Category Archives: Romantic Comedy Films

With Six You Get Eggroll-1968

With Six You Get Eggroll-1968

Director-Howard Morris

Starring-Doris Day, Brian Keith

Scott’s Review #931

Reviewed August 15, 2019

Grade: B

A film that clearly influenced the creation of the iconic television series, The Brady Bunch (1969-1974), or the reverse depending on the timeline or who you ask, With Six You Get Eggroll (1968) is a cute family romantic comedy, hardly exceptional fare, and becoming too silly during the final act. Featuring the merging of two families into one big blended family, the heart of the film is the romance between two middle-aged singles looking for new love despite their baggage.

Abby McClure (Doris Day) is a widow raising three boys somewhere in northern California. She dutifully runs her deceased husband’s lumberyard while feeling unfulfilled in the romance department. When her overzealous sister, Maxine (Pat Carroll) tricks her into inviting widower Jake Iverson (Brian Keith) to her dinner party, the pair do not connect, but are drawn to one other as they become better acquainted. Predictable obstacles come their way including misunderstandings and backlash from their kids.

With Six You Get Eggroll is Day’s last film and certainly not one of her best offerings but is nonetheless moderately enjoyable. The film makers intent is to showcase a romance between Abby and Jake so that the elements are setup in a way as to make the characters likable, leaving a very predictable experience. When Jake arrives to the party early and sees Abby at her disheveled worst, or after Jake makes up an excuse to leave the evening early but runs into Abby later at the supermarket, it’s the sort of film that has a happy ending.

As such, the chemistry is palpable between Day and Keith which makes the film charming. If they had no chemistry the film would be a bust, but their slow build fondness for each other works well for this genre of film. They share a spontaneous evening of champagne and small talk at Abby’s house and excitedly plan a date for the next day only for Jake to make an excuse leaving Abby perplexed.

When Abby sees him with a much younger woman, we feel her disappointment. After all, Abby is well past forty in a world where middle-aged women are not the pick of the litter anymore, as sister Maxine annoyingly reminds her. When the young woman turns out to be Jake’s daughter, we smile with relief, along with Abby, because we like the characters and want them to be together.

The children: Flip, Jason, Mitch and Stacey (a young Barbara Hershey) add little to the film and are merely necessary supporting characters. They dutifully add obstacles to their parent’s happiness by squabbling with each other over bathroom space or resenting one parent taking the other away from them. Conversely, Maxine and Abby’s housekeeper, Molly (Alice Ghostley) add wonderful comic relief, keeping the film from turning too melodramatic and providing natural humor.

The Brady Bunch comparisons are quite obvious to any viewer who has seen the television series, and who hasn’t? The blended families and the G-rated dramatic crises are the most certain and the time period and clothes are almost identical. Molly the maid could be Alice the housekeeper, and the actor (Allan Melvin) who plays Sam “the Butcher” from the television series appears as a Police Sergeant. I half-expected the musical scores to mirror each other.

The film does have some mild flaws other than the predictability factor. The introduction of a band of hippies (though cool to see M*A*S*H alums Jamie Farr and William Christopher in early acting roles) and a speeding chicken truck resulting in arrests is way too juvenile and plot driven. A much better title could have been thought up for the film; With Six You Get Eggroll doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, nor does it have anything to do with the story. Finally, Abby’s masculine profession is only shown in the opening scene and also has nothing to do with the story.

For a wholesome late 1960’s themed evening, With Six You Get Eggroll (1968) is a moderate affair with cliches and a cheery tone, but also some genuine chemistry between its leads. The sets and colors lend themselves well to the times and Day is always top notch. Perhaps one could skip this film and watch a sampling of The Brady Bunch television reruns; the experience would almost be the same.

Do Not Disturb-1965

Do Not Disturb-1965

Director-Ralph Levy

Starring-Doris Day, Rod Taylor

Scott’s Review #917

Reviewed July 8, 2019

Grade: C+

Singer and actress Doris Day, in large part, put her stamp on the romantic comedy genre, such that it was, during the 1960’s becoming synonymous with wholesome film characters with spunk and charm but always wearing sensible shoes. Do Not Disturb (1965) is a lightweight, forgettable work that offers a silly premise and a juvenile script with meandering plot thrown in for good measure. The film is saved somewhat by the interesting locales of London and Kent England, but for those seeking better quality ought to seek out the gems The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) or Pillow Talk (1959).

Day and Rod Taylor star as Janet and Mike Harper, an American couple who relocate to England as part of a transfer for the company he works for. They immediately disagree over where to live; Mike prefers the excitement of London, but Janet favors the rustic quality of Kent. After she gets them a house thirty miles outside of London, the plan backfires when the couple grow further apart due to Mike’s need to commute to London every day. Lonesome and isolated, Janet worries incessantly that Mike is having an affair with his new secretary, Claire Hackett (Maureen McGiveney).

Prompted by her busybody landlord, Vanessa Courtwright (Hermione Baddeley), Janet meets an Italian antiques dealer, Paul Bellari (Sergio Fantoni), who she hires to redecorate her house. With Mike spending more time with Claire and Janet and Paul in equally close quarters, the hi-jinks begin. Janet and Mike may be innocent, but Paul and Claire could have designs on their potential mates especially as the foursome begin to face one compromising situation after another.

The heart of an authentic romantic comedy is good, old-fashioned chemistry between the leads and Taylor and Day exhibit adequate sparkle but hardly sizzle. Mediocrity in the setup and writing can be forgiven if other elements like crackling moments exist, but those are scarcities in Do Not Disturb. Some Like it Hot (1959) embodies a great comedy with romantic wrappings featuring fantastic leads Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe, but the former does not come anywhere close to finding its footing amid cliche after cliche.

To further on the above note, the film is plot driven and heavy on story-dictated situations rather than on character development, and the ending is predictable. With most of the jokes either falling completely flat or feeling distinctly canned and cheap the laughs never catch on. During a tepid sequence, Janet and Paul go to a remote town to check out antiques where she winds up drinking too much bubbly, becoming drunk and foolhardy. In what should have been the comic high point of the film instead does very little to further the plot or flesh out the characters.

Director, Ralph Levy makes little effort to steer the film anywhere other than a slick mainstream “affair” despite the release year being 1965 when more edgy works were replacing the polished and the tried and true. Rather than dare to go to a less than cheery place and perhaps decide to have Janet or Mike cheat on their significant others, Levy chooses not to go there instead attempting to satisfy those seeking a happily-ever-after wrapping.

Not to be over-saturated with negativity, Do Not Disturb features wonderful and stunning locale sequences of bustling metropolitan London and quaint English cottages and wilderness, oozing with as much culture and sophistication as down-home comforts and rich flavor. The combination of an American couple thrust into a different setting with a new set of rules and regulations to follow makes the film fun in this regard and offers a sprinkle of good scenery.

Do Not Disturb (1965) is a mid-1960’s mainstream release buried among nests of other similar themed but better written films. Even appealing and bankable stars of the time like Taylor and Day could not succeed in spicing up tired gimmicks and plot devices. The film will forever be relegated to the romantic comedy shelves teetering on the brink of obscurity.

Pillow Talk-1959

Pillow Talk-1959

Director-Michael Gordon

Starring-Rock Hudson, Doris Day

Scott’s Review #907

Reviewed June 6, 2019

Grade: B+

Pillow Talk (1959) is the ultimate in romantic comedies from the age of innocence in cinema. In 1959 pictures were still largely wholesome and safe, providing happy stories and charming characters. The film is a lovely and enchanting experience with intelligent characters and wonderful chemistry among its leads. Combined with good romance and comic elements it makes for a fun watch that still feels fresh and bright decades later.

Doris Day and Rock Hudson smolder with sensuality as singles living in Manhattan, New York City. Day plays Jan Morrow, a perky, independent interior decorator who dates frequently but has not yet found love. Hudson plays Brad Allen, a talented, creative Broadway composer and playboy who lives in a nearby apartment building. Jan is frustrated by a party line that allows her to hear Brad’s endless phone conversations with the women in his life. He is equally annoyed by her prim and proper, holier than thou attitude. They bicker on the phone but have not met.

Through their mutual, yet unknown to them, acquaintance Jonathan Forbes (Tony Randall), Brad realizes who Jan really is, which leads to hilarity as he fakes a Texan accent and invents a new persona: Rex Stetson, a wealthy Texas rancher. He succeeds in wooing Jan who falls madly in love with him while unaware who he really is. Events culminate in the inevitable big reveal when the couple vacations at Jonathan’s cabin in nearby Connecticut.

Rock Hudson oozes masculinity and charisma in this film with nearly every woman he meets falling madly in love with him. With Hudson’s sexuality preferences hidden from the public but well known within the film industry, one wonders if a few comical situations were added as an inside joke. One can speculate if these additions were done with or without the stars knowledge; rumors abound that Hudson reportedly carried on an affair with actor Nick Adams (Tony) during filming.

A recurring theme involves Brad mistakenly walking into an obstetrician’s office (twice!) and the doctor and nurse assuming he may be the first man to ever become pregnant as they attempt to locate Brad when he continues to disappear. Later, Brad attempts to trick Jan into believing Rex might be a homosexual because of his love for effeminate things.

The supporting players bring wit to Pillow Talk and is a key piece to the enjoyment of the film. Randall as Jonathan is not quite the nice guy but not entirely the foil either. As he has designs on Jan he warns Brad to keep away from her. His intention, which fails, is to woo her with money, but Jan seeks true love. Thelma Ritter as Alma, Jan’s boozy housekeeper, is delicious, adding necessary comic timing and a sardonic humor. When she ultimately finds love with the elevator operator we crackle with delight.

The lavish set design is flawless and brightens the film while adding luxurious style and sophistication that only New York City apartment living can bring. The combined sets of both Brad’s and Jan’s apartments are gorgeous to witness. With bright colors and 1950’s style furniture one can easily fantasize how beautiful it would be to reside in an apartment of this brilliance- I know this viewer did!

A Doris Day film would not be complete without the addition of several songs that the singer/actress performs. “Pillow Talk” during the opening credits, “Roly Poly” in the piano bar with Blackwell and Hudson, and “Possess Me” on the drive up to Jonathan’s cabin.

Pillow Talk (1959) is an example of a rich romantic comedy with great elements. A bit fantasy, a bit silly, but containing style, sophistication, and humor. The film was an enormous success, understandably so, being deemed “the feel-good film of the year” in many circles. Hudson’s career was re-launched following the film after having hit a snag year’s earlier.

Crazy Rich Asians-2018

Crazy Rich Asians-2018

Director-Jon M. Hu

Starring-Constance Wu, Henry Golding

Scott’s Review #860

Reviewed January 26, 2019

Grade: B+

Crazy Rich Asians (2018), the romantic comedy smash of 2018 is a fun romp that is memorable because it centers on the Asian population, shamefully underrepresented in mainstream American cinema. For this point alone, the film is recommended and worthy of praise but otherwise is a standard genre film with gimmicks and stock characters galore and a predictable conclusion. A mention must be made for the numerous cultural tidbits included which rises the film above mediocrity .

Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) and Nick Young (Henry Golding) are a happily dating New York City couple, she a New York University college professor and he an entrepreneur. They fly to Singapore to attend Nick’s best friend’s wedding resulting in antics and anguish.  Rachel realizes that Nick comes from an extremely wealthy family and are Chinese royalty owning a multitude of lavish hotels and real estate. Most of Nick’s family, especially his traditional mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh), disapprove of the pairing viewing Rachel as a typical American placing passion over family.

Nick is a sought-after commodity among the single women of Singapore as Rachel is forced to endure harassment and mockery at every turn. Her allies are Nick’s kind sister Astrid (Gemma Chan) and Rachel’s outrageous college pal Peik Lin (Awkwafina) and her equally garish family. The plot thickens when Nick’s scheming mother does a background check on Rachel and discovers a family secret.

Crazy Rich Asians is a formulaic romantic comedy with the standard types of situations and characters expected of a genre film. The rivalry between the good girl and her boyfriend’s domineering mother, the comic relief of the gay sidekicks as Peik Lin and another friend of Rachel’s provide. The caricatures of Peik Lin’s wild family, her unattractive brother fond of taking secret photos of Rachel, and Eleanor’s snooty judgmental circle of female friends are all well cast yet one-dimensional.

Perplexing is why the film makers decided to make Nick only half Chinese rather than authentically Asian. Sadly, this may have been a reassurance of making the film more marketable to mass audiences. The film is presented as an Asian film, but it is really an American film. The story-line justification is that Nick’s father (surprisingly never seen) is British and that he and Eleanor met in college- only she being Chinese. Nick and Astrid’s English accents gnawed at me throughout the film.

Despite the myriad of cliche’s and manipulations Crazy Rich Asians has a nice flow and offers a fun two hours. The film is flavorful with bright colors and visual spectacles of the stylish and sophisticated Singapore and its modern and sleek nuances. I adored the locales featuring the skyline and a rich overview of the robust and relevant city/country.

Fantastic is how the film-makers add spices of traditional Chinese culture throughout the telling of the film quickly becoming more of an ode to the good history. Nick’s grandmother Su-Yi (Lisa Lu) takes pride in her wonderful and artistic flowers and Rachel is introduced to the art of dumpling making. Crazy Rich Asians introduces a history lesson for those unfamiliar with ancient Chinese customs.

Flavorful inclusions of Mandarin Chinese language versions of American pop hits are also nice additions, so the film has some tidbits to revel in other than the story. Most of the songs offer a reference to money such as “Money Honey” by Lady Gaga and “Rich Girl” by Hall & Oates.

The pacing of the film is nice with never a boring or dragging moment and a nice balance of comedy and drama results. Humorous is when Peik Lin provides Rachel with a costume makeover ensuring she look dynamic for the grand wedding as she convinces her to fight Eleanor with fire. Drama ensues when someone casts a dead fish on Rachel’s bed and Eleanor spits that Rachel will never be enough for her son.

Predictable is the film’s conclusion resulting in a marriage proposal aboard a jet heading from Singapore to New York City. With a film like Crazy Rich Asians it is guaranteed that the couple live happily ever after riding off into the sunset in great defiance of Nick’s roots. Due to the success of the film a sequel is a solid bet though I am also not betting the follow-up will be any good. Are romantic comedy sequels ever decent?

Filled with cliche’s, but satisfying most mainstream film-goers, Crazy Rich Asians (2018) creates a film with enough shards of Asian culture to at least get the Asian population on the map with a Hollywood production. Containing a polished look and some stereotypes the film breaks no new ground other than good inclusion and that is a start.

It Happened One Night-1934

It Happened One Night-1934

Director-Frank Capra

Starring-Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert

Scott’s Review #824

Reviewed October 25, 2018

Grade: A-

Perhaps the film which best defines the early cinematic romantic comedy and certainly the one most modern genre films can take a lesson from, It Happened One Night (1934) is a lively, fun romp.  The film carted away the Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Actress Academy awards, a rare feat, and defined what romantic tension and smart dialogue ought to be in a quality picture. All the elements sparkle into an excellent classic film watch.

Ellie Andrews (Colbert) is a pampered socialite who has recently disobeyed her overbearing and wealthy father, eloping with a blue-collar pilot who is feared to be after her money. Determined, Ellie escapes her father’s clutches and hops on a Greyhound bus headed from Florida to New York, where her husband is. When she crosses paths with an out of work journalist, Peter Warne (Gable), they each find an opportunity to use the other to their own advantage. The pairs adventures along the east coast lead to antics and schemes as they fall madly in love with one another.

It Happened One Night successfully mixes a good romance with some screwball comedy without ever becoming silly or trite. In fact, the film also serves as a good old-fashioned adventure story as Peter and Ellie face one hurdle after another on their trek north. Pleasing is the way that the duo slowly find romance, but first begin as irritants towards each other. The chemistry between the actors is superb and never seems forced or contrived.

Frank Capra, a famous director with successes throughout the 1930’s, culminating with the holiday favorite It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), had several Oscar winning films during the decade. It Happened One Night, though, seems to have inspired the most of them all, and the acting, farcical situations, dialogue and direction all successfully come together.

Shot in black and white and pre- Motion Picture Production Code, which heavily restricted details deemed too violent or sexual in nature, It Happened One Night was able to push the envelope quite a bit. This is to the film’s credit- who can forget the adorable yet provocative scene in which Ellie shows her shapely legs to enable the duo to catch a ride. The lovable scene, non-risque in today’s modern world, was anything but in 1934.

An interesting, and at that time unique, point, is that supporting characters are more layered than is typical in romantic comedies. Danker, who Peter and Ellie hitch a ride with is seemingly a decent man, but ultimately attempts to steal their luggage. Later, Ellie’s preposterous father turns out to be somewhat of a decent man, so the film contains a few character surprises too.

While not quite a pure masterpiece, It Happened One Night (1934) is nonetheless an inspired legendary film that can be viewed and enjoyed for the time-period in which it was made. The film is a standout among the similarly themed romantic comedies of the 1930’s and 1940’s and a teachable moment for all film makers delving into same genre territory.

Legally Blonde-2001

Legally Blonde-2001

Director-Robert Luketic

Starring-Reese Witherspoon, Luke Wilson

Scott’s Review #807

Reviewed August 30, 2018

Grade: B+

Legally Blonde (2001) is a film that by all accounts should have been a hot mess, but for some reason instead is a great ball of fun. High art it ain’t by any means, and the plot is implausible beyond belief and suspension of disbelief must be securely tucked away. Despite portraying more serious roles both before and after this film, Reese Witherspoon is largely responsible for the success and is closely associated with this role. Quite simply, all the elements manage to align with perfection in this film.

Elle Woods (Witherspoon) is president of her sorority at a Los Angeles college. Clad in fluffy pink attire and carrying her cute dog everywhere she goes, she epitomizes the stereotypical “dumb blonde”. However, she does carry a 4.0 grade point average in fashion. Expecting a marriage proposal from her upper-class, snooty boyfriend, Warner, Elle instead finds herself dumped due to not being serious enough. Determined to prove herself worthy, she manages acceptance into Harvard Law school, along with Warner, and embarks on hi-jinks and adventures. Warner’s fiancee and a potential new love interest cause turmoil for the boisterous Elle.

Legally Blonde never takes itself too seriously and is simply a fun, silly-minded, comic adventure. Audiences will likely chuckle and smile along with Elle’s adventures as she gets into one pickle after another, always determined to prove her intelligence.

To be clear, the film itself is very formulaic and could easily have been trivial and uninspired resulting in a bomb. But Witherspoon shines in the lead role adding a likable, charming quality to the character. The actress possesses great wit and comic timing so that her character becomes more of a champion and we root for her to overcome obstacles and succeed. By miles, she is the standout in the film.

Suspension of disbelief is at an all-time high. In “real life” there is no way Elle would ever make her way into the elitist Ivy league school brandishing a pink resume or other silly tricks to be cute and appealing. Nor would she ever likely be so instrumental in winning a murder case so quickly. To nobody’s surprise Elle eventually graduates with flying colors and is honored with giving a graduation speech inspiring those around her. But as implausible as these situations are, they are also Legally Blondes appeal.

The supporting characters are pure caricatures, especially the main foils (Warner and Vivian- who takes Elle’s place as fiancee). Both are clearly the villains, Vivian going so far as to embarrass Elle by inviting her to a stuffy party under the guise of it being a costume party. In the end, one of the characters “turns good”, another common element of predictable films of this nature. But again, the film is just pure and simple fun, so these stereotypes are okay.

In more modern times (not that 2001 was so long ago), the film would have not been directed by a man, but rather by a woman. Screenwriters Kirsten Smith and Karen McCullah Lutz prepare a female driven film which was based on a novel by Amanda Brown. Why a man was chosen to direct is beyond me, but, alas, this is the way things were at the time.

Interestingly, another recent film that I reviewed, My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) would work perfectly as a now retro romantic comedy double feature  along with Legally Blonde (2001). Both are fun and light, but also celebrate strong female characters. Legally Blonde borrows much from the 1995 brilliant similar genre leaning Clueless, but is not as great as that film. Still the film is an inspired effort due largely to the charms of its lead star.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding-2002

My Big Fat Greek Wedding-2002

Director-Joel Zwick

Starring-Nia Vardalos, John Corbett

Scott’s Review #806

Reviewed August 28, 2018

Grade: B+

My Big Fat Greek Wedding is a romantic comedy film from 2002 that became a surprising sleeper hit at the time of release. A novel story idea, the film was even recognized with a Best Original Screenplay Oscar nomination. The film achieved success the old-fashioned way by garnering word of mouth buzz despite little promotion. Good natured, earnest, and tender, the film was nonetheless marred by an abysmal sequel and short-lived television series- a lesson learned in leaving well enough alone.

Comedian Nia Vardalos reportedly wrote the story as a one woman play and word of mouth among Hollywood A-list celebrities led to a film version starring Vardalos herself. This casting choice adds enormous authenticity as the writer’s vision shines through on-screen. The film just has a fresh and modern feel to it. Otherwise, the supporting cast is brilliant and perfectly selected. From handsome love interest John Corbett to veterans like Lainie Kazan and Andrea Martin, everyone plays their part to the hilt and seems to be having a ball with the comic elements.

Dowdy Toula Portokalos is a lonely thirty -year-old Greek woman, considered to be the black sheep of her family. Of traditional roots, she is expected to marry and bare children as quickly as possible. Toula still lives at home and works in the family restaurant in bustling Chicago, yearning for something more out of life. When she sees dashing school teacher Ian Miller in the restaurant one day, she makes an embarrassing attempt to catch his attention. Through a computer class, Toula blossoms and finally lands her man, but the drama is just beginning as the couples and their individual families differing cultures collide.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding is written very well and, again, the authenticity is what really shines through in each scene. Admittedly, it does often feel like a television sitcom and many scenes play for obvious laughs, but the laughs work. The funniest of these scenes is when Toula and Ian (now engaged) decide to invite his parents to dinner at her parent’s house. Predictably, events go awry as his parents-conservative and reserved, do not mesh well with hers-festive and bombastic.

Vardalos and Corbett may not have the greatest chemistry in film history, but the build -up and the romance is so charming that we can overlook the lack of lustful vigor or the sexual tension between the pair. In this way the film feels more like a PG rated Cinderella story than anything heavier. Predictably, the couple shares a happily ever after ending.

As much of a jewel as My Big Fat Greek Wedding was in 2002, the risk with a film of this nature is to actually hold up well over time. Specifically, in the romantic comedy genre, films of this ilk have a short relevant self-life (if deemed relevant at all). The humorous Windex references may be lost on audiences over time or just become stale over the years.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) can be deemed by some as fluff- mainly based on the romantic comedy genre it exists in. But it’s of better worth than that, mainly because of the fresh and genuine use of culture and differing backgrounds. The film has a quality that most of the standard “rom coms” do not possess, that of authenticity. Yes, it certainly contains Greek stereotypes, but the overall vibe of the film is that of a sunny, fun, happy experience. An uplifting film can sometimes be just what the doctor ordered.

Bridesmaids-2011

Bridesmaids-2011

Director-Paul Feig

Starring-Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph

Scott’s Review #784

Reviewed July 6, 2018

Grade: A

Despite the raunchy romantic comedy genre not being my favorite, and despite not being such a fan of Judd Apetow (famed producer of several of these types of films), Bridesmaids (2011) is easily the best of its kind. Influential in a multitude of female empowerment themed comedies that followed, this one is witty, genuine, and funny because of its star, Kristen Wiig, who also co-wrote the film. One of the best comedies (if not the best) of the decade.

Apatow is largely known for producing comedy films that mix in the standard potty humor for cheap laughs. He is responsible for This Is 40 (2012) and Trainwreck (2015), both of which I found moderately funny, but needlessly gross out and tired.  My point is that minus the talents of Wiig (both in front of and behind the camera), Bridesmaids would likely have been mediocre like these films. Instead, Bridesmaids is a wonderful, uproarious experience with a star who captures a moment. My one gnawing gripe is that shouldn’t a film about women be directed by a woman?

Annie (Wiig) has been asked to serve as the maid of honor at her best friend, Lillian’s (Maya Rudolph), upcoming wedding. Rather than be thrilled, Annie is depressed due to an ongoing string of bad luck. Her bakery business fails, she loses her unfulfilling job at a jewelry store, she is dating a jerk (Jon Hamm), and her car is about to die. She has difficult roommates and is on the verge of having to move back in with her mother at age thirty-five.

The story hilariously follows Annie’s rivalry with Helen (Rose Byrne), Lillian’s soon to be husband’s boss’s controlling wife. Helen is intent on taking over the handling of the wedding events much to Annie’s chagrin. The ladies compete to one up each other throughout the film- Rose is perfect princess to Annie’s grit and cynicism.

Annie struggles through her personal issues, unhappy with the state of her love life, she meets police officer, Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd), and they begin a tender friendship. However, their attraction is tested because of Annie’s shenanigans. Annie must then fly to Las Vegas with the other bridesmaids despite being terrified of flying.

Despite the story being nothing not seen dozens of times before in romantic comedy history (the set ups), the film is a laugh out loud riot. In addition to Wiig, Rudolph, and Byrne, the remaining cast of ladies all have tremendous chemistry with each other. Special kudos go to Melissa McCarthy in her fearless role of Megan, a tomboy misfit who somehow is part of the wedding party. With her “tell it like it is” attitude the actress sinks her teeth into this fabulous role without taking her too far across the line into ridiculousness.

In rip roaring fashion, multiple scenes are permanently etched in my mind. After Annie suggests a Brazilian steak restaurant for lunch followed by a fitting at a chic dress shop, the girls suffer from food poisoning. This results in torrents of diarrhea scenes and one unlucky character being reduced to going to the bathroom in the middle of the street. The scene while super raunchy is hilarious and fraught with perfect comic timing.

Not to be outdone, the airplane scene is equally tremendous, however the scene belongs to Wiig rather than the entire ensemble. Being forced to fly coach while everyone else is treated to first class, Annie unwisely accepts a pill from Helen to calm her during the flight. Instead, Annie becomes belligerent and wild when she mixes the sedative with alcohol.

As good as the supporting cast is, Wiig owns the film through and through. Every scene she is in and each line she utters is perfectly timed. The fact that Wiig did some improvisation (think the scene in the jewelry store) is evident and only adds to the genuine feel of the film. Subsequently, to Wiig’s credit, she has been careful to choose more complicated roles to avoid the risk of being typecast. And a sequel was wisely never made- this would have ruined the appeal.

Bridesmaids (2011) is an authentic story rich with hilarity and crisp dialogue. The film is enhanced in that it’s a female centered film written by women (though direction and producers too would have been better). Because of the tremendous cast led by Wiig, the film is blazing with humor and led a firestorm of similar “girl power” films (mostly bad) well into the decade.

Working Girl-1988

Working Girl-1988

Director-Mike Nichols

Starring-Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford, Sigourney Weaver

Scott’s Review #748

Reviewed April 26, 2018

Grade: B+

Released during a decade known for excess, fun and light comedy films, especially during the latter half, 1988’s Working Girl was a blockbuster hit at the time, and in modern times is perfectly nestled as an identifier of the decade itself- this can be both good and bad with both a dated feel and also a whimsical, basic good girl versus bad approach that is appealing.

The film is romantic comedy fluff, but is entertaining and features lovely views of New York City- one of my very favorite locales. The film is directed by Mike Nichols, known more for heavier subject matter (1966’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and 1967’s The Graduate). His leading of the picture as well as all-star casting surely made this film better than it ought to have been.

Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith) commutes via the Staten Island Ferry each morning into vast Manhattan where she holds a secretarial job at a Wall Street investment bank.  When she has a bad experience with one of the brokers, she is reassigned to a female boss, the assertive Katharine Parker (Sigourney Weaver). After Katharine steals Tess’s business idea and passes it off as her own to get in good with handsome Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford), Tess is determined to reveal the truth as a triangle of sorts develops between the three individuals. In tow is Tess’s best friend Cynthia (Joan Cusack) and her cheating boyfriend, Mick (Alec Baldwin) in supporting roles.

Working Girl feels overwhelmingly like a “1980’s film” and while relevant at the time and kindly nostalgic, the film does not hold up well in modern times, rather seeming to be suited for a time capsule, unlocked from time to time for kicks. The most garish example are the hideous hairdo’s (or more appropriately hair dont’s) that Nichols has Tess and Cynthia don- frizzed out and caked with aqua net hairspray is over-the-top even for the 1980’s. Then there are the inevitable tacky outfits complete with bright colors and shoulder pads as the girl hustle to their dull jobs. With these costume tidbits in addition to the filming style the tone just screams 1980’s.

The casting of the three leads is very good- Griffith, Ford, and Weaver all share nice chemistry with one another and the clear rooting value is for Tess and Jack to live happily ever after- with Katharine as the obvious foil. In this way the conclusion of the film is of little surprise, but as a romantic comedy this is standard fare. The point is that the relationships are dynamic and the ride is fun. Griffith is quite breathy and seductive in her role- a clear homage to the talents of Marilyn Monroe in her 1950’s era films. Never known for great acting, Tess is the role of a lifetime for Griffith. Weaver sinks her teeth into an against type villainous role and Ford is dashing and charismatic as the leading man.

My favorite parts of Working Girl, and the strongest aspects of the film, leaving an indelible impression even after all of these years, are the sweeping camera sequences of New York City featured throughout the film. Lots of scenes were shot in neighboring Staten Island, but the best shots of all are the luminous skylines of Manhattan that encompass the opening sequence and later, viewpoints from the corporate offices. There we see Tess on the Ferry heading across the Hudson River all with the wonderful soundtrack song by Carly Simon, Let the River Run, playing in the background. The soothing tune and the approaching mammoth city set a nice tone.

The story itself is a sort of rags to riches, Cinderella style experience from the point of view of Tess. Taking night classes to better herself and clearly a blue collar type battling the giants of the corporate world and the more sophisticated Katherine (she speaks fluent French!) is an enormous draw of the film to sustain mainstream audiences. In fact, corporate greed versus the little guy is an adept comparison here. Almost borderline fairy tale, the fact that Tess gets the dashing Jack (in real life he would undoubtedly be with Katharine) makes the film good, escapist fare. The working class Staten Island versus the sophisticated Manhattan is another theme worth mentioning.

Thirty years beyond its original release. 1988’s Working Girl now seems dated, dusty, and of its time like many similar style films, but does still contain some of the enjoyment undoubtedly beholden to it at the time of release. A film that is fine to take out of the vault, dust off, and enjoy for some good escapist cinema and a predictable story of good overcoming bad.

Roman Holiday-1953

Roman Holiday-1953

Director-William Wyler

Starring-Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn

Scott’s Review #694

Reviewed October 26, 2017

Grade: B+

Roman Holiday, released in 1953, was a box office hit, pleasing legions of fans at the time, in addition to being a critical darling. The film reaped a series of Academy Award nominations including the coveted Best Actress statuette for a young Audrey Hepburn. A happy, uplifting story, the film is not diminished by the Cinderella in reverse story-line, but rather is a charming, romantic experience immersing itself in pleasing locales of the cultural city of Rome. Admittedly, Roman Holiday is an example of a film in which I preferred the latter half to the former, but succeeds in setting the bar high in the romantic comedy genre.

Our heroine, Princess Ann (Hepburn, has it all- a glamorous life, gorgeous clothes, and assistants tending to her every need and want. However, she is unhappy and trapped in a rigid life that lacks freedoms or decisions of any kind, to say nothing of the fun she catches glimpses of party-goers reveling in each night from her expansive palace window. Simply put, she is lonely and unfulfilled. When she sees an opportunity to escape her life for a night of fun, she snatches it and stumbles upon an American reporter, Joe Bradley. The two, despite differing backgrounds, fall madly in love with one another.

At first I found something missing with the film and the chemistry between Peck and Hepburn did not immediately embrace me. As the duo meet, Ann, drunk from sleeping pills, and Joe being the ultimate nice guy and allowing her to sleep in his apartment, the story seems somewhat lagging and lacking a good punch. The pair drive around the city of Rome on a scooter and act childish and silly, Ann acting girlish because fun is an entirely new concept to her. At this point the film was reasonable, but little more than a farce.

As Roman Holiday plugs along, and especially through the final act, the film sheds a bit of its light skin and becomes much more poignant and meaningful. Ann and Joe, while in love, realize they will not and cannot embark on a fairy tale ending, which truthfully, would have made Roman Holiday little more than a standard romantic comedy we have all seen before- you know the type- boy meets girl, roadblocks persist, boy whisks girl away and ride off into the sunset together. Roman Holiday, while not a dark film, goes much deeper than a transparent, predictable ending.

Related to this point is that Roman Holiday contains a realness that sets it apart from many films undoubtedly drawn from it, but unlike this film, lean into contrived or predictable situations. As Joe and Ann fall in love, the audience falls in love with them. In fact, the main plot hurdle- Joe’s temptation to profit off of Ann once he realizes her true identity by way of a sought after interview- is earnestly done with a lack of any pretension. Other similar films ought to take note of this.

Certainly, the historic and culturally relevant locales of Rome are a major sell of the film and, if these scenes were shot on a movie set, a lack of authenticity would surely have emerged. Instead, we are treated to such fabulous location sequences as the Colosseum, the Tiber River, the Trevi Fountain, and Piazza Venezia. Such a delight is the long sequence of Roman escapades as Joe and Ann traverse the city in giddy bliss.

Enjoyable is how Roman Holiday contains no real villain of any sort. Nowhere to be found is any physical hurdles to the duo’s relationship- no outside forces plotting to keep Joe and Ann apart, other than merely their individual lifestyles. Ann is in a world of royalty and pampering, but Joe is an every man, so the chances of living happily ever after are slim to none.

Film lovers intent on discovering one of the early romantic comedies- one could argue that It Happened One Night was the first- ought to take a watch of a feel-good, Hollywood classic from 1953 that is rich in honesty, good humor, and raw emotion without being too much of a heavy melodrama. After a middling start the film finishes with gusto.

Broadcast News-1987

Broadcast News-1987

Director-James L. Brooks

Starring-William Hurt, Holly Hunter

Scott’s Review #602

Reviewed January 11, 2017

Grade: B

Broadcast News is a 1987 feature film that admittedly is an intelligently written romantic comedy. It was rewarded with several Academy Awards nominations, in what has been known to be a bleak year for the film industry. That being said, I found the overall result of the film to be a decent experience, but certainly nothing fantastic. I was left with the feeling that it was “okay”.  I definitely do not think it was good enough to warrant Oscar nominations, but it was enjoyable all the same.

The principle characters are interesting enough, albeit safe. The film centers around three television news people- a neurotic news producer (Holly Hunter), a reporter (Albert Brooks), and his rival (William Hurt). All of them are ambitious, and determined to climb the ladder of success in their Washington D.C. base. The film explores the relationships between the the characters.

As stated, there is nothing really wrong with the film. I would have expected a bit more- perhaps deeper or darker story- instead, despite some witty dialogue, the film is largely a safe, predictable journey.

Date Night-2010

Date Night-2010

Director-Shawn Levy

Starring-Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Mark Wahlberg

Scott’s Review #481

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Reviewed September 17, 2016

Grade: D+

Date Night is a perfect example of mediocrity in modern film making. We have two current comedic actors here- Steve Carrell and Tina Fey- circa 2010- at the top of their game. The film makers idea is to pair these two and make an appealing romantic comedy appealing to the masses. The main issue with this film is that the result is generic and a quite average offering. And the entire film is incredibly plot driven with no character development to speak of. If I am being too harsh, admittedly there is rather nice chemistry between the two leads, but it is wasted because of sloppy writing.

A couple from the New Jersey ‘burbs, Carrell and Fey portray husband and wife, Phil and Claire Foster. Saddled with two kids and their romance reaching dullsville, Phil decides to take Claire to a ritzy Manhattan restaurant. When they arrive, they cannot get a table, but pretend to be another couple (the Tripplehorns) in order to obtain their table after the other couple no-shows. This leads to a tale of mistaken identity as the  Tripplehorns possess a flash drive that a mobster (Ray Liotta) wants. This leads to a chase throughout Manhattan to outrun and outwit their pursuers. Wahlberg plays a hunky client of Claire’s, always shirtless, who is meant to threaten Phil and Claire’s marriage. Yawn.

Several other of the current Hollywood elite- Kristen Wiig, James Franco, Mila Kunis, and Mark Ruffalo, make small and somewhat pointless appearances. Specifically, Franco and Kunis as a stoner-type bickering couple is really silly and unnecessary to the story.

Carrell and Fey are actually quite funny as individuals and as a duo- Date Night, though, does not capitalize nor showcase their respective talents. The film tries too hard to come up with scenario after scenario of the two on the run and encountering one problematic situation after another.

As the plot of Date Night wears on, I found myself noticing that each situation that occurs is a measure of convenience. Conveniently, Claire has a client in town (Wahlberg), who is a security expert. They go to him for help and, predictably, his hunkiness bothers Phil and piques Claire’s interest- though of course we know full well Phil and Claire will end up together- that is how these mainstream films go. In another scene. Phil and Claire are able to break into an office building unnoticed, trigger the alarms, conveniently find a needed file, and escape, miraculously all before the police arrive minutes later. Very plot driven.

The lead actors in Date Night are appealing and even charming together, but the silly, inane plot make it unappealing to watch and the slew of stars that somebody decided would be a great addition to a lukewarm film is odd. The roles written had little bearing on the central plot so it was apparent why they were added. Date Night is a film we have seen time and time again with other actors in similar roles.

This Is 40-2012

This Is 40-2012

Director-Judd Apatow

Starring-Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann

Scott’s Review #473

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Reviewed September 6, 2016

Grade: B

I must admit, I was not looking forward to seeing this movie, and my initial thought was “typical dumb comedy” that has been seen a million times before. While the film does contain those elements and is clearly marketed toward a certain target audience, this movie is, surprisingly, smartly written and intelligent…overall.

I have not viewed Knocked Up, but I understand it’s a somewhat follow-up to that film, as the two central characters appear- now married and traversing through a different time in their lives-adulthood.

I enjoyed Paul Rudd’s, Melissa McCarthy’s, and whomever played the oldest daughter’s, performances the most, though Rudd has become the latest actor to play the same role over and over again. I enjoyed the rock n roll elements and the confrontation scenes as these were very cleverly written and nicely acted.

Sadly, at times the film relies on the standard bathroom humor done thousands of times before- a clear attempt at a laugh, and Jason Segal’s and Megan Fox’s characters are unnecessary to the main plot. This Is 40 is a film that, at its heart, shows the trials and tribulations of generations of families, in a humorous way, and done rather well.

Café Society-2016

Café Society-2016

Director-Woody Allen

Starring-Jesse Eisenberg, Steve Carell

Scott’s Review #462

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Reviewed August 11, 2016

Grade: B+

Having received sub-par reviews, but nonetheless wanting to see this film for myself, as it is a Woody Allen film, and I have yet to see an Allen film I did not like, I traversed to my local theater to see this flick. I was not disappointed, though others clearly did not share my opinion.

To love Woody Allen films is to love quirky characters who are either neurotic, damaged, or more often than not, both. Also notable to Café Society is the stellar cast of who’s who- many in small cameo roles, but which is a another trademark of Woody Allen films. Marisa Tomei, Daniel Radcliffe, and Anna Camp (True Blood) have very small roles as do forgotten stars such as Sheryl Lee (Twin Peaks), and Tony Sirico (The Sopranos). Additionally, Woody Allen himself narrates the film- a highlight.

The main stars of Café Society, though, are Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart, both perfectly cast. The setting (which I adored) is 1930’s Hollywood and the action traverses between California and New York City- another common bond of Allen films. Eisenberg plays Bobby Dorfman, a Jewish son of a working class jeweler, and has many siblings. Tired of New York, he flies to Los Angeles to obtain work with his hot shot Uncle Phil, played by Steve Carrell, who knows every celebrity under the sun. There, he meets Vonnie (Stewart) and they fall in love, Bobby unaware of her on and off love affair with Phil.

The set and costume designs are to die for and, being a fan of this glamorous time in history, is a wonderful treat from a visual perspective. Café Society is a prime example of a film that feels authentic and true to its time period rather than appearing staged with actors merely dressed in appropriate attire. This is tougher to achieve than one might imagine.

Despite opinions of the contrary, I enjoyed how most of the characters were wishy washy and unsure of their motivations or feelings toward other characters. Vonnie loves Phil, then she warms to Bobby, who has been in love with her since their first meeting as she innocently showed him around the palatial mansions of Hollywood.  She is real to Bobby, but then makes a decision and becomes everything that she once despised about Hollywood- a shallow trophy wife.

Ironically, back in New York, Bobby then becomes involved with a stunning new woman with the same name as his ex. The importance of this coincidence is crucial to the film’s point. He transfers his feelings to another woman, but is he really happy?

It did not bother me, though perhaps it should have, that several characters were introduced for a scene or two and then mysteriously dropped.  For instance, the novice hooker, Candy, having tried to make it as an actress and failed, has a heart of gold. But after her awkward attempt at a tryst with Bobby, the character is never seen again.

Another characteristic of the film that I enjoyed is the natural, overlapping dialogue between the characters. It makes them that much more genuine and harkens back to my fondness for Robert Altman films, who used a similar technique with his actors.

The point of Café Society is that nobody really ever gets what they want or, the film is making  a point of, nobody ever really knows what they want. Containing elements common to other Woody Allen films, Café Society is intended for fans of his lengthy body of work.

Your Sister’s Sister-2011

Your Sister’s Sister-2011

Director-Lynn Shelton

Starring-Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt

Scott’s Review #448

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Reviewed July 9, 2016

Grade: C+

Your Sister’s Sister is a small, 2011 independent film, with a central cast of only three characters- the two sisters mentioned in the title and a young man (Mark Duplass) who is a rival for their affections.

The story tells of a love triangle, of sorts, between two sisters and one man. I admire the improvisational method that is used in the dialogue, ala Robert Altman style, where the characters merely have conversations and discuss issues rather than a structured dialogue- this works well in the film.

The standout is certainly Rosemarie DeWitt (“Mad Men”). I also enjoyed the remote, cabin setting, which makes for a claustrophobic experience. Emily Blunts performance, though, seems bland to me and I did not find her character rather relatable.

The ending of the film leaves everything up in the air and no clear conclusions are drawn, something I could see coming from miles away. I admired the style of this film, but was unsatisfied with the outcome.

Ruby Sparks-2012

Ruby Sparks-2012

Director-Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris

Starring-Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan

Scott’s Review #442

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Reviewed July 4, 2016

Grade: B

Ruby Sparks is a smart, creative, indie film from 2012. The films theme is fantasy versus reality as the main character is a troubled writer envisioning a character he has created is real. Is she or isn’t she?

The film centers around a writer (Paul Dano of Little Miss Sunshine fame) with writers block who creates an imaginary dream girl (Zoe Kazan), who magically comes to life one day. This is an interesting premise and film and has some big name actors (Annette Bening, Eliot Gould, Antonio Banderas) in small roles which is a delight to see.

The chemistry is lacking between the two leads and the film delves too much into a typical romantic comedy. Additionally,the film never explains if it is going for seriousness or purely the writers imagination, but I admire its creativity and thoughtful premise.

Hope Springs-2012

Hope Springs-2012

Director-David Frankel

Starring-Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones

Scott’s Review #434

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Reviewed June 30, 2016

Grade: B

Hope Springs is a cute, lighthearted romantic drama with enormous talent (it is tough to go wrong with heavyweights like Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones).

The story tells of a middle-aged, married couple who reach the point of boredom in their long marriage. They decide to go away on a retreat to repair their marriage and add some spark. That’s really the movie in a nut shell. There are no surprises to speak of and I expected a bit more from this film given the talent involved. It has safe written all over it, and while nice, it could have been much more. What’s the reason for the conflict? They suddenly reach a point of boredom for no reason.

Props to Steve Carell for an against type performance. Great acting all around, but too safe a story.

Celeste and Jesse Forever-2012

Celeste and Jesse Forever-2012

Director-Lee Toland Krieger

Starring-Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg

Scott’s Review #421

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Reviewed June 19, 2016

Grade: D

Celeste and Jesse Forever was a major dud for me. I am not a fan of romantic comedies, but since the film received a nomination for an Independent Spirit award for Best First Screenplay, I decided to watch it. Why this film was nominated for that award I cannot understand. Perhaps someone knows someone who knows someone?

There is nothing impressive about the writing whatsoever. It’s a tried and true romantic comedy formula: couple together, couple splits, couple reunites, throw in some misunderstandings for good measure and that is pretty much the film. The central characters and supporting characters are either dull, annoying, or both.

To be fair, there is nothing loathsome about the movie, but rather, it’s your standard by the numbers romantic comedy that warrants no award nominations. Bland.

 

Bus Stop-1956

Bus Stop-1956

Director-Joshua Logan

Starring-Marilyn Monroe, Don Murray

Scott’s Review #400

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Reviewed April 30, 2016

Grade: C

Bus Stop is a 1956 film starring Marilyn Monroe that, while surprisingly ranking as one of her best roles, is one of her worst films in my opinion and, at present times, feels dated, chauvinistic,  and diminishing to women. Perhaps perceived as romantic and cute in 1956, times have changed and the film no longer has the charm that it undoubtedly must have had decades ago.

The film is based on a play by William Inge, and, remarkably is Monroe’s first full-fledged dramatic performance. She plays a nightclub performer named Cherie, or mispronounced “cherry” by her love interest, Beau, an immature, naïve, socially inept cowboy, unfamiliar with women and looking for his “angel”. His is accompanied by his friend and father-figure, Virgil. Together they travel by bus from Montana to Phoenix, Arizona for a rodeo. Once Beau meets Cherie, he is intent on conquering her and marrying her despite her resistance to his pursuits.

As a fan of Monroe’s more familiar works- Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How To Marry A Millionaire, it is nice to see her in a dramatic role, which gives her some nice range and meatier material to tackle. In 1956 she was still looking marvelous and the sexy nightclub outfit the film had her prancing around in works well. While Monroe will never be accused of being the greatest actress in the world, her turn in this film is to be praised, and she lets out some nice emotions. Unfortunately, the character is poorly written, but Monroe gives it the old college try.

Another positive I found with the film is in that of the supporting cast. Bus stop owner Grace (Betty Field), who has a suggested tryst with the bus driver (Robert Bray) is a delight and nearly steals the show! In fact, I found their limited screen time and limited romance more interesting and fraught with more potential than the main couple (Beau and Cherie). Eileen Heckert is fine in the role of Vera, a waitress and confidante of Cherie, though she is given little to do.

My favorite scene takes place at Grace’s Bus Stop as the group are stranded during a sudden winter storm. Beau and the bus driver engage in a bare-knuckles fight outdoors in the driving snow while the rest look on. The bus driver is tired of Beau’s obnoxiousness and intends to teach him a lesson. Despite being on a sound stage the scene is authentic and the snow and gusts add to the animal like, masculine scene.

Otherwise, the film is not kind to women and in some parts is downright sexist. When Cherie, clearly rebuffing Beau’s advances, attempts to board a bus out of town (and alone), Beau decides to lasso her in order to prevent her from leaving. The next scene we see Cherie obediently sitting next to Beau on another bus to Phoenix to presumably marry him.  It is suggested that she finally gives in, temporarily, to his advances. This film would never be made today.

The character of Beau is not well crafted. Dumb, lower class, and bordering on abusive to Cherie, I am perplexed as to why the intent is for the audience to root for this character to obtain Cherie and ride off happily into the sunset- I certainly did not. I would have much preferred a pairing of Cherie and Virgil, who is older, sensible, and kind.

Dated, sexist, with poorly written characters, Bus Stop is not Monroe’s best film, but it does allow an audience to see her in a dramatic role and that is worth a viewing.

Hello, My Name Is Doris-2016

Hello, My Name Is Doris-2016

Director-Michael Showalter

Starring-Sally Field, Max Greenfield

Scott’s Review #390

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Reviewed April 1, 2016

Grade: B

Sally Field shines in Hello, My Name Is Doris, a sweet natured indie romantic comedy that tells of a lonely Staten Island woman, and her mostly fantasy-laden relationship with her colleague, a much younger, hunky man.  The film has a certain measure of predictability, but is sweet, honest, and really works well. It hardly reinvents the wheel, but rather is a story of a woman’s reawakening from a dull life and is a nice character- oriented film- refreshing in a world of retreads and super-hero flicks. Hello, My Name Is Doris is humanistic.

Doris Miller meanders through life at her crappy data entry job at an Advertising Agency in mid-town Manhattan. Having worked in the same role for decades, she is overlooked and more or less invisible to colleagues. She is the “weird old lady” or the “wallflower” who goes unnoticed. Her personal life is a dud- she lives with her mother who has recently died, is a hoarder, and is severely marginalized.  Clearly, she has no dating possibilities. One day, on the elevator, heading to the office, a kind young man named John Fremont innocently pays attention to her and she becomes enamored with him. Later, she is stunned to realize that John is the new Art Director at her job. Her crush escalates as she and John become friends, and a series of misunderstandings ensue, with the added conflict of her friends thinking she is living in a fantasy world, worried she will wind up hurt.

Sally Field clearly carries this film in every way. It is nice to see her in a lead role again, which sadly, for a seventy year old actress, is a rarity these days. She convincingly plays quirky, shy, awkward, and has one melt-down scene that is a powerful testament to her continued acting ability. The character of Doris slowly blossoms and becomes rich with zest. We discover she is much more than meets the eye and these moments in the film are wonderful to experience and this is thanks to Field’s charisma.

My favorite scenes involve the nice bond between Doris and the thirteen year old granddaughter of her best pal, Roz, played by Tyne Daly. Despite the age difference, the granddaughter views her as a peer, giving daring dating advice to the inept Doris. This leads to a nice portion of the plot and some funny moments.

One unique aspect of Hello, My Name Is Doris, is that it is not a film about a May-December romance between a man and a woman, at least I did not look at the film that way. Rather, it is about a woman who finally decides to live regardless of her age. I felt her stifled and smothered by her brother and sister-in-law, who clearly did not understand that she hoarded “stuff” in her home to cope with her loneliness and to be surrounded by things that gave her comfort helped her deal. Granted, Doris clinging to one broken wooden ski from the dark ages was amusing in its cuteness.

Worth a huge note is Tyne Daly, who, from an acting standpoint, can recite the phone book and I’d be happy with that. She is one of those natural, confident, interesting, real, actresses and her scenes with Fields glistened with raw talent and emotion. Perhaps a female buddy movie with Field and Daly?

The remainder of the supporting characters are capable, but not spectacular. In fact, they are rather clichéd and one-note. For example, Doris’s colleagues view her as invisible with the classic office jokes and especially the female boss thrown into the film- possessing a hard as nails personality and coldness. I have seen these characters time after time in comedy films. Supporting actors from Orange is the New Black and Mad Men are featured as a couple of the colleagues.

Indie, fun, and with a freshness made in large part by Sally Field, Hello, My Name Is Doris is an innocent comedy with a romantic edge and some nice laughs. It is far from a masterpiece, but a good natured escape, especially for the middle-aged or senior crowd craving a non-stereotypical female character- and that is refreshing in itself.

Obvious Child-2014

Obvious Child-2014

Director-Gillian Robespierre

Starring-Jenny Slate

Scott’s Review #387

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Reviewed March 22, 2016

Grade: C+

Obvious Child is a 2014 independent comedy nominated for a couple of independent spirit awards, that contains mixed results from me. It works on some levels, but has an irritating underbelly and some unneeded components that ultimately give it a thumbs down. The major success is star Jenny Slate, a real-life Brooklyn stand-up comic with immeasurable comic timing, who will hopefully become a rising star. Interesting to note is that Slate starred in a 2009 short film of the same name before said film graduated to a full length feature.

Slate stars as a twenty-eight year old Brooklyn-ite, who moonlights as a stand-up comic in a dingy bar while working in a desolate bookstore that is soon closing. Conversely, her parents are successful- her mother a famed professor. When she is unceremoniously dumped by her steady, she takes up with a handsome young man for a one-night stand filled with fun. Predictably, she winds up pregnant and forges ahead with a plan to abort their child.

The abortion story is quite interesting in that there is never a doubt what she will have done to the unborn child. Unlike films that make abortion the main focus of conflict, Obvious Child wisely does not- every character in the film supports, and even encourages her to have the procedure, including her mother and best friend. Having been written and directed by women, this is clearly intentional and a way of empowering women, which is one of the high points of the film. If one is on the fence about the topic of abortion or is pro-life in stance, this film may be very tough to watch as its slant is made crystal clear.

Slate is the other high point of the film. She exudes confidence and comic range. Jewish and slightly awkward looking, she is not the leading-lady type and this arguably makes her wit and sarcastic language all the more comical. She is a natural in the comedy department and I am hoping she will go far.

Two slight props for me worth mentioning is the wonderful mention of the classic film Gone with the Wind and the setting of Brooklyn. This was a great nod to film history and the setting gave Obvious Child an authentic New York City feel.

On the other hand, an utter annoyance about Obvious Child is the shameless and constant use of blatant and off-putting bathroom humor- not just once or twice, but numerous times. How is this necessary to the plot? I really cannot say, but only can surmise that it was deemed necessary by the filmmakers to show that females can give as good as males can. Almost saying, “men can make poop jokes, why can’t women”? Why this is necessary in any film is beyond me and it gives Obvious Child a crass, ugly feel.

The film also has an unrealistic quality to it. Max is portrayed as a prince charming. He can do no wrong, supports Donna in any decision she makes, is enamored by her sole being, and loves her unconditionally after only a one-night stand. This would not happen in real life. The fact that Donna is Jewish and quirky and Max is Christian and straight-laced is not explored. What conflicts would they undoubtedly face? Why were his parents not featured.

Highly uneven, with a great premise and an interesting slant on a still controversial social issue, Obvious Child succeeds in the story department, but fails in it’s uncalled for use of potty humor to elicit cheap laughs.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes-1953

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes-1953

Director-Howard Hawks

Starring-Jane Russell, Marilyn Monroe

Scott’s Review #384

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Reviewed March 13, 2016

Grade: B+

One of the iconic and legendary  star Marilyn Monroe’s better known offerings from her brief career is Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, a fun musical/romantic comedy. She stars alongside Jane Russell, another popular Hollywood star from a golden era of film to create this wonderful gem. Together they have great chemistry and an easy yin and yang relationship, which makes the film light and cheerful, but not meaningless or too fluffy. It is just right for the genre that it is. As mentioned before, the romantic comedy has changed in modern cinema and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes contains the innocence and charm that has since been lost. The 1950’s were a perfect time for this genre of film.

Lorelei Lee (Monroe) and Dorothy Shaw (Russell) are American showgirls and best friends who perform a stage show together. Lorelei loves diamonds and rich men- she is dating Gus Esmond , an awkward yet lovable young man, who is wealthy, but controlled by his father. Dorothy is less interested in being showered in wealth, but prefers handsome, in shape men. When the girls head to Paris on a cruise ship, the adventures begin- Lorelei is being observed and followed by a private investigator (Malone) hired by Gus’s father, while Dorothy is pursued by members of an Olympic swim team.

The film is entertaining and a must-see for all Monroe fans, as it really was at the time when she was at her best- Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Some Like it Hot are my personal favorites and she was in the prime of her tragically short film career- sure she plays the “dumb blonde” character with gusto, but there is something innocent and fun about her portrayal of Lorelei and we fall in love with her immediately. Dorothy is the leader- the smart one- and she compliments Lorelei’s naivety. More worldly and sophisticated she watches out for her counterpart.

What makes the film really work so well is the chemistry between Monroe and Russell. The audience buys them as best friends and the two actresses (who reportedly got along famously). Monroe shines during the legendary number, “Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend”, a number that famously inspired the 1984 Madonna video “Material Girl” that will forever live on in music history.

My favorite scene takes place on the ship as Lorelei gets into trouble as she sneaks into the private investigator’s cabin to obtain incriminating evidence and winds up stuck in the tight cabin window. The shot of Monroe sticking halfway out the window is funny. She then hilariously enlists a young, precocious child to help her avoid recognition and fool a man with sub-par vision. In fact, vision also comes into play when Dorothy disguises herself as Lorelei in silly fashion (she appears looking more like a drag queen) in a courtroom scene over hi-jinks involving a stolen tiara.

Interesting is the scene in which Dorothy is flocked by dancing Olympic gymnasts and is as provocative as could be in 1953. Certainly unable to show any form of nudity whatsoever, the dancers are clad in nude colored shorts, which certainly suggests elements of sexuality, an illusion of nudity, and fits the scene perfectly as Dorothy is in testosterone heaven.  It is like a big, giant fantasy for her.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is a successful offering from another cinematic time- a time that is sorely missed. Cute, but not trivial, the film is worth dusting off for a watch every so often and to marvel in the iconic Marilyn Monroe.

Grease-1978

Grease-1978

Director-Randal Kleiser

Starring-John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John

Top 100 Films-#70

Scott’s Review #354

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Reviewed January 9, 2016

Grade: A

Grease is the ultimate musical fantasy come to life and can be appreciated by anyone looking to re-live their high school days through song, or merely escape life’s stresses with a fun, bright, musical, that is very well made. Is it realistic? Absolutely not, but sometimes escapism is just what the doctor ordered, and Grease is one of my favorite films that meets that criteria. It is light-hearted and sweet, and above all contains wonderful, legendary musical numbers.

The time period is the 1950’s, and we meet Danny and Sandy on a windswept beach with cascading waves and bright sunshine. It is summer break for the two high school students, who meet in California, she vacationing from Australia, he a local boy. They say their goodbyes and return to normal lives, but cannot forget about each other. Suddenly, Sandy arrives at Rydell High in Los Angeles, coincidentally where Danny goes to school. Her parents (whom we never see) decided to stay in California.

Danny is a “tough guy” in high school, much different from who he was on the beach with Sandy. He is the leader of the infamous T-birds, a group of boys who love their black leather jackets and cars. Torn, he continues his tough image and he and Sandy find their way back to each other through classmates, songs, and dancing, intermingling fun supporting characters who encourage each of them to find true love.

Travolta and Newton-John have magical chemistry, which really allows this film to work. Certainly, Grease has appeared on stage numerous times, but these actors are fine together. I buy them as teenagers in love, despite the fact that both were well beyond teen years. The supporting cast is excellent- specifically Stockard Channing as the lead Pink Lady, Rizzo, and Sandy’s kind-hearted friend Frenchy. Interestingly, no parents ever appear in the film as it really not about the adults. However, Rydell’s female principal, Mrs. McGee (played by Eve Arden), and her dotty Vice Principal, Blanche (Dody Goodman), are simply marvelous as comic relief.

Rizzo is an interesting character and can be argued is the only one who threatens to steal the thunder from Danny and Sandy. Containing a tough exterior, she is also vulnerable as she fears she has become pregnant mid-way through the film. Unwed and pregnant in the 1950’s was quite the scandal and Channing gives layers of emotion during her solo number, “There Are Worse Things I Could Do”.

The wonderful high school dance scene is choreographed amazingly well. The excitement of the student body at being filmed for a special television show is apparent as dance numbers and dance contests, some raunchy, follow.

The musical numbers are intrinsically memorable from “Grease”, “Greased Lightning”, “Hopelessly Devoted To You”, and “Beauty School Dropout”, all of which are personal favorites of mine.

Grease is a film that is not meant to be analyzed, but rather enjoyed for the fantastic chemistry and energy in which it has. Sometimes in film all of the elements simply come together in perfect fashion and Grease is an excellent example of this.

An Affair to Remember-1957

An Affair to Remember-1957

Director- Leo McCarey

Starring-Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr

Scott’s Review #105

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Reviewed July 12, 2014

Grade: B

An Affair to Remember is an excellent example of how romantic comedies have changed over the years. Rom-coms are not my genre of choice as typically they are clichéd and predictable. The romantic comedies in years past were vastly different- they had a glamorous, innocence to them that is lacking with the generic rom-coms of today.

In An Affair to Remember, the charisma of Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr is what makes the movie. They portray two strangers who are taking a luxury cruise and inexplicably fall madly in love despite having significant others at home. They wine and dine each other and revel in merriment for a week’s time and make a pact that if they cannot forget each other in a year’s time they will meet at the top of the Empire State building on a specified day and time. It does not get much more romantic than that. The extravagance of the gorgeous sets on the cruise ship makes the film a visually satisfying experience and any film set in New York City, as the second half does, is a plus in my book.

An Affair to Remember is not a cutting edge film, though for 1957 the subject matter of adultery may have raised a few eyebrows, but rather a pleasant, warm romantic comedy of the past. A film meant to sit back with and escape with sappy, sweet, fun romance.

Easy to Love-1953

Easy to Love-1953

Director-Charles Watson

Starring-Esther Williams, Van Johnson

Scott’s Review #86

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Reviewed July 2, 2014

Grade: D

Easy to Love is a romantic comedy from 1953 starring competitive swimmer turned actress Esther Williams. Williams plays a (surprise!) swimmer in love with her boss who does not return her affections. She also has two other suitors madly in love with her, so it’s a love triangle type of film with Williams having a side-kick, played by Edna Skinner. They go from Florida to New York on a job adventure.

The main problem with this film is the silly script. It’s a romantic comedy of its day with Williams scampering from one beau to the next. By the end of the film she has three suitors all vying for her affections, but the viewer hardly cares whom she chooses or which one was meant to be the hero. The endless scenes of Williams swimming around were necessary since that’s what she was known for, but the film is a dud on almost every level.

Williams, hardly known for her acting ability, spends much of the film jet-skiing and prancing around in swimwear while men lust after her. That pretty much sums up the film. Williams is not a terrible actress, though hardly Katharine Hepburn either. The movie just seems lackluster and quite trivial and not too much fun.