If I had to characterize three of the new streaming releases of this weekend on Netflix, I’d call Pieces of a Woman, an embittered Sourdough, and refer to French productions Lupin and Tony Parker: The Final Shot as the two tasty croissants.
Pieces of a Woman (Netflix USA) – Here finally, is the much heralded film of Director Kornél Mondruczó, that was produced by Martin Scorsese, and earned plaudits in both Venice and Toronto last year. There’s even talk of acting awards nominations for Vanessa Kirby, and possible Supporting Actress nods for Ellen Burstyn. The talk is well deserved, but this story of a woman who undergoes a tragic home birth, and follows her life after, trying to pick up the pieces and extract some form of justice from the midwife, is undoubtedly painful to watch.
Vanessa Kirby and Shia Labeouf play the couple expecting their first child as the film opens. He works in construction, while she is a white-collar executive. What’s immediately established is how Kirby’s character has married beneath her, in the estimation of her mother (portrayed by Burstyn). Whether it’s a new car – a minivan, or later a gravestone, there’s always that undercurrent of how the mother dominates relationships and can’t help making everyone around her feel they’re underachieving and disappointing her. This is a very intense film, and like I said, it’s not all that easy to watch. The acting is to be admired, but I wonder how many will endure sitting through it.
Lupin (Netflix France) – Here’s the first season of a Limited Series that on the surface looks like it owes much to the success of Spain’s Money Heist. Lupin refers to Arsene Lupin, the legendary Gentleman Thief of French classic crime fiction – but don’t worry, this series in set in the Paris of today. In fact, the opening scene alone brings that home in a big way as its shot in the Louvre. Omar Sy plays the roguish charmer Assane, and we’re immediately whisked away to the land of this adventure series that revolves around a treasured necklace, and centers on imagination, illusion, and fooling the world while devoting oneself to a life of crime.
What makes this series have texture, and possibly be the first strong series of the new year is how beyond the Crime, the back story of Assane is a complex and tortuous path that grabs our interest. The son of a Senegal chauffeur working in Paris, Assane is distraught when his father, Babakar, is accused of stealing that precious necklace from his employer, Mr. Pelligrini. That Assane has a son, that the family Pelligrini still haunts him, and a load of other connections makes this tale one that won’t be easy to forget. It’s not only revenge, but other strong motives that make the stakes so high here. Interesting start for this character-driven series.
Tony Parker: The Final Shot (Netflix France) – You don’t have to be a rabid fan of NBA Basketball or the San Antonio Spurs to appreciate what this sports documentary brings to the table. At heart, it’s the tale of the European kid who was considered too small, too skinny to play with the big boys of the NBA. This documentary starts off with Tony Parker as that French son of a bi-racial couple living in Belgium, his father one of the minor US basketball players who took their game to Europe when they weren’t drafted in the NBA. We follow his career among the under-18’s, a stint in the French pro league and on to the NBA, where he was drafted 28th out of 30 in the First Round.
From there, we watch how Spurs Greg Popovich handed him the reins to the team as starting point guard in only the 5th game of his first NBA season. As legendary Football player Thierry Henry explains, if Basketball is about Jordan, then everyone else; for French Basketball, it’s Parker, then everyone else. He won 4 Rings, was Finals MVP in 2007, and will always be seen as the pioneer (even if he wasn’t the first) for French hoopsters reaching the Parthenon of the NBA. Parker retired in 2019, playing for the Charlotte Hornets, a team owned by Jordan, who Parker idolized. There’s some sweet symmetry in that. Yes, it’s about European sports, but this documentary has its own Gallic charm.