It’s Julia Week! That means instead of watching stuff that I want to watch, my friend Julia has sent me a bunch of recommendations for movies that she particularly likes! Also, you may have noticed that it’s Tuesday. As well as it being Julia Week, I went to see Happy Death Day 2 U and wrote far, far too much on it, especially since this is looking like it’s gonna be an 8 movie week. So I decided to split it up, with half the reviews being posted now and the rest being posted on Saturday, and then back to our regular schedule. I’ve seen four movies so far this week and me and Julia have at least a little bit to say about all of them (except Happy Death Day 2 U, Julia didn’t see that one), so here they are:
Feb 16: Riding in Cars with Boys (Netflix)
“Riding in Cars with Boys is definitely a sad film. I watched it a little drunk at 1 am once, and I remember being impressed at Drew Barrymore playing an age range of 15 – 35, all the screaming, and that kid ratting out his mom to the cops for putting weed in the oven. What a narc.” – Julia
To kick off Julia Week, I watched a movie that me and Vic had previously made fun of for having a silly name. As it turns out, I learned a little lesson about not judging a book by its cover. Riding in Cars with Boys is the true story of Beverly Donofrio, played at age 15 by Drew Barrymore, and played at age 35 by… Drew Barrymore. She was 26 at the time, making her, for the most part, convincing in both roles. It’s a pretty traditional story centered around dealing with the hardships of being a poor single parent, but the characters are interesting enough to keep me intrigued. Steve Zahn kills it as Donofrio’s heroin addicted ex husband, and he actually ends up being a more 3 dimensional character than the focus of the character study. What bothered me a whole lot about the movie, however, was how it ended in such a way that manipulates you into thinking that a couple characters are redeemed when in reality, nothing they’ve done has made the necessary steps towards redemption. Donofrio’s son is still an ungrateful prick, and her father can’t just start singing a song to wash away decades of emotional abuse. It’s a movie that I’ve literally heard nobody ever talk about other than Julia, but it might just be worth your time and has started Julia Week off on a good note.
Feb 17: Nymphomaniac Vol. 1 (random streaming site)
“Nymphomaniac is a movie I watched because of the funny title. But as it would turn out, it is also a great opportunity to see Shia LaBeuf (however you spell it) very much naked.” – Julia
I have now seen more penises than I ever thought I would in my entire life. One of them was definitely Shia Labeouf’s. This is my first Lars von Trier movie, but knowing his reputation, I went in with the expectation of seeing things I would not think I’d see in a movie made for more general audiences. I was not disappointed. While the movie occasionally borders on porn if you isolate individual scenes, the whole thing is tied together by a highly compelling story. Charlotte Gainsbourg’s Joe is recounting her lengthy life story as a nymphomaniac, and how her sexual tendencies have led her to being in her bruised and beaten state when Stellan Skarsgard finds her. I’ll have to see Vol. 2 before I can fully review this one, but the first part impressed me a whole lot. Oh, and Uma Thurman’s 10 or so minutes on screen is one of the best scenes carried by one person I’ve ever seen.
Feb 17: Happy Death Day 2 U (Theatre)
Where do I start? This movie has so many idiotic problems that I’ve decided that the first movie stands alone and this one isn’t canon. The script for this movie is an abomination that doesn’t deserve any of the amount of time I’ve spent talking or writing about it. The first movie gave us a tight, funny quasi-horror movie with the fantastic Jessica Rothe at the forefront. It’s constantly winking at you, acknowledging the fact that the Groundhog Day genre is played out; bordering on satire at times. All of the charm as a result of this tongue-in-cheek tone is stripped entirely out for the sequel, leaving us with a soulless husk of a “horror” “comedy”. What it really ends up being is an overcomplicated and yet relentlessly moronic sci fi movie, with some amateurish, childish comedy thrown in on occasion. There is a real, actual scene in which a girl pretends she is blind and knocks a bunch of stuff over to distract the dean of the university. Did I accidentally watch one of those straight-to-video American Pie movies?
This movie is in a constant state of identity crisis. I thought Black Panther had a massive issue juggling serious drama and silly comedy, but Death Day 2 makes Black Panther look like In Bruges in how it handles genre mixing. Death Day 2 is trying to be a comedy, a horror, a sci fi, and a heartfelt drama, and fails spectacularly at every one of those. I’ll admit to laughing at some of the jokes near the beginning, but only because Jessica Rothe remains a standout in her role as Tree (yes, her name is Tree, we got over that in the first movie). A lot of the comedy boils down to boner jokes, among jokes you’d be likely to find in a Disney Original movie. To quote the film itself, “you’re dumb as a rock!” “Rocks can’t be dumb, they don’t even have brains!” That’s the type of humour you can expect throughout.
As for horror, I spent those quick scenes waiting for them to end. They add nothing, and are clearly there just so they can still claim the “horror” label to attract that audience. Worked on me, I guess.
The movie fails the most when it tries to be a sci fi flick, which takes up a surprisingly large chunk of the movie. We are immediately and jarringly introduced to the device that apparently caused the time loop in the first movie (remember, I have decided this movie doesn’t exist so magic fuckery still caused the time loop for me), and introduced to two new characters that deserve no screentime whatsoever. What follows is a mish-mash of god awful ideas that never get explained properly or even followed up on. At some point near the beginning there are two of the same character from different universes fighting each other, and it’s never mentioned again. Tree gets sent back into her original time loop, except this time, she’s in an alternate dimension in which her boyfriend is with someone else but her dead mother is alive. It’s cliched and boring, but only gets worse from there.
The ending of this movie is like hearing the statement “it’s cold out so global warming doesn’t exist”; it requires zero thought to know it’s insanely fucking stupid. The moral quandary of the movie involves Tree having to choose between staying in the world where her mother is alive or the world where she’s with her boyfriend that she’s known for less than two days (to her it’s 12 days, but still). It’s like the TV show Awake, except I feel like I’m insulting Awake by even comparing them. Tree of course decides to go back to her original timeline, and does so with an unfathomably stupid line: “There’s only one reason I’m doing this, and that’s for you”. She says this to the guy who’s her boyfriend in the other dimension. The one she’s going back for. And then they share a passionate kiss. This moment is so mind-bogglingly brainless that I have no doubt in my mind that this script was a first draft someone fished out of the trash. Tree literally leaves a dimension in which her dead mother is alive for a guy she barely knows, and could also be with in the new dimension. The movie pretty much boils down to the universe asking if Tree wants her dead mom back and she says no, giving the universe (and the audience) a massive middle finger. Then the movie has the audacity to set itself up for a sequel.
Two teenage girls were sitting behind me and Vic in the theatre. I’d take a guess and say that they are the target demographic of a movie like this. Their first words as soon as it ends: “That was the stupidest movie I’ve ever seen”. Not in a way that seemed like they enjoyed it, either. So here we have a couple girls who if I had to guess, are not film connoisseurs, and are exactly who the movie is trying to appeal to, and they at the very least disliked it. So who the fuck is giving this movie positive reviews? Metacritic has it at a 56, and shows plenty of reviews that are higher than 60, Metacritic’s threshold for being “green”, aka at least decent. Are critics even more imbecilic than I thought? Is that even possible? I can see critics liking Green Book, because that movie can trick white people into thinking they liked it because they feel better about themselves not being racist. But Happy Death Day 2 U is so uniformly lacking in any discernible likeability (save for a charming lead actor) that it makes me genuinely wonder whether critics are actually a bunch of mentally deficient children with computers placed in front of them, arbitrarily tossing out scores. Here’s Joey’s score for Happy Death Day 2 U, provided by a random number generator to simulate a real critic: 6! Pretty good! Joey somewhat recommends Happy Death Day 2 U!
Feb 18: Frances Ha (Netflix)
“Frances Ha is a movie that encouraged my love for Greta Gerwig, and gave one of the best depictions of the plethora of difficulties of friendships in your 20 somethings. Frances Ha also shows that if you are a mediocre dancer, becoming a modern dancer in New York is not a feasible career path. Black and white also looks nice.” – Julia
I quite like Frances Ha. It’s the first mumblecore movie I’ve seen, though since looking up what mumblecore is, I found out I’ve actually seen a whole lot of the horror equivalent, mumblegore. Mumblecore is a vague label given to movies that are mostly about the troubled relationships of people in their 20s, and often have improvisational scenes to some degree. Coherence’s improv bits and use of lesser known actors give it the label of mumblegore, for example.
Greta Gerwig has really proven to me now that she knows how to do some fantastic character writing. This and Lady Bird both feature unique protagonists that are constantly entertaining to watch, and I sympathise with despite their flaws. And as Julia said, black and white looks nice. I have a pretentious soft spot for black and white movies. It’s a small, personal story that does a great job of fleshing out a few different relationships in less than 90 minutes.
So far, so good! Julia Week is shaping up to be a success, though I don’t wanna speak too soon. The movies I’ve seen have been ones I likely wouldn’t have checked out on my own, so I’m glad to have the opportunity to broaden my taste a little bit. This half-week’s shoutout goes to Google for providing me with the various synonyms for “stupid” I needed to complete my Happy Death Day 2 U review; thanks a bunch Google!