Review: The Diary of a Teenage Girl

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DIR/WRI: Marielle Heller • PRO: Miranda Bailey, Anne Carey, Bert Hamelinck, Madeline Shapiro • ED: Marie- Hélène Dozo, Koen Timmerman• CAST: Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgård, Kristen Wiig, Christoper Meloni

 

The Diary of a Teenage Girl takes an extremely candid and explicit look at the life of fifteen year old Minnie and her escapades in San Francisco during the Seventies.

Based on the graphic novel by Phoebe Gloeckner it unashamedly delves deep into the psyche of Minnie(Bel Powley), the young protagonist who thinks she knows it all.

Minnie (rather stupidly) decides to keep a diary, but records it on a tape. Here, she reveals all of her deepest secrets, and misdemeanours. Her naivety is often shrouded by a sort of confidence that is derived from her insecurities. She, like most of us at fifteen, thinks she knows everything about life. This leads her down the path that the film focuses on – finding herself, through sex, and then losing herself, once again through sex.

All throughout the film I felt marginally uncomfortable; after all in our modern society a fifteen-year-old girl is very much deemed to still be a child. But in seventies San Fran, this doesn’t seem to be the case. Minnie and best friend Kimmie (Madeline Waters) spend their nights, and indeed days hopping from bars to clubs and men to women. It altogether is a case of little girls playing grown-ups, dressing and acting like they are ten years their senior.

But this play-acting actually seems to work, and Minnie is successful in living a life years older than her age. She wants to have control of her life, and decides to begin an illicit affair with her mother Charlotte’s (Kristen Wig) boyfriend Monroe. There are times where he is taking advantage of her youth. But, then there are other occasions where despite her youth, Minnie appears to be in total control. She brags about her escapades, and feels very little guilt about her wrong doings. This is a mixture of naivety and arrogance that Powley plays brilliantly. I was quite relieved, however, to discover that the actress is 23, and nowhere near as young as Minnie.

Her mother, Charlotte is somewhat a victim of the sixties. Left behind from the counterculture, and lost in her thirties, she seems almost jealous of Minnie. The pair share a relationship more akin to sisters, or friends. This is perhaps why the affair with Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård) begins. The lines between relationships and ages are blurred. Minnie thinks and acts as though she is older, and Monroe acts as if he is still a teenager himself.

Whilst there are constant undertones of wrong-doing on the part of the older men Minnie liaises with, for the most part, she uses her age to her advantage. Manipulating and seducing Monroe in every way possible, she is very aware of her own sexuality, even at a very young age. This is connected to her mother’s hedonistic, partying life-style. We frequently see Minnie and her mother’s friends partying and taking drugs together – they treat her as a counterpart, as opposed to a child.

The use of Gloeckner’s animation in The Diary of a Teenage Girl help delve deeper into the depraved psyche of an emotional yet highly talented teenager. Minnie‘s mind never ceases, it is always thinking and contemplating. The animated versions of her thoughts are insights into her mind and the often explicit drawings also help to portray Minnie in a different light – she has an incredible raw talent, which she uses to express herself through art.

The real surprise of this film was Kirtsten Wiig’s performance. Taking a well needed step away from comedy, she proves her ability to act diversely, and plays the role of Charlotte believably and honestly. She is selfish, but needy. She, like Minnie, has grown up too fast and now she seems lost, with a heavy reliance on alcohol. Monroe seems to be just another bad choice for her. She consistently encourages Minnie to grow up and to use her to use her sexuality to get what she wants, and naturally Minnie, being naive but highly intelligent, does so.

This film evokes numerous emotions. It made my life at fifteen seem very boring! But more importantly, it emphasises just how different culturally and socially the seventies in San Francisco are to now. If it were set today, Monroe would almost certainly be accused of statutory rape. But as with Led Zeppelin, and the many bands of the day, it was almost deemed acceptable for teenage girls to throw themselves at middle aged men. It is hard to comprehend how this is so. It is not a film about abuse, it looks at teenage sexuality in an unusual way, from a different perspective that we are not used to. Despite it seeming wrong, it is her choice and she is not forced into anything.

The Diary of a Teenage Girl is totally unique. It is honest as well as over the top but in a way that works well to portray the erratic and self-absorbed mind of an eccentric teenage girl.

Katie Kelly

18 (See IFCO for details)
101 minutes

The Diary of a Teenage Girl  is released 7th August 2015

The Diary of a Teenage Girl – Official Website

 

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The Skeleton Twins

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DIR: Craig Johnson   WRI: Mark Heyman, Craig Johnson   PRO: Stephanie Langhoff, Jennifer Lee, Jacob Pechenik  • DOP: Reed Morano ED: Jennifer Lee  DES: Ola Maslik MUS: Nathan Larson  CAST: Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Luke Wilson

It has become an unspoken trope of the comic actor’s career that they must, at some point, try to “break out” – to land a role with enough dramatic weight that they might slip free of whatever one-liner or  bit role previously defined them in the eyes of the audience. Some succeed, many don’t, but even the most successful of these ventures can often feel like a career move posited in a publicist’s office rather than a genuine desire to break form.

 

Not so with The Skeleton Twins; director Craig Johnson’s second effort sees estranged twins Maggie and Milo reunited after a shared trauma in their lives – namely their separate attempts at suicide on the same day, hundreds of miles apart. With SNL alums Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig taking a turn as the titular twins, this could have easily been a cynical vehicle for actors aiming to establish dramatic chops. Instead what unfolds is a nuanced, understated drama with a biting comic edge that can’t help but be sincere.

 

Fresh from a spell in hospital, a reluctant Milo moves in with his sister, oblivious to the fact that his emergency phone-call only just interrupted her own attempt at an overdose. Appalled at her seemingly picket-fence marriage to the uncomplicated Lance (Luke Wilson), Milo is determined to reconnect with the sister he remembers, only to discover the more that he picks at the threads of her life, the more it unravels.

 

Anchored by excellent performances from all involved (Luke Wilson in particular does surprising things with the dull, puppy-like Lance), it is this quietly desperate edge that sets The Skeleton Twins apart from other mumblecore fare. Where the indie sub-genre is largely typified by protagonists suffering early onset mid life crises or a long awaited coming-of-age, The Skeleton Twins instead revolves around stasis, the quiet traumas that creep up on you.

 

Much will be made of the chemistry between Wiig and Hader, and for good reason – their easy banter is put to great use here, encompassing the improvised skits we’re used to seeing as well as achingly awkward moments where forced punchlines fail to fill the silence. Mishandled, the subject matter could have very easily tipped over into something trite, but instead plays out as something a little more nuanced that resists the urge to tidy up after itself.

Ruairí Moore

12A (See IFCO for details)

169 minutes

The Skeleton Twins is released 7th November 2014
The Skeleton Twins – Official Website

 

 

 

 

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Cinema Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Ben Stiller in a still from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

DIR: Ben Stiller WRI:Steve Conrad   PRO: Stuart Cornfeld, Samuel Goldwyn Jr., John Goldwyn, Ben Stiller   DOP: Stuart Dryburgh   ED: Greg Hayden   MUS: Theodore Shapiro • DES: Jeff Mann  Cast: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott, Patton Oswalt

 

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty marks the return of Ben Stiller as director and proves to be his most ambitious fare yet in terms of both scale and content. The film is embellished in a charmingly wry style, with a lilting melodic wonder telling a bona fide fable of a working man’s plight.

It  follows the surreal exploits Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller), a lonely middle aged man who works as a negative assets manager for LIFE magazine (aka he’s in charge of photos). He’s a habitual day dreamer who has little to no life experience. He zones out into exaggerated fantasies of the actions he cant bring himself to achieve in reality, like his romantic aspirations for Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig).

When LIFE magazine has been acquired by an outside firm and have decided to only release one more print issue and downsize the firm  Walters future is placed in jeopardy, Walter is made responsible for bringing Ted Hendricks (Adam Scott), the manager who’s overseeing the takeover, a mysterious negative for the cover which Walter’s been entrusted from a veteran photographer Sean O’Connell, who claims it’s his most profound work.

This, however, presents a problem for Walter as the negative department never received the negative on the roll. Placing his job under immediate threat, Walter begins to try to contact Sean. But his efforts are in vain –  Sean doesn’t have a phone or any know contact details. Walter now has to ask Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig) who works in the photography department. She aids Walter in attempting to locate Sean, while more pressure is put on Walter by Ted Hendricks to bring the negative.

By tracing Sean’s bills Walter and Cheryl establish that Sean’s in Greenland, Walter sets off on a desperate quest to locate Sean and save his career. Walter goes out into the wilds of the world and tallies up a rich tab of exciting life experiences which develops him from the boring white collar workaholic he used to be and into an exciting globe-trotting adventurer.

This is a film utilizing  cinema to its fullest, the staging is perfect, the art direction and cinematography are impeccable.  The story is paper thin but none the less its charming and executed to great effect. The perfomrnce are subtle and diligently directed.

My only gripe really was some of the superhero dreams sequences at the beginning of the film were perhaps more in keeping with the type of  slapstick airhead humour Stiller exercised in Zoolander and was perhaps a little ill fitting for Walter Mitty.

Overall though it has to be said that The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is spellbinding and joyous, a merry merry go round.

Michael Lee

PG (See IFCO for details)

114  mins

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is released on 27th December 2013

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – Official Website

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Cinema Review: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

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DIR: Adam McKay  WRI: Adam McKay, Will Ferrell  PRO: Judd Apatow, Adam McKay, Will Ferrell  DOP: Oliver Wood  ED: Melissa Bretherton, Brent White  DES: Clayton Hartley  Cast: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, James Marsden, Meagan Good, Greg Kinnear, Kristen Wiig

 

 

Following its release back in 2004, Anchorman: The Legendary of Ron Burgundy became an unexpected comedy smash, grossing just under $91 million at the worldwide box office off a budget of $26 million. It brought the creative team of director Adam McKay and Will Ferrell (who had previously worked together on TV’s Saturday Night Live) a platform to develop the projects that were closest to their hearts, and also opened up several doors for co-star Steve Carell, who was best known at that time for his work alongside Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert on The Daily Show, as well as a small-role in the Jim Carrey-starring Bruce Almighty.
With producer Judd Apatow also about to kick-start his directorial career, it is clear to see that Anchorman represented a pivotal point in the lives of much of the cast and crew. Indeed, many of them have enjoyed terrific commercial success since the original was released, but the idea of a follow-up to the ’70s-set satire has always been an enticing one for the main players.

 

The prospects of a second outing for Ron, Brick, Brian and Champ seemed bleak when Paramount Pictures decided against making a sequel in 2011, but a deal was finally brokered last year to make Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues a reality. The story picks up in the ’80s, where Ron and now-wife Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) are co-anchors at GNN, and now have a six-year-old son named Walter. However, Ron’s life is turned upside down when legendary newsreader Mack Harken (a growling Harrison Ford) decides to make Corningstone the station’s new weekend anchor, and relieve Burgundy of his position.

 

Although Ron’s career eventually plummets, he is given a second chance when he is approached about a new 24-hour news channel that is being established in Manhattan. Along with his trusted team of Brick Tamland, Brian Fantana and Champ Kind, he embarks on the Big Apple, where they shake the very foundations of broadcast news.

 

Nine years is certainly not the biggest gap between films in a series (the recent sequels in the Indiana Jones and Tron franchises took a lifetime to come to fruition), but it is nevertheless a long time since Ferrell & Co. brought their off-the-wall characters to the silver screen. While there was little pre-release hype for the original, the publicity for Anchorman 2 has been cranked up significantly, to the point that everyone who has even a passing interest in the film industry will be aware of its existence.

 

With all this in mind, it would have been easy for the various participants to rest on their laurels, but the good news for the many fans of the originals is that it maintains the spirit of the first outing, and registers a high laughter rate throughout.

 

The five principle returning stars (Ferrell, Rudd, Carell, Koechner and Applegate) clearly have too much affection for their characters to simply go through the motions, and they are all given their moments to shine. There are also some welcome additions to the cast in the form of Dylan Baker, James Marsden (as sharp-suited rival anchor Jack Lime) and Meagan Good as Ron’s new boss/love interest.

 

Witnessing the parameters of Ron’s romantic life suddenly shifting (Greg Kinnear also comes into the equation as a new partner for Applegate) provides much comic inspiration for the film, as does a dark third-act plot development for our eponymous hero.

 

Though lovers of the original will undoubtedly garner immense enjoyment from this second-parter, comparisons will inevitably be made with its predecessor. Only time will tell if the sequel will become as quotable as The Legend Of Ron Burgundy, but there is no doubt that its successor is lacking that certain element of surprise.

 

Also, at 119 minutes, it does over-stretch itself, and there are certain segments in the drama that could have been completely exorcised from the final cut. Aside from Brick (who finds his true soul mate in Kristen Wiig’s oddball secretary Channi), Ron’s fellow anchors are not given a great deal to work with, and when the celebrity cameos eventually arrive (in a heightened version of the first film’s Battle of the Anchors), they are thrown at the audience at a most extraordinary pace).

 

However, there are certain aspects to the film that are an improvement on the 2004 offering, namely the more coherent narrative structure, which indicates a desire on the part of Ferrell and McKay to properly develop the trajectory of their numerous creations.

 

Should the box-office receipts reveal healthy returns, then we can expect that a third film will follow in the not-too-distant future. On the basis of this film, there is no reason why the projected target audience wouldn’t be interested in another helping, because although the likes of Ferrell, Carell and Rudd have enjoyed great success away from Anchorman, it is clear that they are appreciative of what these characters have done for their careers.

Daire Walsh

15A (See IFCO for details)

118  mins

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is released on 20th December 2013

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues – Official Website

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Cinema Review: Despicable Me 2

Despicable-Me-2

 

DIR: Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud WRI: Ken Daurio, Cinco Paul  PRO: Janet Healy, Christopher Meledandri •  ED: Gregory Perler   DES: Yarrow Cheney • CAST: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove

 

What is going on with Al Pacino? Apparently doing a dance to sell Dunkin’ Donuts in Jack & Jill isn’t beneath him, but he’s above a little ethnic stereotyping in a children’s cartoon? Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself here…

The original Despicable Me was the first feature from Illumination Entertainment, and taking in more than $500 million dollars worldwide in 2010 threw down a gauntlet to the likes of Pixar and especially DreamWorks, whose similarly themed Megamind, also out in 2010, took in little more than half that sum. The surprise success of Despicable Me was only surprising to those who didn’t see it. While the animation was nothing spectacular, the film’s extraordinary wit and heart made it a favourite for kids young and old.

Despicable Me 2 follows on in the fashion of its predecessor, as hapless supervillain Gru continues to balance his hi-tech exploits with raising three adorable but troublesome girls. Now retired from evil, Gru and his army of yellow Tic Tac Minions dedicate themselves to raising the children. But when a mysterious supervillain steals a dangerous mutagen, Gru is taken on by the Anti-Villain League to weed out the culprit. It’s the old hire a supervillain to catch a supervillain trick.

The story, what there is of one, is terribly light, with Gru and AVL agent Lucy Wilde having to pose as pastry chefs at a local mall to work out which shop owner is behind the plot. It is played like a whodunit, except we are only ever given two candidates to choose from: Mexican restaurant owner Eduardo and Asian wigmaker Floyd Eagle-san. Elsewhere oldest daughter Margo discovers boys, youngest daughter Agnes tries to encourage a romance between Gru and Lucy and middle child Edith gets utterly sidelined. When the story slackens, the Minions are wheeled out for more of their delightful gibberish-filled antics. The word “gelato” has never brought so many smiles.

There was something so “modern family” about the first film, with a (camp? gay?) single dad raising three girls and discovering he could manage, that really made it stand out. This time around it’s all about finding Gru a girlfriend, and thus finding the girls a mother. It’s an unfortunate step towards a heteronormative family unit that kids’ movies just don’t need right now. Gru is better off a single dad! It also doesn’t help that for much of the film Lucy Wilde is excruciatingly annoying – voiced by Kristen Wiig, she plays it like her role in Bridesmaids but without any of the tragicomic charm.

It also doesn’t help that the racial stereotyping is even worse this time around. Steve Carell gets away with playing Gru as a mad Slav by filling the role with enough soul to excuse it. But having Ken Jeong voice yet another flamboyant Asian man while Steve Coogan plays a British toff with a silly name is all too easy. The character of Eduardo, all flamenco dancing and body hair, was originally to be voiced by Al Pacino, who left the project among some whispered controversy – it’s not hard to see why, Pacino has never been very convincing with his Latino accents.

Despite these problems and the various abandoned subplots (Margo’s love life goes nowhere), there is a good bit to like here, and plenty of proper laughs. The Minions get most of them with their ridiculous singing, inappropriate costumes and general over-eagerness at performing tasks, but Gru and Agnes don’t disappoint.  A fun reference to Alien may be a little obvious, but a later allusion to the 1978 Invasion of the Body Snatchers is deliciously obscure for a family movie.

Fans of the original will be disappointed if they expect film two to be of the same standard, but they should be able to enjoy it as just an extra adventure for characters they loved. In the meantime, we can all look forward to next year’s Minions spin-off movie, because let’s face it, they’re all we really want to see.

 

David Neary

97 mins
G (see IFCO website for details)
Despicable Me 2 is released on 28th June 2013

Despicable Me 2 – Official Website

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duE9Ac1JG50

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Bridesmaids

Bridesmaids

 

DIR: Paul Feig • WRI: Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo • PRO: Judd Apatow, Barry Mendel, Clayton Townsend • DOP: Robert D. Yeoman • Ed: William Kerr Michael L. Sale • DES: Jefferson Sage • Cast: Kristen Wiig, Terry Crews, Jessica St. Clair

From the producer of Knocked Up and The 40 Year Old Virgin, the director of episodes of hit shows such as 30 Rock and The US Office, and written by the current darling of Saturday Night Live, Bridesmaids comes from purebred comedic roots.

Annie’s (Kristen Wiig, the aforementioned SNL darling) life is in a bit of a shambles right now. Her cake shop has been shut down due to bankruptcy, her love life consists of a friends-with-benefits scheme with a total douchebag (Jon Hamm), and she lives in a tiny apartment with a brother and sister who have no problem invading her privacy. The only ray of light is her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph), who has just announced that she is getting married and wants Annie to be her maid of honour.

Lillian also introduces her to the rest of the bridesmaid’s party, which consists of Megan (Melissa McCarthy, or the female Zack Galifinakis), Rita (Wendy McLendon-Covey, underwritten), Becca (Ellie Kemper, ditto) and, ultimately, Helen (Rose Byrne). Helen is classically beautiful, rich, happily married… everything Annie is not. Cue a game of one-upmanship between the two, both vying for Lillian’s attention/affection, both out to prove that they are her real best friend.

The acting between these three leading ladies is top notch, with a very natural rapport between Wiig and Rudolph, and the hilariously catty back and forth between Wiig and Byrne. Wiig’s barely contained jealousy leads to some fantastically awkward situations (the speech-off comes to mind), and when the gloves finally do come off, either accidentally while high as a kite on a flight to Vegas, or fully erupting at the Paris-themed bridal shower, Wiig clearly shows why she is the natural comedienne successor to Tina Fey.

But behind all this bitchiness, there is some other, heavier stuff going on. Annie has a burgeoning romance with police officer Chris O’Dowd (playing it straight and cute, but his accent is distracting) which, while a nice distraction, almost stops the movie dead. There is also a very real, dramatic story hinted at here about the disintegration of a friendship.

Anyone going in expecting The Hangover For Girls won’t be disappointed, and neither will those wanting more than just poo jokes; this is a proper, grown-up comedy for the head and the heart.

Rory Cashin

Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
Bridesmaids is released on 24th June 2011

Bridesmaids – Official Website

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