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

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 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: Run & Jump

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DIR: Steph Green  • WRISteph Green, Ailbhe Keogan  PRO: Tamara Anghie, Martina Niland • DOP: Kevin Richey • ED: Nathan Nugent • MUS: Sebastian Pille • DES: Stephen Daly • CAST: Maxine Peake, Will Forte, Edward McLiam, Sharon Horgan, Brendan Morris, Ruth McCabe

 

Run & Jump centres on the vivacious Vanetia Casey (Maxine Peake), whose happy-go-lucky personality conceals the heartache of holding her family together after her young husband, Conor (Edward McLiam), suffers a stroke. When American neuropsychologist Dr. Ted Fielding (Will Forte) travels to Ireland to study Conor’s rehabilitation and recovery, he finds himself irresistibly drawn into the Casey family, forging meaningful relationships with more than one of its members.

The film is beautifully photographed, and admirably side-steps most of the tourist-friendly outdoor money-shots in favour of interior, intimate storytelling. Director Steph Green introduces a number of visual and thematic motifs, not only linking the core cast of the film, but introducing a whole other dimension to the narrative. The greens and yellows traditionally associated with the film’s setting of Co. Kerry are warmly incorporated into its world, while cooler melancholy blues creep in to disrupt that warmth, for better and worse.

Ailbhe Keogan’s poignant script is a low-concept affair, which is nevertheless ambitious, exploring different attitudes and concepts of intimacy and how they are affected by numerous narrative events. In addition to the initial trauma of Conor’s stroke, which has dramatically altered his personality and behaviour, and the arrival of Dr. Fielding into the Casey household, the script also throws a number of other twists into the mix, including a suicide attempt, a sudden death, and local homophobic tension. Yet all of these potentially over-wrought issues are handled in an impressively subtle and contained manner within the film. With the exception of an eleventh-hour declaration of love, which feels both out of character and present out of necessity to fit the genre of the film, Run and Jump is, to its credit, more mellow drama than melodrama.

This well-balanced tone and sensitivity to the issues of Run and Jump can equally be attributed to the film’s remarkable cast. Vanetia is not only the glue that holds her family together, but also the emotional core of this film, and Maxine Peake fully succeeds in realising her near-relentless perkiness in the face of incomprehensible emotional challenges. Whether she’s dancing like nobody’s watching, feigning shock over recreational marijuana use, or cheerfully threatening property damage, Peake presents the audience with a heroine whose quirks are for the sake of self-preservation and survival rather than mere ‘adorkable’ idiosyncrasy. ‘I forgot you’re mourning a husband too,’ a newly-widowed character commiserates at a funeral, and so too had the audience: For all of the quick humour and warm energy on display from Vanetia, she is struggling throughout with the fact that the man she loved and married has become an entirely different person.

The rest of the cast is strong, too: Will Forte shares great chemistry with Peake and proves his convincingly earnest everyman from Nebraska was no fluke, with another standout dramatic performance as Ted Fielding; while Sharon Horgan reliably fills her few brief moments on-screen with humour, and Brendan Morris’ subtle underplaying of the Casey’s troubled son, Lenny, marks him as a bright new talent to watch. While Edward McLiam manages the challenging feat of playing Conor before (in flashbacks) and after the stroke quite well, the representation of this character is the only potentially weak link. In the effort to emphasise how much Conor has changed, his characterisation as withdrawn, obsessive-compulsive and abrasive is almost too negative compared to the flashbacks of the sweet, funny and caring man he was before. While this is, of course, the point – it highlights how difficult it is for Vanetia to cope with this man as her husband if the audience can’t even stick him as a secondary character— the film still takes a little too long to allow any humanity to creep back into Conor.

Run & Jump is an exceptionally well-handled drama about a difficult subject; Enjoyable, accessible and sensitive, without ever succumbing to false, mawkish sentimentality, with a few brisk laughs and an optimistic, heart-warming ending. Run, jump – don’t walk – to the nearest possible place you can see this film and dive into its colourful world.

Stacy Grouden

15A (See IFCO for details)
105 mins

Run & Jump is released on 2nd May 2014

Run & Jump – Official Website

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JH2yuajfBg

 

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Interview: Will Forte, star of ‘Run & Jump’

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Will Forte as Dr. Ted Fielding in Run & Jump

 

Run & Jump, out this Friday, 2nd May 2014, follows follows Vanetia Casey (Maxine Peake), the impossibly-optimistic centre of  the Casey family, struggling to get her family’s life back to normal after her husband, Conor (Edward McLiam), suffers a stroke which changes his personality. Will Forte plays Dr. Ted Fielding, a neuropsychologist who arrives at their home in Co. Kerry to study Conor’s recovery. Stacy Grouden caught up with Forte to discuss his role in the film.

 

Congratulations on Run & Jump. It’s a wonderful film, though quite a bit darker than the kind of projects you’d be previously known for. How did you get involved with this film?

Well it was all Steph [Green], the director; she somehow thought of me for this role. It wasn’t even a situation where she made me audition, and I’m not even at the level of acting where I don’t have to go audition, so the fact that she just said, ‘you’re the guy I want to play this part’ caught me off-guard. I read the script, and it was awesome, but I had never done anything but comedies, so I was thinking, ‘is this something I could pull off?’ Steph won me over with her confidence, so I thought, why not, what am I so afraid of? Once we got going and I got comfortable, she was able to get me out of my head.

So how did you and Steph work to prepare for this role, to get you out of your head?

She was in California and we got together to rehearse. And it was really kinda’ terrifying because, I was asking what she wanted me to do, and being told very specifically what she was going for, but she wasn’t telling me directly – she would answer a question with another question… I think she was just trying to find it with me too; she wanted the part to be open to my interpretation, and at that time, I was so nervous about trying this new thing. Iam basically more comfortable being told what to do than being asked to just trust my own instincts.

We eventually got to a place where we understood each other, and developed this shorthand, but it took a while to get used to this new type of process. It ultimately turned into the most rewarding thing, I got to come to Ireland for two months, which was fantastic, and what came out of it was this great movie, Run and Jump, and I’m proud of everything about it. I’m excited to have gotten to do it and proud of my performance in it, but overall just really proud of the movie.

What has been the most rewarding thing about making this film?

We got to have a screening for stroke survivors and their families (for National Stroke Awareness Week) and it was a really special experience. The subject matter is something that I’m not really familiar with, with what Conor and the Caseys go through in the movie, so it taught me a lot about how people’s lives are affected by this; it was rewarding and eye-opening on so many levels.

Did you get a good response from that audience?

I think they liked the movie and appreciated it. I think it was painful on some levels but therapeutic, too. We’ve done a bunch of Q&As for this movie, but this was by far the most special. At times you could tell people were opening up who you could tell maybe aren’t used to opening up so much, and it was amazing to have that level of dialogue, for them to trust us with some of their private thoughts and experiences. I truly feel like it wasn’t until this Q&A that I knew what this movie was really about – obviously, I had my own interpretation of it, but this really drove home a different element of the movie to me. It was a really powerful experience to get to watch the movie with people who had gone through a similar thing. So the fact that there are people who have been affected that saw this and felt it was a legitimate representation of that kind of experience was great to see.

It’s a real credit to Steph and Ailbhe [Keogan, screenwriter] that the film resonates in so many ways with different audiences, that the world of the film is so well-realised.

Absolutely. Like, I play a doctor in this. I have no medical training, obviously, and not a lot of knowledge about medical stuff – and you can tell, as I’m saying medical stuff – so it’s a real credit to Steph that she made it all gel. There was a wonderful doctor who was an advisor on the film who helped us to really make sure that everything lined up, that we were describing everything correctly, and I know that it was really important to Steph and Ailbhe to have this be accurate.

A lot of characters in this film come across as outsiders, or as people who see the world differently to those around them, with your character, Ted, being one of the more obvious examples. Did it ever feel like Ted’s arc of coming to Ireland from the US and getting to know this little family and their lives, reflected your own experience of working on the film?

Sure, it was only my second time ever in Ireland, and the first time was for three days, and this time I stayed for over a month, so it was different! I did feel like an outsider in many ways. Everyone was wonderful to me but it was still new, everyone else had this shared cultural background, so I was definitely the new guy on so many different levels. Throw in the fact that I’m doing a drama for the first time and I really felt like a fish out of water. I do think it really helped with the early parts of the movie and feeling like my character.

Are there any particular scenes you remember filming, any that were especially challenging or enjoyable to shoot?

The scenes that were the most difficult were … well, there are a couple of funny scenes in the movie, and that was hard for me to figure out because I’m so used to doing silly comedy stuff, so I was like, how do I do comedy in a drama? Now I look back and realise you just have to act like a person would act! There’s a scene where I’m in the bathtub, and the daughter, Noni, comes in to brush her teeth, and I had to try not to overthink it. The humour comes from the situation. A big part of it was learning how to act without talking, I had to figure out how to act when you don’t have the benefit of dialogue. I would start overthinking things; after a while you get used to just being in the moment and being in the scene, just being present and listening to somebody, but it took me a while to understand what to do.

 

Run & Jump is released in cinemas 2nd May 2014

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JH2yuajfBg

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On The Reel At The IFTAs

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Lynn Larkin (second left) closes in on Fassbender’s IFTA

On the Reel’s Lynn Larkin, in association with Film Ireland, hits the red carpet in her blue guna and and gets in among the celebs at the Irish Film and Television Awards ceremony, which took place at the DoubleTree by Hilton venue in Dublin 4 on Saturday, 5th April 2014.

Check out the video below and get the low-down on the night from Michael Fassbender, Colin Farrell, Liam Cunningham, Will Forte, Mary Murray, Amy Huberman,  Andrew Scott, Fionnula Flanagan, Antonia Campbell-Hughes

 

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Cinema Review: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2

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DIR: Cody Cameron, Kris Pearn • WRI: John Francis Daley, Erica Rivinoja , Jonathan M. Goldstein  PRO: Kirk Bodyfelt  ED: Robert Fisher Jr., Stan Webb DES: Robert Fisher Jr., Stan Webb CAST: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Will Forte, Kristen Schaal, Terry Crews, Andy Samberg, Neil Patrick Harris, Al Pacino

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 is a comedy/adventure for all ages. Featuring Flint Lockwood, Sam Sparks and all of their friends

Flint Lockwood, who lives in Swallow Falls, gets invited to California by his hero scientist Chester V to join the live Corp company where they have the best inventors in the world.

Chester then sends Flint and his friends to go on a dangerous mission to stop a food-making machine Flint had made back at Swallow Falls

I like the animation and the characters and I loved when there was a leak (leek!) in the boat. The script was well written and the music was good as well and even my mum enjoyed it.

In my opinion the film was on for a reasonable amount of time and thought it was very funny and well written although you would really need to see the first one to understand the second one a little more.

Overall it was very enjoyable.

 Deabhan Murray

Aged 10

G (See IFCO for details)

92 mins

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 is released on 25th October 2013

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 – Official Website

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2YsOtCL6c8

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