An inventive take on the rom-com genre, this genuinely hilarious film is even more engaging because its characters and premise are unexpectedly honest. It also has a level of realistic unpredictability, as the feisty characters refuse to behave like the people we normally see in the movies. And the story is consistently laugh-out-loud funny even as the plot is essentially very serious.
It centres on struggling stand-up comic Donna (Jenny Slate), whose regular venue is an open-mic bar in Brooklyn where she's offered moral support by her sparky pals Nellie and Joey (Gaby Hoffmann and Gabe Liedman). She may not make much money, but she has a great life. Her boyfriend (Paul Briganti), on the other hand, is tired of being the butt of all of her best jokes. So he dumps her. Donna reacts by having a meltdown on-stage and then getting drunk in another bar with Max (Jake Lacy). He may be a stranger, but he seems like a nice guy, so she takes him home. A few weeks later she discovers that she's pregnant, and her emotionally supportive friends and parents (Polly Draper and Richard Kind) can't help her make the big decisions ahead of her.
This is a film about a young woman finally taking responsibility for her own life, facing up to some difficult responsibilities and moving forward. But since this is a comedy, it's of course not very smooth sailing. Slate plays the role with impeccable comical timing, somehow making the rather pathetic Donna thoroughly likeable. And the actors around her add crisp humour exactly where its needed, providing much more than mere comic relief: each one is an integral element in Donna's journey. One of the most cringe-inducing sequences features the terrific David Cross as a predatory old friend who offers Donna a riotously messy distraction.
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Donna Stern is a comedienne from Brooklyn who has a very unfunny meltdown on stage after finding out that her best friend has been sleeping with her boyfriend. Subsequently, she loses her stage residency and seeks comfort in her supportive parents and the friends she can still trust. In a bid to ease her pain, she makes a brave move to venture out of her home and she eventually meets a handsome man of a similar personality named Max. He is intrigued by her unapologetic honesty and boundless energy but, after their one night stand, Donna finds herself with one more huge problem. She is now pregnant and feeling pretty dead set on having an abortion, but first she has to tell Max; something that proves harder than it sounds when it becomes obvious that he has made her feel happy again.
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Thrillers don't get much more enjoyable than this one, which shifts cleverly from an issue-based drama to an intriguing mystery and finally into riotously camp mayhem. Over his career, Soderbergh has proven himself adept at all three approaches, and the way he and writer Burns morph from one to the other is so mercilessly entertaining that we can't help but smile. And the cast is having a great time playing along with them.
It starts as an expose of psychotropic drugs, as Emily (Mara) struggles with depression after her husband Martin (Tatum) is released following a four-year prison term for insider trading. Emily's therapist Dr Banks (Law) prescribes a series of anti-anxiety pills to help her, adjusting the medication until the side effects even out. But something still isn't right, and a fatal incident leads to a criminal trial. Meanwhile, Banks begins his own investigation into the case, consulting Emily's previous therapist (Zeta-Jones). But the fallout from all of this is threatening both his career and his marriage to Dierdre (Shaw).
Soderbergh gives the film a seductive tone that's irresistible, with his own gleaming cinematography and witty editing, plus a teasing Thomas Newman score. This allows the actors to create layered characters who can constantly surprise us along the way. Law holds our sympathies as a desperate man trying against all odds to get his life back, while Zeta-Jones is icy and dismissive until her character takes a lively turn about halfway in. But it's Mara who's the real revelation in a tricky role. As Emily's world seems to shift and collapse around her, she reveals an astonishing array of emotions and intentions.
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Polly Draper Sunday 13th November 2011 Opening Night after party for the Off-Broadway production of 'Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays ' held at 24 Fifth Avenue party space. New York City, USA
Polly Draper - Michael Wolff and Polly Draper New York City, USA - Opening Night after party for the Off-Broadway production of 'Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays ' held at 24 Fifth Avenue party space. Sunday 13th November 2011
Craig Bierko, Harriet Harris, Mark Consuelos, Polly Draper and Richard Thomas - Craig Bierko, Richard Thomas, Beth Leavel, Harriet Harris, Polly Draper and Mark Consuelos New York City, USA - Opening Night after party for the Off-Broadway production of 'Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays ' held at 24 Fifth Avenue party space. Sunday 13th November 2011
But Grenier can go all Stanislavski when he has to. In the odd straight-to-video A Perfect Fit, he gets to play a high-voltage psycho, and he has fun with it. Strictly a movie for Grenier completists, it will prove entertaining enough, at least for them.
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