Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

Truly lurid film about a game of sexual chicken between an American expatriate (a somewhat miscast Peter Coyote who, nonetheless, is totally committed to the role) and a young French dancer (Emmanuelle Seigner, perfectly cast) that grows more and more cruel. The relationship is explored in flashback as Coyote tells the story to a spellbound British tourist (Hugh Grant), who gets caught in the web of sadomasochism between the two. In some ways ridiculous (S&M scenes are always going to inspire laughter), and in some ways mesmerizing, I really appreciate the way director Roman Polanski approaches the whole thing without regard to taste and a certain honesty in the way it is exploitative. It's very much of its time--fevered, excessive, overwrought--but I liked it, often in a "I can't believe they're going for this" kind of way. It's audacious, that's for sure. ***

I was going to write this long post about some of the movie's themes and why I felt the film pulled it off, but Devin Faraci beat me to it, pointing out most of the exact same stuff I was going to say, including why the Bruce/Natasha relationship makes sense. So I defer to his post, which you should read if you've seen the movie. I also highly recommend this post by Alyssa Rosenberg, about why the feminist critiques of Black Widow don't really hold up, because that was the other thing I wanted to talk about. Sorry, I understand the criticism, but I didn't read *that* line the same way.

The only other things to mention that aren't in those really thoughtful pieces? I loved James Spader as Ultron; his casting baffled me until I saw the actual movie, and now I see the important key there is that Spader is so human. I loved the revelation about Hawkeye. Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch and Vision were all good, particularly Vision; the way they play him is just beautiful. It's a packed movie, and I wish it had been just a tiny bit longer, but it never felt rushed to me. I actually had more fun than I had at the first Avengers, but I don't want to write a long post about it, because my enthusiasm would transmute into defending it against a fan discourse that has become vile and toxic.

I've loved Phase 2 of the MCU even more than Phase 1. I can't wait for Ant-Man (coming out on my birthday) and then Phase 3. ****

This is not my kind of humor. It's an absurdist parody of romantic comedies that doesn't have much more to say than "Wow, romantic comedies are kind of dumb, huh?" for an hour and a half. That kind of critique is already about 25 years out of date, and with nothing much to add to it, the film just swims in the shallow end of obviousness for what feels like a very, very long time. Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler play a couple telling the story of how they met and fell in love to another couple (Bill Hader and Ellie Kemper) and the whole thing plays out like a freshman film student's tired, predictable, film-length dissertation on why You've Got Mail sucks. The movie is a waste of a very talented cast--Jason Mantzoukas, Cobie Smulders, Christopher Meloni, Max Greenfield, Melanie Lynskey, Noureen DeWolf, Michael Ian Black, Michaela Watkins, Randall Park, Jack McBrayer, Kenan Thompson, Ken Marino... and also Ed Helms is there. It's all wasted on a script that is easily as dumb as the movies it very smugly wants you to know it's better than. Writer-director David Wain sees through you, rom-coms. He sees through you and knows your tropes in a way no one ever has before, he thinks. Hey, everyone in a rom-com must be dumb, so what if all the characters were actually too dumb to function, but smart enough to stand around openly telling you what their characters represent? That would be funny, right? No. No, it wouldn't. It would be smarmy, but it wouldn't be funny. Some good gags occasionally, and some cameos at the end that are actually funnier out of context. Something that would have been a funny sketch on an episode of Inside Amy Schumer loses all of its insight or edge when blown up to ninety damn minutes. **

No comments: