Against All Odds (Film Thoughts: Straight Up)

1supIt’s proving to be a great season for gay rom coms. I recently just raved about ‘The Thing About Harry,’ and now we have James Sweeney’s ‘Straight Up.’ But wait, this film isn’t really your ‘traditional’ rom com. Well, it doesn’t seem to be traditional anything. It is about Todd (played by Sweeney himself) who is probably gay, but more than that, has neurotic traits that prove to be very funny only in films. He is longing for someone – anyone – and in his scientific mind, he thinks he should date women, much to the aghast of his friends (‘You’re a Kinsey five, four maybe if you are not wearing cashmere’)  Then he meets Rory (Katie Findlay) and they are soul mates in every single way, except for one thing: sex. But really, we don’t really need that anymore in this day and age, right?

We will all have thoughts and theories about this and the film will make you agree, disagree, and question everything you have ever believed in love. And it’s all the wonderful for it.  Sweeney and Findlay have chemistry for days, and Sweeney’s screenplay is so exhilarating that you will believe – even root – for them as they try as hell to make it all work. You will go against what you believe in in wanting something that is surely improbably, and probably impossible. I could definitely identify with these characters – surely we have all been there before, in the middle of something deep in our hearts we feel is wrong, but something about it feels so right. there was a point there towards the end when I thought it was going to a place it didn’t want to go. At another point, I thought I had figured out where it would, but in landed somewhere a little unexpected for me – the movie always kept me on my toes. Above all, these characters touched my heart. I felt like I knew them, and didn’t want to part with them. Yeah, for about one hundred minutes, I felt like I was in love, and thank you very much for that.

A Weekend and A Year (Movie Thoughts: The Weekend/The Wedding Year)

large_The_Weekend_Theatrical_Poster_Lo_ResMaybe I am really getting old. I just watched two movies starring and about millennials and I should have liked them both, but I ended up just being disappointed by them. These movies feature good stories, but I just cannot abide by some of the bad behaviour and entitlement issues these young people have. Or am I just being cranky.

Stella Meghie’s ‘The Weekend’ has just the right low key touch, but the biggest mistake here is it involves around Sasheer Zamata’s character Zadie. I don’t know if the character was written that way, or because of Zamata’s performance, but Zadie is insufferable. her cutting wit comes off as mean-spirited, and she is disrespectful to everyone, including her mother – and I hate people, fictional or not, who are mean to their parents. She is still hung up on her ex here, and goes on a weekend trip with him and his girlfriend, but her contempt, jealousy and sense of entitlement overpowers whatever sympathy she can get (for me: none) Zamata’s stand-up routine is probably better experienced, but her transition to the big screen is a complete failure. Someone described this film as Woody Allen-esque, aand sure, I can see some of the imitations, but all in all, this film is as much a crime as the ones Allen is accused of.

wyyRobert Luketic’s ‘The Wedding Year’ has a nice premise about how a relationship evolves over a course of the couple attending seven weddings, but something got lost in the process here. Again, we get an unlikable character here, Mara, who is at the center of the film. She talk and acts dumb, and the weddings which are supposed to frame how she evolves, is treated as stupid comic interludes, and by the time the characters show some emotion it’s already too late. It doesn’t hurt that there is no sizzle in the leads. I never believed that Sarah Hyland and Tyler James William was a couple – never figured out why the two character saw in each other. All in all, there’s a good movie here somewhere, but you wouldn’t know it from the finished product.

Truth Be Told (Movie Thoughts: Can You Keep A Secret?)

large_secret-posterSophie Kinsella’s book of ‘Can You Keep A Secret’ was a charming little gem of a rom com read so I was certain that the movie version will just screw things up. Sadly, I was right. Elise DuRan’s film is devoid of its charm. I can’t believe how sophomoric this film is. Maybe I am old-fashioned, but I want a romantic comedy to be, you know, romantic. But why oh why must these comedies have to be so crude nowadays? I am no prude, but I want visions of pink, not puke when I am watching my romances. Poor Alexandra Daddario has to go through hoops just to show how her character, Emma Corrigan, is in love. And Tyler Hoechlin, as Jack Harper is given nothing to do, as he is given a truly blank character here. You know a film is bland when even a Laverne Cox character is as interesting as white bread toast. Int his case, maybe they should have kept this whole project a secret.

It’s In His Kiss (Movie Thoughts: The Kissing Booth)

45a38850d7cc93849554b98be3d82d5b251a5a99I know a lot of people have been talking about Netflix’s ‘The Kissing Booth,’  and I really have been wanting to see it. I mean, teen rom com, right? I love this genre, and I always say this – I still admire how when you are young you are still hopeful about what love (first love) can bring you, and that thrill of realizing you have fallen for someone – is there a more joyous, euphoric feeling?

You really think ‘The Kissing Booth’ hits all the marks – Elle (Joey king) and Lee (Joel Courtney) have been best friends since they were babies, but there is now a kink – Joey has fallen for his older brother Noah. The thing is, they made ‘rules’ for each other when they were kids and one of them is that relatives are off limits romantically. It’s a nice sweet and predictable set up but cute, so I’m in. King is charming, and quirky, and is a natural. Elle hides the relationship from Lee, and I think we kind of know where this is all going to turn out. It worked for me, and I even found myself tearing up. Softie me, yes, I admit.

But then after watching it, I had some troubling thoughts. Noah is nice and cute in that suburban white boy way, but his character is pretty violent and controlling, and I want to tell Elle please stay away from him – he will be a wife beater. Plus, he seems to be manipulative – warning other guys not to date her, so there’s a deadly dangerous streak there. I have read numerous criticism about how the movie is obsessed with Elle’s body, and I kind of agree – it definitely has a sexist undertone. What bothers me is that the target market for this film is teenagers – and these ideologies will shape them.

But if you take it for what it is – a sweet and silly teen rom com, then why not, it would satisfy on that front. Just talk to kids after and point to them its shortcomings.

Love So Special (Film Thoughts: Keep The Change)

keepthechange2018I wish I hadn’t read before hand that ‘Keep the Change’ starred non-actors, well autistic non-actors, playing characters that are autistic. Because it really doesn’t matter. This film, directed by Rachel Israel, is about two people in New York City, who fall in love. This is one of those charming little independent films that I would love to recommend to people who want something small, intimate, heartfelt. And good.

David and Sarah (Brandon Polansky and Samantha Elisofson) meet into some kind of group meeting – David has been sent there because he told a cop a very inappropriate joke. I want to say their being autistic isn’t important but of course that would not be true. it’s a huge important part of these character’s lives, and how they live it. David and Sarah do not belong in the same spectrum of autism – David’s is a lot more advanced, and Sarah more awkward, yet of course these do not serve as hindrance to what they feel for each other. They only matter to people around them, and perhaps to us, as the audience. “I like her because she is weird. I am weird,” he says.

I couldn’t help but be affected by the film. Here I am alone, on a Friday night, and I want to say to myself – don’t let these hangups keep you from falling in love. Everyone falls in love. If only I would listen.

In Love And Sickness (Movie Thoughts: The Big Sick)

TBS_onesheet_Quotes_NZ_LR‘The Big Sick’ has been touted as the best rom-com film in ages, and of course that’s bound to get my attention. And I do agree that it is a great film – funny, melancholy, self-assured. But I would think that by labeling it as just a romantic comedy cuts its strength. I think the movie is a lot more than that: an exploration of interracial relationships, a comment on arranged marriages, even a paean to modern day stand up comic struggles. And sure, it has strong aspects of romantic comedy-isms, but as merely  one, it falls short.

Loosely based on their life, Kumail Nunjani (who also stars as the Kumail character) and his wife Emily Gordon wrote the screenplay, and they even named the characters Kumail and Emily. They meet one night at a comedy club, and then we get that montage of two people falling in love. Until they get faced with conflicts stemming from their interracial relationship and they break up. Emily then gets sick and Kumail, along with Emily’s parents, goes through this ordeal together. Zoe Kazan plays Emily, and she exudes big charm as we get to know her, and their relationship and we fall in love with them instantly. Director Michael Showalter has a great feel for characters and relationships (he directed the great ‘Hello My Name Is Doris’)  and we feel for and with these characters instantly.  Holly Hunter and Ray Romano, playing Emily’s parents are God gifts – I never ever liked Romano before, and here he is just perfection. Still, i wish that the Judd Apatow influence isn’t here – sometimes the proceedings go directly to the toilet – and yes I know that’s what will give this film widespread appeal, but I still feel subtlety is more romantic . But that’s not to take away from the film – this is a wonderful modern film that tells the story of today’s America – I doubt a Trump supporter can go with it’s diversity, but the fact that this film exists is a cause for celebration.

Rich People Problems (Book Thoughts: Beautiful Lies, Heather Bentley)

30231413Heather Bentley’s ‘Beautiful Lies’ reads quick and fast, one of those ‘suspenseful romance’ movies that probably would be good for a lifetime movie starring Tiffany Amber Thiesen. That’s not an insult, by the way. I got into the story way more than I care to admit, and finished it quickly because I just wanted to know what would happen to Christina and CJ, the star-crossed lovers of this novel. I don’t want to say that this is mindless fun, but it kind of is. This novel will not make you think about love and life – it’s really about rich people’s problems – but I don’t think it is pretending to be anything else but that.

When You Fall, You Fall (Movie Thoughts: Fallen Stars)

MV5BNzYzNmFkODYtNjc1ZS00ZjQyLWFhN2ItN2Y2NjFiOWZmNTM3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjc0NTIwMzU@._V1_UX182_CR00182268_AL_-1There’s something about very intimate movies that speak to me. A lot of what is in ‘Fallen Stars’ feels familiar, and you have seen it before. Yet there’s still that special connection here that works. In Brian Jett’s film, two unlikely souls meet, and they are both at points in their lives where loneliness seeps in and each is finding their way in the world. Their meeting sounds like a recipe for disaster, and truly, the road they navigate is tricky. You wonder if you are just two ships that pass in the night, or will one of them get left behind? Ryan O’Nan and Michele Ang play Cooper and Daisy, two Angelenos who do not know what they are seeking for but find in each other a certain kinship – or maybe more? They walk and talk, and fight. O’Nan injects charisma into a subtle role, and you feel for him instantly. Ang ‘s Daisy is a lot more complicated, but you will want to get to her core. You will fall in love with each of them, and for them, and with them. This is one of those small films with a big heart, though one can’t see it right away. Let the movie linger and simmer and you will find some great truths here.

When You’re Not You (Book Thoughts: It’s You, Jane Porter

23398804I have read a couple of Jane Porter novels and have enjoyed them. But ‘It’s You’ reads veyr different from her other books. This one seems seeped in a little more melancholy. Allison McAdams is a dentist, and was engaged to be married, before her fiancee commits suicide. She doesn’t know why, and is at a loss. His father who lives in Napa Valley, suddenly becomes ill so she comes to visit him, and her life is changed. Well, not initially. She meets the people from his senior home, and they become her family. I enjoyed the book enough, but there is a sub story here focusing on Edie, who is a survivor of Hitler’s Germany, and that story, while engrossing, seems to be from anther book entirely. This is a great read though, and I zipped through teh pages. I recommend it.

Commitment (Film Thoughts: Between Us)

mv5bmmvmnwi2njctymm3zs00mwu3lwjingytmdczztyzmti4ymi1l2ltywdlxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyntm3mdmymdq-_v1_uy268_cr90182268_al_Commitment is that tricky thing, and it comes in different shapes and sizes, and situations and circumstances. It’s all scary. Director Rafael Palacio Illingsworth explores these themes in ‘Between Us.’  It stars Olivia Thirlby and Ben Feldman as Henry and Diane, a couple well into their sixth year of being together. In the beginning of the movie, we see them looking at a nice suburban apartment, way away from Los Feliz area of Los Angeles. Are they ready to take the next step? Or is this the next step? Henry is more resistant to the idea, for he cannot take being one of those suburban couples – he is a filmmaker after all, so he has ambitions of forever being an artiste. So what is the solution they take so they don’t have to make that big step? They get married, of course. It’s easier. more palatable to where they want to be in their life. But, there are bumps in their roads. There are temptations – a young musician groupie for him, her boss, and later on, a stage actor for her. To be honest, I thought this was just going to be those small indie films with a lot of feelings and pretenses, but I found it more than that (though it is that,too) This film goes straight to the intimacy between two people, and their closeness seems to be at times uncomfortable to watch, though undoubtedly real, very very real. I loved the way this film ended, it’s open ended in a way that will make you think. Watch this, and for sure you will see yourself in here.