Then Came You


Caught in the web of their own making – and a callous fate.

(2018) Dramedy (Shout! Factory) Asa Butterfield, Maisie Williams, Nina Dobrev, Ken Jeong, David Koechner, Tyler Hoechlin, Peyton List, Tituss Burgess, Sonya Walger, Margot Bingham, Colin Moss, Briana Venskus, Ron Simons, Angel Valle Jr., L. Steven Taylor, Francesca Noel, Ann Osmond, Ken Tsukada, Crystal Tweed, Terri Gittens, Ashlyn Alessi. Directed by Peter Hutchings

 

All good things must come to an end, including (and especially) life itself. However, knowing that you’re dying doesn’t mean that you have to stop living.

Calvin (Butterfield) is a college drop-out who is working as a baggage handler at a regional airport along with his Dad (Koechner) and big brother Frank (Hoechlin) whose wife (Walger) is about to have a baby. Although he vehemently denies it, Calvin is a bit of a hypochondriac, taking his own vitals hourly (his watch alarm reminding him to do so) and obsessively writing down his symptoms in a journal. Most of those by the way are pretty much in between his ears.

His frustrated doctor, wanting this healthy young man to get some perspective, sends him to a cancer support group where he meets Skye (Williams), a manic pixie dream girl from a long line of them, who reacts to being told her tumor is not responding to treatment by shrugging at her shattered parents “You win some, you lose some.” She’s the kind of girl who gives a goldfish as a gift to a friend, swimming happily in an IV bag.

She recognizes the depressed and introverted Calvin as a project she can take on and manages to convince him (overwhelming what few defenses he has) to help her achieve all the entries on her “To Die List,” which is essentially a bucket list with a cooler name. In doing so, she begins to coax Calvin out of his thick shell as he begins to learn how to really live, something he gave up on years earlier after a tragedy left his family shattered and his mom essentially catatonic. He even manages to work up the courage to ask out the girl he’s been crushing hard on, a lonely stewardess named Izzy (Dobrev) who, as Skye helpfully points out, is way out of his league. So is Skye for that matter but don’t tell her I told you that.

Izzy gets the mistaken impression that Calvin is the one with terminal cancer and neither Skye nor Calvin are disposed to setting her straight which from the moment she confides to Calvin that she broke up with her last boyfriend because he was untruthful to her tells you all you need to know about where this relationship is going. As for Skye, she’s going somewhere herself but will she able to get all the things on her list done before she sets sail for the shores of the undiscovered country?

Dying teens have been a staple of music and movies since people figured out that teens could die and it was a tragic thing when they did. There have been plenty of dying teen movies – Me and Earl and the Dying Girl for example – and while they usually don’t make for extraordinary box office, they are generally inexpensive to make and can pull a tidy profit when done right. They almost have to since they are not generally fodder for sequels if you catch my drift.

Butterfield is a handsome devil with big soulful eyes in a puppy dog sense. He has been around the block a few times but has never really demonstrated the screen presence to be a big star. Still, his performance here feels a bit more authentic than that of Williams, the Game of Thrones star whose bonhomie seems a bit forced in places. Still, she manages to be more unforgettable than her bland co-star and ends up carrying the movie for the most part even though this is ostensibly Calvin’s story.

Dobrev who has done the manic pixie dream girl role herself a time or two is the most authentic of the three leads even though she isn’t given a ton to work with. It’s hard to figure out what she sees in Calvin other than sympathy for his mistakenly perceived plight although by the movie’s end we see that there might be more to it than meets the eye initially. Koechner and Jeong, two comedy pros, have some surprising moments of pathos during the course of the film and show off their versatility in doing so.

The soundtrack is decent enough and the filmmakers show off their taste in music during several montages which are almost de rigueur for a film like this. The issue is the filmmakers are almost trying too hard to set the mood both light and dark and resort to familiar clichés in order to get their points across. This is going to seem depressingly familiar to those who have seen a few of these kinds of movies up to now.

Still, their heart is in the right place and to the credit of the filmmakers the movie gets better as it goes along. In the first twenty minutes, I was thoroughly prepared to despise this movie but it is rescued particularly in the last third by strong performances by Dobrev, Koechner and Jeong (and to a lesser degree, Butterfield) and a memorable take on things by Williams whose Skye may be an amalgam of other MPDGs but Williams has the presence to pull it off pretty well. This isn’t going to replace your favorite tearjerker but it does make a decent substitute to listening to a Morrissey record or whatever angst-ridden pop star has the attention of young people this week.

REASONS TO GO: The quality picks up towards the end.
REASONS TO STAY: The filmmakers try a bit too hard.
FAMILY VALUES: There is profanity, some sexual content and plenty of adult thematic content.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Much of the movie was filmed in upstate New York in the Capital District; the airport scenes were mainly filmed at Albany International Airport.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, Fandango Now, Google Play, iTunes, Microsoft, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 2/4/19: Rotten Tomatoes: 55% positive reviews. Metacritic: 43/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Fault in Our Stars
FINAL RATING: 5/10
NEXT:
Cold War

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Pick of the Litter – February 2019


BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH

Alita: Battle Angel

(20th Century Fox) Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali. In the future the world will be divided into those above and those below – the haves and the have-nots. A man from down below finds a robot on the scrapheap and restores her meticulously, giving her the name of Alita. He soon realizes that Alita is something special – the last known remaining Battle Angel, the most advanced weapon ever devised. There are those who would stop at nothing to get control of her – and others who would stop at nothing to see her destroyed – but Alita will not be taken easily.  February 14

INDEPENDENT PICKS

Daughter of Mine

(Strand) Valeria Golino, Alba Rohrwacher, Sara Casu, Udo Kier. Two women fight over the custody of a little girl; the woman who has raised her in a loving environment and her birth mother who has changed her mind and wants her back in her life. This is a powerful drama with no easy answers.  February 1

The Golem

(Epic) Hani Furstenberg, Ishai Golan, Brynie Furstenberg, Adi Kvetner. In Jewish mythology, a Golem is a creature created from clay that exists to exact revenge for its creator, but often turns on its maker. This new film is about a woman in the 19th century, a mystical whose village finds itself in the midst of a plague that is devastating the land,l She creates a Golem to help repel foreign invaders but as the old adage goes, the cure is worse than the disease. February 1

Sharkwater Extinction

(Freestyle) Rob Stewart, Will Allen, Brock Cahill, Regi Domingo. It is no secret that sharks are among the most feared creatures on earth but these largely misunderstood animals are being hunted to extinction. A courageous filmmaker tackles the illegal fishing industry, the powerful political and criminal forces behind it and what we must do to save the sharks before it is too late. February 1

Song of Parkland

(HBO) Melody Herzfeld. A year ago, a typical school day at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida was interrupted by the sound of gunfire. The drama department, deep in rehearsal for the annual kid’s show the school puts on was evacuated from the building amid chaos. When classes resumed again, the drama instructor Melody Herzfeld knew they had to finish what they started. This documentary shows how the show helped unite and heal a grieving student body and watches as they go from victims to activists making a real impact on the national debate for gun control. February 7

Everybody Knows

(Focus) Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Ricardo Darin, Eduard Fernández. Her sister’s wedding is ore than enough reason for Laura to travel from Buenos Aires to Madrid and from thence to the small town she grew up in. However the happy occasion turns nightmarish when unexpected events bring long-buried family secrets out into the open. February 8

Birds of Passage

(The Orchard) Carmiña Martinez, José Acosta, Natalia Reyes, Jhon Narváez. An indigenous family in Central America becomes involved with the marijuana trade in the 70s. At first, their involvement brings money and prestige for them. However, with money comes violence which threatens to destroy the family as well as their culture. This is the latest film from the team that brought you Embrace of the Serpent. February 15

A Tuba to Cuba

(Nom de Guerre) Danny Clinch, T.G. Herrington, Han Soto, Nicelle Herrington. The legendary Preservation Hall Jazz Band of New Orleans is in many ways the face of American jazz. In order to better understand who they are, they embark on a journey to discover their own roots. That journey takes them to Cuba where they find that their sound is a bridge between two disparate peoples. February 15

Total Dhamaal

(Fox STAR) Ajay Devgn, Riteish Deshmukh, Arshad Warsi, Anil Kapoor. A group of motorists on a remote road in India come across a dying man who tells them of a buried treasure. It becomes a madcap race through adventure and peril to be the first to claim the fortune in this remake of the classic It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. February 22