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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Michaela Watkins

Brigsby Bear (2017)

Some shows we just never want to end. Looking at you, Freaks & Geeks.

For as long as he can remember, James Pope (Kyle Mooney)’s life has been run on “Brigsby Bear Adventures”, a children’s program that teaches James about recycling and not masturbating more than twice a day. Weird stuff like that, but hey, James loves it so much that he doesn’t care or even see the weird message. Then, the series abruptly ends and James doesn’t know what to do with himself. And to make matters even worse, he’s moved into a new house, with a new family, and doesn’t quite know how to fit in with the rest of the world around him. Still though, everybody pretty much already accepts him for what he is and they decide that it’s time to help James finish up Brigsby’s final adventure. James hopes it will bring him some closure on the TV series, whereas everybody else hopes that it will allow him to move on and come to terms with the real world.

Blow it up, Brigs!

So yeah, I’m being a little coy about Brigsby Bear because there are some parts of the plot that are kept secret and with good reason: It’s dark. But in a way, it’s shocking and it works; it gives you the idea that this movie’s going to go far and beyond just being another silly, over-the-top indie-comedy about a childish man-baby trying to finish off the final episode to a cult-followed TV show.

It also helps allow for there to be real some tension in the air, even when in reality, there isn’t. There aren’t bad people, or insanely good people in Brigsby Bear and it’s kind of sweet. It’s the kind of movie that cares much more about characters, their relationships to one another, and how they treat the outside world, as opposed to just being all about the plot and riffing on everyday life. Had this movie been taken in the hands of someone like Will Ferrell or Steve Carrel, who knows how centered and focused it would have been.

But without them, and instead, with Kyle Mooney, it’s much far better off.

Never break character.

And that’s why Brigsby Bear, while it could have easily just been a spin-off of Mooney doing goofy and crazy things, like he does on SNL, it’s much different. He has this character that, despite having the general facade of being a weirdo, is actually kind, earnest, and so innocent, he could literally kill a cat and you wouldn’t be upset with him. He’s just getting used to a new world and it’s Mooney’s performance that really works wonders, enthusing a great air of mystery of this character, but also a great deal of sympathy too.

And of course, the same sentiments transcend to the rest of the characters, too. Matt Walsh is funny as the dorky dad who tries to relate to James; Michaela Watkins does the same; Claire Danes, playing probably anything resembling a villain here, is fun to watch; Greg Kinnear’s nice cop role gets better once we discover he’s got a bit of the acting bug; Ryan Simpkins plays James’ sister who seems like she’s going to be an embarrassed pain in the rear-end, but eventually lightens up; Jorge Lendeborg Jr. plays one of James’ friends who seems lik he’s going to be a deuche, only to then not be and probably be the best character in it all; and Mark Hamill and Jane Adams, well, the less said about them, perhaps the better.

Either way, just know that they’re all good, because they’re given characters to work with and not just the sitcom-y kind, either.

Real people, who also seem to be kind of funny to watch.

Consensus: A little odd, but overall, Brigsby Bear is a very funny, sweet, and well-acted comedy that actually takes its time to work.

7 / 10

Brigsby’s mid-life existence.

Photos Courtesy of: Sony Pictures Classics

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The House (2017)

Cautionary tale?

Scott and Kate Johansen (Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler) have been planning their whole lives for their daughter’s moment she goes off to college. However, when the scholarship money falls though, they have to think of something and something quick, which eventually involves their close buddy Frank (Jason Mantzoukas). In other words, they put their brains together and think of something so crazy, so barbaric, and so insane, that hell, it just might work. That’s right, an underground casino where adults from all over the little town can come together, get wild, get crazy, throw money at the walls, and have a grand old time, as if they were young, free and without any damn responsibilities anymore. The only issue is that, for Scott, Kate, Frank, and well, everybody else, they are old and have something resembling responsibilities, making this casino a much more dangerous and scary place than any of them ever wanted it to become.

Homage to Scorsese? Or once again, just improv? Who knows.

It’s crazy to think a comedy starring two of the best, funniest, and brightest talents in the game, with plenty others surrounding them, would come and land with an absolute thud like the House did, but unfortunately, that’s what happened. It wasn’t screened for critics, it was barely advertised, and oh yeah, it didn’t really do well at the box-office, even despite both Ferrell and Poehler still being draws. What happened?

Well, the short is that it’s not a very good comedy.

But the long is that it’s just like every other studio comedy out there made in the world in that it features barely any story, cohesion, or interesting-writing, but instead, features a bunch of funny, incredibly talented people, just making everything up as they go along. Normally, I’d be disappointed with this, but considering that we literally just got the same thing a few weeks ago with Rough Night, it’s hard to really expect much else; without having to actually put any thought or effort into how these movies play-out, how the jokes build, and eventually, play out, the general idea is that you get a bunch of funny people around, put a camera in front of them, film, and let the magic happen.

Magic can occasionally happen in cases such as these and even in the House, there are some slight glimmers of true fun comedy. But the issue is that the laughs and fun happen so very few and far between one that, even at 80 minutes, it still feels like a stretch. Hell, you’d think that with such a short movie to begin with, that we wouldn’t have to sit through much and make this feel like more of a slog, but somehow, that’s exactly what happens. And yes, it’s exactly what happens when you don’t really put much of any effort into anything, other than getting a solid cast of funny people together.

Then again, maybe I’m putting too much thought into a movie like the House.

Children. They’re the future and why we do the crazy shit that we do.

Then again, maybe I’m not. Maybe I just appreciate it when a movie with as funny and as promising as a premise as the House, actually delivers on not just the funny, but also the promise, and gives us a, get this, a solid comedy. It doesn’t have to change the world, it doesn’t have to break down any barriers, and it sure as hell doesn’t have to be perfect – all it has to do is be funny and feel like it was at least written more than half-way through. The House doesn’t feel like that, though, and it not only suffers because of it, but so does everybody else, too.

And yes, this is to say that Poehler, Ferrell, Mantzoukas, and so many other well-known, talented and reliably funny people here who show up and give it their all, are indeed funny, but at times, it can’t help but feel like their talents are being wasted. Literally, not a single one of them play an actual character that makes sense, or at the very least, works in this movie’s small world; sometimes, even the bittiest kind of character-development can go a long way into helping us realize just why a person is why they are and why watching them is so funny to begin with. It’s simple movie-writing 101 and honestly, I shouldn’t even have to state this, but unfortunately, movies like the House exist and continue to come out, therefore, making it all the more understandable to bring up why a script matters.

Even for, yes, a comedy.

Consensus: Although everyone tries and can occasionally be funny, the House doesn’t live up to the promise of its premise, nor does it really have all that many laughs to help guide along its incredibly short 80-minute run-time.

4.5 / 10

What? Is there anything else you ought to do with money?

Photos Courtesy of: Kenwood Theatre

They Came Together (2014)

So if I don’t profess my love to a girl in the pouring rain, she won’t fall in love with me? Damn rom-coms!

Joel (Paul Rudd) and Molly (Amy Poehler) are practically perfect for one another. They’re both two kind, gentle and easy-going people who just got out of relationships and need somewhere to start fresh and anew. That’s why it’s so weird that when they finally meet up, there’s so much distaste between them both. It’s strange really, and nobody knows how or why it is the way it is, but that’s just the fact. However, late one night, when Joel has some time to think to himself and even talk to his “baby brother” (Max Greenfield), he realizes that it’s time to nut up, or shut up. So, he asks Molly out on a date and they both realize they’re perfect for one another in every which way. They compliment each other; they have wonderful sex; and Joel is even something of a father-figure to Molly’s son. However, there is problem in that Joel works at a Candy Research Factory that preys on knocking out all of the smaller, mom-and-pop chain candy stores; one in particular they are looking at is one owned by Molly herself and it just may possibly ruin their relationship forever.

If you just read that synopsis up above and felt like everything I just said was quite familiar, that’s because, it is! Or, better yet, it’s supposed to be!

See, They Came Together, is exactly like every romantic-comedy ever made; it has all of the troupes, the formula, and heck, even has the same characters that you’d find in any rom-com, had you just been scrolling through the channels or on your Netflix queue. And as a whole, the rom-com genre sort of deserves this much of a thrashing; it’s a genre that hardly ever seems to learn from its mistakes, and instead, just continues to force-feed us the same bullshit stories and resolutions that happen in only said types of movies. Not at all in real life, and anybody who believes otherwise, don’t deserve to be reasoned with.

Aw!

Aw!

Anyway, that’s why watching something as obvious and goofy as They Came Together is something refreshing, regardless of how much it actually does, or doesn’t work. Sure, it’s definitely funny in spots, but there’s something to a movie that understands it’s a joke and doesn’t really try to make itself anything else. Some may complain that this movie doesn’t have much substance, nor even a real, actual story-line to follow along and get involved with, but I don’t think it needs one to be considered a fine movie. If you just want spend a near-hour-and-a-half watching as somebody riffs on the rom-com genre, then this is more than fine for you.

Better yet, if you’re already a fan of the type of humor David Wain brings to any project of his, then it’s even more of a treat for you. Because, for one, he doesn’t hold back on really letting this movie expose the same old and tired troupes we’ve all seen practically done to death. Maybe he’s a bit too obvious about what it is that he’s trying to say or get across, but I didn’t mind that because most of the time, he had me howling like a wildebeest that couldn’t get a firm grip on his own self-control.

That said, if you’ve seen any David Wain production ever, you’ll know that, for one thing, he doesn’t really take himself away from getting really weird. And here, there are many occasions where Wain lets his weirdness really take over and even confuse the hell out of the viewer who may be watching it.

For instance, there’s a scene in which somebody is sad and lonely, sitting at the bar after they’ve just had a pretty shitty night (after a bad date, presumably), and, as expected, the bartender asks the person who’s drinking, “Bad night”, in which the character drinking responds, “Tell me about it”. And I swear to you, for the next five-to-seven minutes, this whole scene is played-on repeat, almost giving you the impression that something is wrong with the actual movie you’re watching. Sounds a whole lot like the kind of stunt that Andy Kaufman would pull, and for some odd reason, it works here. It’s just that strange and random, that it actually works.

Need another example of weirdness taking over Wain’s flick? Well, try the idea of incest between a grandmother and her grandson, that, surprisingly, gets even weirder than you could originally imagine.

AW!

AW!

So yeah, if that tells you something about this movie, it’s that it’s constantly up to no good, making fun of rom-coms, and even itself at points. And although it is a relatively short movie, I did find it running a bit out of steam by the end. Then again though, that’s the case with most parody-movies; there’s only so much surprises they can throw at us for the first two-halves that once things have to settle down, get resolved and eventually end, you can feel it and in a way, you sort of want it as well. That’s not to say the last-half of this movie isn’t funny, it just feels long-winded, even if, like I said before, it’s only an-hour-and-20-minutes (which is like three episodes of Breaking Bad, kind of, sort of, maybe).

And of course no parody movie would work if its cast weren’t up to the task of absolutely just letting loose and looking like total goobers and I think Wain’s assembled a great one here. It’s nice to see Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler work together again (especially after something as classic as this), because their chemistry together is pretty great. Although it’s a bit hard to tell because you can never take them seriously for a single second, it helps that they at least feel comfortable enough with one another to just be all sorts of crazy and weird, just exactly like they know how to. Now, that’s not to say that I kind of wished this was a straight-forward rom-com, both starring Poehler and Rudd in the lead roles, with Wain writing and directing, but for something as funny as this, I guess I’ll just shut up and take what I can get.

Consensus: Those who want a somewhat serious, standard rom-com will be utterly shocked and displeased to find out that They Came Together is neither, and instead, a crazy, funny, wacky, and sometimes incredibly weird, parody that doesn’t always work, but at least tells enough truth in what it’s making fun of.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Huh?

Uhm….huh?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Afternoon Delight (2013)

Sky rockets in flight….

Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) is your typical, suburban mommy. She’s rich, she works-at-home, she cares for her kid, she has barely any sex with her hubby (Josh Radnor) and she routinely sees a therapist (Jane Lynch). But worst of all, she’s just bored. It’s that plain and simple. So, in order to fix that and get some spice back into her uneventful marriage, Rachel decides to go to a strip-club where she gets a private lap-dance from a much younger girl named McKenna (Juno Temple). The two don’t necessarily hit it off, as much as it’s just Rachel who sees McKenna as a possible source to not only cure her boredom, but make her feel like she is saving somebody from this world, if only it’s to take her away from the sex world. This is when Rachel gets the bright idea to have McKenna stay in her house and tell everybody that she is her “nanny”, while also trying to make sure that McKenna herself stays away from the pole, as well as her other job, being a high-class hooker. As the cracks in Rachel’s lie begin to show, so do the ones with her marriage, her friendships with her fellow neighbors, as well as her and McKenna’s relationship as well, which causes hell for just about everybody surrounded around them both.

Though it’s easy to characterize anybody who lives in the suburbs as “uptight”, “boring” and “stuck-up”, among other things, it’s not exactly fair. See, I actually live in the suburbs, even though I venture out to Philly for most of my natural, breathing-life, and I can’t help but see this differently sometimes. Some of the people that I do know that live in the suburbs, definitely don’t always have a firm grip on reality, or what actually is occurring out there in the world, so they just act like it’s all a big deal, and donate to a charity or some fund, just in order to make themselves feel better about their contribution to a needy-cause. That’s only “some” people I know though.

Dude's totally tucking it in right now.

Dude’s totally tucking it in right now.

As for the others that I know, they’re just as simple as you or I. Sure, they don’t always have the best clue on what is really going on out there in the world, but they aren’t necessarily dummies either. If you take them into the city where crime and violence supposedly runs amok, they won’t fret or freak-out. Yeah, they’ll be a bit tense and all, but who wouldn’t?!?!

But what I’m trying to get at here is that most of the ideas we think we have about those upper-class, suburbanites, aren’t always exactly true, and I think that’s the type of idea this movie tries to get across – not just in its message, but through its main character, Rachel. See, here is the thing about Rachel: You know that she’s this woman who longs for something more and isn’t too into-her-own-head to get all bothered and bugged about what most of her neighbors get all crazy about. However, you can also tell that she still wants to look good in their eyes, not seem like a total “rebel”, and just make sure that she keeps the peace between her and all them, without ever stepping on their toes, or offending them in any way. And to be honest, when you watch Rachel, you can’t help but just root her on because you know that she’s a lovely lady and means well, but the group of gals that she’s thrown into, aren’t really the right fit for her and are the type of walking, talking and living cliches we usually see of these upper-class, suburban women: Uptight, boring and stuck-up.

However though, that same dilemma built for Rachel, is what makes her such a compelling character to begin with. We want to despise her and look down on her for being so dumb and thinking that she could, or “should”, save a girl like McKenna, who has practically been screwing, lying, cheating and stealing since she first learned how to speak; but by the same token, we also can’t hate her because she has good intentions, she does nice things for people and, at the end of the day, she’s just like you or me, and has the same wants, needs and pleads. It’s what makes her so interesting to watch, not because we never know how she’s going to react next to McKenna’s dirty and gritty world, but because we never quite know how she’s going to react to those other women around her. You know, the women she’s supposed to fit-in with, but yet, just doesn’t seem all that interested in doing so.

Writer/director Jill Soloway definitely made a smart decision in making someone like Rachel, feel as real and as genuine as you could get, but she also made an even smarter-decision in casting someone like Kathryn Hahn in the role, someone who, in case you didn’t know, loves to be very funny, crazy and wacky, just about ALL of the time. And in all honesty, I think that’s what makes this performance so worth watching: We know Hahn’s background and we know how much she can make us laugh, but watching her sort of play-up the whole serious side of acting-skills and actually emote, is really surprising to see on-screen, not least because she isn’t any good at it. Because she totally is and makes Rachel someone we can sort of connect with, as well as empathize with, because we all know she wants to do the right thing, even if her intentions are in a bit of a jumble as to why, and for what reasons.

But, make no mistakes, we never hate Rachel, nor do we ever hate someone like McKenna either, which is mostly due to the fact that Juno Temple practically has this whole “young, sexpot”-act down to a T by now. Though we hear that McKenna comes from a sketchy-background, I never once felt like she was all that bad of a woman to have around the house, or bring out into public. Sure, she’s been around the block maybe one too many times, but leaving her alone with my kid? Eh, I could do worse. However, leaving her around my hubby while I was gone? Not at all! But, once again, Soloway makes the smart decision in giving somebody like Josh Radnor, another dude we mostly see as the charming, funny dude in stuff, a dramatic role, but also, a very believable one as a husband that loves his wife, his kid, his house, his salary and his buddies he smokes pot and surfs with, but still may have that lingering-eye a few times.

Very subtle.....slut.

Very subtle. Slut.

Still though, the movie doesn’t always entertain the idea that Radnor’s character may actually go behind his wife and cheat on her with McKenna, which is sort of a disappointment, because there are many times where it seems like this movie could have definitely benefited from some more emotional fireworks thrown into the mix. I mean yeah, we get a couple of scenes where we see Rachel try and understand who McKenna is, where she comes from and why she loves what she does (screwing), but there was never enough to fully wrap us into either of their stories. They were sort of getting to know one another, but at the same time, sort of not. They were, more or less, just peaking into each other’s lives to see what it was all about – which I get was probably the point, but Soloway never allows for there to be much tension added into the proceedings.

Instead, we get a bunch of characters who are definitely very interesting and may make you reconsider some previous-stances you may, or may not, have had on those who choose to live far, far away from the suburbs, so that they can live in peace in harmony, without much excitement in there to shake things up. You can call their life-styles “boring”, and hell, you can even call it “unrealistic”, but for some people, this is probably for the best. So next time, just let those suburbanites settle into their lives and move, as you do the same. Unless you are one, then in that case, get outside, get your ass to the city and see what life is all about!!! Woo-hoo!

Consensus: Most of what Afternoon Delight presents here are used more as just thoughts, rather than as a full-blown idea to keep the narrative going, but when you have such great performances from the likes of Josh Radnor, Juno Temple and most surprisingly of all, Kathryn Hahn, it doesn’t hurt to just sit back and watch as these people live their lives. Even as monotonous and dull as they may be, at times.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

So if I just wanted to watch, would I have to chip in as well? Know what I'm saying, guys?

So if I just wanted to watch, would I have to chip in as well? Know what I’m saying, guys?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderComingSoon.net

In a World… (2013)

Make sure to say the title the right way and don’t be such a boob.

The world of the voice-acting isn’t one that’s been particularly kind to women in the past, and for the most part, never will seem to be. However, Carol Solomon (Lake Bell) wants to change that once and for all, although it may be a tad bit difficult with her dad being the famous, highly-acclaimed Sam Soto (Fred Melamed). But, like I said before, Carol is inspired to be the first ever woman to ever narrate a trailer and she will make sure that she gets that chance, even though her father, as well as her father’s protege (Ken Marino), may sometimes get in the way of her dream. Also, Carol’s sister, Dani (Michaela Watkins), has her own dilemma of sorts, but with her marriage to Moe (Rob Corddry) and how she can’t seem to swat-away the over-bearing feelings of philandering around with this Irish guy who continues to keep on flirting with her. And yet, another story also happens to be around here in which Carol may possibly have a new boyfriend in Louis (Demetri Martin), one of the dudes who is making her dream possible. Or at least something close to that.

It’s hard to hate on a movie that’s as pleasant and joyful as this, because while there are many faults to be found here, they all mean well. For instance, one of the problems that I have with Lake Bell’s direction here is that not only does she seem to carry too much weight, even for her directorial-debut, but she doesn’t quite know what point or “message” to end on when the story’s supposedly all said, done and over with. However though, I can’t hate on that aspect too much, as each and every idea of a story that she tries to cram in here, do actually work; and in other ways, they actually add more to the movie’s overall charm that’s easy-to-like and enjoy.

They're one pair of Chuck Taylor's away from being "full-on hipster".

They’re just one pair of Chuck Taylor’s away from being “full-on hipster”.

Thus, there’s my dilemma of sorts with this movie: While at times it definitely seems to be a sweet and entertaining piece of Hollywood-fiction, it still doesn’t know how it wants to say anything that is on its mind. Maybe I’m looking a bit too far into this movie than I possibly should be, but I can only allow myself to smile for so long, up until I finally realize that there is some nastiness at the bottom of the barrel, and I found some of that here. Even despite it being made with, once again, good intentions.

Anyway though, I could rant, and rave, and go on and on and on and on about this movie without really getting anywhere, so let me try and keep my mind at ease here and get down to the basics of this movie.

For her first time not just behind the director’s chair, but behind the writer’s, as well as the producer’s, Lake Bell does an alright job at keeping up the pace with this flick to make sure that it doesn’t linger on anything too heavy, for too long, as well as not trying to be too funny, for too many instances. She actually seems like she knows a thing or two about how to give us a good gag, and have it continue on throughout the whole movie, without ever seeming like it’s already been done-to-death. For example, Demetri Martin’s character is a very nervous, twitchy guy that always ends-up saying the wrong things, at the wrong time to Bell’s character, and gives us the idea that he really likes her, but doesn’t want to seem too weird or forward with the feelings he’s trying to get across. We’ve seen this idea done a million other times, in many other comedies out there in the world, but here, it feels fresh, vibrant and fun every time it pops-up, as if Bell herself knew what people would expect with a character who’d be written like this, so she decided to spice things up a bit.

But Martin’s character isn’t the only one she does that – she practically does this for each and every character that shows up here. Even down to the smallest, tiniest role, we get a sense that Bell actually took some time out of her busy day, to give us rich, well-written and charming characters that could be the same type of people either you or I would meet at a party someday. A lot of this credit goes to the cast, but it also goes to Bell as well for at least making sure that nobody is put to waste here, nor really as one-dimensional as they could have been in a lesser movie. These characters are also the main reasons why most of this comedy works, and keeps on surprising, even at what seem to be the most random moments.

Though, like I just said, most of this comes down to what the cast is able to do with these small, unimportant characters – all of whom seemed to be in Lake Bell’s mind the first day she took her pen to a piece of paper. Even for the character she herself plays, Carol, the type of slightly off-kilter, yet smart and witty girl that we usually see movies done about, but never as charming as she is done here. I don’t know if Bell meant to do this on purpose, as to give her a role in which everybody would see the talent she truly is and was never able to show before in the numerous supporting roles she’s done, but either way, it works for her and it works for this movie. She’s funny, sweet, kind and a bit of a smart-ass when she needs to be, but only to the people that deserve it, and it makes us feel a lot more for her, even when it seems like Hollywood, as well as everybody is working against her and her voice.

I don't blame her for not being able to see that huge, silver tape-recorder located right near he right-eye.

Whatever it is that’s on that computer-screen must really grab her attention away from the big, silver block tape-recorder near her right eye.

The rest of her family-unit is pretty solid, too, with wonderful character actor Fred Melamed getting a lot of moments to shine as the cocky, slightly arrogant father that thinks he is better than anybody, all because he’s been in the business for so damn long. While he would definitely seem like the type of guy you’d automatically hate in any other movie, he’s actually very charming here and sometimes, even seems like, at one time, he was a really nice guy that loved his wife, his kids and his whole family, but has been through this hard-hitting business-world we know as Hollywood, and it’s taken quite a toll on him so far. Even the actress who plays his much-younger, strange girlfriend, Alexandra Holden, doesn’t seem like the type of annoying, obviously idiotic gold digger we tend to see a lot in these movies depicting a relationship between an older, famous guy, and a younger gal; she actually wants him to reach-out towards his kids and as a result, be a better man that she can be proud of being with in the future.

And even Carol’s sister isn’t all that bad either, it’s just that her story may be the weakest one here, and practically expendable. However, Michaela Watkins is good, as well as Rob Corddry, as they both get a chance to show that they can actually act and emote quite well when they want to. But there’s plenty more where that came from along the likes of Tig Notaro, Nick Offerman, Ken Marino, and even surprise cameo’s from both Geena Davis and Eva Longoria, with the latter even going so far as to portray herself in a light that’s actually a bit mean. But hey, she’s the one who’s doing it, so it’s not that bad, right? I guess not! Good for her! Tony Parker should be sad.

Consensus: May not stay in your mind long after it’s over, but considering how much love, fun and pleasure went into making this, I don’t think that will bother anybody who decides to check-out In a World…, especially if they want to see just who this “Lake Bell person” is all about.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

If only Lake Bell let her beard grow-out and maybe then I'd be able to buy into the notion that they're biological father and daughter.

If only Lake Bell let her beard grow-out and maybe then I’d be able to buy into the notion that they’re biological father and daughter.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Enough Said (2013)

Aka, White People Problems.

Single divorced parent Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) has a nice life, but it is rather lonely at times. She doesn’t have much of a personal life, but instead chooses to hang-out with her married-couple pals (Ben Falcone and Toni Collette) as they go from party-to-party on weekends. At one of these parties that Eva attends, she meets a Oliver (James Gandolfini), a rotund, but very charming and nice dude that doesn’t seem like her type, but she decides to take a gamble with just because she has the time and is able to do so. However, at the same party, she also meets and strikes up a friendship with famous poet Marianne (Catherine Keener) who, wouldn’t ya know it, just so happens to be Oliver’s ex-wife that he obviously is still very bitter towards, just about as much as she is. Though Eva finds this out pretty early-on, she doesn’t quite know what to do with this new-found knowledge, so instead, she decides to just listen to all of the bad things about Oliver coming from Marianne’s mouth, while she also tests it out on her own in the meantime. Hilarity, and sometimes heartbreak, ensues.

Obviously, as I’m sure we all know by now, most of this movie will be plagued by the recent-passing of its main star, James Gandolfini, and even as bright and sunny as this movie can be, it puts a huge shadow over it. Every time you’re watching a scene that he’s in, no matter how much he may make you laugh, smile, or do a little of both at the same, you still can’t help but get that nasty, but sad feeling out of the back of your mind that yes, he’s gone, and yes, this is one of his last performances ever put on screen. Very upsetting, however, the movie itself does not fall victim to such events that ocurred after filming. Instead, it is its own product, one that lives and breaths off of the good vibes from everybody involved, not just one person in particular, and it still works in that sense.

$20 down already!

Oh, I see: “The old, hole-at-the-bottom” trick. That Gandolfini sure was a dirty devil.

Still though, it is very, very sad. Okay, I’m done with that. On with the rest of the review/movie!

While most of you may already know this, I’ll say it again just for the sake of possible, “newer” readers: I am not a huge fan of Nicole Holofcener. Now, take with that what you will since I’ve only seen 2 of her movies (this one not included), but I just feel like all of her movies are all of the same thing, minus a couple of characters here and there. However, something struck me as odd with this movie and its premise as it seemed like Holofcener was going for more of a sitcom with the idea of a woman finding out all of her new boy’s secrets, problems, and negatives from his ex-wife, while he has no idea, but that’s only used as a stepping-stool for what Holofcener REALLY wants to touch on.

Basically, when you get past it all, this movie is about love and how it will never leave one’s life, even if they feel like it’s all but lost from their own. You can give up, try again, give up, try again, and so on and so forth, and I think that’s the beauty of life. Watching as these two, over-50-year-olds rediscover love and the simple pleasures of life really brought a grin to my face. It’s really sweet to see them figure themselves out once again, just as much as it is to watch as their relationship blossoms, but the movie is more than just a romantic-dramedy, and I think that’s where Holofcener sort of loses herself, and sort of doesn’t.

The reason why I don’t feel like she loses herself over this material is because she definitely has something to talk about, and for once, it’s not another agonizing portrayal of the white, liberal guilt I’ve been so used to seeing with her movies. Sure, the topics and themes like your kids going off to college, losing connection with you, and fully growing-up isn’t anything new to be touched on, let alone, heavy material to really get the crowd reaching for their Kleenex’s, however, Holofcener seems like she really cares about what she’s writing, and you feel that tender love and care the whole time. When the point she wants to get across is seen, it works and makes this movie more than just a simple story of two people meeting up, kissing, and falling in love.

However, Holofecener sort of does lose herself with this material when she seems to cram a bit too much into this movie for one’s own well-being. For instance, rather than just having the subplot about Eva’s one and only daughter losing connection with her as she gets ready to move off to college be the main one, Holofcener decides to throw another one in there for good measure, concerning her daughter’s best friend who spends more time at her place, than her own actual home. The subplot got old, made no sense, and just felt awkward, especially when it was resolved and brought almost nothing to this story, or its overall meaning. It just was included because it seemed like Holofcener had some time on her hand. That, and she was also going through a mid-life crisis, so why not include some teen-adult bonding, eh? I don’t know, didn’t work for me, but it probably will for many others.

Clingy moms, right? Like, gosh!!!

Clingy moms, right? Like, gosh!!!

Like I was saying before though, the presence always lurking in the back of this movie’s frame is James Gandolfini and for a good reason too, because he’s great here as Oliver. Not only is Gandolfini so lovely, charming, and funny to watch, but he’s also a bit of a softy too, so much so, that you actually believe it when his feelings get hurt over the smallest thing said or done to him. It’s hard to imagine that Tony Soprano would ever begin to ball-out and cry because some girl he just met made fun of him for not knowing how to whisper in a movie theater, but damn, he sure as hell had me believing! This may not be his last role ever on film, but either way, it’s still a sad goodbye considering what a talent he truly was, one that deserved all of the credit he got.

But I’ll be damned if this is just Gandolfini’s show, because it honestly isn’t in terms of performance and story. This story is mainly surrounding Eva and all of her problems, and while this character could have been painful to watch considering she has random bits of awkwardness that come out of nowhere at times, Julia Louis-Dreyfus still makes her believable enough to be interested by, and charming enough that she’s fun to watch, regardless of if she’s being a meanie or not. This is probably Louis-Dreyfus’ best movie-role to date, and even though that isn’t saying much, the girl still proves to us that she’s got the comedic-chops to make us hold our guts, while also still have the ability to come off as somebody that just wants love in her life, no matter if the person meets all of her heavy-set standards or not. The chemistry these two have is a beautiful thing to watch, and I dare you not to get a bit choked up when they share their first smooch! In fact, I double-dog dare ya! Just try!

Consensus: While most of your attention will be fixated on James Gandolfini and his wonderful performance, Enough Said is more than just a kind-of swan-song for its male-lead, it’s a pleasant, sweet, and gentle look at love, and how it will never leave one’s life, no matter how young, or old they are.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Hug him! You know you want to!

Hug him! You know you want to!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net