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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Christine Woods

Dean (2017)

Go home. Then leave.

Dean (Demetri Martin) is an NY illustrator who needs a little bit of inspiration in his life. So what better way to find it then when your mom dies and your dad is basically depressed? Well, that’s what happens to Dean when, suddenly, his mom dies and he has to leave his sheltered, lovely little life in NY, and head back home to the sunny and hot L.A. While there, Dean reconnects with old friends and family; friends still seem like they’re not doing much with his life, whereas his family, like his father (Kevin Kline), seem stuck, too. And you know what? So is Dean! That’s why, when he meets the sexy and mysterious Nicky (Gillian Jacobs), he immediately hits it off with her and starts to see something of a future with her. Meanwhile, his dad is finding a possible soul-mate in his real-estate agent (Mary Steenburgen), who may also be the right recipe to help get him out of his funk. Are both going to get better and start to realize that there’s more to life than just sulking around and being freakin’ miserable all of the time?

Ugh. Quite whining!

Dean is a lot of different styles and trademarks that other writer/directors have pulled-off before and much better, too. It’s a little bit of Wes Anderson, a smidge of Woody Allen, and oh yeah, a whole lot of Zach Braff. It’s an odd concoction, which sort of works, but also seems like writer/director/star Demetri Martin liked what he saw a bit too much and just decided to pick and choose what he wanted to work with?

I don’t know. Actually, what I do know is that it sort of works, but also doesn’t feel all that terribly original. Sort of like Martin himself who, despite having such a cult-following for his alternative and whimsical brand of stand-up, just never quite connected with me. He felt too twee and a little too of-himself to quite work for me, but hey, that’s me and stuff like that doesn’t matter.

I just want to let the world know that I am not a Demetri Martin fan. Now that it’s out in the open, I hope that we can both move on and get along cordially.

But it’s odd because it seems like you really have to be an absolute adoring fan of Martin’s to really like Dean, or what he’s doing in it. He’s literally the star of this thing, through and through, playing a rather unlikable and whiny character that feels real and honest, but by the same token, can tend to get a bit annoying. While Dean himself may not be all that interesting, to me, seeing just where this character went along for his journey of self-discovery and the people he hung around, was more than enough to keep me interested. Martin is fine in the lead role, but once again, your tolerance of him may vary on how you feel exactly for this character.

“Ew! What a lame-o hipster!”

The real saving-grace of Dean is, thankfully, the supporting-cast who all seem like they did this sort of as a labor-of-love, what with all of the big, talented names attached. Gillian Jacobs, while her character seems absolutely like a type, gets by in showing a nice deal of chemistry with Martin; Rory Scovel plays Eric, Dean’s best buddy who is a bit weird, but also endearing enough to work; Kevin Kline is fine as Dean’s dad, but honestly, feels like he was thrown in there because he had some free-time and wanted to be a nice guy to Martin; and yeah, the same goes for Steenburgen.

In fact, the much better movie here in Dean, actually, isn’t about Dean at all.

It’s about his dad trying to get a firmer grasp on the rest of his life, move on, find love again, and figure out where to go from here. But the subplot’s never as fully developed as it ought to be; we go through very long stretches of the movie without even a glimpse of what Kline’s character is up to, but instead, are stuck watching Martin’s Dean. It’s a shame, too, because Steenburgen and Kline do seem to have genuine chemistry here and their scenes together, while definitely minor and rushed, do have a bit of sweetness attached to them that the rest of the movie, honestly, is missing.

But still, it all depends on how you feel for Demetri Martin.

Consensus: As far as indies go, Dean‘s pretty conventional and safe, but the ensemble is fine enough to help you pass the time along and enjoy what’s in front of you.

6 / 10

Go away, Demetri. Let Kevvy-poo take over.

Photos Courtesy of: CBS Films

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I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (2017)

largLock the door next time! Come on!

When Ruth (Melanie Lynskey) decides that she’s had enough of it and quits her nursing job, she expects to live out the rest of her life the way she wants to. She can drink, smoke, read, listen to music, and eat ice cream all day, and not have a thing in the world to worry about. That all changes when one day, she comes home to her house burglarized, with some of her most treasured possessions gone, without a clue in the world of where it may have gone to. Though she does call the police, they don’t seem to really care, leaving Ruth to set out and find who robbed her house, by herself. But she soon realizes that it could be a very dangerous job for one woman to do by herself, leading her to invite random neighbor Tony (Elijah Wood) along for this adventure of sorts. Tony’s more than ready to crack down on these two-bit criminals, until the both of them learn that they are dealing with much bigger fish and they aren’t going to fry easily.

Or yeah, something like that.

He was a boy.

He was a boy.

Writer/director Macon Blair is making his directorial debut here and while you may not know the name, you definitely know the face. He’s been in both of Jeremy Saulnier’s movies (Blue Ruin, Green Room), and is slowly, but surely, making a name for himself out there in the indie-world, which is why it’s interesting to see him try his hand at writing and directing movies. Cause if anything, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore feels a lot like a Saulnier movie, but instead of being drop-deadly, bleakly serious, it’s got a bit of a comedic-edge to it.

Initially, the movie seems like any other indie-comedy, with long, silent breaks of weird bits and pieces of comedy followed in, but slowly, and surely, the movie starts to show its true colors. Blair’s writing is, at the very least, interesting here, because he never quite picks a genre that he wants to work with; it’s a dark comedy for sure, but how dark and how funny the movie is going to stay, is never quite sure. We get these brief signs that the story’s going to take a viciously upsetting turn, but when and where is never quite known, and the mystery of it all is quite compelling.

And then, it gets viciously upsetting and all of a sudden, it feels like a whole different movie entirely.

See, as much as I don’t want to do this, Saulnier’s two movies so far, have absolutely benefited from the fact that they’re mean and serious, almost from the very start. They don’t try to crack any jokes, make light of a situation, and they sure as hell don’t loll-gag. They get right to the point and don’t leave us waiting. And that’s why they both work as well as they do – the violence we eventually get in those movies is stark and chilling, but sort of expected and germane, because the mood of the whole piece was already stern in the first place.

She was a girl.

She was a girl.

That’s why Blair’s movie doesn’t quite gel as well as it should. It doesn’t take itself seriously enough to fully work as a deadly serious thriller, nor does it goof around enough to work as a comedy. If anything, it’s a weird, odd, and twisted version of the two and in that sense, it’s definitely worth watching. Blair’s ambition to combine these two genres, so to speak, doesn’t fully come together as well as he may have wanted, but it’s worth noting that he at least tries and is at least semi-successful.

Shouldn’t that account for something?

Where Blair got really lucky was in the casting of both Melanie Lynskey and Elijah Wood as this odd couple of sorts. Lynskey hasn’t always been considered “a scary presence”, but here, she shows that beyond her everyday woman appeal, there’s something meaner lingering. We don’t quite know what it is, or how it’s going to present itself, but we know it’s there and she’s interesting to watch because of that. Wood’s also very good in this role as Tony, a sort-of weirdo who knows karate and has numb-chucks. Normally, this kind of character would be used as a non-stop punch-line and never taken seriously, but Blair’s writing for him and Wood’s portrayal of him, shows that there’s actually a sweet soul stuck deep down inside of this goofy guy. He may think he’s a lot tougher than he is, but then again, who doesn’t? Together, the two have a nice chemistry that gets to play out in small, yet cute ways, showing that perhaps Blair could have just focused on them and left it at that.

Cause when Blair does show the “robbers”, of sorts, like I said, the movie acts very dark and serious. It also doesn’t help that these characters seem as if they’re from another movie entirely; one that’s way more over-the-top than this one here. So yeah, it doesn’t help them anymore and only takes away from Lynskey and Wood’s great moments together.

Consensus: With a darker edge than most comedies, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is an interesting watch, but also uneven, taking a more sinister and meaner approach to its material that doesn’t quite gel so well with the funnier, more human bits of itself.

6.5 / 10

Can I make it anymore obvious?

Can I make it anymore obvious?

Photos Courtesy of: Collider