Hugh Grant, Leslie Jones, Lisa Kudrow, Tracey Ullman, Kumail Nanjiani – as well as the epitome of class and cool, Samuel L. Jackson. The actors are given ample opportunity to lampoon some of the archetypes that have emerged from 2020: Grant, in old-age makeup, plays an obtuse historian; Kudrow takes on the Kellyanne Conway GOP mouthpiece role; Ullman does her usual spotless impersonation work, this time playing Queen Elizabeth II; and Joe Keery and Cristin Milioti score sour laughs as the stereotypical white “woke” millennial and the entitled white “Karen,” respectively. These characters are too familiar given the ubiquity of their presence on social media and their real-life counterparts are so absurd that Brooker’s parody hews startlingly close to reality.

Because the pandemic has dominated our lives for the past few months, what with endless series of lockdowns and ascending levels of tiers, it’s easy to forget that there were other horrifying events in 2020 that made it such a terrible year. Thankfully, Brooker is here to remind us of them. The film barrels through the list of calamities including the Australian bushfire, the blasts in Beirut, and the aftermath of the December 2019 snap elections. Of course, events such as the George Floyd murder and its ensuing eruptions of rebellion throughout the globe, the exhausting and torturous 2020 presidential election, and President Trump’s disastrous response to the racial and civil unrest in the States have left a lasting impact as enduring as the pandemic and it’s understandable that the three historical events dominate Death to 2020.

Though Brooker’s point of view is left-of-centre and he clearly sympathises with progressives and liberals, he doesn’t spare the supposed cancel culture, woke culture, and performative nature of liberalism in the 21st century. Keery’s millennial is a composite of the self-righteous, uninformed lefty bros who espouse supposedly progressive views to virtual signal (in one hilarious scene, his character drives through a Black neighborhood in the middle of the night, pestering sleeping residents by spouting PC nonsense through a megaphone). And Leslie Jones, as a pop psychologist, offers her theory about the great divide in our culture, assigning equal blame to both left and right extremism. Though there is a faint whiff of bothersiderism in this effort (I mean, really, there’s no comparison at this point), none of this is bad because it’s hilarious. Keery’s character is so eerily on point and accurate it feels as if Brooker simply turned on a random YouTube video of some liberal dumdum.

But the bulk of Brooker’s ire is directed toward the alt-right populism that has landed us in the quagmire of 2020. He’s especially withering of the president of the United States and the prime minister of the United Kingdom. He finds the two men as grossly unqualified and incompetent. Their shared ineptitude in the face of the pandemic is exposed and Brooker’s contempt is unsparing and full of righteous anger.

As mentioned earlier, all of Death to 2020 is very funny. Samson Kayo plays a scientist working on the pandemic vaccine is a joy, especially when he expresses consternation at having his very serious words trivialized by goofy graphics (including the rather lavish defecation of a rhinoceros).  -Grant does a fantastic job playing the sort of talking head who tries to contextualise the events of 2020, but is hopelessly out of his depth – he grasps at straws in hopes of sounding intelligent and masterful. Kudrow does her patented sly, acrid work as an amalgam of Kellyanne Conway, Ivanka Trump, and Kayleigh McEnany. And possibly funniest of all, Diane Morgan does as the “average citizen” a woman so incurious, indifferent, apathetic, and uninformed, that each time she spouts of some inane gobbledygook, it becomes increasingly clear just how we got into the gigantic mess of 2020.

So Brooker’s sharp writing and the game staff makes for very funny viewing. But it’s still a rough watch. It’s a depressing film but one that does what it sets out to do: roughly shake viewers out of their lockdown-induced stupor. It’s not the kind of escapist entertainment that people signed up for Disney+ in huge numbers. It’s deliberately disconcerting and discomforting because it’s meant to stir thought.

But I wonder if Death to 2020 is necessary. Do we need to be reminded – even if through expertly-written satire – that 2020 was a garbage year? After all, saying 2020 is hell has become a cliche. I finished the film wondering who is it for? Who was the intended audience for this film? It’s a great film but one that is hard to watch. Brooker has done a magician’s trick in being able to create a work that is at once a knee-slapper and a major downer.

A pre-I Love Lucy Lucille Ball charms and engages in the film noir curio ‘The Dark Corner’

Lucille Ball as the intrepid Kathleen

Before finding television success as a comedienne, Lucille Ball paid her dues starring in a series of B-movies, earning the moniker the Queen of the B’s before she became known as the Queen of Comedy. As a working actress, she appeared in a variety of genres, including dramas and thrillers, including the little-known film noir The Dark Corner (1946). Directed by Henry Hathaway and co-starring Mark Stevens and Clifton Webb, The Dark Corner is a winding mystery about murder, infidelity, and vengeance.

Stevens is Bradford Galt, a private detective who is based in New York City. We learn that Galt is an excon with a shady past. His secretary Kathleen (Ball) is a recent hire and the two take an instant liking to each other. Taking her out for dinner one evening, the two realize that they are being tailed by a man in a white suit and Galt convinces an initially reluctant Kathleen to help him figure out who the guy is. What the two discover is that Galt is the pawn in a mysterious plot with a shadowy figure who has access to his past. When Galt is framed for a murder, Kathleen helps in trying to unravel the mystery and discover who is working to get Galt arrested as well as what the motive is. Whilst Galt and Kathleen dash through the gritty streets of New York City, dead bodies appear, people with secrets are being blackmailed, and the police are closing in on our heroes.

Director Hathaway has a knack for creating tension in his films. He uses all the conventions of film noir in The Dark Corner – the chiaroscuro effect of street lamps on dark streets, fast-talking dames, looming shadows, the use of an urban setting, a cast of mean-looking character actors. He doesn’t do anything novel or groundbreaking with this effort, but the film still is effective due to the engaging script and spirited performances. He employs some interesting shots throughout the film, particularly during scenes in the dark, with figures silhouetted against lit windows, vertical blinds casting shadows across the walls. It’s a stylish film that makes great use of moody lighting and deliberate use of shadows.

Ball and Stevens make for a great pair and share an easy chemistry. The script gives Ball something to do besides being a damsel in distress, a femme fatale, or the girlfriend. Kathleen is a major asset for Galt and isn’t define by her attraction or love for him. As Galt gets deeper into trouble, she becomes an important ally. And though Stevens’ role is a standard noir protagonist: tough-talking, a smart aleck, who sees himself as a loner – he responds to the more emotional moments in the film with an affecting performance . Galt is written as something of a cliche but slips easily into the role making the character more than just a stock character.

The Dark Corner isn’t an extraordinary film but it’s a very entertaining one. Its charm lies in the engrossing plot and the likable leads. Once the mystery presents itself, the story draws viewers in.

Autumn de Wilde offers a fresh take on the umpteenth version of Jane Austen’s ‘Emma.’

When Autumn de Wilde’s take on Emma (stylized as Emma.) was released, lots of people probably rolled their eyes and wondered if we needed another version of the Jane Austen comedy. This is probably the 9th version of the story, so it’s completely understandable if viewers were to approach this film with a collective, “Again?”

But I would urge viewers to tamp down any feelings of cynicism and see the film with an open mind because de Wilde offers a weird and inventive look at the story. A quick summary for the precious few who may not know the story: Emma Woodhouse is a beautiful, smart, conceited young woman who is bored. Her boredom leads her to play matchmaker with her social circle with varying degrees of success. In many versions of Emma, screenwriters highlight the decent, kind core hidden deep in Emma’s self-regard, to make her more likable. In Emma., de Wilde is not interested in making her heroine likable. In fact, this version of the character borders on monster.

With an spry and funny script by Man Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton, Emma. tells the familiar story with some great novel touches. Emma (Anya Taylor-Joy) is the lady of her house after the marriages of her older sister as well as her governess, who was her mother figure. Because her father, hypochondriac Mr Woodhouse (a hilarious Bill Nighy), is indulgent and hero worships his daughter, Emma has a monstrous self-regard. She’s smart and because she’s usually the smartest person in the room, she thinks everyone in the world would benefit greatly from her meddling. She sets her sights on young Harriet Smith (Mia Goth), a nice, pleasant young woman who lives in a near school. Because Harriet is being financially supported by an anonymous benefactor, Emma has decided that Harriet must come from regal stock. As such, she decides to take Harriet under her wing and remake her as a society doyenne. As a result of Emma’s power in her social setting, people readily embrace Harriet. The only person who challenges Emma’s genius is family friend, Mr Knightly (Johnny Flynn).

Emma. fits into the recent rise in popularity of period, costume drama, and people will see some overlap between this film and Greta Gerwig’s Little Women and Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite. The setting is lush and busy, rooms decorated with fondant-like pastels. And unlike the period drama of yore, Emma. tells the story with mordant humour. de Wilde has some visually arresting imagery that she presents. Stately homes, like architectural goliaths, loom large over expansive, verdant properties. And characters respond to each other, not in the stilted, tight choreographed way that expected in period dramas, but de Wilde allows for moments of awkwardness (there’s funny scene in which Emma hitches up her skirt to warm her butt in a cold room; in another scene, she responds to a profession of love with a nosebleed)

But it’s the way that Emma Woodhouse is depicted that sets this version of the story apart. With a committed and sly performance by Taylor-Joy, Emma is a low-key, almost-villain. In other versions, we see that Emma has good intentions and has genuine sympathy and love for those around her. In Emma., we don’t get much of that – at least not in the first half of the film. Emma is a terrible person. She duly manipulates Harriet to spurn the advances of the lovely Mr Martin (Connor Windells), in favor of the potential match she’s trying to construct with the affable, if silly Mr Elton (great comic scene-stealer, Josh O’Connor). It’s only when she finally understands her true feelings for Mr Knightly, that the script allows for Emma to thaw a bit. And as good as the leads are, the best of the bunch is comedienne Miranda Hart, who walks away with the film, as the impoverished fussbudget, Miss Bates – a kind, if silly, spinster who earns Emma’s contempt for her inability to shut up.

Catton’s script is largely faithful to the original source material, with some changes to streamline the story – which is one of Austen’s longest. There are some subplots that have been jettisoned and Emma’s romantic awakening occurs pretty early in the film which raises the stakes for the character, especially when she alienates herself from her friends after her vicious wit gets out of hand. The comedy is also more pronounced – there are moments of near-slapstick that the film handles with aplomb. Because of the fresh handling of this old story, Emma. ranks as one of the better Austen films and is a irreverent joy to watch.

‘The Spy Who Dumped Me’ is a silly – but violent – diversion

The Spy Who Dumped Me is a film that will suffer in comparison with the very similar (and superior) Melissa McCarthy vehicle Spy. Like the Paul Feig comedy, Susana Fogel’s comedy takes on the tropes of the spy film and plays with expectations of the genre. It’s not a great film – the violence throws off the tone badly, and Fogel cannot braid the savagery with the comedy, which makes for some difficult watching. Fogel wrote the script with TV vet David Iserson, and it lurches from one scene to the next, derailing the comedy with lapses into long stretches of gratuitous violence. The film’s shaky execution is held up by the enthusiasm of its two stars Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon.

Kunis is Audrey Stockman, a cashier at a fictional version of Trader Joe’s, who has a terrible birthday: her boyfriend Drew (Justin Theroux) dumps her via text. She doesn’t get too much time to nurse her wounds because quickly she learns that Drew is a CIA agent and he’s being pursued by other agents, and due to plot twists and machinations that I don’t want to reveal at this point, Audrey is en route to Europe with her best friend Morgan (McKinnon), a ride-or-die type BFF, and dive into a ridiculously convolute tale of intrigue, and yeah, more violence.

Moran and Audrey find themselves into terrible, dangerous situations that have them fending off murderous, doublecrossing agents, while they are trying to save the world. This is a stupid movie – it feels like Fogel and Iserson dumped a bunch of drafts into a machine that spat out a standard-issue action comedy – but Kunis and (especially) McKinnon make it work due to the sheer force of their performances. They have believable chemistry and no matter who ridiculous the circumstances get – at one point in the movie McKinnon’s Morgan pretends to be a Cirque du Soleil performer while battling a villainous gymnast on the trapeze – they’re committed, balls-to-the-walls.

It’s nice to see a movie like this with a female duo going toe-to-toe with the bad guys. Kunis and McKinnon are a great remake of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover -it’s always nice to see a couple game comediennes throw themselves in without abandon. Amidst all of the gunshots, explosions, and fights, they manage to rise above the mire and come out with some comic dignity. I’m hoping that Kunis and McKinnon will become our generation’s Hope and Crosby, and are given a more consistent vehicle that makes great use of their talents.

Jane Fonda tells her compelling story in ‘Jane Fonda in Five Acts’

Though Madonna and David Bowie have been acclaimed for their innate ability to change, evolve, and reinvent themselves, actress Jane Fonda has had to do the same in her 60+ year career. Starting out as a child of a celebrity, she grew up to be a sex symbol, before morphing into an activist, while nurturing a critically-lauded film career. She then let acting lose precedence to her career as a fitness guru and exercise video pioneer, before settling for over a decade as the ultimate trophy wife, until finally embarking on an amazing late-career era a comeback queen. In the last decade or so, since her exit from retirement, Fonda has been able to do some of the most interesting and compelling work of her Oscar-winning career. All of this is chronicled in the excellent – and moving – documentary Jane Fonda in Five Acts.

The Jane Fonda presented in the film is one of contradictions. Though a staunch feminist, she talks about deferring to the men in her life, and defining herself by her relationships, including the one with her father, Hollywood legend, Henry Fonda. And though she is unwavering in her commitment to social causes, she winces at the infamous photograph of her sitting on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun on a visit to Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The picture, in which we see Fonda grinning – the photograph condemned her to the epithet “Hanoi Jane” – a sobriquet that follows her to this day (just read the comment threads of any articles about her online…actually don’t)

A large part of Fonda’s screen persona and public image is that of a confident, beautiful woman – no shrinking violet. It’s interesting to see the contrast between the public Fonda with the unguarded woman that appears in the film. Though her past as an actress is unequivocally successful, the other parts of her life plague her with insecurity. She regrets a lot – she feels she failed at motherhood (her children are on hand to describe their unconventional upbringings) and her relationship with Henry Fonda is a source of a lot of angst.

For many viewers, it’s the Fonda family saga that will be the most affecting. Jane Fonda was a Hollywood princess, her father being a legendary movie star and her mother, a beautiful socialite. The perfect family is far from that – Fonda’s mother Frances Ford Seymour was a troubled and sad woman who struggled with mental health and would eventually take her own life. Father Henry wasn’t willing to provide the emotional support Fonda needed, and therefore their relationship was fractured and troubled. And Fonda recognizes that she’s repeated some of her dad’s mistakes with her own children, as well.

Her series of high-profile marriages also provide the film with heft. Her first husband was French film director Roger Vadim (with whom Fonda collaborated on Barbarella); her second husband was political activist Tom Hayden; and her last husband was billionaire businessman Ted Turner. Both Turner and Hayden appear on the film to talk about Fonda and overall, both men pay tribute to their ex-wife – Hayden, especially honours Fonda’s commitment to social causes. Her relationship with these men is interesting because despite Fonda’s strong personality, she allowed herself to be dwarfed by her husband’s personality. Her marriage with Hayden was especially fraught because she came off as an intellectual lightweight compared to his “important” work.

Director Susan Lacey is obviously in love with her subject – it’s not a hagiography, exactly, but this is told through Fonda’s point of view. She doesn’t shy away from the darker, unattractive aspects of her personality or behaviour, but any negative moments are shared on Fonda’s terms. It’s admirable that the actress is willing to open up and is frank and candid – she’s especially moving when she talks about her mother – but she’s also fond of clichés and has a propensity to sum up large chunks of her life in seemingly profound statements that tend to flatten and reduce a life that is complicated and exciting.

The parts of the film that truly click are when Lacey presents Fonda, the activist and artist. All her adult life has been marked by a desire for social betterment, and it’s interesting to see the span and breadth of Fonda’s interests. So much of her work and image has been reduced to simply exercise tapes and Hanoi Jane, but she’s a vital, compassionate woman who still marches for a fair wage, women’s rights, queer rights, anti-war rallies. What these last few years have shown is that she’s as passionate as ever about causes. Jane Fonda in Five Acts rallies beautifully at the end, when we see that despite the valedictory tone of a film like this, Jane Fonda is as alive as ever, not content on resting on her legend or iconic status. In the voice over, Fonda muses that she’s entering the beginning of her final stage – even if that sentiment sounds grim, it’s clear that Fonda’s not going gentle into that good night.

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