top of page
  • Writer's pictureZoe Schuldrenfrei

2021 TV and Movie Review

As 2021 has come to an end, it’s time for another television and movie review! The end of 2021 produced lots of new T.V. shows and movies, so I have compiled some of the best ones, so that you can decide what you want to watch easily without wasting time on the lemons. I watched a variety of shows in different genres, and I’ve assessed each on how well the plot is executed, the development and interest of characters, the acting, and other miscellaneous features such as the costumes and set.

Don’t Look Up, a recent edition to Netflix, is about two low-level astronomers who discover a large comet heading straight for Earth. They must go on a giant media tour to warn mankind about the comet. The cast is full of all-stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchet, Rob Morgan, Timothée Chalamet, Ariana Grande, and others. After watching this movie, it is evident that it is a heartbreaking commentary on how the U.S. is handling climate change, societal divide, media, and even the pandemic. This movie is a scathing comedy that depicts a dystopian United States. The film uses a disaster-movie framework as a metaphor for a real crisis and captures the bizarre indifference to it.

On the downside, however, this movie often veers off its intended course and becomes too broad for its own good. While studded with stars, the cast contributes to the continuous sidetracking of the plot with subplots that drag out, decreasing the attention paid to the oncoming comet.

Don’t Look Up does touch nicely on how distracting the media can be. For example, while the comet hurtles toward Earth, Americans all over social media post memes, tweets, and comments on the appearances of the scientists, videos, and conspiracy theories. Overall, this is a wacky and absorbing program. However, it could have been written with less glamor and more gritty details.

Tick, tick… BOOM! was directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda and stars Andrew Garfield, Alexandra Shipp, and Robin de Jesús with appearances from Vanessa Hudgens and Joshua Henry. The movie depicts Jonathan Larson, an aspiring playwright and composer in New York City, navigating the pressures of love and friendship whilst striving to jumpstart his career. The movie is based on the autobiographical musical Larson wrote bearing the same name, in which he describes an incessant ticking noise he hears in his head and begins to tell his story by painting the perfect picture of the starving artist living in a run-down apartment with undependable electricity.

In 1990, Larson was working at the Moondance Diner in SoHo while trying to prepare for the workshop of his musical and “passion project,” Superbia. As he turns thirty, he feels the pressure of wanting to be successful before getting older. Larson sings in the opening number, “30/90,” “They're singing ‘happy birthday,’ you just want to lay down and cry, not just another birthday, it’s 30/90 why can’t you stay 29?” In Larson’s view, this workshop is his last chance at that success.

While the workshop is ultimately a success, he gets no formal inquiries to buy Superbia and must start again. “You start writing the next one. And after you finish that one, you start the next. And on and on. That’s what it is to be a writer, on to the next one… maybe try writing about what you know.” This movie documents the struggles of young artists everywhere and how hard it is to produce something of meaning in the art industry. While it is not in the movie, Larson started writing Rent, which ran on Broadway for twelve years. Through his work, he changed the definition of what a musical could be, sound like, and the stories it could tell.

To watch Tick, tIck…Boom!, you don’t have to have to be a “theater person” -- you just have to admire the passion and the creative genius of Jonathan Larson. This film is filled with incredible talent such as killer vocals from Andrew Garfield, who had no previous singing experience. Every person in this cast put everything they had into this movie, and it is evident in the acting and singing. In a way, you can understand exactly what they are feeling on screen. Personally, I believe that this production of tick tick… BOOM! is exactly what Jonathan Larson had envisioned when he wrote the autobiography.

In technical terms, fantasy is the biggest escape genre while watching T.V. because it’s set in some other universe. That’s why, after watching Wheel of Time, I was shocked when it was amazing because I had to do some deep digging to find it. As the first season just came out this November, it's a fairly new T.V. show starring Rosamund Pike. The show is based on the The Wheel of Time book series by American author Robert Jordan. The books span 14 volumes in addition to a prequel novel and two companion books.

The show follows Moiraine, a member of the Aes sedai, a powerful organization of women who can channel the One Power. With her companion, Lan, Moiraine seeks out a group of five villagers from the secluded Two Rivers (modeled after the Tigris and Euphrates), believing that one of the teenaged villagers is the Dragon reborn, an extremely gifted channeler who broke the world thousands of years ago. The Dragon Reborn is prophesied to either save the world from a primordial evil known as the Dark One or break it once more. Jordan’s novels are classic high fantasy, complete with characters who know more than they share, magical women with hidden agendas, monsters of all kinds, and cursed objects that characters shouldn’t touch but naturally do. Another bonus of Wheel of Time is that it sincerely prioritizes representation -- women exist for more reasons than to be violated or portrayed as damsels in distress. The people in the cast are diverse and do not suffer because of their race. Overall, this show is a must-watch.

Maid, however, is a very different watch. Single mother Alex turns to housecleaning to make ends meet as she escapes an abusive relationship and overcomes homelessness to create a better life for her daughter, Maddy. Mother-daughter acting duo Andie MacDowell and Margaret Qualley gave this performance their all, with MacDowell playing the clumsy grandmother with undiagnosed manic depression, and Qualley as a single mother scrubbing toilets and slipping into crippling depression.

This Netflix adaptation brings Stephanie Land's candid memoir Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive to life. Working from a memoir makes the show feel much more realistic. Maid shows how difficult it is to break from the cycles of poverty and abuse, and how hard it is to do it on your own. What’s so captivating about this story is how individual Alex’s story is and how each experience is her own. Maid also shows on the screen the counting down of her remaining dollars after all of her expenses total up.

Surrealism helps express Alex’s mortification and humiliation at her need for assistance. Every setback is heart wrenching to watch because we so desperately want Alex to succeed. However, the cycle is not so easy to break, as is evident in the show, and the tremendous sadness that we experience through the screen resonates. Maid is not always easy to watch, but it’s the small victories and flashes of joy that make it worthwhile.

I hope you enjoy these movies and shows and maybe take the time to procrastinate and watch one, or maybe even all of them. Please make sure to check the age ratings and other tags before watching these shows as they are not suitable for all audiences.


bottom of page