Sister of the Groom


A woman’s side-eye is her most devastating weapon.

(2020) Comedy (Saban) Alicia Silverstone, Tom Everett Scott, Mathilde Olivier, Jake Hoffman, Charlie Bewley, Ronald Guttman, Mark Blum, Julie Engelbrecht, Abigail Marlowe, Noah Silver, Michael Bernardi, Jamie Choi, Adrienne Ellis, Nicole Tio, Tony Costa, Adam Griffith, Deeva Green, Kenneth Maharaj, Claudja Bicalho, Guyvlaud Joseph, Deborah Joy Occhipinti. Directed by Amy Miller Gross

 

Weddings are often joyous occasions, times when families are brought together to celebrate the joining of two lives, two families. They are also occasions for the most boorish and reprehensible behavior imaginable.

Audrey (Silverstone) has reached a crossroads in her life. She is trying to restart her career as an architect, a career she gave up to raise a family. She is turning 40 – this very weekend in fact – and has severe issues with her body, particularly her post-maternal belly which has never returned to the flat, svelte showpiece it once was. Her husband Ethan (Scott) is driving her to the hastily rescheduled wedding of her adored younger brother Liam (Hoffman), taking place at their old family home in the Hamptons, which Liam purchased some years back as his career in finance took off.

Now he is marrying a French wanna-be pop star, Clemence (Olivier) and Audrey immediately gets her hackles up. Clemence is a bit of a diva and tone-deaf at that; she seems to wear the pants in the family, and that is off-putting to Audrey to begin with, but when she discovers that the bride-to-be is pushing Audrey’s brother – who was her best friend growing up – to not merely refurbish the home she loved and had so many memories connected with her late mother but is completely turning it into an abomination and to add insult to injury, they are using Audrey’s ex Isaac (Bewley) as an architect and that to further make things awkward, have invited him to the wedding. Well, let’s just say it’s not the grounds for a strong relationship between sisters-in-law.

Gross references a lot of different touchstones, not the least of which are My Big Fat Greek Wedding and This is 40 in a bid to make a comedy that hits a lot of different demographics. Refreshingly, the wedding is a Jewish one so we miss all the tropes about Christian ceremonies that normally appear in movies like this. Strangely, in avoiding those cultural truisms, director Amy Miller Gross pulls out nearly all the stereotypes about the French – turning the family of the bride into whining, rude Bohemians who are certain they are superior to everybody else.

And perhaps that could have been played for laughs, but instead, Gross (who wrote the script) makes the odd choice of turning Audrey from a sympathetic character into a snarky to the point of flat-out cruelty bitch who takes what sympathy Gross spent the entire first half of the film accumulating for her and tossing it aside until one wonders why on earth anyone would tolerate her for even a moment, let alone the fifteen-plus years of marriage she has enjoyed with Ethan. And to make matters worse, she gets a mad case of mid-life crisis and spends a good part of the second half of the film trying to rekindle a romance with Isaac.

Even so, Gross still had a possibility of pulling it off with Alicia Silverstone in the lead, but it is hard to believe that this is the same actress who made Clueless so delightful, and I’m not just talking about the passage of time. Silverstone resorts to rubber-faced mugging throughout as if she had been convinced she was doing an Ace Ventura movie and it just doesn’t work. I know Silverstone hasn’t been getting a lot of work over the last decade but even so I know she can do better than this.

You can kind of see what Gross was going for and occasionally some things work, like the corrected title cards for each segment, and the use of Clemence’s songwriting partner Orson (Silver) as a kind of Greek chorus. I also like the exploration of why we have a tendency to always want more; as if having a great life and a great family isn’t enough. Maybe that’s part of being human, but we are constantly being bombarded with messages that tell us that we are underachieving and that we need to want more – more money, a better career, a happier family – than what we already have. Contentment has become so passe.

There are some indications that this could have been a much better movie than it turned out to be, so if you’re anything like me you’ll be frustrated by this film, but one can look at it as a learning experience for all involved and hope that their next projects will work out better for them and us.

REASONS TO SEE: There’s a whole lot of neuroses going on.
REASONS TO AVOID: Not as comedic as it could have been.
FAMILY VALUES: There is profanity, some sexuality and nudity, brief drug use and some comic violence.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Filmed primarily on location in Amagansett, Long Island.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AppleTV, DirecTV, Fandango Now, Google Play, Microsoft, Redbox, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 12/21/20: Rotten Tomatoes: 25% positive reviews. Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: My Best Friend’s Wedding
FINAL RATING: 6/10
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I Don’t Know How She Does It


I Don't Know How She Does It

It just doesn't get any more romantic than a loving embrace in snowfall.

(2011) Comedy (Weinstein) Sarah Jessica Parker, Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, Kelsey Grammer, Olivia Munn, Seth Meyers, Christine Hendricks, Jane Curtin, Mark Blum, Busy Philipps, Sarah Shahi, Jessica Szohr, James Murtaugh. Directed by Douglas McGrath

There are few people I have more respect for than the working mother. It is very much like juggling alligators; if you mess up even on one gator, you can find your whole world crashing down around you.

Kate Reddy (Parker) is just such a creature. She works as an executive at an investment bank’s regional office in Boston; she has a crusty boss (Grammer), an overqualified assistant named Momo (Munn) who disdains Kate’s commitment to her job, and a backstabbing co-worker (Meyers).

Outside of work she’s got a bitchy mother-in-law (Curtin) and a devoted friend (Hendricks) who thinks Kate has it all together but like most moms, does a lot with smoke and mirrors. She also has a saintly husband named Richard (Kinnear) who is an architect who is just getting a major promotion at his job. She too is working on a big promotion – by coming up with a brand new retirement fund that will appeal to both investors and the bank’s brass as well. She is given a hunky partner to work with – Jack Abelhammer (Brosnan). It also means that she’s going to be traveling to New York a whole lot.

That means guilt for missing her kids life and further guilt for neglecting her husband. It means being made to feel less of a mom by the stay-at-home supermom (Philipps) that works out while her kids are at school and takes advantage of party planners for her kid’s birthdays. Does anybody remember when getting pizza and a cake was enough for a child’s birthday party?

Of course, we all know that sooner or later the gators are going to come crashing down and take a bite (or several) from Kate whose two children are precocious and adorable and well-adjusted which doesn’t sound like any kids I know. We also know that her work career will take off and promise even more travel, putting more strain on her marriage. Isn’t that how it works for all working moms?

This is a movie that has been taking enough lashings from critics to make a Roman galley slave blush. I would venture to guess that most of the critics taking shots at it are not working moms. I was with one when I caught it in the theater and she was quite affected. She thought that the issues that Kate faced were very relatable. That’s a big plus in my book.

I’ve never really warmed to Sarah Jessica Parker as an actress. She’s always seemed shrill and a bit too neurotic for my tastes. She still is here, but the role really calls for it. Kate has a great deal of stress on her and sometimes stress makes us do desperate things, like buying a pie at a deli and trying to disguise it as homemade.

Greg Kinnear is one of the more likable actors out there right now, and he does saintly husband as well as anybody. Despite Kate consistently leaving him holding the bag at home and seemingly dismissing his career as less important as his own, he continues to support her in every way imaginable.

Pierce Brosnan is another solid pro who pretty much always delivers. Here he’s a sweet and respectful colleague who rather than taking credit for her work gives her props. Yeah, sounds like a lot of investment bankers I know – not that I know many. Still, the moral and kindly businessman is not one we see in the movies much these days.

The movie is purportedly a comedy although there is a lack of laughs here (although to be fair, Da Queen found many things funny that were well out of my experience range). It also lacks the gravitas and depth to be a decent drama, which kind of leaves the movie in this limbo of neither one nor the other and not be satisfactory overall.

This definitely has limited appeal which is just fine. If you’re a mom and you work, you’re going to find a lot to love in this movie. If you love a working mom, you might see a bit of insight in there. If you don’t have a working mom in your life, you might want to pass this by – there’s not a lot here for you. That’s all good, but just a word to the wise – be aware that this movie is definitely skewed to a specific demographic and if you don’t fall within it, you might wind up wondering if the local multiplex still gives refunds.

REASONS TO GO: Kinnear and Brosnan are awesome. This is definitely a role well-suited for Parker. The issues that come up for Kate are very relatable for working moms.

REASONS TO STAY: Not funny enough to be a comedy nor does it really have enough depth to be a good drama either.

FAMILY VALUES: There are some sexual references and a bit of innuendo.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Director McGrath also writes a political commentary column, “The New Flapjack,” for The New Republic.

HOME OR THEATER: Certainly this will do just as well at home as it will in the theater.

FINAL RATING: 5/10

TOMORROW: Drive