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Schultz reviews: ‘The Broken Hearts Gallery’ and ‘Marshall'

Schultz reviews: ‘The Broken Hearts Gallery’ and ‘Marshall'

Carl Schultz


“The Broken Hearts Gallery”   Distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing, 109 Minutes, Rated PG-13, Released September 11, 2020:


There’s plenty of personality and flavor in the “The Broken Hearts Gallery,” the new romantic comedy from Sony Pictures released to theaters on September 11, but there’s very little substance.  And even though the characters seem awfully busy most of the time, there’s surprisingly little plot.


In “The Broken Hearts Gallery,” a twentysomething New York City career girl who’s chronically unlucky in love loses both her boyfriend and her job as an art gallery assistant in one night, and is rescued from her despair by an obliging young man she mistakes as an Uber driver.  When she later accompanies him to his loft, which he’s renovating into an upscale intown lodging facility, she has a brainstorm--to create in his lobby an interactive pop-up art gallery displaying mementos of her previous romances.  You can guess the rest.


Rich in New York seasoning and attitude, “The Broken Hearts Gallery” is agreeable enough and goes down fairly smoothly, but contains little that hasn’t been used already in practically every other romantic comedy you’ve ever seen.  Despite the elaborate trappings, this is a movie that might’ve felt right at home on a Thursday night lineup of TV situation comedies during the 1980s, especially with the staccato dialogue and accompanying quick-cut editingand helpful intertitles like “8-ish years ago” and “later that night.”


The real strength of “The Broken Hearts Gallery'' is in its casting.  Speaking in persuasive New York tones, Australian actress Geraldine Viswanathan is appealing in the leading role.  With her big personality, exaggerated gestures, flamboyant enunciation, and wide and expressive eyes, young Viswanathan has a subdued exuberance reminiscent of the young Judy Holliday.  A bemused Dacre Montgomery, a onetime Power Ranger and late of TV’s “Stranger Things,” is quietly supportive as her burgeoning hoterier friend.


Also featuring performances from Utkarsh Ambudkar, Molly Gordon, Phillipa Soo (Eliza in Disney’s “Hamilton”), SNL’s Ego Nwodim, and Bernadette Peters at age 72 as the owner of an upscale midtown gallery, “The Broken Hearts Gallery” was written and directed by Natalie Krinsky, formerly a television writer known for episodes of “90210,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” and “Gossip Girl.”


“The Broken Hearts Gallery” is rated PG-13 for sexual content throughout, strong language, and some drug references.

“Marshall”   Distributed by Open Road Films, 118 Minutes, Rated PG-13, Released October 13, 2017:


When actor Chadwick Boseman died at the age of 43 on August 28, the entertainment world was stunned--not only by the visceral, jaw-dropping suddenness of his passing, but by the revelation that the popular actor had been battling Stage 4 colon cancer for the past four years.  That Boseman had been diagnosed in 2016 meant that he’d created some of his most iconic characterizations while he was simultaneously fighting a condition known to be an especially formidable opponent.


Boseman’s was a popularity which cut across demographic distinctions.  Much like his acknowledged role model and onetime educational sponsor Denzel Washington, Chadwick Boseman seemed a guy almost anyone, and virtually everyone, would’ve liked to have as a friend.  


Quiet and self-effacing even during promotional appearances, approachable although inclined to privacy, Boseman lived and worked with a quiet dignity which belied his enormous popularity.  Admired by many and adored by some, virtually nobody in either his personal or professional life seemed to have an unkind word to say about him.


That Boseman inhabited so many iconic roles during his brief career speaks to his enormous talent as an actor.  Every film fan will surely have a favorite character or movie to remember him by.  The astonishing numbers alone suggest that many fans will likely point to his role in“Black Panther” as his definitive characterization.  Considered among the very best pictures in the blockbuster Marvel film franchise, the 2018 movie earned some $1.34 billion in box office dollars and was named as one of the best films of 2018 by both the National Board of Review and the American Film Institute.


“Marshall” is a movie you’d think would’ve done better at the box office. Released to only 821 theaters on October 13, 2017 with little advertising and almost no advance publicity, the picture slowly increased its circulation because of good reviews and word-of-mouth rather than advertising.  Still, “Marshall” eventually ended its theatrical run with earnings of only a little over $10 million in ticket revenues.  And that’s a real shame, because “Marshall” really is a good movie—not as great as it should’ve been, possibly, considering the talent and subject matter involved.  But still awfully darned good.


“Marshall” tells the story of one of the early cases in the legendary career of jurist Thurgood Marshall, who later served for twenty-four years as an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court--the first Supreme Court Justice of African ancestry.  In the picture the year is 1940, and Marshall is a young attorney employed by the NAACP—more accurately the only attorney employed by the NAACP.  That he’s stretched thin is an understatement:  Marshall is sent by the national association to any location where there’s a threat to, or a violation of, any individual’s civil rights.


In Bridgeport, Connecticut, the African-American chauffeur (Sterling K. Brown) of an afflusent Caucasian family is accused of rape by the wife of his employer (Kate Hudson).  The accusation and legal case attracts enormous attention in the nation’s newspapers.  And as a safeguard against the violation of the chauffeur’s rights or a possible miscarriage of justice, the NAACP dispatches the young Marshall (Chadwick Boseman) to Bridgeport to ensure a fair trial for the man.


In order to effectively represent the accused man, Marshall needs to be admitted to the Connecticut bar.  He’s able to gain admission through some behind-the-scenes maneuvering, but is forbidden by the presiding judge (James Cromwell) to speak in the courtroom during the trial.  


So Marshall needs to enlist the services of a reluctant local attorney (Josh Gad) as the chauffeur’s lead council while he remains in the background, advising and guiding the inexperienced younger lawyer through the intricacies of the chauffeur’s civil rights and criminal defense.  That the young local attorney Marshall selects to be his partner in the case happens to be of Orthodox Jewish heritage compounds the subtle racial intolerance of the town...and possibly the jurists.


“Marshall” is as visually slick and appealing a piece of entertainment as any since “The Untouchables” in 1987, and in much the same way—attractive people outfitted in the most stylish retro-chic wardrobes opposing the forces of evil at any cost.  The biggest difference between “Marshall” and “The Untouchables” is that in “Marshall” the bad guys are bigots instead of bootleggers, and the good guys are enforcing the Fourteenth Amendment instead of the Eighteenth. 


In “Marshall,” the costuming by Ruth E. Carter, the production design by Richard Hoover, the art direction by Jeff Schoen, and the set direction by Kara Lindstrom are all of Academy Award-quality (although the picture’s solitary nomination was for the song “Stand Up for Something,” played over the closing credits).  The screenplay written by the father and son team of Jacob Koskoff and Michael Koskoff is superb also, and so is the sure-handed direction of Reginald Hudlin--one-half, with older brother Warrington, of the Hudlin Brothers writing/directing/producing team responsible for “House Party” in 1990 and “The Great White Hype” in 1996.


“Marshall” is one of three biographical pictures Chadwick Boseman appeared in during his twelve year career in motion pictures--2013’s “42,” in which the actor starred as baseball legend Jackie Robinson, and 2014’s “Get On Up,” in which he appeared as singer James Brown, are the others (2008’s “The Express,” in which Boseman at the very beginning of his career had a small role as football great Floyd Little, is a distant fourth).  And “Marshall” is one “based on a true story” picture which genuinely delivers on its promise.  The dialogue in the film’s extensive courtroom scenes are quoted from actual legal transcripts, and most of the details in the story are accurate.


Possibly that’s the reason “Marshall” didn’t do as well at the box office as it might have:  The individual represented by Friedman and Marshall, as in the actual case, is a deeply flawed, morally ambiguous, and genuinely unsympathetic individual.  The accused chauffeur lies to his attorneys early on.  And when he finally admits to the truth he appears almost as guilty to his lawyers as the prosecution believes him to be, making their defense even more difficult.  In other words, despite the audience’s hopes and possibly their expectations, “Marshall” is not a feel-good movie.


Smooth, smokin’, and subtle, Chadwick Boseman as Thurgood Marshall stands in stark contrast to the stately and dignified elder statesman we see in historical photos and black and white newsreel footage of the late Justice.  The actor breathes life into the icon, and Boseman’s Marshall is calm, cool, and in control every step of the way.  He’s no saint--Marshall occasionally enjoys twisting the tail of his protege, and he’s not above stretching the law to prove a point (as an undergraduate at Pennsylvania’s Lincoln University, Thurgood Marshall was suspended twice for pranks and hazing).


As the earnest young Sam Friedman, the Bridgeport attorney Boseman’s Marshall guides with his expertise, Josh Gad in “Marshall” is almost on even ground with Boseman.  Viewers might even be forgiven for arguing the fine points of which actor plays the actual leading role--technically Thurgood Marshall has little actual influence over the results of the drama besides acting essentially as Friedman’s guardian angel.  The title character is not even present when the verdict is delivered.


“Marshall” serves as a lesson that viewers don’t necessarily need to turn to science fiction or comic book adaptations to learn compelling lessons in moral strength or incorruptibility of character—it’s all present here, and it’s mostly all true.  In real life, justice is served not from the barrel of a Tommy gun or intergalactic plasma beams but from brains, books, and ideas...and real and lasting progress is often measured in inches, and years.


An epilogue to the picture correctly notes that Thurgood Marshall prevailed in 29 of the 32 cases he argued before the Supreme Court before his appointment to actual membership in the high court.  Any of the cases and situations Marshall fought for during his storied career could’ve been turned into movies well worth seeing.  And it’s interesting to speculate that the role of Thurgood Marshall, who served on the Supreme Court from 1967 until 1991 and lived to the age of 84, is one characterization Boseman might’ve returned to periodically throughout a longer and more prolific career.


During a movie career which lasted a little over twelve years, Chadwick Boseman completed only fifteen pictures, four as the character T’Challa in Marvel’s “Black Panther” and its related “Avengers” series.  In his most recent role at the time of his death, as “Stormin’ Norm” Holloway in the flashback sequences in Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods,” Boseman’s character is almost beatific, and will certainly be remembered during the Academy Awards in 2021.


But as the flesh and blood, life-sized, warts and all Thurgood Marshall in the 2017 motion picture biography, Chadwick Boseman gives us a portrait of a genuine American hero beginning to build his heritage as a vanguard of all the qualities which truly make America great.  Years before Black Lives Matter, years before #MeToo, Thurgood Marshall built a towering legacy based on the uniquely American belief that all lives are sacred, and that every life matters.  And in one way or another, as a performer Chadwick Boseman reminded us of that same ideal, not only in “Marshall,” but with every role he played.


In his twelve years and fifteen pictures, Chadwick Boseman created a legacy as an actor which will ensure his being remembered among the legends of cinema.  Injuries heal and broken hearts mend.  And in the fullness of time, the genuine loss to motion picture fans is in speculating what rarefied heights Boseman might’ve reached had he been able to live the long life his multitudes of followers expected.


“Marshall” is rated PG-13 for mature thematic content, sexuality, violence, and some strong language.  The picture is available for streaming on Hulu, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, and on the Showtime premium cable service.

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