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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Wyatt Cenac

I Do…Until I Don’t (2017)

Marriage blows, get it?

Vivian (Dolly Wells) is a jaded filmmaker who believes that marriage is an outmoded concept that needs a reboot. Hoping to prove her theory, she begins to interview three couples at various stages in their relationships.

Even though it wasn’t a perfect movie, Lake Bell’s directorial debut, In a World…, proved that she had something more on her mind than just humor. It was a small, somewhat subtle look at women trying their best to get by, sisters trying to connect, and something of a showbiz-satire about how the men always get by, and the women are forced to stand back. It was a messy movie, but its ambitions and its cast was so likable and charming, it was hard to fully hate.

It’s why I Do…Until I Don’t feels like it’s made from somebody else entirely. Rather than being a funny, relatively heartwarming look at a bunch of different people, like her first movie was, Bell’s latest is so over-the-top, silly, and random, it almost feels like she made it on a whim. It’s as if she had been waiting so long to get a movie off of the ground, didn’t have a perfectly fresh idea in her head, but stumbled upon a bunch of money and thought that something would work anyway, regardless of how crummy the material was.

Oh man. How they’ve been in so much better.

And that’s where it all comes down to: The movie just isn’t funny.

It attempts to poke fun at marriage, its norms, and the sanctity of it all, but mostly comes down to making fun of a bunch of characters we never really get to know or care about, because they never come close to being human. They’re all goofy caricatures who are made so that Bell can set them up for whatever unfunny bits and pieces of comedy she chooses. It’s a shame to be picking on her, too, because in mostly everything I’ve ever seen her in, she’s constantly lovable and fun – but none of that shows here.

Not with her writing, her directing, or hell, especially not her acting. In fact, Bell’s performance is probably the worst as she totally over-does this character’s constant neurotic ticks, with all of the stuttering, flinching, and turning away. It’s like she’s doing a Woody Allen impersonation, but only saw one movie and decided to just roll with it. Same goes to Ed Helms as her husband here who, does what he can, but just feels like a typically dull husband who wants something more out of life and can’t quite perform in the sack. It’s actually a perfect role for Helms, but because he’s played it so many times before and there’s not much depth to this actual character, it doesn’t wholly work.

Bring back Doll & Em!

Instead, it feels like he’s slumming. And the same could be said for just about everybody else.

Dolly Wells plays the documentary film-maker who gets maybe one or two laughs, because her character seems like the voice-of-reason/bystander to all of this, but then she just ends up being a villain that the movie feels the need to bash; Amber Heard and Wyatt Cenac play a hippie-couple who are so formulaic in their ways, it already feels dated by the first instance we see of them; and Paul Reiser and Mary Steenburgen, try as they might, seem like they deserve a much better movie. They play an older couple who are running through their own little issues and trying to figure out what the other wants with their rest of their lives and it’s only here, in this one subplot, where it feels like Bell is touching at something interesting and compelling. But then, she drops the ball when she decides to focus on all of the other characters and their wild hi-jinx that, honestly, aren’t all that wild, nor all that funny.

They’re just annoying and ridiculous and it makes you wish that Bell stick with whatever sort of inspiration she had from her first flick.

Consensus: Even with a solid ensemble of likable people, I Do…Until I Don’t squanders all potential with a sitcom-y premise and even more ridiculous jokes and gags that go nowhere.

3 / 10

They’re like hippies, but in 2017. Ha! Ha!

Photos Courtesy of: The Film Arcade

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Medicine for Melancholy (2008)

One night stands are always the best kind of stands. Anything more is just overdone.

Micah (Wyatt Cenac) and Joanne (Tracey Wiggins) are absolute and total polar opposites. He’s a social activist, who believes that each and everything in the world has to be about race, whereas Joanne herself is a professional woman who understands that race matters, as well as standing up for her own heritage, but also has a white boyfriend and doesn’t let these sorts of issues get in the way of her living her life and being happy. That’s why it’s all the more shocking to find out that they, after a wild night of drinking and partying at their friend’s place, they had sex. How? Or better yet, why? Well, neither of them really know; they just both know that they were both very drunk and vulnerable. So, in a way to make it right, they decide to go their separate ways and not be bothered with who the other person is. However, Micah doesn’t want to let Joanne go and somehow, some way, he’s able to spend the whole day with her, learning more and more about her as the day goes by, while she does the same to Micah in return. But how will the day end when she has a boyfriend and he seems to infuriate her so much?

Yeah, don't look to your right, hon. Awkward!

Yeah, don’t look to your right, hon. Awkward!

To be honest, Medicine for Melancholy would be a pretty easy to make. Most film students out there, aspiring to be the next best thing since PT Anderson, probably have made at least one or two Medicine for Melancholy‘s in their lives and that’s mostly because they don’t amount to much other than just a bunch of random people talking in rooms, with the occasional change in setting every so often. That’s about it. They’re cheap, easy and relatively painless, especially if you’re someone who has yet to be established and is just waiting oh so desperately for the world to realize the talent that you truly are.

And that’s why Barry Jenkins, believe it or not, finds a way to make it so much more than that.

Sure, there’s no denying the fact that Medicine for Melancholy is a low-budget flick that must have been pretty easy to think of and make, but it’s not about the actual process of filming, or scripting, or financing, or anything of that nature – it’s much more about telling a true, humane story about two people meeting, sort of falling in love and sort of not falling love. It’s a universal tale and in a way, you could almost call a time-capsule of the “hipster” young crowd it seems to represent so well here, but it’s also just a good tale in general, with Jenkins himself focusing on the right details to make a tale as simple and conventional as this, come off as slightly different.

Because Jenkins has more on his mind than just saying, “Oh, look at these two cuties hitting it off and flirting”, makes Medicine for Melancholy a little bit better. There’s lots of discussions about race in America, as well as the subcultures that surround it and how people, such as African Americans, are able to survive in such a place that doesn’t take care of them. It’s interesting to listen to these conversations, because they’re not only well-written, but they feel like actual conversations two real life people would be having, not just Jenkins getting on his high horse and letting people he knew about certain social issues in society, a la Aaron Sorkin.

That said, Medicine for Melancholy is still something of a love story, and a smart one at that. Shot in nearly all black-and-white, Jenkins allows for the movie to take on a far more old-school tone and feel, yet, still give us the idea that we are watching a modern-day romance transpire. The modern-day romance itself is, well, not all that good, but that’s sort of the point; the non-stop awkwardness and heavy, deep sighs that continuously occur, make it seem all too real of a situation and one that most of us can, for the most part, relate to.

But it’s less about being everyone’s story, and more of Micah and Joanne’s story, and how they do, or don’t fit together.

Is it love, or convenience? The world may never know!

Is it love, or convenience? The world may never know!

And as the two, Wyatt Cenac and Tracey Heggins are fine, if a little weak in some departments. The one interesting aspect surrounding their performances is that they’re chemistry doesn’t just start-off perfectly right from the get-go; because they have literally just met and gotten to know one another, it takes a little bit of time to gradually get things going to where they’re not only building up a rapport, but beginning to understand the other person for what they are. That said, the performances do sometimes feel stilted – something that can only be had when you give inexperienced actors a whole lot of material to work with, and not a whole lot of room for error.

Because of that, Medicine for Melancholy does feel like it drops the ball a bit. It has a good idea, a brain in its head, and a heavy heart in its soul, but the acting just isn’t always there. Cenac is probably the better of the two, because he gets to act like a goof-ball, but honestly, Heggins didn’t always work for me. Someone who was supposed to be as closed-off as she was, does randomly start falling in love and laughing with him a little too sudden and quick, and when it comes to her actually having to show a bit of personality, well, it doesn’t work. She seems stiff and most of that probably has to do with the fact that Jenkins script and direction doesn’t let-up. The camera is on her, almost the whole time, never lets go, and is just waiting for her to trip and make a fool of herself.

Sometimes, she does and it’s unfortunate, because at its core, Medicine for Melancholy does work.

It’s just got the usual issues that mostly any and all film students run into.

Consensus: With a smart head on its body, Medicine for Melancholy is much more than a sweet, tender look at a possible love blossoming, but a snapshot of what it was like to be young, black and living in the city during the late aughts.

7.5 / 10

Symbolism, right?

Symbolism, right?

Photos Courtesy of: J.J. Murphy, Indiewire, Mubi

Hits (2015)

YouTube: The root of all evil.

Municipal worker Dave (Matt Walsh) is pissed-off about the fact that his local government won’t listen to him when he bitches, pleads and moans about the pot-hole that is out in front of his and is clearly throwing him into violent fits of rage. He gets so angry during one meeting, in fact, that he gets taken into custody and thrown into the slammer; which is also when he becomes something of a viral-video sensation. All of a sudden, a huge array of government-hating, skinny-jeans wearing hipsters want Dave to be their image and it’s the kind of fame that he doesn’t care for. Well, at least not as much as his daughter (Meredith Hagner) does, who, in her own world, wants to become the world’s next best singer and possibly get a spot on the Voice. Though she doesn’t fully understand the behind-the-scenes politics controlling certain shows like that, she’s still inspired enough to go through with her demo, by any means possible. Even if that means possibly losing her own sense of dignity in the process.

Here we have the directorial debut of David Cross who, in case you’ve never watched anything, like ever, is a pretty funny guy. He constantly takes projects that allow him to use his sometimes odd comedic-timing to his advantage, and his stand-up, believe it or not, is sometimes even better and more hilarious. So the idea of him getting his own movie, where he’s able to say, do and try whatever the hell he wants, made me feel as if the funniest movie of the year had arrived – as early as it is, no less.

"You're out of order!"

“You’re out of order!”

Problem is, it’s far from being that. In fact, it’s quite far from even being funny.

Sure, some bits of Cross’ movie is funny, especially the bits where he really digs deep and dirty into the self-entitled, wannabe-lives of these hipsters that jump onto to the next hot-button issue like a pack of leeches, but other than that, there’s not much here to bust a gut over. This is, essentially, Cross’ hour-and-a-half soap-box, where instead of a mic and stage, he’s assembled a whole group of actors, to make the points for him. Which isn’t so bad when you have a cast as funny and charming as this, but you expect so much more. Not just from them, either – mainly him!

Mostly, what Hits is, is a chance for Cross to complain and look down on today’s generation; the kind of generation that is more willing to stare into whatever screen for hours-on-end, rather than open up a book or two and learn something about the world. While I don’t particularly disagree with the points Cross is making here, a lot of it is hard to get behind when all he seems to be doing is ranting to nobody else, but us. Sure, there’s something of a story and characters here, but does it really matter when they’re just sitting in for what it is that you want to say, and about whom? From the looks of Hits, nope, it really doesn’t.

And if you can’t already tell by now, I’m a bit winded of having new, important things to say about this movie, for a reason – about half-way nearly through its run-time, Hits has the same problem. It loses all sense of character-development, focus, or even direction. Most of it is just scene, after scene, where a character acts like an idiot for the sake of the movie, so that Cross can get right back up and say, “Hey, you youngsters really tick me off.” That’s it. Had there been anything more, there would probably be a whole heck of a lot more to write about, but such is the problem here.

A movie that loses focus about half-way through itself, has a review of it that loses focus about half-way through, as well.

But, just because I’m a nice guy, I’ll continue to go on and at least highlight an aspect of this movie that does deserve some gratitude and that’s the ensemble. I’ll give credit to Cross for assembling such a talented list of acts here, because he does allow for some people to break through all of the rubble. The one I’m talking about the most is Matt Walsh as Dave, our very unlikely lead character. What’s so neat about Walsh here is that him basically being a one-dimensional caricature, albeit with some sweetness thrown in there for good measure, is that it allows for him to run rampant for as long as he wants to. It’s fun because Walsh hardly ever gets these leading roles and it showed me that, given the right script and character to work with, he could practically do some solid stuff. It’s all just a matter of time, I guess.

Sorry, Jason Ritter. You're too good-looking to pull off "metal bro".

Sorry, Jason Ritter. You’re too good-looking to pull off “metal bro”.

As for his daughter, played by Meredit Hagner, I’m afraid that even though she’s very good-looking and clearly down to get down and dirty with this material, her character is just so one-dimensional that we eventually lose any sight of her being an actual person. Same goes for James Adomian, as one of the main hipsters that first discovers Dave and his rage-filled tensions. Though Adomian is funny, there are some instances where the character seems to be hinting at something far more emotional, but the script never fully allows for that to come out. His wife, played by Erinn Hayes, is just constantly upset and having nervous breakdowns over the fact that she can’t have any children, and even though she only gets maybe five or six minutes of screen-time, she makes it work well enough to where we get an idea of her as a person, rather than just a cartoon.

Problem is, when there’s only one actual human being, in a sea of caricatures, and they’re given the least amount of screen-time, then there’s nobody to really attach yourselves to. You’re just left all alone, without anyone to connect to or care about. Probably how David Cross would want it to be.

Grumpy old bastard.

Consensus: Without much of a direction, Hits hardly goes anywhere, except getting David Cross’ point across a bit too bluntly.

4 / 10 

"Ugh. Like that was so two months ago, guys."

“Ugh. Like that was so two months ago, guys.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz