Wacky enough to make us smile but never laugh out loud, this screwball comedy harks back to those nutty 1970s farces Woody Allen used to make about a group of neurotic urbanites. Actually, filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich used to make those kinds of movies too (1972's What's Up Doc is a classic). But he gives this film an oddly muted tone and uneven cast, which leaves it enjoyably silly even though it's never very funny.
It's set in a version of Manhattan where everyone sees the same shrink, eats in the same restaurant and stays at the same hotel, conveniently. Isabella (Imogen Poots) is working as a hooker, and her next john is Arnold (Owen Wilson), who offers her $30,000 if she gives up being a call girl after tonight and pursues her dream of becoming an actress. Then when she goes for her first Broadway audition, she's shocked to discover that Arnold is the director, and her costars would be his wife Delta (Kathryn Hahn) and leery actor Seth (Rhys Ifans), who knows what she used to do for a living. Another ex-client (Austin Pendleton) is obsessing because Isabella has vanished, so he visits the tetchy therapist Jane (Jennifer Aniston), who not only happens to also be counselling Isabella but is dating the playwright Joshua (Will Forte) who fell for Isabella at her audition.
The entanglement between these seven characters is recounted in flashback as Isabella is interviewed by a jaded Hollywood reporter (Illeana Douglas), so the film has a rather episodic structure as it traces each slapstick encounter between these people. With the plot so ludicrously convoluted, it's up to the actors keep us entertained, and they're a mixed bag. Aniston is surprisingly funny as the short-tempered psychologist who really should be in therapy herself, and Hahn gets the balance just right between the manic emotion and the darker comedy. Ifans has his moments as well, creeping around the corners of most scenes. But Poots never quite convinces in the focal role, while Wilson merely recycles his usual hapless routine and Forte gets lost in the shuffle as the token nice guy.
Continue reading: She's Funny That Way Review
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
Based on P.G. Wodehouse's novel, the film concerns the exploits of one Jim Crocker (Sam Rockwell), a young wastrel whose social-climbing American mother (Allison Janney, sharp as a tack) has forced him and his father (Tom Wilkinson), a failed British actor, to live in London and try and impress the swells there. She does this just to tick off her competitive sister, Nesta (Brenda Blethyn), a fact not wasted on the men of the family. Spoiling his mother's plans is Jim's penchant to booze it up all over town, getting into fistfights and leaving flappers scattered about the house and in his bed. Jim decides to ostensibly reform his wayward ways when he meets Nesta's step-niece Anne (Frances O'Connor), who won't have anything to do with him unless he pretends to be someone else - Jim once wrote a gossip column under the name "Piccadilly Jim", and once someone else writing the column (he hasn't worked on it for years) gave a negative review to a collection of Anne's poems. Jim thusly does the only sensible thing a fellow could do: He pretends to be a teetotaler Christian named Algernon Bayliss. Somehow, along the way, a German spy and some scientific secrets come into play, but one would be well-served to not wonder how.
Continue reading: Piccadilly Jim Review
Joe the King is the sad story of a young boy trying to cope with his dysfunctional family in a poor, small town in the 1970s. Director and writer Frank Whaley's debut attempts to reveal the loneliness of adolescence by exposing the heart of a boy made tough by the harsh circumstances of his miserable family life. Set in upstate New York, the film follows Joe Henry (Noah Fleiss -- Josh and S.A.M.) as he deals with an abusive father (Kilmer) and a hapless mother (Karen Young). His only salvation is his fifteen-year-old brother, Mike (Max Ligosh). Together they comfort each other as they deal with each violent and horrific episode of family crisis.
Continue reading: Joe The King Review
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