Monday, April 20, 2009

Rachel Getting Married

It's hard to tell if the point of Rachel Getting Married is to make you feel the turmoil of a recovering drug addict attempting to rejoin her family or to make you feel like every wedding you've ever attended was completely lame.

RGM stars Anne Hathaway as Kim, a drug addict released from her latest stint in rehab just in time to join the final preparations before her older sister's wedding. Kim's family inhabits one of those shabbily wealthy sprawling old Victorian homes in Connecticut. The kind filled with cozy furniture and expansive wrap-around porches that make it hard to believe a Waspy drug addict could live there. In fact, we never learn how Kim became a drug addict, just that she did and made a mess of herself and her family including one tragic accident that created an irreparable rift in the family, which I won't spoil for you here.

Despite the tragedy, Rachel's family itself is a paragon of feel-goodiness, including her overly attentive father (who is played by Mister Noodle's Brother on Sesame Street!), her Mother Earth stepmother and her straight-arrow older sister Rachel. We watch as Kim tries to insert herself in Rachel's wedding weekend, resulting in awkward, painful interactions in which Kim can't seem to stop stealing the spotlight from her sister and crowing "but look at me, I'm the addict!" It succeeds mightily in making you feel the same discomfort and anger at Kim as her family does.

Anne Hathaway got a ton of buzz about her role in this film and deservedly so. She ain't no Princess here, at turns painfully endearing and shamelessly raw. Her transparent skin and bloomy eyes make her perfectly suited to play a fragile soul teetering on the edge of a precipice between suburban propriety and gritty addiction. She's perfectly matched with her wounded mother, played by Debra Winger. Yes, that Debra Winger from Urban Cowboy.

The only off-notes of the film come from the wedding itself, which we follow in deep detail from rehearsal through reception. Rachel is marrying a man from....somewhere tropical? Or African? I can't tell. He wears unfortunate glasses, but everyone seems to think he's too swell to care.

He's a musician and so the house is dripping at every moment with a hodgepodge of ethnically diverse musicians playing at all hours of the day. The wedding itself is a multicultural, Bohemian stewpot of reggae singers, someone I think was a monk and one girl who I'm pretty sure was a singer from American Idol (Tamyra Gray, if my eyes don't deceive). The whole wedding feels like the "Teach the World to Sing" Coca Cola commercial. And it's almost as sugary.

It's a bit hard to swallow all the ethnically diverse love and energy pouring in great quantities from every scene of the wedding party. Where were the boring old people complaining the chicken was too dry? Where was the drunken uncle who gets a little handsy after too many gin rickeys? Do they not know about the chicken dance in Connecticut?!!!!! Sorry, but the crowd was just a little too perfectly diverse and in love with one another to be altogether believable.

Otherwise, this is a smart little film filled with a great deal of emotion and earnest pain. Kim's plight is raw and transparent, and as a viewer, you're pulled fully into the complex emotions her family has for her. You want to root for Kim, but you want to slap her too. Just like real family.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Role Models


Approximately 37 people have been hounding me to watch Role Models, swearing that I will DIE, literally DIE laughing. "It's exactly like Knocked Up." "It's even better than 40-Year-Old-Virgin." This is what they tell me.

Which leads me to the question, Role Models?

The one starring Paul Rudd and -- finger quotes -- "actor" Sean William Scott? I respectfully disagree. It just wasn't that funny, guys. Sorry, but it wasn't. Sure, it had a few laughs but for the most part, I found myself leaning forward hopefully on the sofa waiting for the story to kick in. Any moment, I kept thinking. Right up until the end. Sigh.

Let's talk about what works first: Paul Rudd. Is there a more lovable actor in film today? You can't not like Paul Rudd. Men want to be him. Women want to date him. He's just adorable. And he's funny. But one thing he's not, and it pains me to say this, Paul, is a screenwriter. Rudd co-wrote this movie, and it shows, filled with slow, sophomoric plot developments, predictable jokes and tame attempts at envelope-pushing.

The set-up for the plot is incredibly long and drawn out: two guys have an implausible screw-up at work and have to perform community service mentoring young boys to avoid jail time as a result. Trust me, it's a painful road to get there, especially when it's so obvious where the plot is heading all along.

Surprise, surprise, the young mentees assigned to Rudd and Scott are an unpredictable and unruly lot, leading to loads of hijinx for our two heroes.'s all totally predictable and if you can't see the ultimate resolution (the boys grow to love their mentors!), you need to schedule an optometry appointment post haste.

But what's even worse than the script and the plot is Sean William Scott. HOW IS THIS GUY GETTING WORK? He is not an actor. He is a frat boy. He's the dude who's so talentless that his dad gets him a job in his company even though he can barely manage to make copies of his butt on the copy machine.

I imagine that Sean William Scott shares an apartment somewhere in Hollywood with Vin Diesel and Ashlee Simpson and they just sit around and laugh, laugh, laugh themselves silly about how people pay money to watch them. Then Vin Diesel gets his foot stuck in the toaster AGAIN and Sean and Ashlee try to help him but they got lost on the way there because they can't remember how to operate the doors to the living room (push, not pull!), so they forget about Vin and instead spend the afternoon staring in wonder at the light switch.

Something like that.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Pineapple Express

As a rule, I am not a fan of stoner humor. Nothing against it; it's just never tickled me fancy. Cheech & Chong? Harold & Kumar? Eh. I just can't find a way to be interested. So I was a little apprehensive about Pineapple Express, which for the uninitiated, is a true stoner comedy about a pleasantly even-keeled stoner, Dale, played by Seth Rogen, and his eccentric dealer, Saul, played by James Franco, who get accidentally wrapped up in a chase escapade after witnessing a murder.

To my surprise, the Stoner Comedy 101 scenes of Dale and Saul waxing ineloquent in slow-motion, smoke-filled highs were few and far between. Thank god. I'd rather watch paint dry. This was much more of a silly action movie than I ever expected. The funniest scenes in the movie had to involve Saul's dealer, Red, played by Danny McBride -- who is one part Steven Seagal wannabe, one part needy housecat. Red gets beat up, shot and stabbed about a dozen times and just keeps showing up in future scenes like a chubby, mullet-wearing version of the Terminator.

I also loved the duo's pursuer, played by Craig Robinson, whom you're more likely to recognize as warehouse foreman Darryl from The Office. In Pineapple, he's a merciless killer who will crack you up with his very delicate emotions ready to burst forth at any moment.

The plot is predictable, familiar and takes way too long...two-hour-run-time too long. Some of the ancillary characters, like Rosie Perez as a dirty cop and a band of Chinese drug dealers, seem like afterthoughts, but do serve to add small doses of humor here and there. I could have done without the extended and very predictable fight scenes at the end of the film, although it was fun to watch chubby Seth Rogen try to fistfight.

Would I recommend Pineapple? I guess so...but certainly not as a gateway drug to a future appreciation of stoner flicks.