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The Theory of Everything (2014)
A great performance in an interesting biopic - but maybe a little too respectful.
Eddie Redmayne won an Oscar for his performance as the cruelly disabled Stephen Hawking in this film, and you can see why. He has mastered amazingly the contortions and ticks that advancing Motor Neurone Disease inflicted upon the increasingly famous cosmologist. But his depiction of Hawking's earlier days at Cambridge is also impressive, helped by careful attention to detail and also by a fairly strong physical resemblance.
Sadly, though, this performance alone cannot make for a great film. The story here is not really about Hawking's scientific breakthroughs, nor about his perhaps less appreciated role in popularising science with his hugely successful books; but mainly it centres in his first marriage to Jane Wilde, played by Felicity Jones. Hers is also a bravura performance, but, as many people have noted, she does not appear to age over the decades' span of the story.
The real problem though is a nagging feeling that something is missing. Many people will know already the key facts of this story, and the film, in reality, does not reveal much more. It's not just the lightness of the science, nor the way in which his earlier public appearances do not appear to figure in the story, but even the main theme of the marriage feels incomplete. Perhaps it's because the screenplay is based largely on Jane Wilde Hawking's own book, and all the major players were alive when the film was produced.
Inevitable pressures in the relationship are hinted at, but what we see still seems rather sugar-coated. When Jane is challenged as to the fatherhood of their third child, we realise we've seen little of the intimacy of their marriage, but also we barely seem to have scratched the surface of Jane's other ambiguous relationship with choirmaster Jonathan Jones (played by Charlie Cox).
It's a shame, because no one's about to revisit this story since there's little chance they will be able to match Redmayne's central interpretation.
Still. The film is worth watching for its strong performances. 6/10.
Gente que viene y bah (2019)
Predictable but still good fun
Bea (Clara Lago) is relatively secure in her professional life as a young Barcelona architect and in her relationship with Victor (Fernando Guallar) who is also her boss. At a works celebration they encounter Victor's "second most fancied celebrity" - a news anchor called Rebecca Ramos. Bea rashly introduces Victor to the unexpectedly predatory TV celeb and the inevitable happens - overnight.
Devastated, Bea retreats homeward into the arms of her welcoming, and unconventional family - and several other colourful inhabitants of her tiny home town who she doesn't remember. In particular, she's forever bumping into the rich widower Diego (played by Álex García) in his classic pink Mercedes.
This is a conventional Romantic Comedy, but neatly crafted and well acted. The plot is fairly predictable but everybody has some fun along the way, perhaps most especially Bea's "gifted" mother (Carmen Maura). This is a good movie for the family to watch, especially if they speak Spanish, and there are some genuinely funny lines - even for someone depending mostly on the subtitles. (English audio doesn't seem to be available on Netflix.)
Generally an enjoyable movie to while away a quiet hour and a half. 8/10
Alien Warfare (2019)
I've watched this from start to finish so you won't have to.
Because I managed to last till the end, I've awarded Alien Warfare an above average 3. But I wouldn't necessarily recommend that you do the same. This maybe the lowest budget Sci-fi movie you will ever see and a few parts are quite funny.
So, at the start the crack team of navy seals are reassembled by the mysterious men in suits for a special mission. Brothers Mike and Chris have personal issues, maybe from their last bungled mission or maybe related to missing all their acting classes. You really don't want to go there! But perhaps, join the "action" at 23 minutes, after the team have flown to "The Caucasus" and are just breaking through the high security fence into the facility where all the staff have mysteriously vanished...
"Gentlemen, we're going in the front. I've got eyes on what looks like some kind of lobby!"
Remarkably, one of the staff hasn't vanished after all, but, perhaps out of a surfeit of caution, is wearing a forensic suit to get milk from the fridge. After a little banter, she loses the suit and guides our intrepid heroes to the the "High Security Containment Vault". Note the high security containment door, equipped with a "working card-reader with fully functioning red and green LEDs" (perhaps made from a kit from Practical Electronics). Inside the "vault" is "the device" which they look at quite a lot. Despite the potential threat to the entire world from "the device", no one seems to be so good at remembering to shut the high security containment door.
In another couple of minutes, the Aliens appear - ready for Warfare. They are fairly easy to identify as they're wearing their paintball suits and they have a habit of standing still in a threatening way. Conveniently - from a special effects point of view - they're "bi-pedal". In fact, they're also bi-armal and mono-headal.
You'll notice, almost immediately, that bullets have no effect on them - because they're alien. However, our crack team of intrepid heroes don't seem to notice this for the next twenty minutes or so of the movie.
The fast forward button will be tempting now, but you should probably slow the action briefly for the "Faraday Suit". To say this suit is "experimental" is putting it mildly. After seeing the suit it will be a good time to get (more) beers, or skip forward to the last five minutes - or not.
Touching, but lacks pace and drama
Juanita (Alfre Woodward) is stuck in a rut: her grown-up kids are serious wasters and her husband is long gone, leaving just her imagination and the elderly patients she nurses for company. When one patient dies, she takes the decision to change her life completely by buying a one way Greyhound ticket to nowhere - well nowhere she's ever actually heard of anyway. She finally lands in a hamlet called Paper Moon and is instantly pressed into service cooking for a Native American at his struggling and theoretically French restaurant.
This story perhaps works better as a novel. The pace is slow and the plot holds few surprises. As another reviewer says here, the movie lacks oomph. Everything is competent - nothing is special. At times it's quite funny and at times uplifting, but never exactly exciting. 6/10
I Think We're Alone Now (2018)
Clearing up dead bodies - you find a kind of peace
For a loner - maybe with a touch of OCD - a post-apocalyptic world seems to bring a certain calm and contentment. But, Del (played by Peter Drinklage) has his peaceful existence disturbed by the arrival of a second survivor. Grace (Elle Fanning), younger, and with a much more gregarious past, seems keen to join his project to clear the entire town of its dead bodies.
The characters are nicely drawn and well acted. Both are a little bit damaged and fragile, and though they're initially wary of one another, a bond gradually develops which feels natural and believable.
A plot twist about half way disturbed some commenters, but after a while I felt it added to what we learnt of the characters.
This is a slow-moving film and a very spare script, with some lines pretty difficult to hear, but it's well worth it. Director, Reed Morano is apparently known for her cinematography, and for being a woman, but I knew neither of these things. Yes, some of the images are dramatic and sometimes a little surreal, but they never distract from the story. Watch it for that. 8/10
Paris est à nous (2019)
A bewildering trance-like sequence stretched out into a whole film
Anna meets Greg at a disco and after a whirlwind romance, long enough for him to grow a beard at least, he announces out of the blue his intention to move from their Paris home to Barcelona.
Even during this first section of the film, the narrative thread is hard to grasp with many cuts between different times and places - a beach, a park and an abandoned theatre, for instance.
But as the story approaches the doomed flight to Barcelona, things get really trance-like and surreal. Perhaps it all reflects Anna's increasingly tenuous grasp on a reality, which itself now seems to play out against a backdrop of constant and confused civil unrest.
The camera is mostly hand-held and while some of the shots feel too close, others, especially those with actual riot police apparently completely surrounding the action of the movie are exceptional. The camera follows Anna, well played by Noémie Schmidt, pretty much all the way through.
The final result, though, is just too disjointed and voice-overs used throughout the film aren't quite enough to keep things together. For some too, I guess that the frequent strobe effects (perhaps carried through from the disco at the start), might well feel a bit too much. 5/10
Outrageous student girls get up to high jinks
A group of students share a house living pretty chaotically. Allie (Stephanie Simbari) encourages her best friend Kort (Kortney played by Allie Gallerani) to pursue Daniel. Allie (the character) finds herself getting jealous when the new couple start to date. While Daniel and Kort are spending more time together, Allie struggles to face up to how little she's actually achieving on her own.
While the acting is generally strong, as someone not living in the US, I found the diction and accent hard to follow for the first fifteen minutes or so - this was especially true of Stephanie Simbari. While things improve as we move along, Allie does also come over as not such a likeable character. It's quite hard to sympathise with her rather self-indulgent attitudes.
It feels a little as though some reviewers here have marked the film up purely because it comes at student excess from a refreshing angle - the girls' viewpoint. It's true that this is a nice change but it doesn't warrant giving the film 9s or 10s. At the same time it's not a bad film. The 1s and 2s don't make sense either. For me, this is a straight down the middle 5.
Friends from College (2017)
Characters that feel real and are funny at the same time
A group of friends who went to Havard together are followed through their entangled lives. The fact is that this group hasn't drifted apart as most would over the twenty years since leaving college, instead they have become so close-knit that others from outside can feel excluded.
We mostly follow Ethan, a writer who starts out with accolades, but not so many readers, his long-suffering agent, Max, his childless wife Lisa, and his long-term, on-off mistress, Samantha (Sam). All these are from the college group, together with womanising Nick and hippy Marianne. The characters are well-drawn and well acted, with quirks and flaws. A few episodes in and you start to feel you know how they should react to a situation and how they feel.
There are also partners and spouses from outside the central group. They mostly come and go - it's probably fair to say that all these resent how close the Havard types have become.
As things start out, Ethan's publishers are applying a great deal of pressure for him to transition to something a little more commercial, like young adult (YA) fiction, while Ethan and Sam feel rather uncomfortable with both now living in New York. They're right under the noses of Lisa and Sam's insanely wealthy and slightly boring husband, Jon.
Unlike most others here, I preferred the first series to the second. A few episodes in the second series started to feel to me too much that events and characters were being manipulated to fit into a plot that had been planned out for them in a group workshop. The kind of session that Max and Ethan have when Max is offering rather more support than an agent would normally give.
My favourite episode
Ok. So maybe most other people seemed to think differently, but I liked this one. The rabbit! In some ways predictable, but funny none the less.
And watch out for the classic line "Did you pay extra for the matt black?" Obviously this does need a little context, but hopefully you'll enjoy it when the moment comes.
If you're not going to be a Sci-fi pedant, you can give it a chance
Ok, so there are some clear scientific issues, and occasional signs of low budget shots... But what has happened to suspending your sense of disbelief? Are we not meant ever to do that these days? Quite a few reviewers here have set a high bar for scientific accuracy this time.
The premise is that a heavier than air pollutant cloud has poisoned Earth to the extent that almost every human survivor has left - evacuated to a colony on Io - the moon of Jupiter. Almost everyone has gone... But not quite. Sam (Margaret Qualley) is still here, living in a mountain-top observatory, apparently with her father, although he doesn't seem to be around so much. There may be others.
The film starts with Sam down in "the Zone" where she has to wear an oxygen mask and can only stay a few hours. Loneliness has played some tricks on her and left her with a perhaps rather pretentious obsession with mythology. You might also see some echos of the Tempest.
The action of the film is fairly slow and a little dreamlike, but in places the cinematography is nice and I've seen films that are a lot less realistic. Maybe it's a story that will resonate if you give it a chance. 6.5/10
American gigolo gets laid low
Ashton Kutcher (as Nikki - the gigolo) starts out arrogant and vacuous and progresses, after learning some home truths, to being just plain vacuous. He begins by seducing and dating older and absurdly rich Samantha (Anne Heche) and then struggles in his attempt to move on to the younger Heather (Margarita Levieva). There are many other women in his life along the way, often showing a good deal of flesh. Maybe things are like this in LA, where the story is set.
It's hard to create a believable and entertaining story around a character as amoral and empty as Nikki - and by and large, this film fails in the attempt. While billed as a comedy, the film has no laughs at all. The pace and the acting aren't bad, the plot is full of holes, especially when money is meant to be tight.
The basic storyline could work, especially if the Nikki and Samantha characters had been written for and cast with actors about ten years older. As it stands, it just feels wrong. The contrast between the characters of bSamantha and Heather is missing. They just look too alike. It feels as if all the female characters are well-toned, white and blond-ish.
Really not a great film. 4/10.
Blue Jay (2016)
A chance meeting of high-school sweethearts after many years
A chance meeting of high-school sweethearts brings back memories - some sweet, some bitter. He's back in town after the death of his mother and to sort out her house; she's home to visit her expectant sister.
They meet, awkwardly, in a local store, have an awkward reunion coffee in the Blue Jay cafe which has lent the film its title, and by degrees return to his mother's house - a time capsule evocative of so much of their past.
The film starts slowly, and the script is spare. To me, the many pauses and the awkward moments are perhaps a little overplayed. There are also little interludes giving us glimpses of (black and white) scenery and a sense of place and of memories. It's often unkind to praise the settings, but these were beautiful, as was the immense period detail of the mother's house. Here, they eventually move to a slightly confusing and unlikely role play as if they had married and were now reaching their twentieth wedding anniversary.
Sarah Paulson plays Amanda with tenderness and poise. She is perhaps a little hardened by her life experiences and her marriage. Mark Duplass, who is also the film's writer, plays Jim, a sensitive man who seems to have drifted rather into what feels like a lonely and uncomfortable career choice in renovating houses. He sports a beard which, to me, wasn't a good thing.
I have to say I was sorely tempted to give up on the film at the 40 - 50 minute stage, but towards the end, the pace picks up and the story starts to make more sense and feel a lot more worthwhile. There is a genuine message and I think it was worth the wait. 6.5/10
Life of a Viking Office
After watching the two series of this show I was not going to write anything here, but now, a few weeks later, the characters are still live in my mind. So it must deserve a review. Even though the show does not come with great pretentions. It is a spoof version of the Vikings - which I have not seen. The gory period drama meets the sensibilities of The Office and some of the slap stick of Life of Brian.
A couple of things to cover at the start. First, the dialogue is in English - unless you watch the Norwegian version. They shot the whole thing twice and all the actors speak (accented) English. Second, it really is gory, especially in the first few episodes. Once or twice, the gore is not at all necessary and these scenes would have been better dropped. After two or three episodes, though, I did not notice this so much. I think there was actually less later on.
The main strengths of the series are the characters and the off beat comedy. There's Orm, the chieftain who thinks their warrior village would really be better off appointing a creative director and building an "installation", the straightforward warrior, Arvid, his very good friend, the warrior "maiden", Frøya and the theatrical baddy, Jarl Varg.
Watch out for the ritual burial at sea, and the ritual putting to death by fire - in the rain. But perhaps the best is the ineptitude of Orm as he discovers that he has to "lead" a minor raid on a settlement in Britain.
Sadly, the writers have moved the plot at the end of the second series into a place that's going to make the start of the third series - apparently already commissioned by Netflix - very difficult to pull off.
Private Life (2018)
IVF - the highs, the lows, the indignities, and the heartache.
This is a truly honest portrayal of the huge commitment and stress involved in the IVF process. As another reviewer here points out, it's hard to believe that writer / director, Tamara Jenkins could have brought this to the screen without having gone through it herself. Brave indeed to dramatise such a very personal experience.
The high point of the movie for me is the quality of the acting from the three leads - the would be parents, played by Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti, and their niece, played by Kayli Carter. Hahn and Giamatti's relationship is totally believable in a way that you rarely see on screen.
Unfortunately it's this level of realism that is also the main weakness of the film. The medical processes could almost be described as brutal and - though we are thankfully spared close-ups - otherwise, the film pulls no punches. The indignities take their toll and first half hour of the movie feels long and an emotional downer. Fortunately, the arrival of the niece lifts the mood and gives things an injection of much-needed pace and a little bit of humour. From here on the story is more involving.
Some people here have criticised the ending, but I thought it was beautifully pitched and fitting.
For anyone thinking of delaying having children for the good of their career or whatever, this should be compulsory viewing. For the rest of us, it might be hard to say this, but what we see here is heavy on realism and a bit short on entertainment or, dare I say it - fun. 7/10
What Happened to Monday (2017)
Monday's child is full of full of... Full of what?
In a near-future dystopia where a super-strict one-child policy has been introduced to combat shortages and an epidemic of multiple births, septuplet girls live a strange existence with each only allowed out in the open on the day of the week they have been named after. And on that day they share in the persona of Karen Settman. For the rest of the time they live out a shadowy, Ann-Frank-like half life couped up in a flat equipped with hiding places and high-tech gizmos that help with the deception.
The film sets itself the immense technical and acting challenge that all seven of the Settman siblings are played by one woman - Swedish actress, Noomi Rapace. And they almost pull it off. Only occasionally does it get a tad confusing.
The plot is pretty far-fetched and to be honest it does not stand up to close examination in a few areas. But if you're prepared to go with the flow you're carried along by the pace of the story. It's a little bit gory in parts and not suitable for those who don't like coping with plenty of fake blood, but most will probably be OK with it.
Behind all the action sit the disturbing ethical questions surrounding a one-child policy - remember that there actually was such a policy in China for many years, although nothing like a strict as the version depicted here. So it's a good film - a fast-paced story together with some thought-provoking ideas. 7/10.
Miss Stevens (2016)
Miss Stevens has Relationship Issues
Miss Stevens (Rachel, played by Lily Rabe) is an English teacher who agrees to take three of her pupils away to a drama festival despite struggling with her own personal issues. Added to that, she's warned that one of the three, Billy (played by Timothée Chalamet), has some demons of his own - which might once have gone under the heading of Bipolar. It also turns out that he has a crush on her.
The plot develops slowly and gradually builds to concentrate on the relationship between Billy and Rachel with the other characters - the gay, the organiser and the womanising philanderer - being a little two dimensional.
The two main characters, though, are sensitively portrayed and we become genuinely involved in their ultimately forbidden relationship. We feel the bond between them, their pain and bereavement. It's touching, gentle and beautifully acted. 8/10.
PS 1. If nothing else, the film is worth watching for Billy's monologue presented as his contribution to the festival.
PS 2. However impossible Billy and Rachel's relationship might seem, you could check out the unusual "back story" of the French president, Emmanuel Macron.
A Fond Kiss (2004)
Love vs Culture
This is a film of love in a Glasgow cultural melting pot. With his Pakistani family long resident in the UK, Casim meets, and falls in love with his young sister's Irish Catholic music teacher. Both Muslim and Catholic tradition reject mixed marriages and relationships so the couple face grave obstacles to their happiness - starting with Casim's engagement to a cousin he hardly knows.
The couple themselves - Casim played by first-time actor Atta Yaqub and Roisin played by Eva Birthistle - feel comfortable in their roles most of the time as does Casim's younger sister Tahara (Shabana Bakhsh). Some of the other actors, many of whom were not professionals, don't seem so confident. In places the delivery is stilted and occasionally people fluff their lines.
Ken Loach, the director, is almost revered for crafting gritty Northern dramas and as such I wonder if some reviewers here haven't given him a bit of an easy ride. This kind of culture clash is difficult to depict and it shows bravery from Loach to attempt it. However, in places the dialogue doesn't feel natural and there are rough edges to the plot. The screenplay also depicts Casim as a bit spineless particularly in one family argument where he's oddly silent.
It's a moving film though, and the dilemmas are real. I'm not sure I found the resolution so convincing.
The Mighty Quinn (1989)
Not quite so mighty after nearly thirty years
Released in 1989, The Mighty Quinn is currently rated as Denzel Washington's 46th best movie (on IMDB). I'm not saying it's bad but it's never going to become a classic and it is starting to show its age a little.
Denzel plays Xavier Quinn, the police chief on a Caribbean island where some stereotypical eccentricities are maybe rather over-emphasised. He's very dashing in his formal uniform and while out of favour with his wife, he's still not short of admirers. His not-so-smooth life is then even more disturbed by a murder at a smart local hotel. The powers that be seem rather too keen to close down the investigation fast and pin the blame on Maubee - a colourful ne'er-do-well who was also Quinn's childhood friend. A role that gives Robert Townsend plenty of scope to enjoy himself.
Denzel himself, though, is perhaps at his 46th best. What in later his roles becomes a cool stillness, here sometimes just looks a little stiff. His Jamaican accent also occasionally wanders and his singing is a departure.
Don't be totally put off though. Denzel is still easy to watch and it's a gently diverting classic murder mystery set in a colourful community and beautiful scenery. 6/10
Duck Butter (2018)
Not an easy movie to like
Two girls meet at a bar. One is an actor who worries about her motivation (played by Alia Shawkat, who also shares the writing credits). The other was the evening's singer at the bar (played by rising star Laia Costa). The following day they agree to try and spend a complete 24 hours in each other's company to explore their relationship.
They start out liking each other but as we learn more about them it's not so clear whether we really like them quite so much or whether they'll stay together. The characters are realistic and well acted but they have some strange attitudes and an interest in what might be described as toilet humour if it was even remotely funny - but it wasn't. Each to their own, I suppose.
Not the best accompaniment to a TV dinner. 5/10.
Ali's Wedding (2017)
True love in Muslim Melbourne
There are two love stories here, and also a view of the Melbourne's Muslim community from the inside looking out. The first and most obvious love is that of Ali (Osamah Sami) for his neighbour and fellow Muslim, Diane (played beautifully by Helena Sawires). One of the problems for Ali is that Diane is apparently the wrong kind of Muslim - of Lebanese decent and Australian born while Ali's family are more recent refugees from Iraq. Another difficulty is that she has flown through the entry exams to study medicine at the local university while Ali has only pretended to pass to try and live up to his family's expectations. Just to make the path of true love yet more bumpy, Ali also walks - more or less by accident - into an arranged engagement with a girl he doesn't know at all. (And this whole story is apparently true.)
The second, and more nuanced love is Ali's deep affection for his father - a cleric who struggles constantly to bring a human, humoured and caring interpretation to his religion. And it is living with an all encompassing religion in a secular country that it the source of much of the film's humour - and its challenge. For non Muslims, this doesn't always work - we (or at least I) just don't know enough about the culture and customs involved. And we aren't familiar with a rule system this strict.
It is an education, though, and a touching story. 7/10.
Let Her Cry (2015)
Strange that, as I write, no one has reviewed this movie. So I will try - I don't even speak Sinhalese...
A young and attractive student falls for her professor, who's about forty years her senior. Why? Is it that the inner man, at least, is somehow unattainable? But she persists. Her presence causes ripples in the precisely ordered routine of the professor's family life with his wife and daughter. Strangely, she does more than just ignore or abuse the professor's family, and they too begin to acknowledge her.
The action is, without a doubt, slow paced. At times the professor will just sit on his bed. Sometimes he also removes his shirt to reveal a vest and belly that would struggle to set anyone's heart racing. Sometimes, he takes a shower. In the mornings, he drops his daughter at her school. But it is through variations in these repeated actions that mood is detected.
The focus drifts away from the university and lectures towards home and temple and the professor's wife.
It certainly takes plenty of patience on our behalf, but the film does have something to say about the family's unconventional response to an unconventional affair.
The Circle (2017)
Good cast - didn't read the screenplay
Mae (Emma Watson) unexpectedly lands a job at The Circle - a social media company which seems to be an amalgam of Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon etc. - but mostly Facebook (allegedly). She's carried away on a wave of optimism for the life-sharing potential of the software forgetting the importance of privacy.
And it's privacy, and the way social media software can steal it from us, that's the theme of the movie. Some scenes are eerily prescient - particularly one involving voting and elections.
Sadly, a strong theme and some accurate predictions don't make a movie. We need strong characters who we care about. But Mae's motivations are confused, changing and contradictory and ultimately she loses our sympathy.
The other main character is the boss of the company. We could call him Jeff Zuckjob, but actually he's called Bailey and played by Tom Hanks. For such a character, a thin veneer of social largesse hides a deep obsession with what salable data can be collected, who would want to buy it, and how could they use it. What drives these people is power and ultimately money - if we're looking for Bailey's motivation: follow the money. But unfortunately the film just doesn't do that. We get no more than the vaguest of hints as to what really drives The Circle and what drives Bailey, so his character too ends up being unsatisfactory.
In the end, the exposition of the theme gets in the way of the story.
It's been suggested on here that a strong cast were sold on the importance of the theme before they read the screenplay. Emma, and particularly Tom with his age and experience, should really have fixed this before it got to the screen. But maybe that's not how Hollywood works these days.
If you're looking to see political issues cleverly woven into a movie, try Pelican Brief, or Erin Brokovich. Oh. Actually, both with Julia Roberts. I wonder if that's significant.
A Romcom that's not so strong in just two rather important areas.
Danny's family - just him, his mother and brother - are Polish immigrants living in New York - definitely not the smart side of town. Isolated from the society around them by the mother's poor English, the family has clung together with a claustrophobic intensity. Danny (Callus Turner) is repressed, dominated and desperately naive. His brother - more worldly wise and more than a little nasty - ropes Danny into taking his place in an over-complicated bag-carrying caper.
Ellie (Grace van Patten) has been hired as the driver for the job. An ex waitress at strip joint, she has lived too much life too soon. She's wise beyond her years, but also a little embittered by what has been thrown her way. When the bag switch goes awry, the pair have to work together to try and retrieve the mysteries contents.
While these characters are beautifully drawn, Danny is so naive that at times he's a slightly uncomfortable to watch. Perhaps he's just a little bit too naive for the good of film as an entertainment. As result, this is a romcom which is a rather light on both romance and comedy - but interesting nonetheless. Maybe it's a "drama".
Set It Up (2018)
A Really Old School Romcom
Two ridiculously overworked personal assistants hit on the idea of setting up their respective bosses together in the hopes that the assistants will then get pushed around a bit less. At first they're surprisingly successful but a plot this ambitious could never run totally smoothly could it?
So the premise of the film is very simple and the plot also develops along predicable lines. About ten minutes in, I was getting concerned about issues of workplace bullying, but then I got caught up in the energy of the story and the characters of the two assistants, Harper and Charlie, played by Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell. Yes, they are bullied and yes you could definitely say that the male boss - Rick, played by Taye Diggs - is a bit of a two dimensional caricature. But this is a romcom, not a documentary, so who cares.
There are enough laughs and the characters learn a little about themselves and about life along way, and most of all everyone - all the actors - get stuck in and really enjoy themselves. Right from Lucy Liu as the female sports journalist boss, right through to the cameos by the elevator engineer and the assistant in the jewellers.
It's a very wordy script delivered at a terrific pace, perhaps particularly thanks to Zoey Deutch, and most people should really enjoy it.
How to build a meaningful relationship in an online world
Martin and Gabi, the couple at the centre of this movie, have become used to the instant gratification of their own promiscuous subculture - perhaps their expectations have been trained by those swipe-right-for-yes dating apps. But can they escape into a real relationship when something newer, though not necessarily better, is always just a swipe away? The film follows their attempts and the people they meet along the way.
Although the idea is a strong one and in some ways its portrayal is realistic, the movie is flawed. In particular, perhaps, it does not translate well from the cinema to a home TV setting. Many shots are very dark and arty, and plenty of sequences feature over-close, juddering, hand-held camera work. In the end this kind of thing can actually get in the way of the story. The technology that is so fundamental to the plot is also quite hard to display on the screen - apps, text messages and laptop screens can all be difficult to follow at times.
Nicholas Hoult and particularly Laia Costa play the lead roles convincingly, for the most part, but my biggest worry of all is with the character of Larry, played by Danny Huston. For a start, Huston looks about twenty years too old for the part which in itself is quite a big ask. And added to that, his character's actions seem increasingly contrived as the story unfolds.
Overall, then, while the emptiness behind instant dating is a fresh and interesting subject, this particular movie is a little bit pretentious, significantly flawed and over long.