Love, Weddings & Other Disasters

Posted on December 3, 2020 at 5:26 pm

D
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated R for some crude material and strong language
Profanity: Some crude language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Social drinking
Violence/ Scariness: Comic peril and violence, references to mob killings
Diversity Issues: Insensitive portrayal of disability and gender non-conformity
Date Released to Theaters: December 4, 2020

Copyright 2020 Saban
Fifty years ago a movie named “Lovers and Other Strangers” was released. Now best remembered, if at all, for the Carpenters song “For all We Know,” it was a collection of funny, poignant, romantic, hopeless, and hopeful love stories centered around the wedding of a young couple. While it is dated (one storyline is about the couple’s hiding from their parents that they are already living together, pretty racy for that era), it holds up very well, especially the performance by a young Diane Keaton as an unhappy wife contemplating divorce. The scene where her mother-in-law explains her concept of true love with “The Bells of St. Mary’s” as an example is a classic.

And here we are, half a century later, with Keaton in a very similar but not nearly as good movie, “Love, Weddings & Other Disasters.” It’s not just not up to the standards of “Lovers and Other Strangers” or other multi-storyline romances like “Love, Actually.” It is not up the standards of “The Love Boat.” The script sounds like it was written by 11-year-olds, lots of pratfalls and “jokes” about genitalia. None of the characters behave in a manner that is rational, believable, relatable, or appealing. Oddly, it manages to be more dated than the 1970 movie, with insensitive and juvenile jokes about disability and gender presentation.

The ever-young Keaton plays the most ancient of rom-com characters, a manic pixie dream girl, all whimsy and cheer. Her counterpart is played by fellow-slumming Oscar winner Jeremy Irons as a caterer, the kind of rigid perfectionist who uses a ruler to make sure that the wineglasses are not half-an-inch out of alignment and says things like “We start with perfection and ascend from there.” Their meet-cute is a “blind” date. She’s actually blind, get it? And she knocks over his pyramid of champagne glasses because she’s blind, get it? Because of course a lovable wacky girl would have an incompetent guide dog, of course.

The other characters include a would-be wedding planner who literally dumps her fiance as they are sky-diving after he breaks up with her mid-air, a candidate for mayor who is getting married in eight days and his fiancee, a amphibious vehicle tour guide (unlike the movie I highly recommend the Ducks tours, by the way) trying to find the girl of his dreams even though they only spoke for a moment, he doesn’t know her name, and his only description of her is that she has a tattoo of Cinderella’s glass slipper), and, I am not making this up, some game show contestants competing for a million dollars by being literally chained to one another. Note that the female of this chained couple is not a lawyer, as she told the game show; she is a stripper and there are members of the mob (they say Mafia but they have Eastern European accents) who want whatever she wins. By the way, the game show host is smarmily played by the movie’s director, Dennis Dugan, taking a break from Adam Sandler vehicles.

This movie exists in a world where politicians are elected on the basis of their Instagram posts, a family member’s destructive addiction gets shrugged off as if it’s a lovable quirk, people take tours of historical sites to hear made up commentary, and dozens of women get tattoos to try to get a boyfriend they saw on TV. “My jokes are older than these buildings,” says the tour guide (Andrew Bachelor, whose charm and screen chemistry almost triumph over the material). Yeah, that goes for the whole movie.

Parents should know that this movie has crude humor, sexual references, strippers, and comic peril including mobsters who talk about killing people.

Family discussion: Which couple were you rooting for the most? Are you more of a perfectionist or a go with the flow type?

If you like this, try: “Lovers and Other Strangers” and “Valentines Day”

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An Actor Prepares

Posted on August 30, 2018 at 12:20 pm

B
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Not rated
Profanity: Very strong and crude language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Alcohol and drug abuse, psychedelics
Violence/ Scariness: Mild peril, medical issue
Diversity Issues: Discussion of feminism
Date Released to Theaters: August 31, 2018
Copyright 2018 Gravitas Ventures

The third movie this year with an acclaimed older actor playing a selfish, negligent father who must be driven across country by an angry, estranged adult child has some familiar tropes, but also some distinct pleasures. Following “Kodachrome” (Ed Harris, Jason Sudeikis), and “Boundaries” (Christopher Plummer, Vera Farmiga) we have “An Actor Prepares,” with Jeremy Irons and Jack Huston. The title comes from the legendary book by Constantin Stanislavski that is a core text for method actors. The joke here is that Jeremy Irons plays a three-time Oscar-winning, substance-abusing actor named Atticus Smith who seems to have no method to his madness and does not really prepare for anything.

Atticus is a mess. His agent (Ben Schwartz) is trying desperately to keep him together so he can literally play God in a movie. Atticus is looking forward to the wedding of his “favorite child” (Mamie Gummer). But both the movie and attending the wedding are in jeopardy when he has a heart attack and his doctor says he needs surgery. She reluctantly agrees to delay it for a week so he can go to the wedding, but he has to take his medicine, refrain from sex, drugs, and alcohol, and he cannot go by plane. That is how Adam (Jack Huston) ends up on a road trip with the father he despises, as a favor to the sister he loves.

The road trip is one of the oldest of all stories, going back to The Odyssey and before. It’s a lovely metaphor of life’s journey and provides opportunities for characters to have many seemingly random interactions, from happy to scary to moving, that help them resolve their differences by working together and learning about one another. This one involves bickering and recrimination, many opportunities for Atticus to do or say wildly inappropriate things and Adam to disapprove, a switch of vehicles/drivers, a cellphone tossed out a window, an old love, jail, and an campfire-lit trip on the hipster psychedelic ayahuasca.

So, no big surprises and at least one too many plot contrivances and at least one too few reasons to believe in the resolution. Irons and Huston make it work. Irons is clearly overjoyed to have a chance to break out of Serious Actor mode and perhaps have some fun at the expense of some of the master thespians he has had the chance to observe. He makes the most of the silly scarves, the cluelessly self-involved constant stream of free-association, and the endless series of hilarious fake movie titles for Atticus’ resume, from “Throwdown at Bitch River” to “Cops and Slobbers.” And Huston is marvelous in what could have been a thankless straight man role. I counted at least a dozen different ways of looking exasperated. His reaction to the ayahuasca is funny and very specific to the character. Mamie Gummer and Schwartz make the best of small roles, and Huston and Irons remind us why all these reconciliation road trips are worth taking.

Parents should know that this film includes extremely strong and crude language, substance abuse, psychedelic drugs, smoking, drinking, very explicit sexual references, medical issues, and tense family confrontations.

Family discussion: Why was the car meaningful to Adam? Why did Adam and his sister have different responses to their father?

If you like this, try: “Kodachrome” and “Boundaries”

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Trailer: the Jesse Owens Story, “Race”

Posted on October 13, 2015 at 2:31 pm

Stephan James, Jason Sudeikis, Jeremy Irons, Carice van Houten, Shanice Banton, and William Hurt star in this film about Jesse Owens, who defied Hitler’s claims about Aryan supremacy to win four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

Here is the real Owens. I was privileged to meet him when I was a teenager and will never forget it.

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