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Category Archives: IndieWire
“Frankie Go Boom” opens with a home video from a long-ago washed-out suburban childhood, as Bruce tricks his brother Frankie into a pitfall prank that’s both caught on tape and a trap for the two of them; flashing forward to adulthood — or something like it — Frankie (Charlie Hunnam) has exiled himself from everything, holing up in Death Valley to write. And Bruce (Chris O’Dowd, with a solidly American accent) is just getting out of rehab, convinced that the ‘films’ he makes — really, just footage — of disasters like the one that befell Frankie’s wedding three years ago, mean he’s a director, what with their huge online ‘hit’ numbers …
Capturing an L.A. of thwarted and foolish ambition, as well as a family dynamic between two brothers who may be more alike than they would like, writer-director Jordan Roberts‘ “Frankie Go Boom” is at heart another rumination on the Tolstoyan observation that all unhappy families are unique. At the same time, it takes a few well-earned digs at Hollywood and Internet culture, and a value system that can’t distinguish fame from notoriety. Frankie is easily frustrated; Bruce is, easily, frustrating, bragging about how he’s going to parlay his rehab connection into a filmmaking gig and constantly shooting video, even at the E.R. “This is a public place,” Bruce notes when Frankie admonishes him for surreptitiously videotaping an old man with a head wound; “If they didn’t want to be photographed, they shouldn’t have come here …”
Starring two time winner and multiple-Oscar nominee Meryl Streep as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, “The Iron Lady” will be watched across broad ideological divides; Thatcher was (and is) an icon to the Right, while she was (and is) demonized and disparaged by the Left. The film’s also being watched along polarized axes in Hollywood, as well, where awards-season gurus hover to see if Thatcher will get Streep her 17th Oscar nomination or even her 3rd win, and more innocent consumers merely wonder if Streep and the script will provide a quality night out at the movies. And yet these polarized groups will surely all come together to recognize that “The Iron Lady” is the comedy of the year. It’s not meant to be.
Every moment in “The Iron Lady” is tone-deaf — Streep is trapped in a death-mask of make-up and arch imitation; the film is shackled into the twin manacles of a hasty, hackneyed structure coupled with a laughable framing device. Late in life, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher wanders through the memory palace of her every achievement, the kind of montage-and-intercut storytelling mocked so effectively in “Walk Hard.” But Lady Thatcher’s memory is fading her, and she’s seeing her late husband Dennis (Jim Broadbent) deride and support her out of the corner of her eye.
“We Need to Talk About Kevin” is one of the most beautifully bleak psychological fake-outs the cinema’s given us in years, as Lynne Ramsay (“Ratcatcher,” “Morvern Callar“) directs an adaptation of Lionel Shriver‘s 2003 novel. At first blush, Ramsay’s film would appear to be a look into the genesis and reasons behind the title teen’s killing spree; the film we get is something different entirely, an exploration of loss and pain and grief through the eyes of the mother (Tilda Swinton) left shattered and battered in the wake of her son’s irrational, irredeemable actions.
Ramsay’s been out of the loop for a while — she was famously slated to helm Alice Sebold‘s “The Lovely Bones before Peter Jackson took the job only to wholeheartedly botch it; her last film was 2002′s “Morvern Callar.” What “We Need to Talk About Kevin” makes abundantly clear is that her absence is far more our loss than hers. The novel was a series of letters, written by Eva (Swinton) to her husband in the aftermath of Kevin’s actions; the film flickers and skips between moments like memory, or a bad dream, and the net effect is both as plainspoken as a death sentence and as impressionistic as color on a stark background.
Watching “The Muppets,” the Jason Segel-spearheaded effort to re-launch Jim Henson’s furry friends and familiar faces into the new millennium after years of corporate tussling and fallow creative hibernation, I wasn’t pulled in by having emblems of my youth shoved down my throat with the sickly-sweet toxic oil of retrograde fond remembrance and fuzzy post-modern self-awareness. Instead, I was engaged by the characters, the plot, the message and the medium of the Muppets themselves — decidedly low-tech puppets in an age when computer-generated imagery makes the imagination both limitless and, too often, lifeless on-screen.
<iframe src=”http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?lt1=_blank&bc1=000000&IS2=1&bg1=FFFFFF&fc1=000000&lc1=0000FF&t=wwwrocchirepo-20&o=1&p=8&l=as4&m=amazon&f=ifr&ref=ss_til&asins=B006JTS5OO” style=”width:120px;height:240px;” scrolling=”no” marginwidth=”0″ marginheight=”0″ frameborder=”0″></iframe> I was hoping for a pretty good loving treatment of characters I loved; instead, I was reminded, through high-quality storytelling and real heart, of why I loved those characters to begin with, by an unexpectedly brilliant and touching mix of fun, feelings and felt. This isn’t nostalgia, and it isn’t irony — “The Muppets” may be one of the best films of the year, not judged as a children’s film, or a family film, but instead, simply as a film. If cinema is about taking the art and medium of motion pictures and, through technique and talent, evoking real feeling and wonder, then “The Muppets” is, unequivocally, a pure piece of cinema, one that not only rewards fans through its hard work (more than just its familiarity) but one that also strives to, and succeeds in, making new friends.
At first, though, we don’t see the Muppets — or, rather, the Muppets we know — except on TV, as Walter (a new Muppet, voiced by veteran Peter Linz) explains his youth and happiness with his brother Gary (Jason Segel, who co-wrote with Nicholas Stoller). A big part of that happiness was watching the Muppets, and as Walter explains, “As long as there were talking frogs and singing bears, Swedish chefs and boomerang fish, the world couldn’t be that bad a place.”
It is, perhaps, too unkind to call “The Big Year” the perfect film to screen on a trans-oceanic plane flight whose compliment of passengers is made up solely of AARP Members. But we can think of no words of praise less slight and no words of condemnation more heated, so there it is. Inspired roughly by Mark Obmascik’s non-fiction book of the same name, three fictional characters are our guides through the biggest event in American birdwatching, the annual competition to see the most North American birds in a year.
A nice interest — and one compounded by the fact that you don’t even need to have photographic proof — or, if you can cite the sound call precisely, even see the bird. Owen Wilson is a go-getter contractor who holds the record; Steve Martin is a man who has to put aside his CEO status and marriage to pursue his dream; Jack Black is a divorced engineer who has to overcome lack of funds and the disapproval of his gruff dad. Director David Frankel — who gave us the fizzy “The Devil Wears Prada” and the fuzzy “Marley and Me” — doesn’t try to push this big, fat, slowball of middlebrow entertainment out to the edges, where it might make it over the fence either as satire or as low-and-slow drama, but instead puts it right back over the middle of the mound to limp to death in a catcher’s mitt.
Frankel has an embarrassment of riches here — supporting-part bench strength from Jo Beth Williams, Dianne Wiest, Rosamund Pike, Rashida Jones and Angelica Huston — and that’s just the ladies. Also on board are Brian Dennehy, Jim Parsons, Barry Shabaka Henley, Joel McHale, Kevin Pollak, Anthony Anderson and Tim Blake Nelson. He most assuredly has a cast — and a beautiful canvas in the wide open spaces of America, but chooses to shoot it tight and flat and squashed as a postcard, even if shot in 2.35:1. “The Big Year” will, we’re sure, become a big film for families trapped indoors on holidays who don’t hate each other enough to drink but who don’t like each other enough to talk.
After winning an Oscar for his screenplay for “Precious,” Geoffrey Fletcher probably had options. The fact that directing “Violet & Daisy”—a candy-colored crime story about two teen girl killers and their latest target—was his ultimate choice is worthy of note in and of itself. Fletcher could have stayed in the vocabulary and landscape of “Precious”—or, less charitably, thrown a rock and hit another indie film tale of life in the big city—but instead stepped up, and out, to do something completely different as his directorial debut.
Violet (Alexis Bledel) and Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) live in a big city in a shared apartment. They’re besties. They’re different—Violet, who’s been working for longer than her partner and roomie, has a more cynical edge where bon mots pop out of her mouth like snapping gum, while wide-eyed Daisy, who just turned 18, peppers her conversation with words like “dang” and “swell.” They work as killers, skipping down the street to their jobs and then shifting into a reptilian silence of sign-language communication and unity of purpose until the job is done, then back home for take-out and pillow fights. They get a new target—and their favorite pop star Barbie Sunday has a new dress line, so they need the money—and find that the man they’re sent for, who greets them with a tray of fresh cookies and the sleepy smile of a bear awoken from a pleasant dream, is more than ready to die.
From the outset, Fletcher is trying three sub-genres here—the armed fable, the teen-girls-who-kill action film and the existential noir pitch of the assassin’s target welcoming the appointment in Samarra with death. And these essential ideas have challenged more experienced filmmakers, and some films made with them have also been very good. From “Sucker Punch” to “Hanna,” “Battle Royale” to “Dick Tracy”—there’s a lot at play in here, in tone and construction, and you lean into the world of the film. (An early music cue, for example, is just the eerie, haunting wintry sound of the introductory bars for “Figure 8” from “Schoolhouse Rock!”)
The production design, for example, is by Patrizia von Brandenstein, whose credits run from “The Candidate” to “Deception.” And we get a city that feels like Jim Jarmusch were directing Damon Runyon stories with a re-write by Patricia Highsmith. The girls are part of a conspiratorial organization of killers, with contacts and promotion and dangerous management who clearly used to be labor; Gandolfini’s unnamed character has wronged the wrong men. There’s always a danger in the poetic action film—the delicate foam of whimsy is wiped away by the flow of crimson blood—and if Fletcher doesn’t quite pull that off, that may say far more about my tastes than his execution.
In his TIFF introduction of the films’ world premiere, Fletcher noted that he’d become aware of Bledel from “Sin City”—and you can make the connection with the bright strokes and bold hues of the film’s feel. Bledel’s Violet essentially looks and acts like a doodle of herself raised on B-movie tough talk, while Ronan also makes an impression depicting Daisy’s pastel serenity in a world made of Crayola colors, occasionally bent into herself like a question mark. And Gandolfini turns acceptance and sorrow into a slow series of small farewells, with no small amount of good humor.
It’s easier to imagine a faster, wackier version of “Violet & Daisy,” but not so easy to imagine what could turn the film towards drama. The big reveal about Daisy’s work habits will be found at the top of the wreckage of our suspension of disbelief. And if you have an Oscar, why not plow it into a film you’re excited about, with much of it unfolding in one small apartment? Fletcher’s own enjoyment of and excitement with the world he’s created is palpable, and we could not help but feel some connection to it from time to time.
“Violet & Daisy” is, in many ways, about girls and death and pop culture and friendship, and you may find the distracted profusion of dramatic elements doesn’t match the articulate expression of Vanja Cernjul‘s camerawork, Joe Klotz‘s editing and von Brandenstein’s set design. In “Precious,” Fletcher tried to make the audience enter into a world; with “Violet & Daisy,” he tries, not without some success, to pull the audience into a dream.
A political satire set in the competitive world of butter-carving at the Iowa state fair, the script for “Butter” was so ballyhooed and praised of that it wound up on The Black List, the annual underground buzz list of unproduced screenplays based on a straw poll of agents, development executives and insiders. (As a side note, we must say that The Black List is only interesting as a barometer of quality insofar as you trust agents, development executives and insiders to be able to tell good from bad, which much of Hollywood’s output suggests is not actually the case.)
Jennifer Garner is an ambitious, cold, harridan married to Ty Burrell‘s 15-time butter-carving champion—an event worthy of note anywhere, but especially in Iowa. As Garner notes in voice-over: “More people see the Iowa State Fair butter carving winner than do the Super Bowl—but you wouldn’t know that from the Liberal media, not with its bias.”
For those of you who like your political allegories obvious, Garner’s character is presented as a power-hungry Conservative, with the long flowing hair and the short rigid ideas of someone like Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachman. She intends to enter the butter-carving competition in Burrell’s stead, seizing glory and founding a family dynasty of butter-carving victory. There are two impediments to this plan, though. One is Burrell’s wandering eye, which brings him afoul of exotic dancer Olivia Wilde—who promptly sets out to extort, humiliate and shatter Garner and Burrell’s marriage, even seducing their daughter, Ashley Greene.
The second, more innocent complication comes in the form of Destiny (Yara Shahedi). Destiny is being bounced between foster families—the implication suggesting that being African-American in the lily-white wilds of Iowa is bad enough—but she’s finally found a place that makes her happy with Rob Corddry and Alicia Silverstone. And she’s a natural at butter carving. So natural that Garner can’t have it.
With both Garner and Shahedi providing voice-over, the small-town stakes and the big thematic ideas, “Butter” feels like someone trying to create the lemonade tang and quenching zest of, say, Alexander Payne‘s “Election.” It’s too bad director Jim Field-Smith and writerJason A. Micallef essentially add four excess cups of sugar to the pitcher of their movie, drowning any tartness and bite in syrupy sentiment. Garner’s character is so irredeemable (until the film’s de rigueur third-act moment of redemption) and Shahedi’s character so immediately likable that of course we side with Shahedi, despite her penchant for saying things no 11-year-old would say, like “Can you believe these crackers?” and “White people are weirdos” and using “Ninjas” in the place of that other, more attention-getting N-word.
It’s a shame, because Garner is so fully committed, Corddry so warm and Shahedi so winning that you wish they were in a better movie; the production design, props and costuming are tops, too. It’s not just that the film’s butter-carving team recreates one of the 20th century’s saddest moments in butter; it’s that it’s matched in the competition’s finale by another butter carving that, against all logic and sense, is somehow emotionally moving. And Wilde and Burrell make what they can of under-written parts.
We don’t know the exact etymology of the word “satire”—something to do with satyrs, we’d guess?—but we do know that the word is not Latin for “something with a happy ending that includes a hug.” “Butter” tries so hard to bring its characters together—and give each of them what they want—that it has to give up jabbing with its fists to hug with open arms. We, for one, wanted the film to stay cold and hard—the application of artificial warmth makes it a bit gooey and shapeless, its potential edge turned into a blunt lump.
Director Smith previously made the Jay Baruchel rom-com “She’s Out of My League,” another imperfect film with a good idea and plenty of charm behind it; at some point, through, you hope Smith stops making movies that are better than you might have feared and start making movies that are better than you might have hoped. “Butter” may have had plenty of buzz when it was a hypothetical possible smash, but what wound up on screen suggests that buzzing will wind up turning in to the scattered sound of a few laughs and some half-uttered, half-hearted praise as the audience leaves the theater.
TIFF ‘11 Review: Jeff Who Lives At Home Takes The Duplass Bros Mainstream For Their Best Film Yet (B+)
As surreal as it is to see a micro-budget Duplass Brothers film start with the stars and mountainous terrain of the Paramount logo, in many ways that contradiction and clash sets the tone for their new comedy “Jeff Who Lives at Home.” Strange things are afoot in the cosmos as Jeff (played with affable confusion and large-framed, good-hearted charm by Jason Segel) is trying to keep his eyes open for what the universe might be telling him, in terms of his destiny and purpose. Also, his mom Sharon (Susan Sarandon) would like it if he could get his ass off the couch in her basement and go to Home Depot to get wood glue to fix a broken pantry door slat …
It’s that mix of the big and small, the micro-to-macro zoom of the plot and themes, that makes “Jeff Who Lives at Home” as appealing as it is. Co-writers and co-directors Jay and Mark Duplass specialize in social discomfort (see “Cyrus”) and long takes of awkward social anxiety, and while that still applies here—when Jeff’s brother Pat (Ed Helms) tries to rationalize the purchase of a Porsche to his long-suffering wife Linda (Judy Greer), the laughs and cringes come in equal measure—there’s also something intangibly kind about the film.
The interconnectedness of all things and the nature of destiny are tough pitches for comedy—philosophy and pratfalls often don’t mix especially well—but as Jeff deals with his odyssey for wood glue and Sharon is confronted by a secret admirer and Pat discovers Linda has things she wants too, the movie becomes a philosophical comedy. It’s all in the vein of (if not quite at the level of) “Groundhog Day,” combining the Jungian idea of there being no coincidences and the Zen idea of being present to see the universe unfolding through those non-coincidences. The film takes place in a world that runs as if cause and effect took a couple of bong hits, and then got confused about which of them was supposed to do something and in what order.
Segel’s large, befuddled demeanor serves him well here—Helms at one point refers to him as ‘a sasquatch,’ and we laugh not only because it is unkind but also because it’s what we’ve all been thinking. For all of the film’s bigger broader bits—from Segel being drafted by a pickup basketball game, to an automotive disaster, to Helms doing the least subtle tail job ever captured on film—there are nice small moments here too, like Sarandon trying to dissuade a secret admirer over IM (“I’m old and I’m getting flabby …”) or the play of confusion and realization across Segel’s face repeatedly throughout. The cinematography, by Jas Shelton, relies on sudden shifts and zooms to re-set perspective, and you soon settle into the same rhythm as the film, where quick realizations mean fast changes of thought.
The climax of ‘Jeff’ will be argued over by the film’s fans—is it a too-big moment that punctures the amiability and shaggy-dog realism of the story thus far, or is it the ultimate point of what’s gone before? This writer is in the latter camp, but either way it’s worth noting that the climax—spoken of in broad, none-too-specific terms—is a quantum leap forward for the brothers Duplass in terms of technical resources and scale of filmmaking—no, they won’t be making a sequel to “The Fast and the Furious” anytime soon, but compared to the small-room scale of their earlier works “The Puffy Chair” and “Cyrus,” “Jeff Who Lives at Home” feels like “Avatar.”
In the denoument, the film doesn’t suddenly break your heart, but, rather, it suddenly heals it—with a moment of such delicacy and sincerity that you feel lucky to witness it. Human and heartfelt filmmaking is rare at any level of the industry, and even rarer in comedy—but the Duplass brothers manage to get laughs without resorting to cheap tricks or broad flailing. So many indie directors brush against big-studio Hollywood and get shattered by it—Justin Linwith “Annapolis,” Kevin Smith with “Mallrats.” But “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” brings big-studio moviemaking and big-name stars to the Duplass brothers, embracing their sensibilities and style without smothering them, and we in the audience benefit.
Later, there will be a brief discussion of how literature is not film and how some actions and themes do not survive translation from the page to the big screen because our mind can better deal with envisioning them than it can with actually seeing them Before that, though I feel I have to pause and note that “Hick,” adapting Andrea Portes’ novel for the screen under the direction of Derick Martini (”Smiling Fish and Goat on Fire,” “Lymelife”), is one of the most unclean and clammy films I’ve ever had to endure at a film festival. Not because it was incompetent and not because it deals with violent and sexual material but, rather, because it is both incompetent in general and even more incompetent specifically when it is concerned with violent and sexual material. We’re supposed to be watching the cross-country adventures of 13-year-old Luli (Chloe Moretz, who clearly needs to fire both her management and her parents) as she sets out for Las Vegas and leaves her drunkard parents behind in Nebraska. What we get is a chronicle of physical abuse, drug abuse, murder and sexual assault all involving a minor, which then tries to lighten the mood with cutaways to Luli’s sketches and a jaunty score with pedal steel guitar accents.
Chloe Moretz is as charismatic and talented as ever, but, much like “Kick-Ass,” she is trapped in an idiotically foul and shoddy script. Posing and preening in a tank-top and panties, Luli poses and plays with a gun she was given for her birthday—quoting “Dirty Harry” and “Sunset Boulevard,” winking into the mirror. And indeed, that winking is what undermines “Hick,” as the whole film does it. Yes, Luli gets a pistol in the film’s first five minutes as a 13th birthday present but—wink—she looks so charming brandishing it. Yes, people die, but—wink—Luli gets to be happy. Yes, Luli is raped but—wink—all we see is rustling leaves in a cornfield, while voice-over suggests that Luli is doing what she must to survive the experience. It’s this cowardice on the part of “Hick”—its insistence on turning ugly matters into a Hallmark card—that ultimately undoes it. I’m sure that, on the page, Portes’ novel reads with poetry and grace and emotion; on-screen, we do not get poetry and grace and emotion. We get a 13-year-old being raped.
The supporting cast is either present for a scene or two—Juliette Lewis as luli’s drunkard mom, Alec Baldwin as the one decent human Luli gets to meet—or entirely too present, as Eddie Redmayne‘s sneering sociopath (presumably a big, big fan of Martin Sheen in “Badlands”) drags Luli across the west alternating sociopath’s charm and brutal violence. Blake Lively plays a party girl who offers Luli hard-headed advice, fashion tips and cocaine; familiar-face character Ray MacKinnon tries to bring a preening patriarch to life, but is hemmed in by the script.
Portis and Martini adapted her novel, and perhaps a less sealed community of creation—other writers working for director Martini or Martini and Portis writing for another director—would have avoided some of the film’s more grotesque missteps. As it is, Martini’s affection for his own work is a demonstration of the fact that, all too often in filmmaking, the question is not “Who wrote this garbage?” but, rather, “Who read this garbage?” Making a film is a Herculean effort, requiring massed sacrifice and collective exertion. I cannot conceive of why any literate person of average intelligence would put that effort into “Hick”‘s script.
With its voice-over and faux-Americana soundtrack of pedal steel and twanging banjo, with its phony accents and fake moments, with its ugly insistence on showing the worst of human behavior and intercutting it with road-movie montages and ‘comedic’ relief of Lively trying to move in her tight dress and heels, “Hick” stands alongside other film-festival laughingstocks and flops like “Houndog” and Joel Schumacher‘s “Twelve” as a classic example of how not to handle transgressive material involving teens and pre-teens—and as an object lesson for a young filmmaker in what mis-steps and clumsy errors to avoid. “Hick” was intended to be a calling card for all parties involved to point at as evidence of their talent and bravery; instead, it’s a black blot of shame for everyone who had a part in its making.
In Sarah Polley’s Toronto-set drama “Take this Waltz,” Margo (Michelle Williams) stumbles across Daniel (Luke Kirby) on a business trip, only to find he lives across the street; despite being married to Lou (Seth Rogen), Margo can’t stop thinking of Daniel. Or maybe it’s because she’s married to Lou that she can’t stop thinking of Daniel … Following up “Away from Her,” Polley’s second film is sharply dividing critics and audience in Toronto: Many find it simultaneously exhilarating and depressing; others find it ugly and hateful; a third faction seems to be kicking against the film not for how it says what it says, but, instead, for what it says in the first place.
Like a modernist version of a late ‘60s or early ‘70s relationship film—“An Unmarried Woman,” or “Carnal Knowledge” or “Faces,” for example, “Take this Waltz” first takes nothing for granted, and then takes everything on. Is monogamy viable? Why do we give up the old for the new? Or why do we not when we should? Can we ever be completely happy? Is sex love?
If Polley’s second directorial effort were just talking, it would still be superb; a scene where Kirby explains, at her prompting, exactly what he’d do to (and with, and for) Williams while they sit over martinis in a public restaurant is the most achingly sexual and intimate scene at the movies in 2011, with not a single touch. (The way Williams says the word “No” alone late in that scene—first as a question, then as an answer—is achingly raw.) But Polley has also become, early in her career, a visualist and sensualist of the highest order.
There are one or two mis-steps here, to be sure—a scene with a queeny, mincing aquarobics instructor and its denouement seem like they’re on loan from an Adam Sandler film; Sarah Silverman, as Rogen’s recovering alcoholic sister, is more a screen presence than an actor. And within the first 10 minutes, Williams has a speech about travel anxiety (“I’m … afraid of connections. In airports.”) that might as well have a light bulb-emblazoned sign reading “METAPHOR!” zoomed in on guywires. Those complaints, though, are only because the rest of this film is so good, and so strong, that they seem like cracks in a otherwise flawless creation. I cannot praise Williams and Rogen and the previously-unknown Kirby enough; I cannot convey to you the depths of Polley’s understanding (Polley knows that love is a conspiracy, and that there is no betrayal more traitorous than conspiring against your co-conspirator); I cannot convey the sense of heat and beauty in how Polley films Toronto’s streets and nights.
And yet, “Take this Waltz” is also, for lack of a better words, infuriating and troubling—not because of what it gets ‘wrong,’ but because the things it gets right are buried under your skin like a splinter you can’t dislodge, tearing at the nerves and flesh. Critic Carina Chocano recently wrote a New York Times Magazine piece on how what the cinema needs, perhaps, are fewer “strong” female characters and more real female characters; this film serves as a demonstration of that idea. William’s Margo is deeply flawed, perhaps irredeemably broken, capable of monstrous selfishness in the search for happiness—and human, and as worthy of happiness as anyone. As we are. And Polley isn’t afraid of sex, nor is she banal enough to think it cures all ills, or that it can’t be used as a weapon. (Polley gets the sad fact only people who’ve been in ugly and protracted breakups know: Nothing could ever be more intimate than denying someone intimacy.)
Before you think this all sounds dour and sour, though, also know that there are moments of laughter and joy here. Rogen subsumes his good humor into a performance—Lou, a cookbook writer, knows full well what his chicken-centered work-in-progress is doing to his life and diet—and there’s also a note of play here (even as it feeds into Polley’s theme of permanent adolescence and immaturity extending into our adult relationships); when Williams and Kirby taunt each other as ‘gaylords’ it’s horrible, real, immature and funny. And the films’ use of music—from a raucous party-scene Feist cover of Leonard Cohen‘s “Closing Time,” to a montage set to the Cohen song the film takes its title from depicting a relationship in fast-forward, hot sex and warm affection cooling to calm domesticity and freezing into half-aware snuggling while TV-watching—is excellent, with the exception of a pop-song from the past, used in two scenes, too good and brilliant and thematically appropriate and trashily perfect to name. Suffice it to say that Polley can find the pathos behind an ‘80s one-hit wonder and turn that song’s dimwit chorus into an elegy on how time’s arrow moves only in one direction.
Polley has an eye for detail and an ear for truth; at a press event for the film, she noted how she wanted to make her film go past where a conventional movie like this would end, showing what comes after, and that follow-through is what turns the film from a strong jab into a knockout punch. It may seem ridiculous to suggest that Polley, after only “Away from Her” and “Take this Waltz,” is one of Canada’s and film’s most exciting and important new directors; I’d suggest that contention only seems ridiculous if you haven’t yet seen “Take this Waltz.”