26 posts categorized "Romantic Comedy"

January 30, 2020

MARRIAGE STORY

Marriage StoryI regret every second I spent watching Noah Baumbach’s latest attempt at being Woody Allen. I should know better by now than to think Noah Baumbach will ever create a film that isn’t tiresome at best. The only thing worse than suffering through a real divorce is watching “Marriage Story.” This movie might portray itself as a romantic comedy, but there isn’t a single laugh to be had. If you take it as a romantic drama, you’ll also be disappointed by virtue of the insufferable couple on display.

Marriage-story

Adam Driver’s status as Hollywood’s current it-boy, loses more than a little credibility in a movie more appropriately entitled Divorce Story. Driver plays Baumbach’s alter ego Charlie, a Manhattan off-off Broadway director of avant-garde plays in a theatrical milieu that never existed in New York City. Ding. Baumbach’s ridiculous vision of theater people is pejorative at best. Bedwetters get more love.

Scarlett Johansson

Husband Charlie good, wife Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) bad. During their separation mediation Nicole refuses to read from her list of things she appreciates about Charlie, while he is only too willing to heap praise on his soon-to-be-ex. Nicole storms out of the session so that the therapist and Charlie can, “suck each other’s dicks.” Classy. You wonder why Johansson would sign on for such a thankless role as that of Nicole.

Marriage-story

Oh, but for their poor entitled young son Henry (Azhy Robertson). What is to become of the child of frivolous artsy New York parents. Baumbach goes full Woody Allen when he grinds the story into an East Coast vs. West Coast legal tirade about blood-sucking attorneys who milk as much money as possible from the train wreck opportunity before them. Message, Californians are phony, New Yorkers are authentic. Laura Dern, Ray Liotta, and Alan Alda elevate the movie as the film’s vulture lawyer characters, but to no satisfying design.

Marriagestory

The subtext, that Noah Baumbach is a thoughtful auteur whose divorce from Jennifer Jason Leigh in 2010 was all her fault, is a tedious bit of dental floss that breaks in this film’s first 10 minutes. If watching people say stuff they will regret for the rest of their lives as they ugly-cry, you might get a kick later on in the movie.

Adam Driver

Slack editing delivers us to Adam Driver singing a Broadway-styled melancholy ballad for his New York theatre pals in a cozy restaurant that doesn’t exist anywhere in Manhattan. Oh what inspired feeling, oh what cheesy heart-on-sleeve emotion. Baumbach could have at least cut the movie after the song, and spared his audience 13 minutes of post-divorce child wrangling but that wouldn’t have giving him the opportunity to twist the knife a little more in Scarlett Johansson’s character. Jennifer Jason Leigh will never watch this movie, and neither should she.

Rated R. 137 mins. (F) Zero Stars

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

September 17, 2016

BRIDGET JONES'S BABY

Bridget-Joness-BabyYou know you’re in trouble when momentary flashbacks from previous films in a franchise make you wish you were watching one of them instead of the dreary cinematic rendering before your eyes.

It’s debatable which one’s holding up better — Colin Firth or his nine-years junior co-star Renee Zellweger, but watching Patrick Dempsey break character as a passive-aggressive third wheel is enough to turn your stomach. If you didn’t figure it out; Bridget won’t know which one is the dad until the baby is born and a DNA test can be done. Oh the problems of the upper class.

Bridget is none too saddened by the recent death of her former boytoy Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant), whose plane “went down in the bush.” She might be lonely, but Bridget’s female co-workers are busy with gangbangs and threesomes at handy dandy London sex clubs. Never mind, this movie doesn’t dare go there. Committee screenwriters Helen Fielding, Dan Mazer, and Emma Thompson would rather take their target audience of white-ladies-who-lunch on a foray into an imaginary music festival land of weekend glamping in yurts. Naturally, Bridget wears an all white outfit with six-inch spike heels. If you are male, and have made it this far in this review, you’re work here is done.

Bridget-jones-baby

If, on the other hand you are a non-white female you will have your work cut out for you to not run for the restroom to vomit at the disgusting patronizing yet condescending tack this film takes in making romance seem like a dump you take after being constipated for five days.

Director Sharon Maguire (helmer on the franchise debut “Bridget Jones’s Diary”) — at least they got the punctuation right — spares no excuse to crank up the most obvious and outdated musical cues in the history of modern-day Hollywood. Sitting on the couch alone: cue “All By Myself.” Having a pity party for one: play “Jump Around.” What would a party scene be without “Gangnam Style”? And the musical atrocities go on, and on, and on, and on, and on. Don’t believe me? Well, there’s “Fuck You” (by Lily Allen) during a fit of pique. And what cheesy rom-com would be complete without “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” paired with “Up Where We Belong.” Talk about on-the-nose telegraphing, it’s like a nervous tic.

Screen Shot 2016-09-17 at 11.21.04 AM

And, why a baby? With a movie as stillborn as this one, there’s no point in trying to pretend humor. There is not one joke, pratfall, or line of dialogue that will induce even a brief smile. If you’re 60, white, and female, you’ll chuckle for no good reason, but you already do that anyway. I’m sure the screenwriters laughed plenty at their own not-funny jokes. For the rest of us, there is no boredom less compelling than sitting through this irredeemable piece of cinematic trash.

Rated R. 122 mins. (D) (One star — out of five / no halves)

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March 10, 2014

LE WEEK-END


Second Honeymoon in the City of Light
Hanif Kureishi’s Late-Life Triumph

Le Week-EndAudiences familiar with screenwriter Hanif Kureishi’s work — reference “My Beautiful Laundrette” and “Sammy and Rosie Get Laid” — will want to seek out the author’s latest collaboration with director Roger Michell (“Venus”). They will not be disappointed. Revisiting their honeymoon in Paris, 30 years later, an elderly married couple — played by stars of British stage-and-television Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan — enjoy a frustrating, romantic, bitey, and emotionally challenging experience that eventually lands them on equal footing.

Broadbent and Duncan play the sixty-something Nick and Meg Burrows with a full range of emotional and intellectual colors that express their struggles as British teachers whose careers have not panned out as they imagined. Nick has just been given walking papers from his tenured professorship at a respected university for some offhand advice he gave to a student. The times have changed. As always, Kureishi keeps his finger on the pulse of generational shifts occurring beneath the feet of his characters, who have to choose whether to stumble, dance, or fall. In Hanif Kureishi’s universe, all foibles are equally lovable.

The quaint hotel Nick and Meg booked isn’t up to Meg’s standards. Their tiny room is notably “beige,” an atmospheric deal-breaker for Meg. Tight personal finances don’t prevent Meg from splurging now that the couple is free of their gloomy UK existence, and their adult son has finally flown the coup. An expensive sightseeing taxi tour around Paris leads the couple to a five-star hotel where they run up an enormous bill while acting like teenagers whenever the mood strikes.

Running out on an expensive restaurant tab presents a challenging adventure — especially for Meg, who is hell-bent to sew at least a few wild oats while basking in the glow of the City of Light. Nick would just as soon settle for a little romp between the sheets with his wife. But Meg is not as amorously inspired, at least not toward her husband, even when he dutifully tries a bit of fetishistic worship.

Jeff Goldblum all but steals the movie as Morgan, an expat former classmate of Nick’s from their days at Cambridge together. Morgan is everything Nick isn’t — notably, a successful writer with a much younger wife. Goldblum’s hyper-intellectual character is so full of himself that you half-expect him to start swinging from lampposts. Morgan’s energetic influence is inciting if not entirely infectious.

The poignant nature of Nick’s late-life-crisis comes to a boil during a party at Morgan’s well-appointed apartment over dinner where Morgan’s ignored teenaged son (Olly Alexander) is in attendance. Nick delivers a devastating monologue about his dire state of being at the dinner table. He speaks some harsh truths on behalf of several generations regarding the 21st century atmosphere of ineffable bleakness. The brilliantly written dialogue stings and soars. Nick is a man of substance and power after all.

“Le Week-End” articulates a nostalgic sense of romantic aspiration without ever giving in to sentiment. Sophisticated, yet pitched in a lighthearted tone, the film packs more thematic heft than it discloses on face value. Comedy and tragedy wear the same mask in the city that best represents romantic love. Just as with Paris, you’ll want to revisit “Le Week-End.”

Rated R. 93 mins. (B) (Three Stars - out of five/no halves)

 



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