‘Captain Marvel’ Brings On the Girl Power

It only seems right that Captain Marvel is being released on 2019’s International Women's Day. Since 2008’s Iron-Man, Marvel has presented a good chain, albeit a bit short, of strong women characters starting with Pepper Potts. Black Widow became the first Marvel female superhero to grace the screens in Iron-Man 2 followed by Scarlet Witch, Gamora, Mantis, The Wasp, Okoye and Shuri. But today, Brie Larson heads the first female-driven superhero movie for Marvel Studios.

Let’s just get this out of the way – this movie packs a “girl power” punch without putting men down in the process. While their intentions are good, too many films try to present a message of female empowerment while emasculating men in the process. Sure, the opposite has been true for many years, but this is no way to move on with injustice and certainly isn’t a message that today’s girls need to here.

Marvel Studios has toyed with an “anything you can do, I can do better” attitude between its men and…

'Puzzle' is Well Made, but a Few Pieces are Missing

Movie Review of "Puzzle"
Kelly MacDonald as Agnes in Puzzle (Sony Pictures Classics)

Based on the film Rompecabezas, Puzzle is one of those little-known independent films that sneaks into theaters with little to no fanfare, although the fact that it is being promoted “from the producer of Little Miss Sunshine” should help it get noticed somewhat. Puzzle is a quiet, little film about a woman who discovers that jigsaw puzzles are the key to changing her life. While the subject matter doesn’t sound all that exciting, the film really isn’t about puzzles but instead about one finding their voice, or so it appears. It’s also a message film that has its own agenda expecting the audience to agree with the choices of the main character and applaud her “brave” behavior. Frankly, it just feels manipulative.

Directed by Marc Turtletaub, Puzzle’s most impactful scene comes within the first few minutes. We see Agnes (Kelly MacDonald) cleaning up the house and they decorating it for a birthday party. Then we see her serving appetizers while being ignored by the guests. She briefly stops by where her husband, Louie (David Denman) is sitting and asks if he is having a good time. He reassures her that he is and she tells him that she’s glad. Next, we see her put candles on the birthday cake and bring it out to the guests while they sing happy birthday … to her. It’s her day and she is barely noticed.
As it turns out, this is pretty normal for Agnes. She spends most of her days taking care of the house. She is dedicated to her church. She makes sure that dinner is on the table on time every night for cleaning, husband and two sons, Ziggy (Bubba Weiler) and Gabe (Austin Abrams). Ziggy is the older son who works at his father’s auto shop and hates it. Gabe is the smart one of the family and plans to go to college. Louie favors and fawns over the younger son while Agnes relates better to the older one. Everyone has their roles to play in this family.

After the party, we see Agnes opening some of her birthday gifts including a new cell phone which she has no interest in and a jigsaw puzzle which seems to call to her. She soon finds that she not only enjoys working the puzzle, but that she is pretty quick at putting it together too. Intrigued by her newfound interest, Agnes goes to purchase another puzzle and finds an advertisement for a man (Irrfan Khan) looking for a “puzzle partner” for an upcoming competition. Agnes responds to the ad, the two meet and then continue to meet weekly to work on puzzle-building strategies, but Agnes doesn’t tell Louie. You already know where this is going to go.

As Agnes embraces the world of puzzle building and the companionship of a stranger, she begins to let go of other things in her life. She begins to doubt her faith and starts to resent her family. Louie clearly loves his wife and the role that she plays in his life. He is comfortable with his relationship with her and there is no denying that he is manipulative. When Agnes lies about wanting to help her elderly aunt, Louie says that he doesn’t want her to go because he and the boys “need” her at home. She in turn would rather lie to him than tell him the truth.

Louie is not a bad guy, but he is clueless. When Agnes snaps at him, he doesn’t understand why, but she expects that he should. In turn, Agnes learns that instead of flirting with customers at work, Louie brags about his wife. While she is a bit surprised, she isn’t really impressed either. In fact, she even seems a bit disappointed. Instead of working on creating a more open and honest relationship with Louie, Agnes concentrates on her own personal happiness instead.

It’s pretty clear that we’re supposed to be on-board with Agnes’ quiet rebellion against her husband, sons and even God, but for me, this story becomes one of selfishness. We’re supposed to side with Agnes and cheer her own as she finds her own voice. This is something I did too at first, but as Agnes goes further and further into “finding herself,” she slowly removes herself from her family and faith. It would have been more rewarding to see this small grouping of a family come together and redeem themselves, but none of them are given a chance during the film’s running time. Many will see the ending of Puzzle as a happy one, but I’ve seen too many families in real life fall into this trap of trying to find the missing pieces in their lives and so, I can’t support it.


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