Review: She’s Funny That Way

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DIR: Peter Bogdanovich • WRI: Peter Bogdanovich, Louise Stratten • PRO: George Drakoulias, Logan Levy, Louise Stratten, Holly Wiersma  • ED: Nick Moore, Pax Wassermann • DOP: Yaron Orbach  • DES: Jane Musky • MUS: Ed Shearmur • Cast: Imogen Poots, Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston, Will Forte, Kathryn Hahn, Rhys Ifans

 

She’s Funny That Way starts off with a wistful nod to the masterpieces of Hollywood past in a fairly persuasive burst of nostalgia. New star-on-the-rise Isabella Patterson (played by Imogen Poots) tries to convince a fairly cynical journalist that she really does believe in Hollywood fairytales, insisting that she prefers a ‘good yarn’ that doesn’t let little details like the truth get in the way. What follows is her story of the chance encounter that allowed her to become a rising star.

Arnold Albertson, (Owen Wilson), is a fairly reputable director about to start work on a new Broadway production. Being away from his wife for the night before she comes to New York to star in the play, he takes the opportunity to afford himself the company of an escort, who just so happens to be our young Isabella. During their encounter, he wines her, he dines her, he treats her like she’s never been treated before and he makes her a once in a lifetime deal; if she can promise to walk away from prostitution for good, he’ll give her enough money to change her life forever. That’s right, he’s trying to “Pretty Woman” her! After some small amount of thought, she accepts and starts her brand new life as an actor and the two part ways, never to see each other again.

Except that the title of this film could have just as easily been “Wrong Places, Wrong Times”, because the entire plot seems to be made entirely of people being at the same place at someone they’re trying to hide from, a preposterous number of coincidences and a surprisingly large number of affairs for a fairly small group of characters. Naturally, Isabella auditions for a part in Albert’s play and the first of the dominoes falls. This is complicated just a little by the fact that she was seen leaving the director’s hotel room by one of her potential co-stars (Rhys Ifans) and that the playwright (a wonderfully understated Will Forte) has taken a shine to her. This is not highbrow humour, but it is a wonderfully crafted web of coincidences and colliding worlds and once you accept that this is just the type of movie you’re watching, it becomes a much more enjoyable experience.

The cast is excellent, with Imogen Poots delivering a charming and sympathetic performance as a woman trying to make the best of her situation, with a Brooklyn accent which is only quite distracting. Wilson and Forte, two comic actors who often excel when letting themselves go over the top, deliver top-notch turns as the straight-men in their outrageous situations. Jennifer Aniston lends her well-established skill at portraying women you wouldn’t want to mess with to a strong role as a bitter and judgemental therapist who doesn’t seem to get why people always come to her with their problems. In addition to the main roles, there are a number of high-profile cameos and some very clever nods to cinema classics.

She’s Funny That Way doesn’t bring much new to the table but it’s a fun watching experience with a plot that would feel over the top if it had half the level of coincidence, but which feels just right as it is; clever and funny, a yarn that doesn’t let the facts get in the way.

Ronan Daly

15A (See IFCO for details)
83 minutes

She’s Funny That Way is released 26th June 2015

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5WtPcWlae4

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Life of Crime

life-of-crime

 DIR/WRI: Daniel Schechter • PRO: Ashok Amritraj, Elizabeth Destro, Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, Jordan Kessler, Lee Stollman • DOP: Eric Alan Edwards  ED:  Melanie Oliver • DES: Inbal Weinberg MUS: The Newton Brothers • Cast:  Jennifer Aniston, Isla Fisher, Mos Def, Will Forte, Mark Boone Junior Tim Robbins

In ’70s Detroit Mickey Dawson (Aniston) is a lonely socialite, stuck in a loveless marriage with Frank (Robbins) who drinks heavily and often leaves her home alone while he engages in ‘business trips’. After becoming privy to Frank’s secret finances, two lowly crooks (Mos Def and John Hawkes) decide to kidnap Mickey and ransom her back to him. Unbeknownst to them, everything is not rosy in the Dawson marriage and combined with their poor planning and worse choice of accomplice in the form of an ageing, mentally deteriorating Nazi-sympathiser (Boone Jr), the plan quickly begins to suffer severe complications. As unexpected third parties become involved and unlikely friendships and rivalries develop, the kidnappers scramble to alter their already poorly thought-out plan before the situation spirals completely out of control and they end up with more bodies than ransom money.

The film is reminiscent of a less obnoxious and in-your-face version of an Ocean’s… movie. The initial act of the film has the quick-editing feel of a caper in that vein and while it’s on the whole much darker in both general tone and humour, there is a relaxed, engaging energy that the film manages to maintain quite successfully throughout. What really sells the entire enterprise is an unexpected sense of authenticity. While a film like American Hustle wears its setting like an extension of the costume department, Life of Crime never bashes you over the head with its ’70s-ness. Sure, every now and then a piece of score will start up that sounds like the opening of ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ and there are a reasonable number of turtlenecks on show but by and large the period settling is kept understated and immersive rather than blatant and pantomime.

On top of this well-realised setting, the filmmakers also sidestep the mistake that people often make with black comedies. A black comedy isn’t just a licence to make jokes in bad taste but rather should be a comedy that still retains a streak of unease and darkness. Between the borderline abusive marriage Aniston’s character finds herself in to the second-generation Nazi, who is initially the butt of many a joke but steadily becomes more unhinged, there are several scenes with a genuine sense of tension and discomfort. A surprisingly harrowing attempted rape near the end comes across as a lazy way of raising the stakes and while that’s not to say it feels inconsistent with the rest of the film, it does feel unnecessary.

Speaking of the end of the film, and this is going to sound hyperbolic, this film has one of the most immensely satisfying conclusions to any film in recent memory. The film starts off quite unremarkable, story-wise, and once it hits the genre-mandated snag in the kidnappers’ ‘full-proof’ scheme, it seems like there’s only a couple of possible directions it can really go. And yet it doesn’t, the plot continues to twist in surprising and clever ways and you slowly realise that Aniston’s arc is actually the centre of the film. At the point where many similar films would end, this one proceeds to further explore the situation to (a version of) its logical conclusion. Aniston is on top form in these scenes and you can’t help but really root for her character and when it reaches its very end, the final shot; it’s absolutely perfect. Now, I’m not saying that in terms of all of cinema this is the best ending to any movie ever but within this genre, with the type of story this movie is telling, this is the most perfect way that narrative could have been concluded.

Of course, that’s not to say the film is flawless. Funny as jokes about Nazis can innately be, it does feel like low-hanging fruit. There are also a few too many characters who seem to have their own mini-arcs or subplots set up and never really developed, most notably Will Forte’s character who seems to just hang around for a few quick scenes that pad out the running time. A running time that didn’t really need it, incidentally. The fun of the opening grinds to a halt in the middle as the film goes through the motions of the genre. Once it picks back up it’s great and that’s when the twists start but there is a noticeable lull in the middle. These are all tolerable nit-picks though.

It’s a strange little film which seems to have arrived with little in the way of fanfare or expectations. There’s something about the phrase ‘Jennifer Aniston crime-caper’ that naturally puts you on edge (maybe because it reminds us that The Bounty Hunter exists) and yet here it is, probably the most pleasant surprise of the summer 2014 and right at the tail end of it. The writing is sharp and funny, the script stays true to itself as a black comedy, the cast are all a delight to watch (especially Aniston) and it makes for thoroughly satisfying viewing. Definitely worth seeking out.

 Richard Drumm

 

94 minutes

Life of Crime is released 5th September 2014

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Cinema Review: We’re the Millers

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DIR: Rawson Marshall Thurber • WRI: Bob Fisher, Steve Faber, Sean Anders, John Morris PRO: Chris Bender, Vincent Newman, Tucker Tooley, Happy Walters • ED: Michael L. Sale • DOP: Barry Peterson  DES: Clayton Hartley • CAST: Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Will Poulter, Emma Roberts

Another day in Denver is coming to an end and lifelong drug dealer David (Sudeikis) has finished sorting out his many clients, so now he’s taking the time to argue flirtily with his neighbor Rose (Aniston), who gives as good as she gets – but without the flirting.

Then David’s keen-as-mustard kid neighbor Kenny (Poulter) spots the cute Casey (Roberts) being bullied in the street, and runs over to do his heroics. David follows – Kenny’s about as threatening as a fluffy toy – but then Kenny blurts out that David is a big, tough drug dealer. Soon enough that’s the end of his stash, all the money he had saved, and a kicking for his trouble too.

Now in hock to Killer Whale-owing businessman/dealer Brad (Ed Helms), David is offered a no-choice deal: drive an RV with a “smidge and a half” of cannabis hidden inside over the border from Mexico, and all will be forgiven. But how on earth can this grungey pot dealer look respectable? Why, he needs to get himself a wholesome, down-to earth American family of course.

Kenny is thrilled to be having an adventure, Casey wants $1000 for the pleasure of her cell phone-toting, eye-rolling presence, and now there’s just Rose to persuade to come along as “mom”. With bills aplenty and her strip club now wanting to add sex to the menu, she quits – and is now just as broke as David. It’s time to get some awful, pastel clothes and some square haircuts, and hey presto! The Millers are on their summer vacation, and things actually go well despite their deadly dysfunction – for a while at least.

Very much in the vein of The Hangover, only this time it’s a makeshift family as opposed to a group of four guys, this rude and crude comedy has some real snap to the dialogue and a real chemistry emerging slowly between the fake fam. With four writers on board you might have worried the broth would boil over, but when their backgrounds include Wedding Crashers and Hot Tub Time Machine amongst other crudish teenish fare, it all pulls together really well.

Sudeikis (a veteran of years of improv on Saturday Night Live) is the breakout star, though Aniston, doomed forever to be a television goddess (she’s not talented or pretty enough to be a 70 foot high movie star) finally hits the back of the net on the big screen, and utterly holds her own.

Yes, the yawning emphasis of many viewers will be on her inevitable striptease routine and her makeup seemed pretty comprehensive, but she’s as crude as the rest of them. Poulter – even with the indignity of the homophobic jokes and the routing genitalia joke – makes a name for himself too, and even Roberts, niece of the famous Julia, throws aside expectations too and is long gone from teen fare.

There are plenty of US TV comedy actors in bit parts too (Nick Offerman from Parks & Recreation) and this punchy, rapid-fire, raunchy comedy manages to walk the tightrope of cliché without going too gross or getting sucked into too much sweetness. It doesn’t get lost in trying to create any romance, and though the characters never lose sight of why they’re there (as drug smugglers in it for the money) the fact they become a family of sorts – and what is a family these days anyway? – is satisfying and believable.

 

James Bartlett

Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details) 

109 mins
We’re the Millers is released on 23rd August 2013

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Cinema Review: Wanderlust

Aniston in Rom Com shock

DIR: David Wain • WRI: David Wain, Ken Marino • PRO: Judd Apatow, Ken Marino, Paul Rudd, David Wain • DOP: Michael Bonvillain • ED: David Moritz, Robert Nassau • DES: Aaron Osborne • Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Paul Rudd, Malin Akerman, Ray Liotta

David Wain’s latest offering, Wanderlust stars two of comedy’s current sweethearts, Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd, and so should have the potential of being the first real comedy hit of the year. Wain’s last feature Role Models also starred Rudd as an uptight male lead to Seann William Scott’s moron, but here Rudd is allowed the opportunity to take the helm of male lead alone, and alongside old friend Jennifer Aniston, offers us an effortlessly charming, but ultimately predictable comedy caper.

Rudd plays George to Aniston’s Linda, a tightly-wound Manhattan couple for whom the term ‘stressed-out’ is an understatement. When George finds himself out of a job, their only option appears to be moving in with George’s atrocious brother in Atlanta. The idea of the uptight Manhattan couple being forced out of their comfort zones and learning something along the way is one that has been long propagated on screen, but Wanderlust offers something slightly different. On their way, the couple somehow stumble upon Elysium, an apparently idyllic community peppered with characters that see the world in a different way to George and Linda. From money to clothing, nothing is essential in Elysium, and whilst our protagonists are refreshed by this change in priorities, it may ultimately cause them more emotional harm than good – as is generally the case when nudity and the elderly get together.

Wanderlust has all of the ingredients for greatness, but is either lacking some secret ingredient, or the addition of too much nudity has spoiled the broth. As we learned with Forgetting Sarah Marshall, an unexpected penis shot is always good for a giggle, but here the writers have gotten somewhat lazy and decided to rely heavily on the humour of the elderly male form, to which the audience has already become numb. Wanderlust has the potential to be a massive hit but unfortunately isn’t always as funny as it should be.

The writing is often awkward and a little forced, but, having known each other since the good old days of Friends, Rudd and Aniston have so much on-screen chemistry that they could dictate the Golden Pages to each other, and still manage to hold their audience captivated. Wanderlust is the perfect movie for a first date, charming, enjoyable, but also effortless as the twists and turns are usually noticed long before they happen, meaning that it asks nothing but giggles from its audience. Although the script isn’t exactly top-notch, it is refreshing to see that it doesn’t dissolve into a hideous slapstick mess as is often the case with recent comedy.

The entire film has a sense of looseness, freedom and the idea that ‘anything goes’ which, although it is entirely in keeping with the situation in which our protagonists find themselves, doesn’t quite fit with the film format, and leaves the audience slightly confused, and waiting patiently for the next charming moment between Rudd and Aniston. It is the actors and not the story that makes Wanderlust worth a viewing, with this many funny people throwing their hats into the ring, it’s impossible not to leave the cinema feeling somewhat charmed and satisfied, despite the fact that you’ve already forgotten the story. All in all, we’re just glad that it doesn’t star Adam Sandler.

Wanderlust offers some moments of intelligent comedy, but the intervention of a senior citizen full-frontal shot ultimately ensures its fate resting among the charming yet silly comedies that have gone before. The good news for our protagonists though is that it is the charm of Rudd and Aniston alone that carries this movie and, given the right script, the duo has the potential to be this generation’s king and queen of Rom Com.

Ciara O’Brien

Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
Wanderlust is released on 2nd March 2012

Wanderlust  – Official Website

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Just Go with It

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DIR: Dennis Dugan • WRI: Allan Loeb, Timothy Dowling • PRO: Jack Giarraputo, Heather Parry, Adam Sandler • DOP: Theo van de Sande • DES: Perry Andelin Blake • CAST: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Brooklyn Decker

It’s no secret to movie-goers that Adam Sandler’s band of merry men, Happy Madison, have become suckers for formulaic comedy and this new romantic comedy offering Just Go with It is no different. For them though, it seems to work and you may find yourself laughing more than you might have expected.

Just Go with It follows convoluted plot-line which intends to surprise and thrill with its twists but falls somewhat short as these twists are adhering to an unwritten formula that audiences have experienced on too many occasions. There are some laugh-out-loud moments as Sandler expertly uses his physical comedy and pathos in perfect measure, but these moments are all too few and they do not rectify an audience’s inability to get behind their protagonist.

Sandler plays Danny, a man so apparently bruised and battered by previous love that he re-invents himself in his new position as a plastic surgeon. The problem is (and there’s always a problem boys and girls) that Danny has fallen into a trap of consistently lying to prospective love interests about his marital status in order to garner sympathy. When he falls for a much younger schoolteacher, he enlists the help of his long-suffering assistant to pretend to be his soon to be ex wife in order to be ‘honest’ with his current love. Naturally, hilarity ensues.

Jennifer Aniston plays Katherine, Sandler’s apparently ‘dowdy’ assistant. Aniston plays her role surprisingly straight and cements herself as the undisputed sweetheart of romantic comedy. Here she perfectly times an awkwardly composed scripts and creates one of the few likeable characters in the film. The scenes in which Aniston is ‘revealed’ as being a beautiful woman are unintentionally laughable as it would seem that it’s very hard to make Aniston look anything but gorgeous.

A welcome treat here are Bailee Madison and Griffin Gluck who play Aniston’s children who effortlessly manipulate the awkwardness of the situation Sandler finds himself in. Gluck is an especially exciting find here as he completely steals every scene and displays expert comic timing to rival Sandler’s. An odd addition is Nicole Kidman whose presence seems entirely out of place, Kidman completely overstates the comedy in her scenes and over-acts her position to the point of baffling the audience. It almost seems as though her character from Moulin Rouge has wandered onto the wrong set whilst searching for her costumes.

A perfectly competent Valentine’s Day watch, it will garner plenty of belly laughs during the film, but once you’ve left the cinema you may struggle to remember what exactly was funny in the first place. Just Go with It is a watchable comedy which follows an all-too-familiar formula, but the awards ceremonies needn’t be worried.

Ciara O’Brien


Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)

Just Go with It is released on 11th February 2011

Just Go with It – Official Website

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The Switch

The Switch

DIR: Josh Gordon, Will Speck • WRI: Allan Loeb • PRO: Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa • DOP: Jess Hall • ED: John Axelrad • DES: Adam Stockhausen • CAST: Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, Patrick Wilson, Juliette Lewis, Jeff Goldblum

I don’t know who will be more outraged by The Switch, women’s groups or geneticists, but at least, and surprisingly for a Jennifer Aniston rom-com, it won’t be cinema audiences. Kassie (Jennifer Aniston) throws a party, in full on new-age style, to celebrate her decision to have a baby by artificial insemination. At the party her best friend Wally (Jason Bateman), who opposes the plan, drunkenly upends the little cup containing the donor’s semen and replaces it with his own. Yep, he accidentally impregnates his best friend. Years later he meets the resultant child and wonders why he seems to share all his neuroses.

When the cast of Friends started to appear in movies we all believed that Jennifer Aniston would be the one to go on to great things. Now that her failure has been cemented is she passing her curse onto Jason Bateman, who, apart from small roles in films like Juno and Up in the Air, has yet to find a cinematic project worthy of his considerable comedic talent? Well, no actually. The film raises lots of laughs early on, although they do dry up when it starts to indulge in sentiment. Jeff Goldblum, as Wally’s mate Leonard, provides a steady stream of chuckles. I don’t know when exactly he made the change from leading man to character actor but he gives a hilariously eccentric performance in line with his turn in The Life Aquatic. Bateman is very good, even at the sentimental stuff, although he is at times defeated by the cornier lines and a frankly bizarre voice-over narration. What’s it doing there? Apart from spewing out mixed metaphors like a dictionary in a wood chipper it serves no purpose whatsoever.

The plot kind of lurches along. A couple of times in the film Jason and Jennifer will have an argument so the film can skip over a couple of weeks – and a few key plot developments along the way – until they meet again and we can go into the next bit.

Actually the people who should be most outraged by The Switch are those concerned with the impact of movies on our society. They should worry less about violence and worry more about the potential bad influence of romantic comedies. If people ever start following some of the examples set by this genre all hell could break lose. Ever since Fred Astaire started stalking Ginger Rodgers – watch Top Hat and wonder why she doesn’t just call the police – this genre had always seen the most shocking behaviour rewarded. And now we have Jason Bateman, in his own words, ‘hijacking’ Jennifer Aniston’s pregnancy. I mean, at least it’s still pretty difficult to get your hands on a minigun in Ireland, but semen…

Geoff McEvoy

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
The Switch
is released on 3rd september 2010

The Switch Official Website

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