All Mine To Give (Movie Thoughts: Instant Family)

large_family-posterI was kind of making a vow not to watch movies starring Mark Wahlberg (because he is allegedly  homophobic and hates Asians) but I acquiesced with the feel-good ‘Instant Family.’  Co-written and Directed by Sean Andres, the movie is based on his real-life experience with his wife fostering children. The film’s premis is zanier. and I think that kind of helps the film – this isn’t some 50s kids-in-peril melodrama. I know the tone can be too much for some, but I thought it was balanced enough. We see Rose Byrne shine as always – I think she is one of the funniest actresses working today – and Wahlberg, well, in my opinion, he always plays his characters liek d-bags even when they are supposed to be nice/ Or I could just be projecting. The children are all cute and adorable, but Isabela Moner (as Lizzy) is given a little more meat to chew and handles them well.  Tig Notaro and Octavia Spencer play the therapists (or government employees?) who help the foster parents and all I could think about is how this would have been a better movie had the film been from their points of view.  But this film is fine enough for me. I laughed enough and cried a little with it.

Naked Emotions (Film Thoughts: Juliet, Naked)

large_juliet-nakeIt seems that the rom-com is really alive and well. Jesse Peretz’s ‘Juliet, Naked’ is funny, unpredictable, heartwarming – all of the things I am looking for in a romantic comedy. And as a music fan, this is also a celebration of how art affects you and drives a lot of aspects of your life.

Annie (Rose Byrne) has been with Duncan (Chris O Dowd) for fifteen years now, and it has been stale of late. Duncan, you see, is obsessed with musician Tucker Crowe, who released a record years ago but has since disappeared. Duncan runs a website devoted to him. Annie is not amused. When she posts a non-flattering comment on his website about unreleased demos of Tucker’s songs, she gets a personal note from Tucker himself (Ethan Hawke) and a cute correspondence starts. When circumstances bring Crowe to Annie’s sleepy English seaside town, well…you can probably tell what happens next, but then again, maybe not.

All three actors here give spirited performances. I liked O Dowd’s the most, maybe because I can identify with his fan obsessiveness (and music collecting, to be honest) In the theaters, he got the most on-point reactions. I have read reviews where hsi character has been thoroughly disliked but all I can say to that is, ;they don’t understand us, dude.’ Hawke shows not only formidable charm but depth to his Tucker – he fills in more from how the chracter is written. (Look at this and his performance in ‘First Reformed’ you can see his versatility as an actor)  And Byrne shows great restraint. Her Annie could have been a lot of things – shrieky, hysterical – but Byrne focuses on vulnerability.  All in all, I really enjoyed this film even more than ‘Crazy Rich Asians,’ if we are speaking rom-com. It’s less formulaic, more nuanced, and feels more genuine.