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Category — Romance

RomCom Realism – THE FIVE YEAR ENGAGEMENT

THE FIVE YEAR ENGAGEMENT leaves silliness behind in search of something more.

I see a developing trend in recent “romantic comedy” entries, in which characters act less like Katherine Heigl or Ben Stiller in their respective fluff-fest mannerisms and more like the very adult and realistic characters from, say, Woody Allen‘s Annie Hall. It’s as if today’s audiences are being asked to evolve, and consider what happens once our beloved heartfelt fantasies – such as John HughesSixteen Candles – actually end, and to watch these relationships develop after that initial doe-eyed romantic honeymoon stage. With that in mind, Nicholas Stoller‘s The Five Year Engagement (2012) succeeds in that it actually feels like it takes five years off your life – that’s a compliment. It’s both harsh and hilarious, and true to life. Co-written by Stoller and star Jason Segel, there’s less of their Forgetting Sarah Marshall silliness on display and not as much grim-ness as the duo’s 2010 Get Him to the Greek. In fact this offering seems to balance the best of both worlds: Not only do we watch a couple (played by Segel and Emily Blunt) that truly loves each other struggle with the serious ways in which a long-term commitment to a person can clash with one’s own personal commitment to one’s career, but we also get to watch two grown women have a serious discussion in Muppet voices and the ridiculousness that ensues when Sriracha is introduced (unwisely) into love play. The movie isn’t perfect – it lags in some places and feels overlong, but it more often than not hits the right notes. It made me laugh, cry and even cringe, and if all these new romantic comedies are intentionally trying to reach Annie Hall-ness, then I’ve got to say that this one is the closest to succeeding that I’ve seen so far. Watch for it!

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August 14, 2012   No Comments

Fun with Formula – FRIENDS WITH KIDS

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June 27, 2012   No Comments

Deliciously Dark Valentine – SEX AND DEATH 101

SEX AND DEATH 101 asks you to step outside of normal – with fantastic results.

Ahh, Valentine’s Day – the day we celebrate the monetization of love, when our personal relationships are repackaged and sold back to us wholesale, in the form of giant teddy bears, heart shaped boxes o’ chocolate, or whatever mindless romantic comedy they’ve strategically released on Blue-ray & DVD. It’s the Superbowl of the heart, when everyone’s rooting for the same team – LOVE, and naysayers are branded infidels and treated like Pro-choicers at a Republican rally. But if you’re like me – a fan and supporter who resists being made a lemming in the name of love – there’s a movie for this season of roses: writer/director Daniel WatersSex &Death 101 (2007), a romantic comedy by way of the Twilight Zone. The story of Roderick Blank (Simon Baker), a man who’s soon to wed the woman of his dreams (Modern Family‘s Julie Bowen), who receives via email a long list of his lovers, past present and future – problematic given the fact his fiancée comes in at number 29 of 101 names! The rest of the film chronicles Roderick’s descent into sexual madness (some would call it freedom), and if you accept the central metaphysical conceit – of an “Oracle” run by a group of bumbling technicians (Robert Wisdom, Tanc Sade and Patton Oswalt) – you’ll be in for a fun ride, one in which romantic tropes are skewered and the masculine archetype gets a shellacking. After all, as budding Lotharios are taught, “if you know you’re going to get lucky you probably are,” and this movie takes that idea of a self-fulfilling confidence to its logical extreme. Along the way S&D101 explores unhealthy relationships, asks serious questions about freewill, and examines our individual responsibility for the happiness of others. And despite these noble pursuits, it’s also a lot of fun – because at its core it’s essentially a superhero movie disguised as a romantic comedy – Roderick’s list fulfilling the same function as Green Lantern‘s ring or Stanley Ipkiss‘s Mask. And there’s also an evil villain, Death Nell (Winona Ryder), a serial killer out to eliminate “bad men,” whose crusade mirrors Roderick’s thematically and promises an eventual showdown. Give Waters (who also wrote Heathers) a lot of credit – he still has the balls to explore the vanishing artform known as the dark comedy. Sure, S&D101 has its flaws (mainly related to budget), but it tries more than other films ever do, and achieves many of its goals. And though it won’t sell you any target=”_blank”>giant teddy bears, it’s movie about romance that not only entertains but also makes you think, proving you don’t always have to check your brain at the door in affairs of the heart.

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February 13, 2012   No Comments

Quintessential Quirk – TRUST

TRUST is a deliciously deadpan meditation on the oddity of love.

Like a John Hughes film from some parallel dimension, Hal Hartley’s TRUST (1990) is just a little bit “off” all over the place – which is a very good thing. Populated by fantastic characters (including a young Edie Falco), restrained acting, dry surreal dialogue and moments of transcendent strangeness, it’s a coming of age film about an overly idealistic electronic repairman (Martin Donovan) who escapes the cruel clutches of his overbearing father and meets a precocious pregnant high school student (Adrienne Shelley) who has just inadvertently killed her own father. Overflowing with dysfunction, lonely souls stray through Hartley’s narrative, as distanced from their own desires as they are from one another. Characters exhibit tenderness one minute only to reveal shocking ulterior motives the next, every one of them carrying profound emotional baggage – much of it on their sleeves. In the case of our protagonist this baggage comes in the especially volatile form of a hand-grenade which he carries around with him, brought back from the war by his father. It’s not only a symbol of his pent-up rage but also of the paradox at the heart of the film – the need to carry on our parents’ legacy and the ultimate futility of doing so. There’s an anthropological quality to Hartley’s direction, as he watches things from a distance, framing characters in the background and fading out on dialogue as it gets emotional – it’s as if we’ve been dropped on a weird alien planet to watch these creatures needlessly complicate their lives without having the capacity to understand them. It’s hard to watch TRUST without lamenting the tragedy of Adrienne Shelley – who went on to become a fantastic director (Waitress) before falling victim to a grisly, senseless murder. She carries the film, her strong self-awareness serving in stark contrast to her smallness just as Martin Donovan’s physical largeness contrasts with his intense fragility. In Shelley we the perfect embodiment of the lovable pixie chanteuse archetype – later embodied by Ellen Paige in Juno and Scarlett Johansson in Ghost World – but with the effortless charisma of an old-world star, harking back to The Apartment‘s Shirley MaClaine or Breakfast at Tiffany‘s Audrey Hepburn. Hers is the kind of talent that will be sorely missed, and which must be seen- and TRUST is your opportunity to do just that.

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July 21, 2011   No Comments

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