Sunday, July 15, 2018
Things To Do

'Megan Leavey' is matter-of-fact statement on feminism, war's toll and canine companionship

Comic books aren't the only place Hollywood can find warrior women to make movies about. Megan Leavey is as real and heroic as it gets.

Her story could inspire a more rote movie than director Gabriela Cowperthwaite has in mind. Leavey was a social misfit who found a home in the U.S. Marines, earned a Purple Heart in Iraq then resigned with depression and a purpose. She served as a K9 handler, forging a lifelong bond with her German shepherd partner Rex, also wounded and decorated.

For some, Leavey's gender begs a feminist military statement. Certainly war's emotional and physical damage has been dramatized ad nauseam. At any moment the dog might push Cowperthwaite toward sentimentality, something like Megan and Me.

Instead, Megan Leavey doesn't overdo any of those angles, making points on each without much fanfare. The movie is unusually matter-of-fact about dramatic notes other filmmakers would milk. This is Cowperthwaite's debut feature after her 2013 documentary Blackfish put SeaWorld on blast. She carries over that genre's objectivity, tempering any urge to jerk tears.

As Megan, Kate Mara delivers her strongest performance yet, literally with regard to the physical demands involved. Mara's petite physique makes her an unlucky choice to play a Marine but confounding expectation is part of Megan's heroism. Early scenes of women in boot camp are striking after the Amazon training sequences in Wonder Woman; real versus fantasy fierceness.

Enlisting is Megan's escape from an unbearable mother and stepdad (Edie Falco, Will Patton) who tossed aside her doting father (Bradley Whitford). She's finding herself when a foolish act puts her military future in doubt. Her punishment includes cleaning K9 quarters and being an attack dummy, luckily as it turns out.

Megan eventually makes the K9 grade and is assigned to Rex, a temperamental sort like Megan. Wills are tested, breakthroughs made and soon they're in Iraq, sniffing out IEDs and weapon caches. Cowperthwaite displays a keen grasp of tension while moving her appealing characters forward, especially Megan's flirtation with a fellow Marine (Ramon Rodriguez).

A fateful mission leads to Megan and Rex separating and the movie shifts into its third, less satisfying phase as a coming home drama, a more conventional path. An attempt to adopt Rex — if he survives later tours of duty — means motions filed, red tape to be cut. Cowperthwaite can't stave off sameness long enough.

Still, Megan Leavey does the feel-good job everyone intends, an interesting story straightforwardly told. Cowperthwaite and Mara won't get a fraction of Wonder Woman's audience yet deserve as much respect.

Contact Steve Persall at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.

Comments
Gold medal rounds at the water polo UANA Junior Pan American Championships

Gold medal rounds at the water polo UANA Junior Pan American Championships

Teammates from the Canadian women's team surround head coach Davis Paradelo after defeating Brazil during women's gold medal round in the 2018 UANA Junior Pan American Championships at the Long Center in Clearwater on Sunday, July 15, 2018. Members o...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Sports on TV/radio for Monday, July 16

TODAYBaseballHome Run Derby8 p.m.ESPN; 620-AMLacrosse, World ChampionshipCanada vs. Iroquois Nationals2 p.m.ESPNUNBA summer leagueSemifinals8:30 p.m.ESPN2Semifinals10:30 p.m.ESPN2...
Updated: 5 hours ago
New podcast: Anti-buddy flick ‘Midnight Run’ turns 30

New podcast: Anti-buddy flick ‘Midnight Run’ turns 30

Midnight Run, probably the best road movie of the '80s, is now 30 years old. Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin gave us one of the best anti-buddy flicks of our time, so our podcast hosts gather to honor the film – and Spearsy continues to work ...
Updated: 8 hours ago

Sports on TV/radio for Sunday, July 15

TODAYAutosIndyCar: Honda Indy Toronto3:30 p.m.NBCSNBaseballPhillies at Marlins1 p.m.FSFYankees at Indians1 p.m.TBSRays at Twins2 p.m.Fox Sun; 620-AMFutures All-Star Game4 p.m.MLBCyclingStage 96:30 a.m.NBCSNGolfPGA Europe: Scottish Open10 a.m.GolfPGA ...
Published: 07/14/18
This Florida burger joint is one of the 10 best in America, travel website says

This Florida burger joint is one of the 10 best in America, travel website says

A 2½-hour drive south could land Tampa residents at one of America’s best burger joints, according the review and travel website TripAdvisor.com.The website released a list of the "10 Most Delectable Burger Joints" in America on Wednesday, placing Na...
Published: 07/14/18
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Sunday, July 15

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Sunday, July 15

Out editors’ top picks for fun.
Published: 07/14/18
Review: Sam Smith lightens the mood in joyful concert at Tampa’s Amalie Arena

Review: Sam Smith lightens the mood in joyful concert at Tampa’s Amalie Arena

We should all can the sad-boy talk. Live and in person, Sam Smith smiles a lot.He smiles before and after almost every song, waving and pointing to the crowd. He even smiles when singing all his huge, heart-filled hits – yes, even the really, r...
Published: 07/14/18
Where to watch the World Cup final in Tampa Bay

Where to watch the World Cup final in Tampa Bay

After 62 matches, there's only two teams standing in the World Cup. France and Croatia will face off Sunday at 11 a.m. Do you need a place to kick back, relax and watch all the final action … but not in your home? We've got you c...
Published: 07/14/18
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Sunday, July 15

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Sunday, July 15

SharkCon: A weekend all about sharks adds a comic con element this year with stars from Sharknado at a noon panel today including Ian Ziering, Cassie Scerbo and Gena Lee Nolin. Also includes a touch tank, shark tooth dig pit, paddle board clinic, oce...
Published: 07/15/18
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of July 16-22

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of July 16-22

Metrocon: The convention focused on anime that also covers all elements of pop culture that have been influenced by it settles into the Tampa Convention Center Thursday-Sunday. $30-$40. metroconventions.com. Beer Project: Inspired by the ancient mos...
Published: 07/13/18
Updated: 07/14/18