Eight Great Things To Do This Weekend – Movie Lovers Edition
You’re stuck at home … the days seem to be getting longer … the kids are restless. Luckily, we live in the age of on-demand streaming. This week, we’ve put together a special all-cinema edition of Eight Great featuring recent films shot in or around the Merrimack Valley. Get your popcorn ready …
ONE: One of the most notable films set in the Merrimack Valley, The Fighter is a classic, poignant biopic of Lowell’s Micky Ward. The film follows the Irish American professional boxer as he struggles with a drug-addict brother and a chance at redeeming his faltering career. Mark Wahlberg, Amy Adams and Christian Bale (who won an Oscar for his role as Ward’s brother Dicky Eklund) are incredible to watch. “The Fighter” remains one of my favorite movies as it hits close to home while exploring the meaning of family on the gritty streets of Lowell.
TWO: Little Women, the latest remake of this classic tale of love, adolescence, and the bond between sisters, features an opening scene shot in Lawrence, which doubles as New York. The film features many other regional locations, including sites in Concord, Groton, Harvard and Ipswich. This 2020 Best Picture nominee featured a beautiful, earnest performance from Saoirse Ronan as Jo, an aspiring writer trying to find her voice. Greta Gerwig’s stunning adaption is guaranteed not to disappoint, as it transports you to a beautiful 19th century New England and blends together love, loss, and independence with a stellar supporting cast. [Want to learn more? The Massachusetts Film Office put together a guide and you can read it here.]
THREE: “With The Invention of Lying, a mostly funny if melancholic defense of deceit, Ricky Gervais has come up with the makings of a classic,” writes Manohla Dargis of The New York Times. Set in downtown Lowell (but also featuring scenes shot in Andover, North Andover and Haverhill), the film stars Gervais as Mark Bellison, a man who lives in a world where lying doesn’t exist — that is, until suddenly he learns to twist the truth. Bellison hilariously navigates this new normal in which he is the only person who can tell a lie. While Jennifer Garner also stars, you might want to consider the city of Lowell itself as a supporting actor. Watch with friends and have fun playing “spot the landmark.”
FOUR: From the director who brought us “The Fighter” and “Silver Linings Playbook,” Joy is a captivating film partly shot on the streets of Haverhill. The film stars Jennifer Lawrence as Joy Mangano, a young woman who will eventually become the unhappy founder of a business dynasty. Mangano struggles both internally and externally as she experiences betrayal and loss on the way to the top. Lawrence’s critically acclaimed performance earned her an Oscar nomination.
FIVE: Per recommendation from a friend, I recently watched, and loved, The Social Network, which includes scenes shot at Phillips Academy in Andover. The film, starring Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg, details the creation of Facebook and two of the early lawsuits that the CEO faced after the social media site’s launch. While some of the facts may be outdated (Facebook has faced numerous controversies since the film’s 2010 release) it is an intriguing story that provides an inside look at the dawn of the social media era. That’s quite timely, too, considering how our social media dependence is so high during this time of social distancing.
SIX: If you’re looking for a movie that lifts your spirits and offers a laugh for kids and parents alike, Daddy’s Home 2 is the perfect fit. While it might not be the most critically praised film, the duo of Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg is hilarious. This sequel, which adds Mel Gibson and John Lithgow to the cast, has become one of my family’s go-to choices when we need an easy laugh. It was shot in Lawrence’s Showcase Cinemas, the now-closed movie theater on Route 114. Upon our first watch, my brother exclaimed, “That’s the old movie theater that we love!”
SEVEN: School Ties, an early ’90s film is one of my father’s favorites because it offers everything: high school drama, friendship, comedy, and a profound message about anti-Semitism. The film, which was shot at the Middlesex School in Concord, is about David Greene, a rising football star who receives a scholarship to a prep school in the 1950s. When David’s popularity peaks, his Jewish background is revealed, and he subsequently experiences violence, threats, and the loss of friendship as the school turns against him. As Randy White of Common Sense Media puts it: “School Ties is a stirring movie with an important message about tolerance and fitting in. Bigotry is exposed as a manifestation of ignorance and cowardice.”
EIGHT: Finally, one for the action-lovers. Denzel Washington stars in The Equalizer, an action-thriller partly shot in Haverhill. Robert McCall is moving forward from a mysterious past by attempting to create a quiet, new life for himself. When he meets an abused teenager named Teri, played by Chloe Grace Moretz, McCall’s inner skilled assassin comes out as he stands up for the weak and fights back against local criminals.