Sunday, July 31, 2011


What do you do when your boss is a total prick? The type of guy that makes you feel valuable only to make you work harder, but never promotes you.  The type of guy that’s a total screw-up, drug addict that makes you do his dirty work.   A sexy temptress that’s constantly trying to sleep with you against your will……Well maybe that last one isn’t so horrible, but that’s what our three leads in Horrible Bosses have to deal with.  Their solution: kill them.
            What starts out as a hypothetical joke, turns into a full-fledged premeditated murder scheme, although the perpetrators are far from cold-blooded hit man material, so initially they decide to hire a consultant in the form of one Mutherfucker Jones (Jamie Foxx).   With his advice they set out on a Strangers on a Train-esque mission to kill each other’s bosses, but of course if it were that easy there wouldn’t be a movie.
As someone who has seen many ups and downs in her film career, Jennifer Aniston might want to take note that workplace comedies seem to fare the best for her.   While Horrible Bosses doesn’t give her a chance to show off her emotional range like she did in The Good Girl, it does give her more of a chance to flex her comedic “flair” than she got in Office Space.  Also, unlike the majority of her forgettable romantic comedies, she actually gets to do something a little different.  Here, as the man-eater boss of Charlie Day, she’s oversexed, conniving and potty-mouthed.  Thank God!  Kevin Spacey tortures Jason Bateman with snarky aplomb as the slave-driving Mr. Harken, Colin Firth is also great as the d-bag thorn in Jason Sudeikis’s side, but the true stars of the film are the lead group of friends that plan to kill these a-holes.
            Charlie Day (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) really shines as the lovelorn Dale, actually making it believable that he’s uncomfortable with his hot boss constantly coming on to him.  His inventive performance is comedic gold.  Jason Bateman, the current king of the dry one-liner, is perfectly cast as the (mostly) sensible, Prius driving, Nick, and Jason Sudeikis finally gets a lead role worthy of his comedic chops honed on years of SNL.   I am not a fan of sequels, but if these three were to team up again to say, go to a wedding, ship an important package, or even deliver dry cleaning, my ticket is as good as bought.  For anyone who currently, or has ever, worked in a dead-end, soul sucking job, this is the film for you.  


Often films are billed one way, but are really something quite different when you see them.  Often this is for the worst.  Something that seems really scary is actually too foolish to be taken seriously, or something that looks hilarious in the previews fails to deliver one belly laugh in the theater.   Every once in a while though, a film will come along that is a pleasant surprise.  That was the case with Beginners, starring Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer. 
What I expected from the trailers, was a straight forward romantic comedy, but it turned out to be an artful drama about love and mortality.   In the film, Hal (Plummer) comes out of the closet in his seventies after losing his wife of four decades.  Finally, he decides to live the life he always wanted and to really enjoy what was left of his golden years and we soon learn it’s not a very long time.  This section of his life is all seen in flashback as his son Oliver (McGregor) is picking up the pieces after his father’s death and trying to figure out love on his own terms.  He meets the luminous Anna (Melanie Laurent) at a costume party and they begin a complicated love affair that they both seem to be excited and frightened by.   They both have trepidation and emotional damage, but that’s what connects them.   He’s a mopey artist doing album covers for rock bands and she’s a free spirited, bi-coastal actress with daddy issues.  There’s also an adorable pooch whose own thoughts provide an off-beat comedic relief.
Plummer’s engaging patriarch is lovable, stubborn and honest in his new found life.  He joins gay social clubs, goes to pride marches and even gets himself a younger boyfriend (Goran Visnjic).  He doesn’t try to impart wisdom on his son so much as to lead by joie de vivre.  McGregor’s Oliver is touching as he slowly learns to take chances in his own life and allows himself to be vulnerable.  Laurent rounds out the ensemble with an emotionally open and engaging performance.  I hope to see more of her in the future.  
Beginners is a charming slice of life that doesn’t try to answer too many questions and the questions it asks are thought provoking and apropos to our evolving cultural climate.   Should we even risk being in love if it will just end in despair?  Or is it better to simply be loved than to be in love?  


In the riveting short film Change, directed by Melissa Osborne and Jeff McCutcheon, we are brought into the world of Jamie (Sean McClam), a black teenager in Los Angeles struggling with his sexuality.   The film documents a 24 hour period from November 4, to November 5, 2008, when the election of Barack Obama as the nation’s first black president and the passing of California’s controversial Proposition 8 was impending.  For Jamie, who is black and gay, it’s a very important day.   The film opens in a history class where he and his classmates give speeches about who they would vote for in the election if they were eligible (since they are in high school and under 18) and some creative extras give wonderful off the cuff speeches, one girl even does an impromptu rap.  After class we see Jamie with a group of his friends who want to tag the home of a gay student (Jesse James Rice) in their class in anticipation of Prop 8 passing, but he persuades them to put it off until after the election thinking that it wouldn't pass.  
The authenticity of the film was punctuated by the documentary shooting style and the partially improvised script.   The film screened at Outfest where I was able to not only attend a Q &A with one of the directors (Osborne) afterwards, but actually speak to her personally about the film.  She said that the day was so ironic to her because she has a black mother and a gay brother, (she looked by all accounts to be white and had what sounded like an English accent) so the mixed emotions experienced by her family was what compelled her to tell the story.  I was personally glad that someone had addressed the issue.  At the time, I remembered being astounded that in a country where we could elect a president that was a product of a union that was illegal in most states at the time of his birth, we would still be too prejudiced to understand how big a step backwards this was.  
The film did an excellent job of showing the dichotomy within the black community regarding race and sexuality and how someone like Jamie gets caught in the crossfire and is marginalized within his own community.   At one point in the film Jamie’s dad tells him, “Change takes time, don’t take it for granted,” and succinctly sums up the theme of the film.  Alongside the numerous shorts and features about sex and sexual identity it was nice to see something that really asked provocative questions about where we are as a society.