Catching Up the Weekly Movie Diary, Part 1: “Bridesmaids,” “Midnight in Paris,” and “Everything Must Go”

Over the past few weeks I have neglected my weekly reports on current releases. There are about six new releases I saw so in order to get caught up I am going to split the review up into two parts. Here is the first part. Next time will be The Hangover Part II, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and Beginners.

Minutes before another disaster in "Bridesmaids"

Bridesmaids

This movie has been getting solid reviews and has done well at the box office and those things don’t always mean much. Terrible movies get rave reviews and do well at the box office all the time (think Platoon, Titanic, Avatar, the list could go on…), but this is one occasion where it does mean something. Bridesmaids is a solidly funny movie and if we lived in a world where awards committees valued comedy Kristen Wiig would be an early best actress contender. We follow the trials and tribulations of neurotic Annie (Wiig) who has been tapped to be the maid of honor for her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph). As the maid of honor she is overwhelmed with the events she has to plan and struggles with jealousy as she watches her best friend’s life firming up into a state of apparent perfection while her own spirals out of control. Her bakery failed, she still doesn’t have a job, and lives with a creepy British brother and sister who are disturbingly close. Annie is further taxed by the passive aggressive competition for Lillian’s affections by fellow bridesmaid Helen (Rose Byrne), one of those beautiful rich women who can always outdo anything anyone else sets up. The movie has been unfairly compared to The Hangover by lazy commentators who can’t discuss anything without popular shorthand. Other than a fact that they are both about wedding parties, there isn’t much else about the two that warrants the comparison. But Bridesmaids is a better movie about the evolution of Kristen Wiig’s character rather than a simple succession of wacky antics. (Rating ****)

 

Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams in "Midnight in Paris"

Midnight in Paris

Woody Allen’s latest flirtation with Paris and dalliance with the supernatural is a solid, if not great venture. Owen Wilson plays Gil, a successful Hollywood screenwriter in Paris with his fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams). Gil is unhappy with the intellectual level of his work and pines for the days of the 1920s, when intellect was appreciated in art. Through an unexplained phenomenon Gil finds a way to transport back to the 1920s by standing on a specific street corner in Paris just as the clock strikes midnight. There he hobnobs with such luminaries as Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein, and Salvador Dali. He also falls head over heels in love with Picasso’s mistress, the beautiful Adriana (Marion Cotillard).

While it’s all cute and charming it doesn’t really amount to much. We’re never entirely sure why F. Scott Fitzgerald or Luis Buñuel would be at all interested in this non-descript American who claims to be a writer, something a lot of non-talented people claim. Nor are we sure why Adriana would even look at him twice when she can get Picasso and Hemingway. We aren’t meant to quibble about these questions too much and luckily Allen gives us enough that is charming and funny. Owen Wilson is fine doing a version of the Woody Allen character, but I liked David Schleicher’s suggestion that Joseph Gordon-Levitt would have been an interesting choice to play Gil. But then I didn’t find Wilson as distracting as he did. Yes, the message is a bit too easy (you can see it coming a mile away), but this is fantasy-fulfillment, both for Allen and for anyone who has dreamed of traveling back in time and socializing with our idols. (Rating ***1/2)

 

Will Ferrell puts his life on sale in "Everything Must Go"

Everything Must Go

The story of a man who just lost his job and comes home to find his wife left him, moving all his belongings out to the front lawn, is drawn from a Raymond Carver story. With no money and nowhere to go Nick Halsey camps out on his front lawn, drinks beer all day, and eventually decides to sell everything, a clean break of sorts. Based on what I saw in this movie nothing suggests there was enough material to stretch this into a feature length film. Will Farrell plays Nick Halsey, our depressed, alcoholic protagonist on a single note, suggesting his foray into drama is either premature or completely unwarranted. He never connects with the characters that try to support him, including Kenny, a neighbor kid who helps him sell his things, and Samantha, a new neighbor whose husband is always out of town (nicely played by the always charming Rebecca Hall). Watching this movie reminded me of Robert Altman’s great 1993 compilation of Carver stories Short Cuts. It struck me that this story would have fit into Altman’s movie as one of the many connecting storylines much better than as a stand-alone feature film. Or as a short film. Or, better yet, let’s just read Carver’s short story “Why Don’t You Dance.” (Rating **)

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “Catching Up the Weekly Movie Diary, Part 1: “Bridesmaids,” “Midnight in Paris,” and “Everything Must Go”

  1. I never thought I would see Will Ferrell and Raymond Carver in the same sentence.

    Interested to hear you liked Bridesmaids too. I had only seen small posters and had dismissed it as more chick-flick junk, so I was surprised when another intelligent friend told me it was good.

    My plan is to see Tree of Life next week in Berkeley. 🙂

    • You never thought you’d see Farrell and Carver in the same sentence and there is a good reason: They don’t belong in the same sentence. This movie proves it.

      I initially dismissed Bridesmaids too, but it turns out to be a very funny and surprisingly thoughtful and intelligent movie. I know you won’t get out to see it, but it will be worth getting on DVD.

      I will be curious to hear what you think of Tree of Life. I hope I haven’t built it up too much for you!

  2. I can’t wait for ‘Midnight in Paris’, sounds right up my street – shame it won’t get to the UK until the middle of next year, on past form for Woody’s movies. You’d think this time, as we are so near to France it might get here sooner rather than more slowly.;) Sorry to hear the Raymond Carver movie isn’t up to much as he is such a great writer, and I had thought it would be interesting to see Ferrell in a dramatic role – I liked him in his fairly straight role in ‘Stranger Than Fiction’ with Emma Thompson, which I can’t believe was five years ago now… Bridesmaids isn’t something that initially appealed to me from the title, as there have been so many wedding movies, so I’m interested to hear there is more to it. Anyway, great round-up… looking forward to part two.

    • Thanks Judy. That’s a shame that you get Woody Allen movies so late. Did Match Point, set in London, even get there later?

      And I was as surprised as anybody that I liked Bridesmaids so much. It was being billed as a female version of The Hangover but it is so much better than that (other than a completely unnecessary food poisoning scene). I would check it out when you get a chance.

      • Interesting question re Match Point (which I really liked) – I just checked back at the imdb and looks as if that one was released almost simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic – but since then the UK release dates have slipped back a lot, plus it takes a while for his films to get round the country, so You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger only made it to my local cinema in the last month! I thought it was well worth the wait though, really enjoyed it.

        • That would have been insulting if Match Point (which I also liked) had been put on hold in the UK. I still haven’t caught up with Tall Dark Stranger but I will get around to it eventually. I realized I’ve missed a lot of Woody Allen movies over the past several years.

  3. I’ve just realised ‘Tall Dark Stranger’ was filmed in London too, so pretty strange we had to wait for it! I think they will now have to release each one late here to avoid Woody competing with himself. I’ve missed a few of his lately too, but hoping to fill in the gaps before too long.

  4. Pingback: Stage Play “Unnatural Acts,” “Bringing Up Baby,” “La Dolce Vita,” Buster Keaton and “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” on Monday Morning Diary (June 20) « Wonders in the Dark

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