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    Saturday, June 10, 2023

    Tipping Point: Our picks and pans


    Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret

    You know how a movie adaptation is never as good as the book? Well, “Margaret” breaks that rule. This is a wonderful take on Judy Blume’s classic novel about an 11-year-old girl who is dealing with pubescent issues — periods, bras, boys — but also with big ones — religion and what she believes in. Director/writer Kelly Fremon Craig, whose “Edge of Seventeen” was just as knowing about girls at that age as “Margaret” is about younger ones, was the perfect choice to helm “Margaret.” And the casting is spot on. Abby Ryder Fortson is probably just how readers pictured Margaret, and Rachel McAdams is an ideal gentle, comforting mother. Oh, and local connection alert: Groton native Kate MacCluggage is pitch-perfect as the mother of Margaret’s friend. The smiling, never-a-hair-out-of-place character seems driven to be the ultimate mom, and MacCluggage gets several scenes that give her a chance to shine as an actress. All in all: “Margaret” is one of the most enjoyable movies of the year so far.

    — Kristina Dorsey


    The Last Gamble of Tokyo Joe

    By Dan O’Sullivan, Chicago Magazine

    O’Sullivan worked on this wildly detailed and reported longread for five years and it’s a fun romp through the incredible life story of Ken Eto, aka Tokyo Joe, a gambling kingpin in the Chicago mob who rose as high as any Japanese-American in that outfit’s long history. The adventure starts with Eto being shot three times in the head and surviving a failed hit attempt, but that’s only the beginning. A teenage runaway who spent time in an internment camp during World War II, Eto eventually made a name for himself running illegal gambling games in Chicago. I don’t want to give too much away, but suffice it to say, this is magazine writing at its finest. The accompanying photos and illustrations accentuate the almost unbelievable story. You never know where the next turn in this adventure will bring you, but you’ll be excited to find out.

    — Owen Poole


    Small Mercies

    Dennis Lehane

    If indeed, as Lehane insists, this is his final book — that henceforth he’ll focus on film and TV projects — well, he’s going out with a without-question smash. It’s 1974 in South Boston — Southie — and the city’s about to explode as forced busing is days away from going into effect. Single mom Mary Pat, twice divorced, clings to her 17-year-old daughter Jules after the heroin OD death of her other child, a Vietnam War vet. When Jules fails to come home after a night out with friends, Mary Pat grows increasingly fearful and desperate as neither the police or the local mob that controls Southie with beneficent evil turn up no leads. Mary Pat goes on the initiative and, brother, she’s one of Lehane’s finest-ever protagonists. You do NOT want to face her wrath. Far beyond a “thriller,” “Small Mercies” is a literary study in race relations, family and the power of love — and a heartbreaking reminder that our society really hasn’t changed much. Stunning.

    — Rick Koster

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