Miss You Already

Posted on November 5, 2015 at 5:22 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
Profanity: Very strong and crude language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, drug references
Violence/ Scariness: Serious illness, sad death, some graphic and disturbing images
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: November 6, 2015

Copyright Lionsgate 2015
Copyright Lionsgate 2015
Friendship has the best aspects of romantic love and the best of family love, and the worst of both as well. Your friends as are close to you as anyone in the world, which means you can rely on them and they can rely on you, whether it’s telling you if your butt looks too fat in those jeans or you need someone to come pick you up because a date has gone horribly wrong. And it means that they can hurt you terribly, because they mean so much to you and because you trust them and because they know you so well.

And yet, while there are hundreds of thousands of movies about love and family, there are not very many great movies about friendship. “Miss You Already,” from director Catherine Hardwicke, is a worthy attempt, the story of two women who were friends since childhood, and whose friendship is nearly destroyed by the complications of grown-up life. Though it appears only once in the film, the title refers to a catchphrase the two women use to say goodbye, making fun of themselves for being so deeply in one another’s lives, but really meaning it, too.

Drew Barrymore plays Jess, an American living in England and the more serious and responsible of the pair. Toni Collette is Milly, the wild party girl who improbably is living happily ever after with Kit (Dominic Cooper), the roadie who got her pregnant and then married her, started a successful business, and turned out to be a wonderful husband and father. They have darling children, a beautiful home, and satisfying careers and they are still mad for each other. Jess is happily married to Jago (Paddy Considine), though they do not have any money and are struggling with fertility problems. But they live on an adorable houseboat. It is one of the movie’s wisest choices that the husbands are not complaining (most of the time) or complained about. They are full partners to their wives and full partners in supporting the friendship.

Milly has always lived lightly, skimming along the top of life, still a party girl at heart. She loves her husband, children, and Jess, but she is admittedly superficial and vain. And then she gets a cancer diagnosis. Jess is happy to live up to the assigned tasks of “bringing treats and not being annoying” to help Milly through chemotherapy. And wig shopping (with the wonderful Frances de la Tour). And changing dressings. But she believes that Milly’s illness is so all-consuming that she cannot share what is going on in her life. And then Milly does something that creates the first serious breach in their relationship.

Yes, we’re in “Beaches” territory, so get out your handkerchiefs. Drew and Collette make a touching screen team, and Jacqueline Bisset, almost unrecognizable with platinum blonde hair, is a welcome antidote to over-sentimentality as Milly’s self-absorbed mother, a moderately successful actress. Hardwicke, who began her career as a production designer, has a superb eye and a great gift for using the settings to tell the story. If she cannot avoid the usual touchstones of women’s friendship movies (singing along to a favorite pop song), at least she changes it up a little — REM in a taxi instead of the usual Motown into a hairbrush. “Miss You Already” will make you want to call a friend you miss, and then bring her along to see it again.

Parents should know that this film includes very strong language, sexual references and situations, serious illness with some graphic images, a very sad death, a childbirth scene, alcohol and drug references.

Family discussion: What makes a great friendship? Ask family members about their most important friendships, how they met and their favorite moments.

If you like this, try: “50/50” and “Beaches”

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The World’s End

Posted on August 25, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for pervasive language including sexual references
Profanity: Constant very strong and crude language
Alcohol/ Drugs: The theme of the film is a pub crawl intended to make the characters very drunk, drinking and drunkenness, drugs, drug dealer
Violence/ Scariness: Comic peril and violence with some graphic images
Diversity Issues: Homophobic insult
Date Released to Theaters: August 23, 2013
Date Released to DVD: November 18, 2013
Amazon.com ASIN: B00BPEJX12

world's endSimon Pegg, Nick Frost, and co-writer/director Edgar Wright have re-united for the third in the genre-bending “Cornetto” series, which I refuse to call a “trilogy” because I want them to keep going.  In case you’re listening, guys: Please.

“Shaun of the Dead” was a romantic comedy with zombies and strawberry Cornetto ice cream.  “Hot Fuzz” was a sort of deranged meta-buddy cop film with blue Cornetto ice cream.  And now we have “The World’s End,” a comedy about a group of high school friends who get together to re-create a legendary pub crawl in their suburban home town.  Twenty years after their high school graduation, they go back home to have a pint in each of the twelve pubs that constitute the “golden mile,” concluding at one called The World’s End.  And yes, that is foreshadowing.

Things go badly.  Things are not as they remembered.  When the group arrive at the first pub on the list, it is depressingly generic.  In the decades since they left, everything has been homogenized into sterile, interchangeably dull corporate decor.  The second one is indistinguishable  from the first.  Gary has always cherished the notion that they were legends in the town.  But no one seems to remember them, not even the high school bully.

Then the robot aliens show up and things get worse.

Co-write Pegg plays Gary King, who is now only dimly realizing that the qualities that lead to popularity in high school do not equip one for success thereafter.  This is particularly the case when those qualities are essentially limited to creating the kind of experiences that result in watching the sun come up with bloody knuckles, a hangover, and vomit on your shoes.  You can still do that after high school, as Gary’s current status as an inpatient in a substance abuse clinic attest.  It’s just that it no longer makes him a hero to his friends.  Now all respectable men with jobs and, for most of them, families, they have moved on and have no interest in going back.

But Gary, who thinks he lost his way when they failed to make it to all twelve pubs in “the golden mile,” manages to persuade the other four to come with him and try it again.  For no other reason except for pity, survivor guilt, and perhaps some wish to revisit a carefree past, they decide to come along.  It is possible, though, that they envy Gary’s freedom as they are constantly checking with their watches, their phones, and their wives.  There’s car dealer Peter Page  (Eddie Marsan — all of the characters have royal court-related names),  realtor with a permanently embedded bluetooth earpiece Oliver Chamberlain (Martin Freeman of “The Hobbit”), recently divorced Steven Prince (Paddy Considine), and Gary’s former best friend Andy Knightly (Nick Frost), whose hostility indicates that a revelation about some horrible misdeed lies ahead.  Also in town is Sam Chamberlain (Rosamund Pike), Oliver’s sister, who was there for an important part of the legendary pub crawl in 1990.

Gary is darker than the previous roles Pegg wrote for himself, which mostly had him as an amiable, if immature and socially inept doofus (although in “Hot Fuzz” he was a very buff and straight arrow variation).  He clearly relishes playing a completely dissolute character who cannot seem to figure out why a system of doing or saying whatever will get him what he wants at that moment without any regard to the consequences for himself or others is not working for him anymore.  It is also good to see Frost playing something different as well.  His Andy is responsible, dignified, and quietly competent and confident.  He also turns out to be very good at fighting the robot aliens.

It’s a delicious mix of understated British humor and over-the-top craziness, with witty lines, some knowing digs at Hollywood, and razor-sharp satire.  It also has the only credible explanation for hideous public sculpture I’ve ever seen.  I hope they end up with at least as many in the series as there are flavors of Cornetto ice cream treats.

Parents should know that this film has constant bad language, including crude sexual references and a homophobic insult, a lot of drinking and drunkenness, drugs, and mostly comic peril and violence with some disturbing images.

Family discussion:  Why did Gary’s friends agree to come back?  Why was the pub crawl important to Gary?

If you like this, try: “Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz,” “Paul,” and the television series “Spaced”

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