Directed By – Theodore Melfi Starring – Bill Murray, Jaeden Lieberher, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Chris O’Dowd, Kimberly Quinn, and Terrence Howard
A young boy whose parents have just divorced finds an unlikely friend and mentor in the misanthropic, bawdy, hedonistic war veteran who lives next door.
There are very few things in life that instill a complete sense of tranquility whenever they’re present. A nice roaring fire on a cold night, a juicy burger and a tall cold beer, a nap during a rainstorm…and Bill Murray.
I love Bill Murray. I know everybody generally loves Bill Murray but I ignore them all and just savor the fact that this man is still making me laugh in movies. Ever since I heard him explain to the mayor of New York that Walter Peck had no dick in Ghostbusters, sarcasm has been a friend. Sometimes it doesn’t go over as well as when Bill uses it. I’ve been in some awkward situations in public situations where my sarcasm has been laid down too strong and prompts me to explain how I’m not really a jerk. Bill never has to do that though. He’s Bill Murray. He’ll always be Bill Murray and nobody else will ever be Bill Murray. That doesn’t make sense. I don’t care.
St. Vincent, a film that I obviously wanted to see ended up being a sweet, cute, very funny film that didn’t do anything special in terms of story of style, but just raked in the smiles from the on screen cast. It reminded me a lot of Chef earlier this year where we have a young actor playing opposite of a more known actor and letting the story kind of run in the background. Sometimes you really just need a relaxing comedy that doesn’t take itself too seriously and that’s what we have here. Don’t get me wrong, there are some emotional scenes in the film that landed as being sincere. The film tackles divorce and Alzheimer’s pretty seriously but the film never drops into it too long before coming back with a laugh.
Bill Murray was obviously awesome. There was a scene that was in the trailer so I don’t mind talking about it here, involving Bill sitting in a lawn chair while Oliver (Lieberher) mows his dirt. McCarthy asks him if he’s drinking alcohol and we get this long Bill Murray stare and response of “I honesty don’t remember”. I died. I had seen the scene in the trailer but honestly it’s so funny that it surprised me when it happened. Bill turns on and off a Brooklyn accent for the duration of the film and REALLY did a phenomenal job at the end of the film. I won’t say what happens, but I’ll just say it was really a perfect interpretation of what people really go through after such an event. Speaking of accents, Naomi Watts may have done one of the worst accents in the history of film. Her character is Russian and her attempt at the accent is just laughable. She sounds like if Niko Belic and Yakov Smirnoff decided to be a lady. It was horrible. Chris O’Dowd is amazing. I could have watched the scenes with him in the classroom for two hours. The cast was great.
The film was delightful while not being a special snowflake. Does that make sense? It’s like comfort food. Mashed potatoes aren’t special but sometimes they’re the perfect thing. Also, Bill Murray.
IMDB Score – 8.0
Rotten Tomato Score -94% Golden Globe Nominee for Best Foreign Language Film Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actress (Bérénice Bejo)
Directed By – Asghar Farhadi
Starring – Bérénice Bejo, Ali Mosaffa, Tahar Rahim, Pauline Burlet, Elyes Aguis, Jeanne Jestin, and Sabrina Ouazani
An Iranian man deserts his French wife and her two children to return to his homeland. Meanwhile, his wife starts up a new relationship, a reality her husband confronts upon his wife’s request for a divorce.
Right now, as I’m writing this, there is a little boy running around on the floor above me. I think he is playing baseball and I think he has hit for a cycle. Part of me wants to go up there and knock on the door which will ultimately start a fight with the parents. Part of me just wants to deal with it because I’m going to ruin the fun that kid is having. I’m ultimately choosing to let the kid have his fun. It’s a small action that could have avoided some serious stress in that kids life by seeing his parents argue with a much younger snobby asshole like myself. I mention this little tidbit of information because kids today have it rough. I’m not talking about the kids who are given X-Boxes because they asked for one of the ones whose parents pay for their college tuition that they will ultimately lose because they got drunk every day and failed out of their classes. What I’m talking about are the kid who grow up in broken homes…the kids who have to bear(this word usage seems funny but I looked it up. It’s correct) witness to their parents fighting and splitting up. Parents usually think about the kids, but they usually just think of where to store them like they’re boxes of hats that won’t fit in the closet. “The Past” explores these stresses of living in a stressful home but also explores the stress and guilt of being an adult and deciding to have/leave relationships. It ended up being a fantastic film which is now to be expected from a present day master of drama like Asghar Farhadi.
When I saw “A Separation” two years ago, I immediately ordered the blu ray. I haven’t given it a second viewing yet, but I am meaning to considering how much I loved the tension in that film. “The Past” is a lot of like “A Separation” in terms of theme. Both deal heavily with the relationship/ships of a married couple and the effect it has on the surrounding parties, usually the kids. The area in which the two differ is in the amazing portrayals of the characters by the cast. Both movies, which seem alike, couldn’t be more different when you look at the performances in each film. I’m not saying one film is better than the other but rather saying that both films have unique and unforgettable characters. It’s the driving force of the films besides the dramatic and very bleak subject matter.
First off, I didn’t even recognize Bérénice Bejo until I saw her name at the end. This might have to do with her hair being long instead of short like it was in “The Artist” but it just caught me by surprise. It also took me some time to realize that Tahar Rahim was starring in the role as it has been some time since I saw the crime masterpiece that is “A Prophet”. This just happened to give me a slight edge in being completely surprised and impressed with the acting. Bejo plays Marie, a mother of two who has recently began seeing Samir, quietly played by Rahim. Samir is still married but his wife has been in a coma for eight months. If that wasn’t scandalous enough, Marie’s “es husband” Ahmad, played by Ali Mosaffa, is in town to sign the final divorce papers and Marie has invited him to stay at their home. Doesn’t that just sound like the worst fucking episode of “General Hospital” ever? Honestly, the details of the film pushed me away for a while. It came off a little to soap opera for me but when I saw the reviews and of course who directed it, I couldn’t resist any longer. My roommate even mentioned, after reading the disc sleeve, that he hoped I enjoyed my soap opera for the next two hours. Luckily for me, the film was much more than that.
Dealing with a complex plot, the film took it’s time with letting everything play out. I’m glad they did this otherwise it would have lost many of its viewers. In doing so however, the film dragged. I’ve been a self proclaimed lover of slow burns but there were two instances in the film where I had to pause and stretch my legs. The film though, never let my attention slip. I was certainly embedded in the story that was unfolding. I cared about the characters and the choices they made. It was just a long haul. This is really the only “negative” aspect of the film and honestly it isn’t really a negative.
The film deals heavily with the theme of suffering and guilt. Everybody is going through serious shit in this film. The kids are miserable at times due to the fact that they see stress filled screaming matches and passive aggressive smoking sessions in the same hour. The oldest daughter can’t stand being at home because of teh situation, which only makes her mother angrier, making the situation worse. Ahmad comes into the picture to sign the divorce and becomes sort of middle man between the daughter and mother, mopping up what has been spilled all over the floor. Farhadi uses symbolism outstandingly in the film as there is literally at one point, a can of paint spilled all over the floor which Ahmad steps in to clean up, even though he really has no reason to considering it isn’t his house. Another scene has Ahmad fixing a sink pipe for no reason other than to fix it. I love little direction details like that. It’s the first sign of a well written film. Farhadi also implements a character that is literally never on screen (except for one brief second), which is Samir’s wife who is in a coma. In essence, she is the most important character in the film considering all of the fighting and sadness revolves around her situation. It’s a clever way to construct a story around when we never see the reason why all these fights are happening. We get to see the drama from different points of view, but never from the point of view of the subject. “The Descendants” did a similar thing which is what made the ending of that film so powerful, even though I believe “The Past” has an even better ending.
Overall the film was a heavy experience on what it is like trying to live in the present when you haven’t cleaned up your past yet. Decisions that are made carry through until they are resolved. In one point in the film Samir tells Marie that “When two people see each other after 4 years and still fight together, it shows that there is something unsolved between them.” It’s a wonderful line that beautifully describes many of the themes that are going on during the duration of the film. The ending of the film just goes to show that even if two people are the furthest away that they can be, their past can be the only thing that brings them back together. It was one of the most touching and poetic endings I’ve seen in a long time. I actually went back and watched it four times because of how beautiful it is. It was a cherry on top of an excellent film by Asghar Farhadi as he continues to sit on his throne as the master of family drama.
IMDB Score – 8.3
Rotten Tomato Score – 89% IMDB Top 250 – #140 Golden Globe Nominee for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor (Daniel Bruhl)
Directed By – Ron Howard
Starring – Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara, and Pierfrancesco Favino
The merciless 1970s rivalry between Formula One rivals James Hunt and Niki Lauda.
I’m back. Along with having some family matters to attend to, I also have been busy as shit with my real person job and just haven’t been able to sit down and watch a film. I also just realized it’s been over two weeks since I’ve written a movie review and it’s time to get back on the horse. I picked a good film to come back to as the film ended up being a perfect example of powering through adversity and tragedy. I’m back bitches!
When I first saw the trailer for “Rush”, I was honestly not impressed. I remember muttering under my breath that it was going to be a completely cliche racing film with it’s cheap thrills and predictable outcomes. I really have to stop watching trailers and acting like a snob because I ended up really enjoying the film after reading so many positive reviews about it. The film tells the true story of the rivalry between formula 1 drive James Hunt and Nikki Lauda. It reminded me of an excellent documentary that is required viewing for anybody who enjoys racing or even documentaries in general. “Senna”, which chronicles a nearly identical rivalry between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, is a fantastic film that should be seen is you enjoyed “Rush” as much as I did. “Rush”, which took some liberties to dramatize the rivalry between Hunt and Lauda, still tells the story of what actually happened in the two years that the drivers were the best in the world. They are stories of true adrenaline filled eras that I don’t think have been seen since.
I think the first thing to be said about “Rush” is that it is an intense ride. Ron Howard, who I’ve always regarded as a very good director, crafted a thing of beauty when he made this film. I was on the edge of my bed watching this. It’s late where I live. I don’t usually watch films this late but I felt the urge to watch something but was a little skeptical on whether or not I was going to finish it. I had no problem finishing this film. The race sequences were some of the best action sequences of the last few years. Howard took advantage of every single sharp turn and car overtake to deliver a ride that made me feel like I was in the driver seat. Recently I drove down to Jersey City where they have some pretty fast go-karts. I think they got up to 45 mph which is nothing compared to the speeds of this movie but just fast enough to be an exhilarating experience. Watching the race sequences in this film put me right back in that kart flying around turns and overtaking fat middle aged men and their wives whom they dragged along onto the go-kart track. I should go back because it was honestly all I could think about watching the film. I didn’t expect that to happen.
The other great part of this film was the acting from both leads. Chris Hemsworth proved to me that he is a fully capable actor. I always thought he was just perfectly cast to play Thor and that his acting skills rode shotgun to a talented casting director but he really can excel in certain roles and he excelled in this. Daniel Bruhl however, stole the entire film. He perfectly portrayed the real life Nikki Lauda. He was able to get me to go back and forth between rooting against him and rooting for him. It’s a shame that most movies only consider one person to be the lead actor, usually the one who gets paid the most or is the most popular but this film proved that there can be two leads commanding the screen and when it really came down to it, Bruhl ran away with it.
I did have a problem with the film. The screenplay, which was mostly solid, failed miserably when it came to Olivia Wildes’ character. She was introduced and before I knew it she was married to Jame Hunt and before I blinked another eye she was gone. There was zero emotion whatsoever between the two of them. I barely saw them even kiss yet I was supposed to feel for them when the nature of their relationship came into question. It was completely necessary to even have her in the film and if the rest of the film wasn’t so engaging, would have completely distracted from an otherwise sound script. There was also way too many shots by Howard depicting nudity where there just shouldn’t have been. I’m a straight male, but even I was thinking “why the hell did you have to have these nude shots that contributed nothing to the film other than the source of erections?” It was just a strange tactic.
Other than that the film was pretty fantastic. It managed to balance the pretty boy lifestyle of James Hunt with the serious and precise lifestyle of Nikki Lauda without coming off redundant or preachy. It successfully ran home the theme that life will give you enemies and that they are just as important as friends. They give you something to be ambitious about and in the case of Nikki Lauda, fight through horrible circumstances. I don’t think it should be in IMDB’s top 250 films of all time but it was an addicting film with some of the best action scenes I’ve seen in a long time.
Golden Globe Nomination for Best Actress – Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Screen Actors Guild Nomination for Best Actor – James Gandolfini
Directed By – Nicole Holofcener
Starring – Julia Louis-Dreyfus, James Gandolfini, Catherine Keener, Toni Collette, Ben Falcone, Tracey Fairaway, Eve Hewson, and Toby Huss
A divorced woman who decides to pursue the man she’s interested in learns he’s her new friend’s ex-husband.
I didn’t think this movie was going to be for me. Why? Well, I’m 24, not married, never been married, and don’t have children. I thought it was going to be a film that I appreciated but didn’t really understand. In a way, I didn’t understand, but the performances from the two leads and a superb first half left a lasting impression. It’s also good to note that the late James Gandolfini left us with one more amazing performance capping off an entire career of them.
Enough Said is about two middle aged recently divorced parents who meet at a party and take a chance with one another and go out on a date. This is where the magic of the film resided with me. If this was a film starring any other combination of people I don’t think I would have liked it as much but the chemistry between Louis-DreyFus and Gandolfini had me belly laughing from how, well, freakin’ adorable it was. These were two people who had been through the dating scene, found somebody they thought they loved, lived through a divorce, and are now trying again. It was fun watching them feel each other out, stumble through awkward conversations, and basically act like kids again. James Gandolfini, who is famous for being a brash and brutal human being, was funny, endearing, and kind. It was a version of him that people don’t really get to see. It really shined a light on his acting chops and it’s sad we won’t be able to see more of that with his passing. Julia Louis-Dreyfus complimented her partner perfectly and as the film revolves mostly around her journey, she proved to be an exceptional emotional force as she leap through comedy into melancholy gracefully. Honestly, I think she got robbed this year at the Oscars. I would have loved to have seen her up there instead of maybe Amy Adams. Adams was great but Dreyfus kind of came out of the blue to deliver such a real performance in this film.
The only real gripe with the film is one that I can’t help but have. I hate scenarios like the one that Dreyfus found herself in during the middle and end of the film. Now this isn’t particularly a spoiler due to the fact that it’s in the synopsis but her character is a masseuse who finds herself working for and eventually becoming friends with her boyfriends ex wife. Catherine Keener, who plays the ex wife has no problem talking shit about her ex husband, whom Dreyfus is emotionally involved with, and instead of ending that relationship then and there, Dreyfus keeps quiet and lets the situation play out. I have always cringed at these situations and rarely enjoy them when they happen. It’s like those old fashioned sitcoms where the male character sets up two dates ON THE SAME NIGHT? OH MAN HOW IS HE GOING TO SWING THIS ONE? I have always found it annoying that people would put themselves in these idiotic situations and I find myself squirming and waiting for it to end. Now, I understand the importance that this situations holds in the context of the film, but it just took me out of it for a good forty five minutes. The beginning of the film was just so sweet and perfect and it was overshadowed a little bit by too much awkwardness. The film thankfully ended on a better note.
That being said, I enjoyed the film a lot. I loved the acting from both leads and the dialogue/writing was smart, witty, and most of all funny. It’s a shame we lost such a great actor in James Gandolfini but I’m glad that he at least was able to give us one final gem as he teamed up with Julia Louis-Dreyfus to give us and on screen couple that should be up near the top of the best couples in recent film history.
Suggested Viewing – Crazy Stupid Love, Lost in Translation, Away We Go