237 posts tagged Movie Reviews
We may already live in a world where Beyoncé reigns supreme, but imagine one where Beyoncé is queen of the forest, with dashing knights at her disposal and gawking plant creatures for fans. That should be enough to get you to see Epic, a fantastic animated film from the studio that brought us Ice Age: Blue Sky Studios. But if you’re still on the fence,I can assure you that Epic certainly lives up to its title. Full of breathtaking imagery, crazy detailed animation and boasting a phenomenal voice cast from the aforementioned Queen Bey and Colin Farrell to the always amazing Christoph Waltz, it’s a story that has a lot of heart, plenty of fun action and great humor. Rounding out the all-star cast are Amanda Seyfried, Josh Hutcherson, Jason Sudeikis, Aziz Ansari, Chris O’Dowd, Steven Tyler and Blake Anderson.
The story follows Mary Katherine, a teenage girl who comes to live with her estranged father after her parents’ separation. Her father has some interesting preoccupations, such as an obsessive fascination with forest creatures, whom he’s convinced include tiny people living in advanced civilizations. This drives Mary Katherine (or as she prefers, MK) crazy and she becomes increasingly frustrated with what she considers her father’s erratic aloofness. When she is suddenly shrunk down to bug size, MK discovers that everything she thought her father had imagined is actually real, from the small soldiers called Leaf Men to their saddle-laden hummingbird transports. When the forest kingdom finds itself under attack, MK realizes her father may be the best person to help her newfound friends.
From a technical standpoint this movie is ridiculously detailed from the design aesthetic to the adrenaline-pumped, large scale action sequences. It’s readily apparent that a lot of thought and care went into the making of the story. For example, in one scene the characters go deep into the trunk of a tree, where the tree rings house scrolls that represent the history of the forest - a library of memories, if you will. This reflects the detail-orientedness of the writers because they took something scientific like the real use of tree rings to determine the age of a tree and put a whimsical spin to it. The visuals are also quite phenomenal, really drawing viewers into this magical secret world. There were epic battles that would make Peter Jackson proud, and cool camera work that would certainly garner Zack Snyder’s stamp of approval.
The voice cast also really delivered, making the film even more entertaining. Colin Farrell could not have been better cast as the gallant Ronin, commander of the Leaf Men. If I am not mistaken, this is the first animated film he has lent his voice to and he did an excellent job. Amanda Seyfried was also really amazing as MK. She probably has one of the best-sounding voices for animation. Christoph Waltz was perfect as the villainous Mandrake. He injected a lot of swagger and sass, as he is prone to do, to his shadowy character. Last but not least, a lot of the comedic elements of the film were provided by the snail and slug duo Grub and Mub, voiced by Aziz Ansari and Chris O’Dowd. Add to all this Danny Boyle’s fabulous score, which enhanced the charm and whimsy of the film.
While there were many scenes that were laugh-out loud funny, the film is still very emotion-driven. At the heart of this story is a theme of family, unity, teamwork and an enduring legacy of passing the torch. I’m a big believer that animated films are this generation’s fables, and I think Epic succeeds (like most other great animated movies) because it balances exciting adventure with a moral that resonates with audiences young and old. There’s the moving tale of a daughter reaching out to her estranged father, and one of a hidden kingdom of forest creatures working together to restore order and community in their wooded home. Best of all, Epic has a subtle but relevant message about the environment: while mother nature can largely take care of the Earth, sometimes she could use a hand. This message is certainly not as heavy-handed as the themes of Fern Gully, but it shines through in the portrayal of teamwork between humans and nature.
Epic is a great adventure to embark on with family and friends, featuring some brilliant animation, a solid story and an entertaining cast.
Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey star in this dystopian thriller set in a “reborn” America where, during one night each year, citizens are allowed to commit any and all atrocities - an event known as The Purge. James and Mary Sandin (Hawke and Headey) live in a sprawling mansion in an idyllic community with their two children. They can afford the latest and greatest security equipment, a necessity in the year 2022 since the advent of The Purge. After they’ve locked down their home to ensure their family’s safety, a stranger appears outside their home pleading for help from Purge practitioners. They let the stranger in, only to find that doing so is just the start of the nightmare that follows. The film presents a moral quandary to the audience from the get go. Would you be able to stand idly by as people run rampant through the streets murdering, pillaging, and enacting all sorts of violence against each other? What rights would you give up in the name of national peace and prosperity?
It was interesting to see Ethan Hawke play sort of an unlikable guy. His James Sandin is an ambitious, domineering man who seems to be the type who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. As a fan of Lena Headey’s, I also thought it was awesome seeing her in a role different from anything we’ve seen her do before. She’s a lot more vulnerable in this role but she had no problem unleashing her inner Cersei Lannister when her family was threatened. The Purge has an interesting premise that is part The Strangers part Panic Room. It makes plenty of social commentary, although it falls just short of imparting a resonant message that transcends the specific story of the Sandins. I was surprised, however, at how self-aware the film was about what it was saying. It seemed to be written with a lot of relevant themes in mind. The film plays up stereotypes, for example, in the character of Edwin Hodge, who begs the Sandins for sanctuary when he is chased down their neighborhood by Purge enthusiasts. The situation certainly brought up comparisons to the tragedy of Trayvon Martin and it was interesting that the film tried to play into the audience’s prejudices.
There were also instances that were very meta, especially at my screening when the audience enthusiastically applauded during the most violent executions. I thought it was an interesting study that essentially proved the film’s point - the general public is a scary, bloodthirsty lot that thrives on seeing other people suffer. It’s why slasher movies are popular, and why violence in the media will never go away. There’s sort of a twisted pleasure in watching suffering, as long as it’s not done to us. This voyeurism was certainly explored in the film, although probably not in sufficient detail.
M Night Shyamalan’s After Earth is an unfairly maligned movie, and reports of it being awful or propagandist are greatly exaggerated. Although it’s neither compelling nor groundbreaking, I wouldn’t consider it deserving of being lambasted as motivated by a Scientologist agenda, let alone as one of the worst films of the year. In fact, I’m going to go right out and say that I’ve seen worse films this year than After Earth. A Good Day to Die Hard, G.I. Joe Retaliation and the more recent Now You See Me are just a few examples of films that are much, much worse than anything you would see in After Earth. But thanks to overzealous reddit hate along with low scores on metrics that the general public seems to bow at the altars of - Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB - the film has garnered plenty of negative buzz. While After Earth is, as mentioned at the top of the post, not an amazing movie by any stretch of the imagination, it’s really not as bad as movie critics and online forums want audiences to think.
The story takes place a thousand years after humans have abandoned Earth and settled on a new planet called Nova Prime. Although habitable enough, the planet is plagued by alien monsters called Ursa, a species that can detect humans by the pheromones we release when we are afraid. A group of elite soldiers (called Rangers) are trained to fight these monsters, excelling in their ability to suppress their fear and be virtually undetectable to Ursa (a rare talent that is called ‘ghosting’). Led by the unflappable General Cypher Rage (Will Smith), the Rangers are tasked with protecting the human race. On what seems like a routine mission to a nearby planet for some training exercises, the space ship General Rage and his son Kitai (played by Jaden Smith) are on suffers heavy damage from an asteroid storm and has to crash land on Earth, only the planet has now evolved with dangerous elements. With General Rage incapacitated, it is up to Kitai to venture across the treacherous terrain in order to send a distress signal to Nova Prime.
The story feels at home in science fiction, which is one of the reasons I am surprised that people are insisting that this is a movie about Scientology when, if audiences did not know Will Smith’s religious affiliation, it would sound like standard fare in this genre. It is also very much a father and son movie, or even more so a coming-of-age film, with Kitai striving to prove himself worthy of his father’s respect by surviving under dangerous conditions. There’s an interesting story to be told here, but it’s a shame that the film seemed more preoccupied in showing dazzling visual effects than developing the characters in a much more intimate way. Will Smith’s General Cypher was a bit one-dimensional, for example. I felt that more could have been shown to paint how closed off he became after a family tragedy and how he may have been wrongfully taking it out on his son. It was interesting to see him play sort of an unlikable character, though. There were also some editing choices made that I felt detracted from presenting the characters in full view. For example, in the trailer it shows how cocky and ambitious Kitai is. However, in the theatrical cut, we don’t see these character traits set up properly. Instead, the film sort of clumsily dives into the story, which prevents audiences from seeing Kitai develop fully as a character. So the film certainly could have benefited from a little more plot and character establishment.
On the upside, performances are strong from the father and son leads. As a fan of Jaden Smith’s from his work in The Karate Kid remake, I thought he did a great job in this movie. There is no question that this kid can act. I am certainly excited to see more from him. I would have liked to have seen more of Zoë Kravitz, though. While I knocked the film for concentrating more on imagery than on substantial character development, I have to admit that there are many visually impressive moments in the film. I really liked the costume and set design. I thought it was really cool, for example, how the “smart suits” worked and transformed like camouflage. There are some great set pieces in the film, such as a stalagmite cave underneath an erupting volcano. There are some breathtaking vistas in this film, but unfortunately that makes up the bulk of the good.
I don’t consider myself at all hard to please. I don’t mind the occasional mindless popcorn movie. I don’t mind B movie characters, cheesy one-liners, or sometimes even gratuitous nudity, violence, what-have-you. I’ve tolerated Battleship and even genuinely enjoyed the remake of Conan the Barbarian. What I can’t tolerate, however, is a movie that insults my intelligence, and Louis Leterrier’s Now You See Me does that on every level imaginable that I was close to throwing my hands up and leaving the theater.
“The number one rule of magic: Always be the smartest guy in the room,” Jesse Eisenberg’s character cockily quips in the trailer for the movie. I guess Now You See Me is breaking all sorts of rules because it’s neither smart nor well-written, nor even remotely entertaining. It relies on cheap twists and showy antics, perhaps to gloss over the fact that underneath all that razzle dazzle and A-list casting, there’s really not much substance in that script. If this isn’t an absolute affront to magic and magicians everywhere, I don’t know what is. Because isn’t it the point of magic that something that may seem flashy on the surface actually involves a great deal of skill and showmanship behind the curtain? Now You See Me, instead, is what I would consider a rip-off; all show and no substance, and full of infuriating cop-outs that it makes one wonder how such a poorly-conceived project ever made it off the ground or attracted such a solid cast.
With a seemingly impressive assembly comprised of Mark Ruffalo, Isla Fisher, Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Dave Franco and Mélanie Laurent, one would think that something was bound to go right in this movie. I can tell you right now I’m struggling to find even one positive thing about this film. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t want to hate this movie. In fact, I’m a fan of magic tricks, illusions and clever storytelling. I’m a fan of the majority of this cast. But it’s hard to enjoy a movie that is so poorly written, it makes Gigli seem like the frontrunner for a prix du scénario at Cannes. The story follows a quartet of illusionists who catch the attention of the FBI after one of their tricks involves the robbing of a bank. And to be honest, that’s pretty much it. There’s a bunch of nonsense about an underground organization of magician misfits called The Eye, an attempt at injecting some sort of Robin Hood-type sob story into the mix, and an even more laughable attempt at forcing a romance between two characters who have absolutely zero development during the course of the tale. But none of that really matters because really the main problem with this film is that it never slows down enough to give audiences a chance to relate to its characters. More importantly, it doesn’t bother to lay the groundwork that would justify any big revelations at the end. After all, it’s hard to care about plot twists or character revelations when a movie doesn’t have the patience to set up its players, let alone the game.
The formula for Hollywood romances goes a bit like this: boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, some kind of conflict occurs that tears the two apart, boy and girl ultimately reconcile, and the film ends with the suggestion that the two live happily ever after and that’s that. But what goes on after the happy ending? What happens after the big gesture, the mad dash through the airport, and the breathless exchange of declarations of love? What happens after the happy couple gallops off into the sunset? Before Midnight answers these questions in more ways than one. For fans of the Richard Linklater series that launched a thousand fantasies of meeting a lover on a train, plane, what-have-you, I can assure you that you will not be disappointed.
2004’s Before Sunset ended on such a wistful, romantic note that it seemed almost unjust that the team of Linklater and stars Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke even dared to follow it up with Before Midnight. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little concerned when it was announced that a sequel would be made, but it would also be disingenuous of me to hide my curiosity about what happened after the sun set on our lovers in Paris. That said, Before Midnight is a much-needed addition to the story of Jesse and Celine. Perhaps the most different of the trilogy, and rightly so, it transpires years after that sunny afternoon in Paris. There’s always been something interesting yet illusory about unrequited love, and it’s Before Midnight’s awareness of this that allows its characters to delve deeper into ideas of real companionship in a way that doesn’t just pander to the romantic or the cynical. Rather, the story gives audiences a realistic view of what passionate love can become a decade down the road.
FAST & FURIOUS 6 (2013)
I’m not the biggest fan of the Fast and the Furious franchise, but I admit it’s a guilty pleasure to watch. I thoroughly enjoyed the last installment, Fast Five, so I was looking forward to seeing Vin Diesel and his team back for Fast & Furious 6. The latest film follows Dom (Diesel) and his street-racing team as they go head to head with notorious criminal Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) to stop him from acquiring a valuable weapon. The whole pursuit is properly incentivized when Dom is informed by Dwayne Johnson’s Detective Hobbs that his presumed-dead old flame Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is actually alive and working for Shaw. Fast & Furious 6 features some pretty ridiculous stunts (some impressive, others unintentionally hilarious), but it underwhelms with a story that is kind of hackneyed and so all over the place that it becomes hard to invest in the different subplots. Despite the shoddy, often cheesy writing, I thought Justin Lin did a solid job making everything look good. This film does demand that the audience suspend a great deal of disbelief for many of its action scenes, but it manages to do so in a manner that is still quite entertaining to watch.
I was very pleased that the film featured a very diverse cast - probably one of the most diverse ones in terms of major cast - and especially placed the femme fatales front and center. Gina Carano, Michelle Rodriguez and Gal Gadot were all pretty heavily involved in the action of the film and I loved watching them throw punches and kick ass just as much as the guys. I especially loved that Gadot’s character Gisele has a pretty pivotal part in the film that is unexpected not only for a female character but for a female character in an action franchise dominated by men. One can argue, however, that despite all the strong women in the film, it still featured a great deal of female objectification. I don’t like saying that it’s just something we should come to expect from a series about fast cars and muscled men, but unfortunately that really does come with the territory. Whether this fact cancels out the female empowerment displayed by Rodriguez, Carano and Gadot, I’ll leave up to audiences to decide for themselves.
THE WAY WAY BACK (2013)
Starring Liam James, Toni Collette, Steve Carell and Sam Rockwell, The Way, Way Back is a coming-of-age summer dramedy about Duncan (James), an awkward teenager struggling to cope with his parents’ recent divorce. It’s especially difficult for Duncan because his mother (Collette) has just cozied up with a new boyfriend, Trent (Carell), whose passive-aggressive idea of discipline erodes Duncan’s self-confidence. During vacation at Trent’s beach house, Duncan finds solace at a water park managed by Sam Rockwell’s charismatic Owen. Owen’s spontaneous and magnetic personality instantly captivates Duncan and the teen finds himself loosening up the more he spends time at the park. The film also stars Allison Janney, Maya Rudolph, Rob Corddry, Amanda Peet and AnnaSophia Robb.
The Way, Way Back is a fun summer movie that’s entertaining enough to watch, although I don’t think it was particularly adept at communicating its big message. While the moral of the story was evident - we each have to go our own way instead of constantly worrying about what other people think - the film only touched the surface of the self-esteem issues Duncan faced. It also had a rather predictable character development trajectory that made the story slightly pedestrian. While endlessly entertaining thanks to the flawless comedic timing of Rockwell, Rudolph and Janney, the film was a little too Juno than Little Miss Sunshine in that it was as amusing as the former but lacked the poignancy of the latter.
Still, it was an entertaining watch not only for Rockwell (who as per usual steals the show effortlessly), but because it was refreshing to see Steve Carell not providing the usual comedic antics we’re used to seeing him conduct in previous roles. Carell’s character was actually the main source of tension and drama in the film, which was an interesting side of him to see. I also loved seeing Rockwell and Maya Rudolph playing against each other. Rockwell’s character has a lackadaisical attitude that makes him unbearable to Rudolph’s character’s more professional, by-the-book-type personality. I thought the two actors really played off each other well and had great chemistry. I think that the film would have been more successful with much more focused writing and a more creative way of telling the story. I also thought there were some elements of the story that would have been more interesting had they been fleshed out, such as the theme of adults acting like kids while the kids seemed to be experiencing crisis after crisis. I wish themes like these would have been explored a bit more in the film. The Way, Way Back will be in theaters on July 5 2013.
STORIES WE TELL (2013)
Written and directed by Sarah Polley, Stories We Tell is a fascinating documentary that explores the anthropological tradition of oral history through the lives of one family. Polley places her own family under a microscope as she sets out to unearth memories and piece together different points of view of the same story. Polley’s film succeeds in that it shows how interesting storytelling is and how there’s almost a craft and an art to imparting information selectively, in certain increments, and sometimes even accidentally. Not only was the story of the Polley family really engrossing to watch, but it is evident upon seeing the film that so much time, effort and care was put into the telling of this tale. Perhaps because it was personal to her, Polley felt that she needed to be as thorough and respectful as possible while still giving audiences art that is relatable and resonant. She certainly accomplishes all of that. While Stories We Tell is by no means a perfect documentary, it is a film that transfixes audiences from start all the way to its playful, poignant end.
There is no question that Polley is a fantastic filmmaker. She’s a prolific writer who has a really great eye for what looks and feels great on screen. There’s something new and refreshing about Stories We Tell that separates it from other documentaries. It feels polished, but still personal; elaborate, and yet intimate. In her quest for truth in storytelling, Polley shows that even in earnest, there are always inconsistencies and inevitable wanderings from designated paths. Polley also had a good ear for the right musical accompaniment to go with the story she was telling. Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love” playing during the opening scenes, for instance, established an indelible mood of nostalgia that fit perfectly with the film’s theme.
I really liked seeing things said earlier in the film making their way back into the story like echoes. That manner of coming around full circle lent an air of weight and significance to the material. For example, one of the things that Polley points out is that while reminiscence may feel fond, often when we think we’re focusing on something in particular, we always seem to end up drifting far off from what we really meant to hone in on. This is mirrored through Michael Polley’s sharing of his style of filmmaking, wherein he recounts how, when taking videos, he tends to let the camera drift off to some other uninteresting object right when the subjects’ faces start to get in focus. This may be interpreted as a playful metaphor for the diversions we create when we get carried away telling a story, or during the realization that we may have shared too much.
While the first half of the film flows beautifully and is edited artfully, the second half is a bit all over the place, which is interesting because it almost goes back to Harry Gulkin’s critical analysis of Polley’s project. Gulkin complains that telling all sides of a story, despite the filmmaker’s best intentions, neglects to take into account that sometimes all sides of the story only serve to convolute instead of clarify. Polley sticks to a narrative fairly well in the first half, but becomes distracted by her own method in the second, spending an unnecessary amount of time talking about her process and showing her behind the camera directing or even interacting with her subjects. While I like that Polley didn’t feel like she had to adhere to certain documentary standards, I found some of her attempts at making her film unique the opposite of self-effacing. I understand wanting to impart to audiences the intent behind her process but I felt it was unnecessary because the material spoke for itself quite clearly. In this regard, there was a need for editing in the second half of the film that was probably hindered by the concern with being as inclusive of all material as possible. Since this was a personal venture, it’s understandable how difficult it might have been to edit down from a wealthy tapestry of information. But for the purposes of film, it needed to be trimmed of fat as much as possible.
That said, however, Stories We Tell was a thoroughly enjoyable film. There was certainly a tale that needed to be told, and it was done so in a remarkable fashion that will undoubtedly impress audiences. Showbiz families are just so interesting to watch on screen, and the Polley family sure had a history that was larger than life. The drama and tension in this documentary was as riveting as any feature film. It was thought-provoking, too; it certainly made me curious about my own family history, the unique way each family tells stories to each other, what we choose to keep as secrets and how and when we decide to share them.
TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE (2012)
Clint Eastwood explores the joys of senility in Trouble with the Curve, a ho-hum dramedy about Gus, an aging scout for the Atlanta Braves, and his estranged daughter Mickey (Amy Adams), a type A lawyer. The two haven’t seen each other in years, but when Gus starts having some medical issues that affect his work, Mickey takes it upon herself to put her job on hold to look after her father. The story is basically a father-daughter bonding session over baseball, with a side dish of
sexy back Justin Timberlake as a smooth talking ex-baseball player turned scout for the Boston Red Sox. Seems like a pretty good story at first glance, and it actually does have some potential, only it is squandered by a really lousy script.
I don’t really know what possessed me to rent this film. Maybe it was my love of Amy Adams or the irresistible Timberlake. Whatever it was, it sure wasn’t because I have any particular interest in baseball. In fact, I really don’t enjoy baseball at all. I find it tedious and boring and I just don’t get it. But I figured, hey, I’ve seen Moneyball. I can probably sit through another baseball flick. Despite the ever-endearing Adams and the über charismatic Timberlake however, this film really isn’t very good. It’s chock full of eyeroll-worthy clichés, lazy writing and cheesiness out the wazoo. Even the rom-com lover in me couldn’t take the unimaginative and forced attempt at romance in this film.Some of the romantic scenes in the film were so painfully formulaic they became cringe-worthy. How many times am I going to have to watch a character go skinny dipping in an effort to show off how free-spirited they are?
The whole film was basically Clint Eastwood being old and Amy Adams trying her best to lend some depth to this otherwise kiddie pool-shallow story. I’m still trying desperately to forget the opening scene involving Clint Eastwood goading his penis to pee. After the nth old joke, I just about had it and was ready to quit. Were it not for the dashing Mr. Timberlake, I don’t know if I would have held on for as long as I did. Poor JT was doing everything right, but he was saddled with not a whole lot of character to work with and some seriously cheesy scenarios. He and Amy Adams had great chemistry, but their romance seemed too forced.
I wish that this film spent more time making a serious case for the disappearing art of talent scouting. Instead, the movie seemed too preoccupied making this about the drama between the estranged father and daughter, as well as pushing for the rom-com aspect of it. I was more interested in the differences between scouting players in-person and having the statistics do the work for you, and this is coming from someone who had zero interest in the sport. I found myself more interested in baseball than the relationships in the film because the relationships just felt so contrived. It was as if a rookie screenwriter decided to throw every single movie cliché into one story and figured that audiences would eat it up since Clint Eastwood starred in it. Trouble with the Curve isn’t really worth bothering with, unless you’re a fan of Adams or Timberlake, both of whom were the only interesting aspects of the film (although it was excruciating to see their talent go to waste). As for Clint Eastwood, the man is legendary, but I have no idea why he thought this film was worth emerging from behind the camera for. If I wanted to see a solid movie where Clint Eastwood is being old and awesome, I’d watch Gran Torino.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul star in this booze-binging bad romance from filmmaker-to-watch James Ponsoldt. Young couple Kate and Charlie always have a grand old time drinking and partying. Somehow they’ve found a synergy in their alcohol and occasional drug-induced stupors. When Kate (who teaches math to first graders) shows up to class hung over and throwing up, it marks the start of a series of wake-up calls that forces her to reevaluate her life and choices. Kate gets help in AA but quickly realizes that it’s difficult for her to climb those twelve steps when her partner is more toxic than the booze she’s trying so desperately to avoid. Ponsoldt’s film is heartbreaking, sweet and sad, featuring brilliant performances from both Winstead and Paul. The film also stars Megan Mullally, Octavia Spencer, Nick Offerman and Kyle Gallner.
First and foremost, Winstead is exquisite in the role of restless Kate. Her performance never came off like an act and there was none of the overaffected dramatization that usually comes with an actor trying to portray an alcoholic. When her character finally acknowledged her alcoholism, the defeated look on her face was enough to convey to audiences the embarrassment she felt in her admission. All the stages of dealing with alcoholism were present, but never in endless or unnecessary exposition. Instead, Ponsoldt used Winstead’s great acting range to show things like denial, bargaining and acceptance. Winstead was really impressive in this film and I hope to see her in more of these types of challenging roles. As for Kate’s not-so-better half, there couldn’t have been a more perfect Charlie than Aaron Paul, whose work in Breaking Bad has equipped him with experience that enables him to show off really subtle but strong performances. His chemistry with Winstead leapt off the screen and there was an obvious comfort level between the two actors that made their romance endearing to watch. Paul is effortlessly charming, so it wasn’t a stretch to imagine him in the role of the facetious Charlie.
Alcoholism has been portrayed so many times and in so many different ways on film before, but Smashed is like a breath of fresh air. There’s something different about this story, and unlike most tales involving battles with liquor, its protagonist’s plight is neither maudlin nor desperate for sympathy, which makes it all the more heart-wrenching. I liked that it explored the different journeys of the two lovers, expounding on the oft-told warning about what happens when one half of a couple sobers up. I do wish, however, that the film spent more time exploring the distance that can develop when only one person in the relationship seems to be moving forward. I also thought there wasn’t enough devoted to showing how all-consuming this kind of relationship can be. For some reason I wanted to see “Love the Way You Lie”-type passion between Kate and Charlie, which I felt would have helped the audience understand how difficult it is to be part of a relationship that feels so good yet is so bad for you. This particular aspect sort of hit home for me, so I had wanted to see this play out a little bit more on screen, however this is but a minor quibble.
As for the rest of the cast, Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally were pretty entertaining. Both provided light touches to the film that weren’t overdone and that fit in well with the rest of the material. I liked the sort of wistful ending of the film, too and thought it left audiences wanting more in just the right way. I also liked that the film doesn’t paint sobriety as the rosy picture that it is often depicted to be. It showcases the painstaking work that goes into staying sober while also ridding your life of anchors that may weigh you down. The movie also had a lot of well-composed shots and great lighting, both combining to give off this vibe of a terrible hangover one gets after an exhilarating night of partying. I would recommend Smashed to those who liked Blue Valentine or Leaving Las Vegas. I am excited to see Ponsold’t upcoming film The Spectacular Now, which will also feature Mary Elizabeth Winstead.