Peace, Love & Misunderstanding


Living the hippie life.

Living the hippie life.

(2011) Comedy (IFC) Jane Fonda, Catherine Keener, Ann Osmond, Rbert Bowen Jr., Marissa O’Donnell, Nat Wolff, Elizabeth Olsen, Joyce Van Patten, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kyle MacLachlan, Joseph Dunn, Chace Crawford, Rosanna Arquette, Katharine McPhee, Denise Burse, Teri Gibson, Poorna Jagannathan, Terry McKenna, Wayne Pyle, Alison Ball, Laurent Rejto. Directed by Bruce Beresford

When things are going wrong in our lives, it is a natural instinct to run back home to our parents. Sometimes, we just crave the comfort of being next to our figures of security but other times, it’s their wisdom that we truly need.

Diane (Keener) is a high-powered Manhattan lawyer who is used to being in control. When her husband (MacLachlan) announces that he wants to divorce her, it shakes her to her very core. Needing a refuge, she decides to go home to mom in Woodstock. The trouble is, Diane’s mom Grace (Fonda) is something of a free spirit who hasn’t really left the 60s and the two women, as different as night and day, haven’t really spoken in 20 years.

But Diane has more than her own pride to think about. Her young son Jake (Wolff) is terribly shy and lacks self-confidence. That might just be because her daughter Zoe (Olsen), a budding poet, is terribly judgmental about things and people. Her kids need a support system while Diane tries to put her shattered life back together.

All three find Grace to be more than a little irritating at first and Woodstock a bit too sedate for their liking. However, all three find romantic interests; Jake falls for Tara (O’Donnell), a waitress at the local coffee shop; Zoe, a vegan, against all odds develops a crush on Cole (Crawford), a butcher. Even Diane finds time to become romantically involved with Jude (Morgan), a budding musician.

As the family finds healing in the love of others, Grace and Diane begin to find common ground. Can the two women, at war with each other for over two decades, finally make peace? Maybe there’s hope for the Middle East yet if these two can mend their differences.

Australian director Bruce Beresford has some pretty nifty movies to his credit and while he hasn’t really made it to the top tier of Hollywood directors, he is nonetheless well-respected and has had a consistent career. This movie isn’t one that is going to be a resume highlight but it nonetheless has its own kind of charm.

Chief among its charms is Fonda, who rarely gets lead roles these days and usually plays crusty old broads, curmudgeonly old mothers-in-law or this one, the eccentric granny. We tend to forget what an amazing career Fonda has had, with Oscar-caliber performances in Klute, Coming Home and On Golden Pond.

Also of note is the village of Woodstock. Famous for the music festival (which actually took place on a farm 60 miles away), the town – if this movie is to be believed – has capitalized on the notoriety of the festival and has become kind of a high-end Berkeley (those of you who live or have lived in the San Francisco Bay Area will immediately know what I mean). Think of it as a college town permanently stuck in a by-gone era.

This isn’t an inconsequential film mind you, but it isn’t something you have to overthink. It’s a charming, pleasant diversion that might bring a smile to your face and is nicely performed and directed. It won’t necessarily change your life any although the lessons it teaches about living life at a pace that doesn’t burn you out is well-taken (the ones about being in love solving all your problems, not so much) and you’re never really hit over the head with them. It’s one of those movies that gives you the warm fuzzies and sometimes, like a hug from your mom, that’s all you need.

WHY RENT THIS: Strong female roles and performances. Woodstock is a charming location.
WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: A bit scattershot. Seems to indicate that the secret to happiness is romance.
FAMILY VALUES: There are a few sexual references and some comedic drug content.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Although two films she performed after shooting this one were released before it, this was actress Elizabeth Olsen’s first cinematic acting job.
NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.
BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $590,700 on an unknown production budget.
SITES TO SEE: Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, YouTube
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Georgia Rules
FINAL RATING: 6/10
NEXT: Insidious Chapter III

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New Releases for the Week of September 2, 2011


September 2, 2011

APOLLO 18

(TriStar) Cast not available. Directed by Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego

The Apollo program supposedly ended after Apollo 17 but in spectacular footage discovered in a long-forgotten NASA vault comes the incredible story of a secret mission to the moon – and the truth behind the reason we haven’t been back since. Another found footage horror flick, only this one has been bouncing around the schedule for over a year.

See the trailer and promos here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Sci-Fi/Horror

Rating: PG-13 (for some disturbing sequences and language)

The Debt

(Focus) Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington, Jessica Chastain, Tom Wilkinson. A team of Israeli Mossad operatives who captured a notorious Nazi forty years earlier come to grips with a terrible secret that only the three of them know. That secret now threatens to come out and destroy them and maybe much more than that.

See the trailer, clips, interviews and a featurette here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Thriller

Rating: R (for some violence and language)

The Future

(Roadside Attractions) Hamish Linklater, Miranda July, David Warshofsky, Isabella Acres. A 30-something couple decides to adopt a cat. A pretty mundane act on the surface of it but one which will literally alter the course of time. Who knew?

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Dramedy

Rating: R (for some sexual content)

Point Blank

(Magnolia) Gilles Lelouche, Roschdy Zem, Gerard Lanvin, Elena Anaya. A hospital worker sees his pregnant wife kidnapped in front of his eyes. He is informed that he must smuggle a crime boss who is under police surveillance out of the hospital he works at or his wife will be killed. He works against the clock, trying to avoid rival mobsters and trigger-happy cops to try to save his wife and unborn child.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Crime Thriller

Rating: R (for strong violence and some language)

Project Nim

(Roadside Attractions) Nim, Professor Herbert Terrace, Laura-Ann Petitto, Stephanie LaFarge. The true story of a scientific experiment that proposes that a chimpanzee can learn to communicate as a human does if raised as a human child. We are introduced to the hubris of the scientific community as we attempt to humanize an animal and along the way find the humanity in ourselves. This was the opening film at the Florida Film Festival this year and although we missed it, Da Queen and I talked to several folks who saw it who described it with words like “touching” and “unsettling.”

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Documentary

Rating: PG-13 (for some strong language, drug content, thematic elements and disturbing images)

Seven Days in Utopia

(Utopia) Robert Duvall, Lucas Black, Melissa Leo, Deborah Ann Woll. A golfer who suffers an epic meltdown during a tournament winds up stranded in a small but eccentric town in Texas. Here he will slow down a bit, find his game again and more importantly discover what’s truly important.

See the trailer, clips and a featurette here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Sports Drama

Rating: G

Shark Night 3D

(Relativity) Sara Paxton, Dustin Milligan, Katharine McPhee, Joel David Moore. A group of vacationing teens see their summer holiday turn to horror when they discover that the freshwater lake they’re staying at is full of massive man-eating sharks. They’re going to have some pretty choice words for the Travelocity gnome.

See the trailer and a clip here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D

Genre: Horror

Rating: PG-13 (for violence and terror, disturbing images, sexual references,  partial nudity, language and thematic material)

The House Bunny


The House Bunny

Anna Faris would make a bodacious Bunny!

(2008) Comedy (Columbia) Anna Faris, Colin Hanks, Emma Stone, Kat Dennings, Dana Goodman, Katharine McPhee, Rumer Willis, Christopher McDonald, Beverly D’Angelo, Hugh Hefner, Kiely Williams, Holly Madison, Tyson Ritter. Directed by Fred Wolf

Sometimes we see our lives unfolding in a certain direction and we just assume that the course will remain the same eternally. However, life loves to throw us curveballs and it’s how we respond to them that really determines who we are.

Shelley Darlingson (Faris) is a Playboy playmate who has lived in the Playboy mansion for years but on her 27th birthday, she is unceremoniously booted from the mansion by Hef himself. She didn’t do anything wrong – it’s just that she had to make room for someone younger. Ah yes; 27 and over the hill. Life can be cruel.

She finds herself at a Southern California college with nowhere to go. Through convoluted circumstances, she discovers the Zeta Alpha Zeta sorority, the campus sad sacks whose charter is about to be revoked because they have grown so unpopular, managing to attract only outsiders and losers according to collegiate way of thinking.

She becomes the house mother and teaches the girls how to be popular, something Shelley knows a lot about – and how to attract guys, which is something else Shelley knows a lot about. She does makeovers for rebellious Mona (Dennings), too-smart Natalie (Stone) and even pregnant Harmony (McPhee) and body brace encumbered Joanne (Willis). As the girls begin to strut about in skimpy outfits and lots of make-up, the guys begin to flock to Zeta house, making the other sororities jealous.

In the meantime, Shelley falls for Oliver (Hanks) and discovers her methods won’t work on him. She needs to get herself edu-ma-cated and in a hurry. In that sense, Shelley needs a makeover of her own and soon discovers that popular isn’t everything.

This is from the writers of Legally Blonde and unfortunately in a lot of ways they’re repeating themselves, from the sorority culture of So Cal to the attention to fashion and popularity. This is essentially their take on Revenge of the Nerds complete with the girls dressing up as jocks and performing a song and a jealous sorority releasing a pig in their house. I don’t mind homages but this one borders on rip-off a little too close for comfort.

Faris is a terrific comic actress who unfortunately has appeared in a lot of really terrible comedies. I’m waiting for her to appear in something worthy of her talents but to date that hasn’t happened yet. She is the best thing about the movie, even though her performance is somewhat uneven by her standards. She certainly looks good in skimpy outfits.

The other gals fare unevenly, from solid to not so much. Stone and Dennings have gone on to better roles since then; Stone in particular shows lots of promise as a lead actress and Dennings is not far behind her. Hanks also has shown some potential, although neither he nor Dennings have gotten the vehicle yet that showcase it.

A note to dumbass film critics: because women dress provocatively or seem to like sex, it doesn’t make them whores. It makes them provocatively dressed. Women probably wouldn’t dress that way if they could be taken on their own merits instead of just their physical ones. The conceit of having the girls of the sorority dress provocatively to become more popular isn’t condescending or exploitative – it’s a fact of life. Does Hollywood contribute to this? Absolutely! But then I don’t happen to think it’s a crime for a woman wanting to be noticed or thought attractive.

Anyway rant aside this is a film that isn’t going to wind up on anybody’s best lists except for those who want to see Faris’ naked derriere. It has moments, but not enough for you to go looking too hard for this, although it’s relatively easy to find.

WHY RENT THIS: Clever concept. Anna Faris has her moments.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Lacks execution – could have been a bit funnier. There are scenes lifted whole cloth out of other movies, particularly Revenge of the Nerds and Legally Blonde.

FAMILY VALUES: There is some sex-related humor as well as a bit of partial nudity, not to mention a bit of strong language here and there.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Some scenes were shot inside the actual Playboy mansion.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: There is a music video.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $70.4M on a $25M production budget; the movie was a hit.

FINAL RATING: 4/10

TOMORROW: Perrier’s Bounty