Cue the jokes about how this movie runs with scissors and ends-up tripping.
At the age of twelve, Augusten Burroughs (Joseph Cross) finds himself amidst Victorian squalor living with his mother’s doctor’s bizarre family, while she (Annette Bening) goes off and becomes a total drug-addict, amongst other fucked-up things. Oh yeah, and it’s hard for little Augusten since not only is he a poet at such a young age, but he’s a gay one at that. Yay!
I never read Augusten Burrow’s 2002 memoir of the same name, and despite what all of the literary hipsters that I know continue to tell me, I still don’t ever plan on reading it, either. I’m not much of a reader as it is but with material that’s all about people being all wacky and strange just for the sake of being so, definitely rubs me the wrong-way, especially when it’s done in a flick like this.
See, the fact of the matter is that you can make a movie about a bunch of near-functional nut jobs that can still be a bit whack-o in the brain department, but are at least likable and understandable enough to connect to. Writers/directors like Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach can do this, and do it very well, but writer/director Ryan Murphy is not one of them, nor does he come even close. Instead of making these characters a bunch of whack-o’s that you actually feel something for, as if they were normal, functioning human-beings, you just seem them as whack-o’s with nothing really nice to say or do throughout the whole, dreadful 2 hours.
All you do throughout this whole flick is see a bunch of crazies yell, hoot, and holler at one another, and just do a bunch of random crap to each other that would seem almost too weird to be true (but trust me, this flick wants you to believe it’s source material REALLY IS TRUE!), and in ways, totally is. You never, not for one second, actually believe that all you see on-screen is actually how things happened in real-life for Augusten and if it did actually happen, it sure as hell shows you that it wasn’t a story that needed to be shown on the big-screen in the first-place, mostly because there isn’t much here to hold onto. I would say that the characters are worth the shot of standing-by and listening to, but even that’s a bit of a far-stretch since they are only there to be nothing more than just a plot-device of sure craziness. Watching people act all wacky and wild can be fun every once and awhile to watch, but as time goes on, there needs to be more substance brewing from underneath and that is just not here.
Maybe the fact that I never read the memoir was the reason why I didn’t like it all that much, because there was a lot of crap that happened or was said here that I just didn’t understand. The whole idea of people looking at every single bit of life’s details with a clear-view and making something out of nothing, simply annoys the hell out of me in real-life, and even worse, annoys the most when I see it in a movie and that’s all I saw here. Everybody speaks as if they just got done reading Hemingway and felt the need to rant and rave about what life is all about, and it’s okay at first because it makes sense to why these characters are so strange, but it becomes to be a bit of a bore and unbelievable. You know, just like the rest of the characters and the movie itself. Heck, there’s even a scene where Brian Cox is checking out his crapola (be ready to hear that term sooner or later) and talking about what it’s shape, size, and formation means to his life and everybody else’s around him. Did I get it? No, but would I have had I actually took time out of my lazy day and read the memoir? Probably not. It’s just the type of writing that annoys me and shows that people have nothing else better to do with their way of contracting humor, then just showing a bunch of ridiculous and crude things to really shock you and make you feel as if you’ve seen something from another planet. However, I think I was on another planet when I saw this movie.
It’s even worse, though, when you take into consideration at how freakin’ uneven this whole thing is. My buddy and I were just bored one night, decided to watch this because it was under the “Comedy” section on On Demand, and for the first 30 minutes, neither one of us were laughing. We weren’t laughing because what the flick was trying to do and shove down our throats, wasn’t funny (even though it really isn’t a funny movie), but it was because there was nothing really funny actually happening. It was just a bunch of dark, sarcastic drama that I didn’t know whether or not I was supposed to feel weirded-out by or just go along with it and see if I ever lighten-up to the dead-pan tone and feel. I never did and to be honest, I don’t think the flick itself did, either, because there was just way too many moments where the film changed itself-up. One second, you’ll be watching a scene of some cooky lady eating doggy biscuits, and then after that, you’ll get some heartbreaking discussion between an estranged mother and son. It’s all-over-the-place and constantly changing tones from right-to-left and that is not as fun or entertaining as it sounds. It’s obvious and it never stops to be, and that’s why I just wanted somebody in this flick to die and spice things up. I’m sorry, it’s just the thought-process I go through when a movie sucks THIS BAD.
The only, real saving-grace to this whole flick is the ensemble cast of characters that do all that they can here, but in the end, fall prey to a terrible script and direction. Joseph Cross is fine as our lead, Augusten Burroughs, and is serviceable as a kid that obviously has a lot of problems with growing-up, being a poet, being gay, and not really having a connection with his mother. It should have been a lot more relateable for most kids going through, or have been through teenage-angst, but it’s oddly not. It’s just a kid having a problem with a mother of his that just so happens to be hopped-up all of the time. Hey, I don’t know if that’s everybody else’s life story but if so, well, you just may be able to find something to suit your fancy here.
Actually, the real stand-out of this whole cast is the woman who plays that same hopped-up mother, Annette Bening. Bening is great as this drugged-up, but somewhat schizophrenic that does all that she can to make herself happy, but in the end, just can’t. Bening can play a bitch like no other and she’s great in this role as a mother that’s never there and when she is, is like a freakin’ plague of problems. Yeah, she’s a mean, old woman that seems like she really deserves a nice kick in the teeth by not just me, but anybody, but regardless, it’s still impressive to see from here, especially considering the fact that the girl keeps all of the energy alive and well in this dead flick. And by “dead”, I mean Grateful Dead because let’s be honest, you may just want to be high for this movie. It would probably help a crap-load, although, it obviously didn’t help me with anything.
The rest of the cast is fine too, but none of them can really keep up with Bening. Brian Cox plays Dr. Finch, a slimy psychiatrist who seems to be doing people favors, but also has a bit of a dark-side to him as well that’s maybe not so favorable. Cox is great, what else is new by now? Evan Rachel Wood plays the skanky-looking daughter of his that definitely should have been in this movie a lot more, considering she brings a lot of fun and wit to the screen, when everybody else seems like they’re falling asleep (count me in on that nap). Same could almost be said for Gwyneth Paltrow as the total kiss-ass of the family, Hope, and definitely seems like she got a role for herself that displayed her looks, her beauty, and her knack for comedy. Sad thing is, she’s not that funny here. Not her fault, writer’s fault. I was also very surprised to see a very good performance from Joseph Fiennes, who plays the gay boy-toy of Augusten and just so happens to be the only boy of the Finch family. Fiennes rarely shows up in anything now but it was nice to see him when he was a bit wild, wacky, and free. Too bad he had to be all that, especially in a shit-pile like this.
Consensus: Despite that obviously seems like they’re game for this type of material, it really lets them down as every character is unlikable, distasteful, annoying, and terribly unbelievable, almost to the point of where the whole 2 hours and 2 minutes of Running With Scissors seriously makes you take that title into consideration with your own life. It’s a drastic way of thinking, but it’s the truth.
I’m sure Hogan really does know what’s best.
Mickey Rourke plays Randy “The Ram” Robinson, an aging professional wrestler who continues to wrestle matches in an attempt to cling on to his 1980′s heyday despite his failing health, while also trying to mend his relationship with his estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) and find romance with a stripper (Marisa Tomei).
Some of you may not know this (and if you do, mucho brownie points go out to you), but back in the day, I used to be a hardcore wrestling fan. Yeah, I knew it was fake. Yeah, I knew that the two guys dressed-up in speedos that were beating the shit out of each other didn’t really hate each other outside of the ring. And yeah, I knew it was a bit childish for a kid that was in 8th grade, but you know what? I watched it and loved it all for the same reasons I watch and love movies so much: entertainment-value. That’s what’s so fun about wrestling that you don’t need to have a brain, a PHD, or even a job to enjoy wrestling, you can just watch it and have a good time. Seriously, if you don’t watch a single match of professional wrestling, then you my friend, are totally lying to yourself.
However, as much as I may patronize the other people out there who don’t feel the same as I do when it comes to half-naked men rolling around and beating each other up, I still feel the same about this movie as any other professional wrestling fan in saying that I love this movie, not just because it shows some legitimacy and real-danger to a piece of entertainment that has been the butt of every joke since the 80′s, but because it shows us what wrestlers are when they aren’t in the ring: real people. Maybe that’s nothing new we haven’t already heard from countless other stories of the same-nature, but what I think makes this approach so different and timeless, is the fact that director Darren Aronofsky makes us feel as if we are there, along for this depressing, dark, and tormented ride.
This is probably the most normal piece of material that Aronofsky has ever touched and to be honest, you would not be able to tell from watching this that this was the same guy who made a movie where people get sped-up high for an hour and 40 minutes. There’s nothing flashy that Aronofsky pulls off here with the camera but what he does do with the camera, is actually make us feel as if we are there, in a sort of documentary-style way. The camera literally follows Randy wherever he goes and it’s sort of like a TV news crew just found the guy, decided to put the camera on him, and just let real life roll for the guy. It gives us a very candid, fly-on-the-wall look at this story and makes us feel as if everything we see, hear, feel is as natural as it can get. That’s not just from Aronofsky’s end of the spectrum, that’s from everybody else involved, especially you know who.
In case you couldn’t tell by the “you know who” I was just referencing in that last sentence, I was talking about Mickey Rourke in his perfect-performance as Randy “The Ram” Robinson. It’s obvious that Randy is based-off of the likes of such wrestling-stars like Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Ultimate Warrior, and so many other famous-faces of the squared-circle from the 80′s, but don’t let that get to you, because Rourke makes Randy his own piece of originality and thank heavens for that. Seriously, I think Mickey is in every single shot of this movie and in some movies, to some people, that would probably be torture that you would have actually had to pay to see for 2 hours, but instead with this movie and this performance, it’s the total-opposite. You will never want to take your eyes off of Mickey and all of the subtle nuances he pulls-off with his facial-expressions. You can tell that there is a battered and beaten soul underneath all of the tanned skin, blonde hair, and chiseled-up, but aging muscles, and you never forget that you’re watching Randy, even if Mickey totally takes over the whole-movie.
As sad as this character may be, Mickey brings out so much fun, excitement, and joy within this guy that you just can’t help but feel like you too would want to share a beer and play Nintendo with him as well. You can tell that a lot of the scenes here are totally ad-libbed from Mickey and it just gives this movie more of a natural feel, as if Mickey decided to walk into the shoot everyday, do his part, but also have a lot of fun with the rest of the cast as well. As I said before, you are never going to want to take your eyes off of Rourke here because he always has something to show you, always has something to surprise you with, and best of all, always has something to make you fell more and more for this guy, no matter how much he screws-up.
There is so much about this character that just screams, “PREDICTABLE, PREDICTABLE, PREDICTABLE!”, but Mickey is above that and makes this guy feel like he has more of a heart than you could ever expect from a low-life like him. Every chance that Randy gets to make life happy for himself and the others around him, he finds his own way of just screwing it up and rather than being pissed at this guy and losing all hope in him, you’re still pissed at him but feel as if he can change, and feel like he just deserves a break. That’s the work of magic from Rourke, because he is able to give us a character that is so selfish, so idiotic sometimes, and so burnt-out without ever admitting it, but yet, still have us love the guy to death and feel as if we are cheering him on, just as much as his wrestling fans are. It’s one of the best performances I have ever seen and it’s one that Rourke was freakin’ robbed of and without Mickey, this film just would have not succeeded. Yeah, if they went with Nic Cage like they had originally-planned, things would have been a hell of a lot different come Oscar-time.
Another character that is basically Randy “The Ram” but with tits and more naked than he is throughout the whole movie, is Marisa Tomei as Cassidy. Tomei is playing the usual, “hooker with the heart of gold” role, but knowing Tomei and what she can do with any role you throw at her, she changes it up and makes her feel more raw than you’d ever expect from this gal. Cassidy is a lonely, sad, and aging piece of work, just like Randy, but still feels the need to push the ones away from her that still may make a difference in her life. Watching her and Randy interact with one-another, shoot the shit, and pretty much start to connect with each other more than they have with anybody else, is a thing of beauty and I think all of that is mainly because of the chemistry between the two. Evan Rachel Wood is good as Randy’s estranged daughter, Stephanie and even if she may be the weakest-link out of the three, that still doesn’t mean jack shit because she is still so good, providing us with great insight into a character that wanted to be loved and held, just as much as Randy does now.
These three performances are mainly who tie this film together with it’s neat and nice little bow at the end, but I’m telling you, this flick will take you down a dark, sad road you may feel very affected by. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not totally depressing and in-fact, will actually have you laughing a good, couple of times throughout. However, when the film wants to make you feel any type of emotion that has to do with sad, heartfelt, or touching, it hits the spot right away. You can say that’s because of Rourke, you could say that’s because of Tomei, and you could that’s because of Aronofsky, but I say it’s every single piece of this puzzle is what makes it so damn near-perfect, and yes, after 4 years and seeing it just about 5 times, I still cried my eyes-out like a big freakin’ baby and you know what? That’s alright with me, because once Monday Night hits, I’m watching RAW baby!
Consensus: Whether or not you’re a fan of professional wrestling, won’t matter because The Wrestler is about more than just a bunch of guys fake-fighting in a trampoline/ring. It’s a perfectly-acted, somber-look at the life of a broken and depressed old-man that is starting to come to terms with where his life is going, why it’s headed there, and what he can do to make right again. It’s an emotional-trip that still hits me where it hurts all of these years later.
I think everybody knows that they would vote for George Clooney to be the next president.
An up-and-coming campaign press secretary (Ryan Gosling) finds himself involved in a political scandal that threatens to upend his candidate’s (George Clooney) shot at the presidency.
Director George Clooney is behind the camera again for the fourth time and compared to ones such as Leatherheads, Good Night and Good Luck, and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, he doesn’t have much of a problem doing whatever it is that he does.
Clooney shows that he really can keep an interesting story going even if it doesn’t seem like anything new or ground-breaking. From the beginning, I thought I was going to get another behind-the-scenes look at a political race like in Primary Colors, however, Clooney keeps it entertaining with sharp dialogue that actually made me laugh at times surprisingly, while still giving me a lot to see with all these bad-ass politicians.
However, the story goes through a very odd twist right through the middle where it sort of switches the tone from political thriller to melodrama of sorts. Without giving the twist away too much, I still felt like this was a pretty cool twist on the film and actually kind of tied in with what happens with the last 30 minutes of the film.
This is where I think Clooney started to fall though because he doesn’t really do a very good job of keeping both of these story-lines together and still almost meaning the same thing. What I mean is that the film’s twist is good and for the most part, features some very good scenes for the latter part of the film but there are still scenes about the other part of the film that had to do with the actual political race that didn’t seem like they belonged together with the twist in the same film. I noticed this and it kind of bothered me because even though I felt like both “story-lines” were interesting as hell and kept me interested, they still felt like two different kinds of films.
There isn’t also anything new that Clooney has to say about all of these politicians that hasn’t already been said or shown before. I think Clooney’s script is a little too moral for this material where it shows everybody basically being a bunch of evil and conniving sons-of-bitches towards one another. Clooney just wanted us to really see just how much all of these people manipulate each other when it comes to a presidential race such as this and although it was really cool to see all of that play out, I still didn’t need all the moralizing of these characters.
When it comes to the cast though, Clooney really does know how to do a great job with picking a near-perfect ensemble. Ryan Gosling is just all-over-the-place this year and is perfect as Stephen Myers. Gosling is a commanding presence on screen and demands your attention every time he’s up there. He seems believable and looks like a guy that knows all the right things to do and how to do them but after he is thrown a curve-ball, really doesn’t know how to handle it all too well.
Clooney is also good as Governor Mike Morris, and he surprisingly plays up that very dirty-politician act well which is something I wasn’t really expecting to see from him, especially in his own film. The scenes he has with Gosling are awesome and couldn’t have been any better with any other two actors. Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman play two opposing campaign managers and are cast perfectly because both roles get to show just how damn good they are. Both of them are amazing in this film showing how cool and calm one minute they can be, but then the next minute totally mad and crazy as hell, so you don’t know which one to trust the most and who’s the good manager or the bad one.
Evan Rachel Wood is surprisingly very good in a juicy role as Molly, that allows to show her being sexy and a little bit mysterious but also emotional and vulnerable. She shows some great range and has an even more believable character arc. Marisa Tomei and Jeffrey Wright aren’t in here as much as the film may make you think, but they’re also very good as well and round out the cast to perfect effect.
Consensus: Though there are a lot of messy things about The Ides of March, Clooney makes up for it with a very interesting story that gets better as the film goes along, and a cast full of great star that bring so much to each of their characters.