Category Archives: Independent Romantic Comedy

I Love You Phillip Morris-2009

I Love You Phillip Morris-2009

Director John Requa, Glenn Ficarra

Starring Jim Carey, Ewan McGregor

Scott’s Review #1,235

Reviewed March 5, 2022

Grade: A-

Easily the most daring and arguably the best film role of Jim Carey’s career, I Love You Phillip Morris (2009) is a delightful romantic comedy featuring same-sex characters in the central roles.

At the risk of being too fluffy, there is a sardonic and wry wittiness that I fell in love with.

Those criticizing the film as ‘gay porn’ are silly since there is hardly a sex scene to be critical of or anything more than would appear in a traditional male/female romantic comedy.

Prudes wouldn’t see a film as I Love You Phillip Morris anyway.

It is based on the 1980s and 1990s real-life story of Texas con artist, impostor, and multiple prison fugitive Steven Jay Russell who was clever beyond belief and successful at outwitting his opponents.

I Love You, Phillip Morris, is the directorial debut by John Requa and Glenn Ficarra who received a nomination from the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Steven Russell  (Carrey) becomes a cop, gets married, and starts a family, but after a terrible car accident, he vows to be true to himself. Thus far in his life, he has played by the rules and done what is expected of him and because of the crash, he pivots to an emotional bloodletting.

The key irony is that Steven is telling the audience his story from his deathbed so most of the activity is in the past. This is the hook because it made me wonder how and why he died. But is there a twist?

He comes out of the closet, moves to Florida, and finances a luxurious lifestyle with bad checks and credit cards. Arrested and now in prison, Steven meets Phillip (Ewan McGregor), a mild-mannered inmate who becomes the love of his life.

Determined to build a beautiful life with his partner, Steven embarks on another crime spree.

The film caters to the LGBTQ+ audience but has a crossover appeal so that all audiences can enjoy it. This is in large part thanks to the screenwriters and whoever had Carey and McGregor in mind for the film.

Too often films centering around gay characters are deemed second fiddle and not profitable but with bigger stars, the audiences will come.

I Love You Phillip Morris is an independent film that builds momentum when the message is that big stars are comfortable in gay roles, something Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal taught us a few years earlier in Brokeback Mountain (2005).

Jim Carey, fabulous in The Mask from 1994, and having his share of hits and misses over the years, is perfect in the role of Steven. It’s the most interesting role he has portrayed since he gets to provide his usual physical humor in a role that matters.

LGBTQ+ audiences see a character who makes them laugh without the typical gay stereotypes.

Straight audiences will see a character whose sexual identity doesn’t matter to them.

Props go to McGregor as well who makes a perfect counterpart for Carey as the calm, cool, and collected ‘straight man’. The film could not have worked without him.

He meshes so well with Carey that the audience instantly roots for Steven and Phillip to ride off into the sunset despite being criminals.

The stereotypes are limited but the subject matter of AIDS, especially given the time in which the film is set, is given notice. This is a win and Requa and Ficarra are very careful not to teeter too close to the edge of doom and gloom while respecting the disease.

At its core, I Love You Phillip Morris (2009) is a romantic comedy, and the trials and tribulations of Steven and Phillip are told. I immediately fell in love with them and viewers will too.

It’s a film that feels fresh and alive with the exploration of character richness that is not easy to come by.



Director Gary Winick

Starring Sigourney Weaver, Aaron Stanford, John Ritter

Scott’s Review #1,125

Reviewed March 23, 2021

Grade: B

Tadpole (2002) is an enjoyable coming-of-age effort that carefully, or too carefully, toes the line between being cute and exploring some morally questionable material.

The film gets away with the naughty subject matter because there exists a wholesomeness that lands somewhere between fresh and a commodity.

It’s a fun romp but nothing memorable either, borrowing from better films.

Aaron Stanford, the lead actor, makes the film better than it might have been and seamlessly matches wits and comic timing with heavyweight actors like Sigourney Weaver, John Ritter, and Bebe Neuwirth. He is charming just like his character and carries the film.

As Oscar Grubman (what a name!) he is compassionate and sophisticated, reciting Voltaire and speaking fluent French.

When he arrives home for Thanksgiving weekend it is revealed that he has a major crush on his stepmother, Eve (Weaver). She and Oscar’s father, Stanley (Ritter) share a ritzy Manhattan apartment and entertain a girl they think would be perfect for Oscar but he only has eyes for Eve and rebuffs the poor girl.

Despondent at not having a chance with his stepmom but desiring her, Oscar visits a local bar and runs into Eve’s best friend, Diane (Neuwirth). He gets drunk and she takes him home winding up in bed together! Oscar is filled with remorse.

Oscar’s and Diane’s tryst is the caveat for the rest of the antics of the film. Oscar is terrified that Diane will tell his father and Eve especially as she is on the guestlist for dinner the next night!  An amusing game of footsie under the table ensues between Oscar and Diane.

Diane is a Mrs. Robinson-type character to Oscar’s Benjamin if we want to draw comparisons to The Graduate (1967) and how could we not? Eve is like Elaine, Mrs. Robinson’s daughter.

Unsuspecting and slightly naive. It’s fun to reminisce about the classic film that director Gary Winick borrows from.

Speaking of Winick, he has a knack for creating coming-of-age stories featuring teenage characters with light angst and he commonly releases independent films. My hunch is that if Tadpole was a big-budget mainstream affair even more concessions might have been made for the brewing May/December romance.

The “dinner scene” is the best part of Tadpole and provides good physical comedy and a hilarious setup. It’s a stretch in plausibility and borrows from many slapstick comedies but somehow the scene works well and stands out.

The subject matter of a woman three times the age of Oscar is not as harsh as it sounds and is largely played for laughs and misunderstandings. This is where the film misses the mark and stays firmly in the safe lane.

Imagine the juicy possibilities that would occur if Eve reciprocated Oscar’s advances. Now that is an interesting concept!

I shudder to think that if Oscar were a fifteen-year-old girl and Eve a forty-something-year-old man this film would never have been made.

The double standard gnawed at me.

The ending is wholesome and predictable making the film satisfying for the character yet limiting for the viewer. Oscar more or less “snaps out of it” and realizes that girls his age are okay after all.

I half-wondered if the film would be revealed to have all been Oscar’s dream.

The cougar-esque subject matter provides light entertainment never daring to go as far as it could have, or should have. In the end, we understand a young, pubescent boy’s dreams and desires and may fondly recall when we were his age and all the troublesome sexual feelings that bubbled under the surface.

Tadpole (2002) is a watchable independent comedy providing enough to digest thanks to the worthy actors among its cast.

(500) Days of Summer-2009

(500) Days of Summer-2009

Director Marc Webb

Starring Zooey Deschanel, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Scott’s Review #1,002

Reviewed March 20, 2020

Grade: B

(500) Days of Summer (2009) is an unconventional love story that deserves props for being different, but never completely catches fire as a film effort.

What it tries to do left-of-center from most conventional romantic comedies is to be admired, but I did not feel much connection to the characters and the result seemed pointless.

The independent film garnered some praise for being unique and clever, but this is out-shined by a gnawing, forced feeling, like the filmmakers are trying to be edgy for the sake of being edgy, adding in contrived story elements.

The lead characters conveniently both like an obscure band and an obscure artist, throwing them immediately together.

The film is a modest effort but will only be remembered as an indie project with a bit of unfulfilled potential.

When his girlfriend, Summer (Zooey Deschanel), unceremoniously dumps him, greeting card copywriter and hopeless romantic Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) spins into depression and begins reflecting on the year-long relationship the pair spent together, looking for clues as to what went wrong.

As he rummages through the good times and the bad times, his heart reawakens to find what is most important.

The Los Angeles backdrop sets the tone for the five hundred days of Tom and Summer.

Director, Marc Webb, a first-time director at this point, now known more for The Amazing Spider-Man reboot franchise (2012-2014) steers in an experimental direction.

Shown somewhat like a “year in the life” of the young lovebirds blossoming relationship, the film is presented in a nonlinear narrative, jumping between various days within the five hundred days of Tom and Summer’s relationship. There is an on-screen timer showing the day, which is a nice addition.

Props are given for the creativity Webb infuses. The romantic comedy genre, not my favorite, is constantly saturated with formulaic films, predictable from the start.

Frequently told from the female perspective, (500) Days of Summer tells the story from the male perspective, even reversing the traditional gender stereotypes. Tom is the lovesick romantic, and Summer is the rough-and-tumble, one-night-stand type.

This is nuanced and throws the entire genre upside down.

The characters are questionable and the ablest to relate to is Tom. There is some confusion and mystery with some motivations. The audience can understand how Tom falls head over heels for Summer, immediately smitten.

His depression is deep and to be taken seriously, but he is depressed because of Summer, and any history or previous causes of depression are not mentioned. It feels like his depression is a convenient way of adding a story element.

Summer is even more perplexing and not deeply explored. Is she merely playing the field? After a song and dance scene where she explains she is not looking for anything serious and wants a casual romance, she suddenly marries another man.

She hurriedly tells Tom that she discovered her husband was her true love and that she now believes in love, whereas Tom doesn’t anymore.

Again, this feels more like storyline-dictated writing versus anything character-rich.

Despite receiving a Best Screenplay Independent Spirit Award nomination, two Golden Globe Award nominations, and oodles of praise, (500) Days of Summer (2009) is a non-conformist piece with some nice moments but feels irrelevant.

The lead actors are talented and do a decent job with the material given, but meander through the experience since it is more about the film than the acting.

The result is not a pure dud, but neither is it a pedigree winner.

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: 1 win-Best Feature, Best Male Lead-Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Best Screenplay (won)

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 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 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 the black sheep of her family. Of traditional roots, she is expected to marry and bear 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 (Corbett) 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 shines through in each scene. Admittedly, it often feels 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 are so charming that we can overlook the lack of lustful vigor or the sexual tension between the pair.

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 hold up well over time. Specifically, in the romantic comedy genre, films of this ilk have a short relevant shelf-life (if deemed relevant at all).

The humorous Windex references may be lost on audiences over time or just become stale over the years.

Some can deem My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) 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 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.

Oscar Nominations: Best Original Screenplay

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: 1 win-Best Debut Performance- Nia Vardalos (won)

Howards End-1992

Howards End-1992

Director James Ivory

Starring Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham Carter

Scott’s Review #702

Reviewed December 1, 2017

Grade: A-

Howards End is my favorite film in the collection of E.M. Forster’s adapted novels turned into films during the 1980s and 1990s (1985’s A Room with a View and 1987’s Maurice are the other two quality works).

The novels were written during the early 1900s and set during the same period, focusing on class relations in 20th-century England.

The film is lovely, and picturesque, and tells an interesting story about romance and drama between the haves and the have-nots during this period.

The film was a success and received heaps of Academy Award nominations in 1993.

Margaret Schlegel (Emma Thompson), an upper-middle-class intellectual, part of London’s bourgeoisie, befriends wealthy and sophisticated, yet shockingly conservative Ruth Wilcox (Vanessa Redgrave).

The two women strike up a powerful friendship, which results in her beloved country home being left to Margaret when an ailing Mrs. Wilcox dies.

To complicate matters, Margaret falls in love with a businessman (and husband of Ruth), Henry (Anthony Hopkins), while Margaret’s sister Helen, briefly becomes engaged to Paul Wilcox, Henry’s son.

The two families’ lives further intersect when they wind up as neighbors in London and the true owner of the beloved “Howards End” is questioned.

Added to the mix are several other characters of various social backgrounds, having connections to the families.

The writing in Howard’s End is rich and emotional as each character is perfectly fleshed out this includes the supporting as well as the lead characters.

Thompson and Hopkins, both sensational actors, have tremendous chemistry together, and unsurprising was Thompson’s win for Best Actress during this competitive year. She carries the film seamlessly with her upper-middle-class ideals- not conservatively rich, but far from working-class- she epitomizes poise grace, and empathy for those less fortunate than she.

Hopkins, on the other hand, is calculating and confident, yet charismatic and sexy as an old-school, controlling businessman.

Somehow, these two characters complement each other exceptionally well despite their varied backgrounds

The role of Helen may very well be Helena Bonham Carter’s finest. Not being an enormous fan of the actress-overrated and too brooding in my opinion enjoys portraying an interesting character in Helen.

Lovelorn and earnest, yet somewhat oblivious, she develops a delicious romance with the young clerk, Leonard Bast, my favorite character in the film. Living with Jacky, a woman of dubious origins, he is the ultimate nice guy and sadly winds up down on his luck after heeding terrible business advice.

Bast, thanks in large part to actor Samuel West, who instills an innocent, good guy quality in his character, deserves major props.

The cinematography featured in Howards End is beautiful with extravagant outdoor scenes- the lavish gardens of Howards End- just ravishing and wonderful.

Kudos too to the art direction, set design, and costume department for making the film look so enchanting.

There is something so appealing about the look of this film and director, James Ivory, undoubtedly deserves praise for pulling it all together into a suave picture. Whether the scene calls for sun or rain, tranquil or bustling, every scene looks great.

If I were to knock any points from this fine film it would be at two hours and twenty-two minutes, Howards End does drag ever so slightly, and many scenes involve the characters merely having chats with each other, without much action.

But this criticism is small potatoes when compared to the exceptional writing and well-nuanced character development displayed throughout the piece.

Admittedly, and perhaps shamefully, I have not read any of the Forster novels, but Howards End appears to be the film that is most successfully adapted, gleaming with textured finesse, grace, and style.

With the film’s finest actors along for the experience, and intricate, fine story-telling, Howards End (1992) is a film well worth watching.

Oscar Nominations: 3 wins-Best Picture, Best Director-James Ivory, Best Actress-Emma Thompson (won), Best Supporting Actress-Vanessa Redgrave, Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published (won), Best Original Score, Best Art Direction (won), Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best International Film



Director-Andrew Bujalski

Starring-Guy Pearce, Kevin Corrigan

Scott’s Review #471


Reviewed August 29, 2016

Grade: C-

Other than one fantastic supporting performance by Kevin Corrigan, who should have been the star of this film, Results is an independent romantic comedy that lacks any real identity.

The film has trouble deciding which couple the audience is meant to root for leaving me to root for none of them, and frankly, a bit bored with the overall script.

Still, Corrigan and to some degree Guy Pearce makes it a tolerable watch.

Corrigan plays Danny, a newly wealthy average joe type, who joins a gym presumably to achieve a supportive network of friends, as he is new in town- Austin, Texas.  He meets Trevor (Pearce), who owns a local gym, and is trained by the moody Kat (Cobie Smulders).

The three individuals’ lives intersect as a triangle of sorts develops.

Kevin Corrigan, who has appeared in numerous independent films over his decades-long career, as well as blockbusters such as Goodfellas, completely steals the show and is the main reason to tune in.

His acting is effortless as he plays a lonely, rich man looking for human connections. He is troubled but has a comic, sardonic wit that shines and gives him needed vulnerability. We want him to find happiness despite being unlikable.

Speaking of unlikeable, Smulders as Kat is a frigid iceberg with attitude for miles. Why anyone- let alone two men- would have interest in her is beyond me.

Pearce is appealing as the good-natured, aspiring to be successful businessman named Trevor, who is buff beyond belief- to enormous credit since Pearce is no spring chicken. Otherwise, we know little about his character. He is not in love with Kat, then suddenly seems to be.

Kat warms to Danny but then is in love with Trevor. The entire romantic entanglement is quite silly and no chemistry exists among any of the principles.

The casting of Giovanni Ribisi as a stoner lawyer and Anthony Michael Hall (The Breakfast Club from the 1980s) as a fitness guru are pointless.

The fitness/gym angle is sort of cool if one- as I am- is a fan of physical fitness. It is a nice little lesson as Kat teaches Danny basic core exercises. But after too many scenes of Kat drinking kale shakes and jogging incessantly, or Trevor eating egg white omelets and body strengthening, the message is overkill. They are fitness buffs- we get it.

The biggest fail is how the film begins focusing on Danny and Kat as a potential romantic couple, then suddenly shifts gears, making Kat and Trevor the main couple, with Danny on the outside looking in. It really makes little sense, and by that point, I was rather bored anyway and the film just petered out for me.

Results have shreds of potential with better-structured story-telling, but the film misses good potential in many areas- underdeveloped characters and a meandering plot are a couple of major problem points.

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Supporting Male-Kevin Corrigan

Your Sister’s Sister-2011

Your Sister’s Sister-2011

Director Lynn Shelton

Starring Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt

Scott’s Review #448


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 Rosemarie DeWitt (“Mad Men”). I also enjoy the remote, cabin setting, which makes for a claustrophobic experience.

Emily Blunt’s 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 Your Sister’s Sister (2011) but was unsatisfied with the outcome.

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Supporting Female-Rosemarie DeWitt

Ruby Sparks-2012

Ruby Sparks-2012

Director Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris

Starring Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan

Scott’s Review #442


Reviewed July 4, 2016

Grade: B

Ruby Sparks is a smart, creative, indie film released in 2012.

The film’s theme is fantasy versus reality as the main character is a troubled writer who envisions a character he has created is real.

Is she real or isn’t she?

The film centers around a writer (Paul Dano) with writer’s block who creates an imaginary dream girl (Zoe Kazan), who magically comes to life, one day.

This is an interesting premise and the film has some big-named 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 writer’s imagination, but I admire its creativity and thoughtful premise.

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Screenplay



Director Jonathan Lisecki

Starring Jenn Harris, Mathew Wilkas

Scott’s Review #441


Reviewed July 3, 2016

Grade: C+

Gayby (2012) is a sketch-type comedy about two best friends (a gay man and a straight woman) who decide to have a child together.

Both have reached a certain age and are unhappy to have not found the perfect mate. The story is not novel and feels more like a Saturday Night Live sketch than a film.

The film is also playing on the success of television comedies like NBC’s Will and Grace, the obvious dynamic of the central characters.

The two leads are quite appealing in a comic way, have wit (Jenn Harris is deliciously neurotic), and have great timing.

The subject matter is interesting, though as years go by and more LGBTQ+ topics are covered,  it is becoming rather dated and not novel anymore.

The negative is the frenetic, quick pacing of the film, ultimately making it rather off-putting and annoying, to say nothing of the irritating stereotypical, supporting characters.

They are written so over-the-top that it is tough to take the film as seriously as it should be taken.

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best First Screenplay

Celeste and Jesse Forever-2012

Celeste and Jesse Forever-2012

Director Lee Toland Krieger

Starring Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg

Scott’s Review #421


Reviewed June 19, 2016

Grade: D

Celeste and Jesse Forever (2012) 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, the couple splits, the 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.


Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best First Screenplay

Hello, My Name Is Doris-2016

Hello, My Name Is Doris-2016

Director-Michael Showalter

Starring-Sally Field, Max Greenfield

Scott’s Review #390


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 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.  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 think she is living in a fantasy world, worried she will wind up hurt.

Sally Field 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 is capable, but not spectacular. 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 has 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.

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Piaget Producers Award (won)

Obvious Child-2014

Obvious Child-2014

Director Gillian Robespierre

Starring Jenny Slate

Scott’s Review #387


Reviewed March 22, 2016

Grade: C+

Obvious Child is a 2014 independent comedy/drama nominated for a couple of independent spirit awards, that has mixed results.

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.

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 is 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 since there is never a doubt about what will happen. Unlike films that make abortion the main focus of conflict, Obvious Child wisely does not- every character supports, and even encourages her to have the procedure, including her mother and best friend.

Having been written and directed by women, this is intentional and a way of empowering women, which is one of the high points. If one is on the fence about the topic of abortion or is a pro-life 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 hope she will go far.

Two slight props for me worth mentioning are the wonderful mention of the classic film Gone with the Wind (1939) 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 can’t say, but 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 for 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 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 (2014) succeeds in the story department but fails in its uncalled-for use of potty humor to elicit cheap laughs.

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Female Lead-Jenny Slate, Best First Feature

Don Jon-2013

Don Jon-2013

Director Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Julianne Moore

Scott’s Review #27


Reviewed June 17, 2014

Grade: B+

 I did not expect Don Jon (2013) to be as good as it is.

Frankly, I was expecting a by-the-numbers romantic comedy.

Written, directed by, and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, it tells the story of a twenty-something New Jersey bartender who is addicted to porn despite receiving all the female attention he can imagine.

Scarlett Johansson and Julianne Moore play two completely different women in his life.

The film contains stereotypical, though hilarious and spot-on, New Jersey trademarks. Tony Danza is effective as the brash father.

In the last thirty minutes, the film turns into a wonderful, yet hardly sappy or traditional, love story that makes Don Jon (2013) a positive experience.

Gordon-Levitt is a breath of fresh air and a young Hollywood talent getting his due.

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best First Screenplay