Archives for the month of: February, 2015

The best thing about Love, Rosie is the majesty of Lily Collins’s eyebrows. That sounds worse than it is, of course; her eyebrows are truly splendid.

The romantic comedy is an extremely formulaic genre, as we all know.  You need the quirk or insight that links the two protagonists, the bad relationships they fall into for inexplicable reasons, the odd and evidently asexual best friends of the hero and heroine…  We know this, and we generally like it.  We’re not sticklers about originality here, though we do admire when a film transcends the formula by executing these things especially well–Four Weddings and a Funeral had fully-drawn secondary characters, 10 Things I Hate About You successfully showed us how two very slightly marginalized teenagers might bond, Moonstruck had plausible doomed relationships.  Conversely, we find it frustrating when no effort is made.

Love, Rosie belongs to the romantic comedy subset of movies about how men and women can be the closest of friends, but also of course they secretly want to sleep together, but also of course are too stupid to a) say anything or b) tear off each other’s clothes. It’s less irritating than, say, One Day, because Ms. Collins actually is English, so her accent doesn’t wander aimlessly around the edges of the Atlantic, and also because she doesn’t get hit by a bus.

The formula is well known, but I will outline it for you.  Rosie (Ms. Collins) grows up with Alex (Sam Claflin) and they are best friends, as shown to us by how Alex tells Rosie his weird dreams.  The dreams are not that weird, but whatever.  They get really drunk and slightly make out when they’re eighteen; Rosie doesn’t remember, Alex does.  Thus they launch into a twelve-year series of romantic near-misses, going so far as to move in with or marry other people.  Rosie marries Greg (Christian Cooke), a cad who gets sloppily drunk at her dad’s funeral.  Alex, for his part, gets through both Sally (Tamsin Egerton) and Bethany (Suki Waterhouse).  Sally really doesn’t want to hear about his dreams (and is deranged), so we know he’s not perfect for him.  Bethany is a model, and fairly vapid, but let’s be real here: her vacuity is only there to make Rosie look better and Alex look like an idiot, which would be more effective if Rosie were actually interesting.

Neither Rosie nor Alex is at all interesting, naturally.  They are both very good-looking instead.

We’re used to this, but a little effort, please.  The secondary stuff, if you’ll believe it, gets even less attention. Rosie has no friends other than Alex, apparently, and therefore must become best friends with the apothecary’s daughter (who helpfully has literally nothing else going on in her life, for twelve years) when Alex moves to America.  Alex’s life in Boston (he goes to Harvard? for medicine? and is instantly rich? and of really indeterminate age? and at the age of 23 or so still goes to all-night college parties with heated pools and solo cups and people asking you your major? but also to art openings where he’s supposed to schmooze thoracic surgeons?) consists entirely of tense conversations with Sally.  And Sally’s brother is there, but, again, has nothing going on except the worst American accent.

All this is to say, I guess: It’s cute.  You probably won’t hate it.

Stray notes:

  • This is apparently based on a novel.  Feel free to tell me that the novel makes sense; I won’t read it.
  • Age is expressed only by haircuts, which I find amusing.

Director: Christian Ditter
Rating: R
Length: 102 min.
Score: 2/5.

Do you think that Karen Gillan is universally charming? If so, you might actually like Not Another Happy Ending. Otherwise, it is only a just-tolerable Scottish rom-com.

Jane (Gillan) is a young woman whose father (Gary Lewis) walked out on her seventh birthday, which is coincidentally the day on which her mother dropped dead in a Woolworth’s. About twenty years later she writes a wildly popular semi-autobiographical novel that apparently is really, really sad and touching (although it sounds rather less bleak than the average run of modern books). Naturally, her second book, if successful, will save the publisher to whom she is contracted. This is of course a tiny, picturesque publishing house owned by an unshaven, picturesque Frenchman named Tom (Stanley Weber). (Because those exist. Tons of publishing houses have owners who are young, handsome Frenchmen and only one author at a time. All publishers send their owners out to cafés to work through paper manuscripts with the writers.)

But here’s the twist! She’s too happy to write another cripplingly sad novel! Her dad is back, she’s dating a screenwriter and has a beautiful apartment, and her hair is glorious! In movie-logic, the solution is for the picturesque Frenchman to kill Jane’s houseplants and try to sabotage her relationship so that she’s miserable enough to write again.

So this is what happens, and sometimes it’s pleasantly kooky: Tom’s best friend teaches English, but constantly and flagrantly lies to his students. Most of the time, though, it’s ham-fisted and incompetent. Jane’s boyfriend is pretentious and condescending to the point where he doesn’t even make sense as the required lousy relationship in a romantic comedy. On a front where you might think we’d have this covered, there’s what is clearly supposed to be a passionate and deeply romantic kiss, at a key moment in the movie. It’s fine in the close up, but then the camera pulls back and the body language is like eleven-year-olds at their first school dance. Oh, and Jane both writes and bakes naked, because…someone incorrectly thought a man would ever watch this, I guess.

Stray notes:

  • Gary Lewis is great as the newly-back, really-bad-at-emotions dad. It’s what he does. But he’s wasted on this.
  • Jane’s relentlessly quirky wardrobe is so, so irritating: all bowlers and cropped, pleated tweed trousers and lady-neckties. Rescue yourself from this, Gillan.
  • Oh, and just when you thought it couldn’t get more twee? The heroine of Jane’s (unfinished) second novel shows up and gives her life advice.
  • I started this review having given the movie 3/5, but then I thought about it more and realized you really need to watch it when you have about 15% of your attention to give it, or it’s no good.

Director: John McKay
Rating: PG-13?
Length: 102 min.
Score: 2/5.

I have seen other movies since I last posted, but they were Exodus: Gods and Kings and Sand and Sunburn and Boredom and The Hobbit: This Movie Has Tons of Hot Dudes, No, Seriously, Tons, and no one needs to hear my views about them, because the Internet has a lot of views about them and I have tried pretty hard not to care too much.

So.  Dummy.  Steven (Adrien Brody) is really awkward. But not in the charming way. In the way that he needs a ventriloquist’s dummy to relate to people. So basically in the creepiest way possible. His mother (Jessica Walter) is controlling; his father (Ron Leibman) is obsessed with model ships; his sister Heidi (Illeana Douglas) is recently un-affianced and feels smothered. Into this mess is thrown Steven’s apparently best friend, Fangora (Milla Jovovich), who is sweary, loud, and in a metal band. Then Steven loses his job and goes to an employment counsellor/single mom named Lorena (Vera Farmiga) and…well, they fall in love or whatever.

That’s an impressive list of fairly real people (and there are a few more, as well). But the main takeaway from this movie is how amazingly 90s it feels. There’s the hair, of course, and then there’s the brutal naïveté. When, in the 90s, we faced difficult issues head-on, we did it with starry eyes and ill-fitting trousers. And, because we were so earnest, everything was fine.

Don’t get me wrong: this movie is bad. It doesn’t fully hang together (for instance, why does Lorena, who has evidently talked to another human being before, since she has a kid, want to spend a single second with Steven?), and parts of it are hard to watch for their aching soppiness (Lorena’s kid likes Steven because the dummy is like a brother; no, I am not joking). But if you’re in the mood for something that is trying to be a little weird and doesn’t fully succeed, this is the movie for you.

Stray notes:

  • Fangora’s metal band learns to play klezmer to help out Heidi’s wedding planning business. This is actually a thing that happens.
  • Jessica Walter is such a joy.
  • This may be the most clothing I’ve ever seen Milla Jovovich wear.

Director: Greg Pritikin
Rating: R
Length: 91 min.
Score: 2/5.