Gentle and very smart, this low-key comedy gets under the skin as it follows a smart young kid into the adult world. Without quite becoming either a frat-house comedy or coming-of-age odyssey, the film knowingly avoids cliches while telling a hugely engaging story with so much charm that it's virtually impossible to stop smiling.
The kid is 13-year-old frizzy-haired genius Eli (Wolff), who longs to attend Harvard but is instead stuck with 27-best choice Whittman College. His first friend there is the oldest freshman, 30-something Leo (Fraser), who is trying to reinvent himself and introduces Eli to the campus' party lifestyle. Then after a run-in with three Harvard snobs, Eli decides to teach his desired university a lesson: he joins Whittman's Mastermind team (alongside Bergman, Lee and de Jesus) and swiftly starts turning their losing streak around as they climb through the ranks and head to a showdown with Harvard at the national finals.
While the competition plot follows a fairly standard trajectory, writer Wierzbianski and director Kent refuse to indulge in trite formulaic melodramatics. Even the way Eli falls for a teen (Garner) from the local town feels fresh and unexpected. And while the humour is rarely laugh-out-loud funny, the smiles are earned because they are grounded in the characters rather than cheap jokes. It also helps that each character is a vivid bundle of complex energy and emotion, nicely played by an up-for-it cast.
Continue reading: Hair Brained Review
First off: It's a mockumentary. Don't start thinking Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy; think Remy Belvaux and Andre Bonzel's Man Bites Dog. Adrian (Adrian Martinez) has agreed to let a three-man crew to follow him as he orders, weds, and begins to live with a Chinese Mail order bride, in exchange for a little help with the cost. After three months of sending letters, Lichi (Eugenia Yuan) comes to America and weds Adrian. We start seeing subtle sadistic behavior in Adrian as he makes her watch his snake devour a mouse and then attempts to get her tubes tied... without telling her. Things get darker and flat-out creepy after that, and she begins to see the documentary's director Andrew (Andrew Gurland). They date and eventually get married too, and things start off well, but it's all downhill from there, and boy, do I mean it.
Continue reading: Mail Order Wife Review
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