People Places Things

A meaningful look shared.

A meaningful look shared.

(2015) Romantic Comedy (The Film Arcade) Jemaine Clement, Regina Hall, Jessica Williams, Stephanie Allynne, Michael Chernus, Aundrea Gadsby, Gia Gadsby, Derrick Arthur, Celia Au, Paul Castro Jr., Jason DarkChocolate Dyer, Catherine Cain, Charles Cain, Brandon O’Neill, Alexa Magioncalda, Gavin Haag, Jordan Edmondson, Kiowa Smothergill. Directed by Jim Strouse

Sometimes life deals us a bum hand out of left field. We’re just thinking we’ve got things figured out and Blammo!, we discover we haven’t had a clue all along.

Will Henry (Clement) is a successful graphic artist who is deliriously in love with his twin daughters (played by the real life twins Aundrea and Gia Gadsby) who are throwing a party in honor of their fifth birthday. He goes off into the house looking for his wife Charlie (Allynne) for some party business or another. He finds her all right; in their bedroom having sex with sad sack Gary (Chernus). Will is of course upset, but Charlie turns things around and makes herself out to be the aggrieved party. She wants a divorce and custody of the kids.

A year later Will is still suffering from depression over the whole sordid affair. He has begun teaching graphic arts at a New York-area college, having moved to Astoria in Queens which is a long train ride into the City. He sees his girls on weekends and leads a fairly lonely existence. At this point, Charlie announces she is marrying Gary – because she is pregnant with his kid. She also wants to take an improv class, so she needs someone to watch the kids and as Gary is too busy doing his monologues off-off-off-Broadway, Will is the next best choice. Will likes this idea very much; he needs to be around his kids more often than just the occasional weekend.

In the meantime, Kat (Williams), one of the students in his class, takes a romantic interest in him – not for herself but for her 45-year-old mom Diane (Hall), a lit professor at Columbia. Against all odds, they hit it off, despite Diane’s disdain for the graphic novel format in general. The two begin dating.

Then things start to go sideways for Charlie. She’s getting cold feet, and she explains to Will that she doesn’t want to make the same mistake as she did the first time – which leads Will to believe that she regards their marriage as a mistake. But she still has strong feelings for Will and he for her – so where does that leave Diane? Or Will, for that matter?

Strouse has a bit of a checkered resume, with movies that are close but no cigar on it (like Grace is Gone) but here he finally makes the checkered flag. While the story does not exactly break new ground in the busted relationships genre, it is told well and given much life thanks to some strongly written character and some fine performances.

Chief among them is Clement, who is quickly developing into one of the strongest comic actors in the world. His dry, deadpan delivery is hysterical all by itself but where Clement excels as he did in HBO’s Flight of the Conchords. One of his strongest traits is that he can take an everyday guy, put him in an everyday situation and find something funny to mine out of it. He’s not the guy who makes us laugh hysterically; he’s the guy that makes us quietly chuckle to ourselves because we can find so much common ground.

Williams is a comedy star on the rise, and although her role here is fairly brief, she makes it entirely memorable. Williams is as hip a performer as there is and she looks as good on the big screen as she does on the small; only bigger, if you catch my drift. It wouldn’t surprise me if she becomes as big a star as I believe Clement is going to be, which is one of considerable size if you ask me.

]There is kind of a mopey hipster vibe here that I found myself not liking so much at first. It took me awhile to decide that I like the movie, but it is worth the effort to stay with it. Yeah, it’s got that New York indie ‘tude that I sometimes find stupefying but there is heart at the center of the movie and most of it belongs to Clement who continues to impress after the earlier this year What We Do in the Shadows.

Again, not entertainment that is going to rock your world or change your views on life. Quietly though, it gets under your skin and stays there, maybe the perfect indie romantic comedy in that regard. And we all know how vapid indie romantic comedies can be. This one is anything but that; it is surely smart, quietly funny and undeniably well-written. Those sorts of films tend to be few and far between while the mercury is still hitting the high notes during the last dregs of summer.

REASONS TO GO: Clement’s dry delivery is intoxicating. Some nice New York images.
REASONS TO STAY: A little too indie hipster douche in places, particularly early on.
FAMILY VALUES: There is a bit of foul language, some sexual references and brief nudity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Williams is a regular correspondent on The Daily Show during the Jon Stewart era and continuing into the Trevor Noah era.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 8/21/15: Rotten Tomatoes: 76% positive reviews. Metacritic: 68/100.
NEXT: Mateo


Pick of the Litter – August 2015


Fantastic Four

Fantastic Four

(20th Century Fox) Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Miles Teller, Jamie Bell. The Fantastic Four is one of Marvel’s signature properties, a superhero team that for many years was one of their go-to comic book franchises. It hasn’t translated well cinematically, with two movies whose light tone alienated a lot of fans. Fox is trying to reboot the franchise with Josh Trank (Chronicle) at the helm and a more modern take on a series that has taken criticism for being behind the times. Marvel recently canceled the comic book series and is refusing to promote the movie which doesn’t bode well for their relationship with Fox, who also owns the X-Men cinematic rights. Still, a good movie can cure a lot of ill will, and there are those who think that this might be the movie that establishes Reed Richards and company as a blockbuster film franchise. August 7


Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet

Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet

(GKIDS) Liam Neeson, Salma Hayek, John Krasinski, Quvenzhane Wallis. One of the great artists of the early 20th century was the Lebanese-born Gibran. A true Renaissance man, he was a philosopher, poet, writer, painter and counterculture icon. His best known work is The Prophet, in which the prophet Almustafa, on the way to the docks to board a boat that will take him home after 12 years of exile, stops to talk to nine different people about various facets of life. Taking the form of prose poetry, there are poems within the novel that have been animated by separate directors in the movie with a variety of styles. From the trailer, the movie looks visually stunning. This could be a masterpiece of animation if the rest of the movie is as good. August 7

Call Me Lucky

Call Me Lucky

(MPI) Barry Crimmins, Patton Oswalt, David Cross, Marc Maron. Barry Crimmins is one of those comedians who was better known to stand-up comics than to the general public. His humor was topical and his style confrontational. He pulled no punches, he’d hold no bars. And yet beneath all that anger beat a compassionate heart, particularly for those who suffered the same childhood that he had – and there were many who did. When he discovered that sexual predators were using America Online to find children for pornography and sexual encounters, he knew he had to put a stop to it. He took his fight all the way to Congress. This stirring documentary is the work of friend and colleague Bobcat Goldthwaite. August 7

How to Smell a Rose-A Visit with Ricky Leacock on His Farm in Normandy

How to Smell a Rose: A Visit With Ricky Leacock on His Farm in Normandy

(Film Forum) Richard Leacock, Valérie Lalonde. Master documentarian Les Blank turns his cameras on a colleague, a cinematographer who helped pioneer the hand-held camera which paved the way for modern documentaries today. Leacock now lives a bucolic life on a farm in Normandy (hence the somewhat unnecessarily unwieldy title) but his recollections go back to the post-war era when he started creating compelling cinema. Indie cinema wouldn’t exist without him. August 12

People Places Things

People Places Things

(The Film Arcade) Jemaine Clement, Regina Hall, Jessica Williams, Stephanie Allyne. A Kiwi ex-pat living in New York City and working as a teacher, comes home one day to find his wife cheating on him. Already possessed of a kind of miserable life outlook, he completely falls apart but a new relationship with an African-American colleague gives him a hopeful outlook which he transfers to his twin daughters. Yes I know it sounds fairly typical, but anything with Jemaine Clement in it is bound to be extraordinary and the trailer for this indicates that this won’t be any exception. August 14

We Come as Friends

We Come as Friends

(FilmBuff) Hubert Sauper, David Gressley. Oscar-nominated documentarian Sauper followed up his Darwin’s Nightmare with a new film about the partitioning of Sudan with the new nation South Sudan breaking away in 2011. The complicated politics, the exploitation of her resources and the lingering colonialism and imperialism are all caught by Sauper’s unblinking eye. Using a plane he built himself to fly into remote areas, Sauper goes into remote parts of the South Sudan to talk to people who have no voice and less hope. August 14

Digging For Fire

Digging for Fire

(The Orchard) Orlando Bloom, Anna Kendrick, Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt. The latest from prolific director Joe Swanberg features his most star-studded ensemble cast yet. When a husband finds a gun and a bone on the hillside behind their home, it sends the two of them careening on separate adventures over the course of a weekend. With an impressive cast, mumblecore vet Swanberg looks to put together one of his quirkiest and yet most accessible films yet. Generally, his movies are always interesting even when they don’t always succeed. August 21