Has it really been ten years since “Semi-Pro?”
The 2008 release of the Will Ferrell basketball comedy showed off Flint as a bona fide Hollywood movie locale. But now that Michigan’s program of tax credits for filmmakers has been gone for a few years, ending an era in which Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino), Drew Barrymore (Whip It) and Ben Affleck (Batman v. Superman) played to the cameras within our borders, there have been few high-profile made-in-Michigan projects.
This month, however, a couple of new movies with Michigan – and even Flint – connections ought to bring the region back to mind … for good or ill.
Opening on September 14, White Boy Rick depicts the true story of Rick Wershe, the Detroit teen who was all over the news in the 1980s after being sentenced to life on drug-dealing charges – and sparking controversy over whether minors merited such punishment. Matthew McConaughey heads the cast as Wershe’s father, with newcomer Richie Merritt in the title role.
White Boy Rick was mainly shot in Cleveland (!), although the filmmakers did location shooting in Detroit for one day last spring. So, a least there’s that.
Closer to home, the Flint water crisis looks to be fodder for Michael Moore’s latest docu-comedy, Fahrenheit 11/9, set to open September 21. The film concerns American anxiety in the age of Donald Trump, as a follow-up of sorts to Moore’s 2004 War on Terror film, Fahrenheit 9/11.
The trailer for the new film indicates that the Flint-born, Davison-bred Moore hasn’t forgotten the city he made famous in Roger & Me, as it shows the filmmaker spraying the contents of a truck marked “Flint Water” into the yard of the residence of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. Also promised: interviews with student activist David Hogg, former Trump adviser Roger Stone, and newly prominent Congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a film that asks, “How in the —- did this happen?”
Meanwhile, it’s time for a new movie season at the Flint Institute of Arts, where among the selections for September is First Reformed, a drama written and directed by Grand Rapids native Paul Schrader, who scripted Raging Bull and Taxi Driver.
Schrader, who grew up in a strongly religious family and attended Calvin College, has touched on issues of faith in some of his films (Hardcore immediately comes to mind). But First Reformed is his first direct look at religion, as it concerns a small-town pastor (Ethan Hawke) who experiences a spiritual crisis after a parishioner (Amanda Seyfried) asks him to counsel her radical-environmentalist husband. Look for First Reformed at the FIA September 21-23.
The FIA’s Friends of Modern Art film series for 2018-19 opens September 7-9 with Boundaries, a road-trip comedy-drama in which Vera Farmiga and Christopher Plummer drive cross-country as daughter and dad.
The month’s other selections are RBG (September 13, 15-16), a documentary on Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg; The Rider (September 14-16), a drama about the redemption of a stricken rodeo competitor; and Final Portrait (September 28-30). Final Portrait stars Geoffrey Rush and Armie Hammer as a portrait painter and the friend who endures a long, long sitting. Consider it a seriocomic insight into the beauty, profundity and chaos of the creative process.
Information on all screenings at the FIA is available by visiting FlintArts.org or calling 810.234.1695.