November 2009 posts
I LOVE YOU, MAN (2009/DVD) I was pleasantly surprised by this actually-funny-on-purpose comedy about a guy with no male friends (Paul Rudd) who gets engaged and decides to find himself a best man. Jason Segal is more likeable than he’s been since Freaks and Geeks as the somewhat unhinged and unexpected answer to Rudd’s problem. There are lots of funny supporting performances – Andy Samberg as Rudd’s brother and the always-reliable J.K. Simmons (Skoda!) as his dad, in particular. I find that a lot of comedies ring a little hollow, either going too far in the gross-out or the sticky sweet direction, but these characters have an easy realness about them. In fact, the dialogue between one constantly bickering couple, played by Jon Favreau and Jamie Pressly, will sound eerily familiar to anyone who has spent time with me and my husband. (That is in no way a compliment to us, by the way.) And a tip of the cap goes to Rashida Jones for nailing the strangely elusive “funny lady who is not a cartoonish buffoon, a raging bitch, or a sexy airhead” role. Bonus for all you air guitar enthusiasts: Rush is all over this thing.
Grade: B+ (points off for some cliched silliness in the final act)
DOUBT (2008/DVD) This gripping period drama about a crusty/bossy New England catholic school principal/nun (Meryl Streep, showcasing another flawless accent [snore]) accusing a new hip Vatican II priest (Philip Seymour “Butz” Hoffman) of child molestation circa 1963 makes the transition from stage to screen with flying colors, and by that I mean with no colors at all. ‘63 was a drab year, people—colors were the last of these folks’ problems, the first being feelgood buddy priests wining kids and using their sinister network of fellow pastors to keep it on the DL. An actor’s showcase with stellar, deeply felt performances—including a dowdy Amy Adams as an impressionable new teacher/nun turned whistle-blower and a knockout performance from Viola Davis as the victim’s desperate mother—only slightly marred by an emotional explosion in the last 30 seconds that seems to be coming from another movie altogether. A much louder, dumber movie with way over-the-top, out-of-control Acting. (Called “Notes from a Scandal.”)
Grade: B+ (Knocked down a bit for ham-fisted overuse of symbolic winds of change and that eye-roller finale.)
AN EDUCATION (2009/IN THEATERS) has received glowing reviews since it premiered at Sundance this year and won the Audience Award there (as well as the award for Cinematography). As many, many reviewers have already said, we can certainly expect to see Carey Mulligan (Jenny) up for a Best Actress Oscar for her mesmerizing performance. Perhaps Alfred Molina will be recognized in a Supporting Actor nomination for his convincing (and funny) portrayal of Jenny’s father. And Peter Sarsgaard is marvelous as well.
One word of warning, however. The ending of the film is out of character with the rest. It comes up suddenly and rather neatly–caught me by surprise and left me with a less glowing opinion of the movie. As Peter Travers of the Rolling Stone said, “…shame about the tidiness of the ending.” Which makes you wonder: were the filmmakers and Nick Hornby, the screenwriter, “selling out?” Why did they feel a “happy ending” was required? Why end such a lovely messy story with a rushed 10 minute wrap-up?
The answer: the ending is real. Poking around, I found the article by Lynn Barber which inspired Hornby’s screenplay (http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2009/jun/07/lynn-barber-virginity-relationships). Read to the end and you’ll find, as I did, that the film and its ending are both indeed true to life.