REVIEW: Friends With Benefits

Friends With Benefits
Directed by: Will Gluck
Written by: Keith Merryman, David A. Newman, & Will Gluck (screenplay)
Starring: Mila Kunis, Justin Timberlake, Patricia Clarkson, and Woody Harrelson

It’s always a good thing when a modern romance reminds you of the classics, when men and women bounced snappy dialogue off each other as if they were both real people.  Most romances made today are lop-sided, usually skewering one gender role in the hopes of appealing to the other.  Friends With Benefits is straightforward in its intentions much like its two leads are with each other.  It is seeking to debunk and even satirize the myth of true love presented in the movies, and it is very successful at that until it reluctantly caves in to those same cliches.

Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis are the perfect match for the verbal ping pong in the script and off-kilter enough to make the movie’s intentions palpable.  They are naturally funny and have exceptional chemistry, so they and the rest of the excellent cast shine even brighter in a funny screenplay.  It also helps that the director and co-writer Will Gluck knows that creating a sense of atmosphere in New York City is more important than any shot of the Empire State Building.

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REVIEW: Easy A

Easy A
Directed by: Will Gluck
Written by: Bert V. Royal
Starring: Emma Stone, Amanda Bynes, Thomas Hayden Church, and Patricia Clarkson

There’s a moment in this John Hughes-wannabe that actually lives up to its intentions.  Daughter (Emma Stone) and mother (Patricia Clarkson) sit on a car overlooking their valley,  comparing high school reputations and laughing while the world around them sleeps.  It’s an evolution of the Hughes parent-child relationship.  For a moment, they understand each other. The rest, unfortunately, is far behind.

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ARCHIVE REVIEW: Dogville

Dogville
Directed by: Lars von Trier
Written by: Lars von Trier
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Paul Bettany, Patricia Clarkson, and James Caan

You’ll notice while watching Dogville that the town doesn’t actually exist.  Not in any literal sense that is, but in the minds of the actors and the ideals of the provoc-auteur behind it, the fictional non-town comes fully to life.  Lars von Trier, hell-bent on eliminating elements he deems unnecessary in films, has this time decided to completely remove an actual setting from his movie.  Instead all of the actors, big ones mind you, walk around a stage marked with condescending street names and flimsy outlines of houses.  You can see the entire population, and you often do.

For three rapturous hours von Trier holds and sustains a mood without anything but people, white lines, and some flimsy set pieces.  It’s a terrific feat all by itself, but added to the material is a script powered by ideas and filled with allegory.  He may have never been to America, but he sure knows how this country sees itself.  He approaches the filming as if he were watching a village of ants, often looking from above and then zooming in with his magnifying glass.

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ARCHIVE REVIEW: Lars and the Real Girl

Lars and the Real Girl
Directed by: Craig Gillespie
Written by: Nancy Oliver
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Paul Schneider, Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson

Pretty much your standard indie-love-dramedy. Boy meets girl. Boy suppresses feelings for girl. Boy orders an anatomically correct mannequin off the internet in replacement.

Okay, so not quite the standard love story arc we’re used to, but it’s definitely something quirky and cool enough for to get excited about, since it is the premise is really what drives the interest throughout movie. Lars Lindstrom (Gosling) lives in the garage/apartment adjacent to the home his brother (Schneider) and him inherited from their dead parents. For the most part Lars seems like a normal guy, driving his own car, attending church, dressing in a range of gaudy sweaters and working in a small desk job where he has many co-worker friends who attempt to reach out to Lars. The problem is, is that Lars rejects their affection and often seems irritated by their company and kindness. Continue reading