Category Archives: Sarah Silverman

There’s Something About Mary-1998

There’s Something About Mary-1998

Director Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly

Starring Ben Stiller, Cameron Diaz, Matt Dillon

Scott’s Review #1,428

Reviewed June 16, 2024

Grade: B+

Since many films are released within the romantic comedy genre most are disposable and forgettable. Very few stand out initially let alone stand the test of time.

Decades later, There’s Something About Mary (1998) holds up well mostly because of its chemistry and laugh-out-loud memorable moments. It also has a heart and is not mean-spirited showcasing a brewing romance people can relate to.

Watching in 2024 particularly interesting is the appeal of Cameron Diaz since retired from acting, and a young Ben Stiller who was then in his heyday and a box-office gem. Brett Favre, who then was a superstar NFL quarterback makes a cameo appearance.

Pleasing is to watch a hit film from decades ago that still offers appeal.

Ted’s (Ben Stiller) unexpected dream prom date with Mary (Cameron Diaz) in 1985 is disastrous due to an embarrassing injury at her home causing them never to get to the prom. Mary leaves town shortly after.

Thirteen years later, pre-social media in 1998, Ted hires shady investigator Pat Healy (Matt Dillon) to track down Mary so he can reconnect with her. Pat becomes obsessed with her and lies to Ted about Mary, finding out everything he can about her to trick her into dating him.

Ted realizes the truth and travels to meet Mary in Miami, Florida where she is a successful orthopedic surgeon to reconnect with her.

Instantaneous hilarity comes to mind from two legendary scenes involving Ben Stiller’s Ted that most people have heard of.

While using the bathroom at Mary’s house before leaving for the prom Ted gets his private parts or ‘frank and beans’, caught in his zipper. Every male viewer will squirm in imagined discomfort but the hijinks with Mary’s parents and neighborhood firefighters who get involved make the sequence legendary.

This pairs well with a later scene when Ted masturbates just before his date with Mary to relax. Mary mistakes some ‘residue’ on Ted’s ear for hair gel and hilariously applies it to her hair causing it to stick straight up in the air during dinner.

Both scenes still feel fresh and natural years later and are now historical.

The introduction of Tucker (Lee Evans) a third admirer of Mary doesn’t work so well in hindsight. The revelation that he is not a British architect but merely a pizza deliverer who injured his back to get close to Mary feels forced and unnecessary.

The triangle between Ted/Mary/Pat is just enough.

The inclusion factors are impressive. In 1985, Mary had a black stepfather and a mentally disabled brother both of whom she adores. When Ted drives from Rhode Island to Florida he stops at a rest area and is assumed to be gay. This is preceded by a session with a psychiatrist who suspects Ted may be gay.

These additions go a long way to showcase normalcy in these individual areas.

It’s also impressive that the Farrelly brothers (Peter and Bobby), who direct the film, make Mary a surgeon paving the way for female viewers to aspire to the same.

There’s Something About Mary gets a slight knock for exploiting female breasts, Mary is seen at least twice through a window putting on a bra while a male spies on her from the distance.

The characters are benevolent especially Ted and Mary making it easy for the audience to root for them. Thanks to the tremendous chemistry between Diaz, Stiller, and Dillon, There’s Something About Mary (1998) feels fresh and romantic without a forced feeling.

Maestro-2023

Maestro-2023

Director Bradley Cooper

Starring Bradley Cooper, Carey Mulligan

Scott’s Review #1,411

Reviewed December 3, 2023

Grade: A

Brilliance personified defines Maestro (2023), a film directed by and starring Bradley Cooper. As if that isn’t enough Cooper co-wrote the screenplay with Josh Singer and co-produced the project with Martin Scorcese and Steven Spielberg.

With riches such as these players involved equates to adequate muscle to make the film a necessary watch brimming with creativity and good storytelling.

There is no disappointment whatsoever in the buildup. Maestro expresses powerful acting, creative direction, and a musical score encompassing the works of the man being examined, Bernstein.

At the conclusion, I found myself feeling like I’d been hit by a Mack truck. The epic portrayal of one family’s love for one another was overwhelming.

Combined with the art appreciation left me astounded with culture and further knowledge of the composer.

The story is not as much of a straightforward biography as one might imagine though when the film begins in the 1940s the famous composer is just on the cusp of his first big break. By sheer luck, he is asked to fill in for an ailing conductor, Bruno Walter, one evening.

But at its core Maestro is a torrential and fearless love story chronicling the lifelong relationship between Leonard Bernstein (Bradley Cooper) and Felicia Montealegre Cohn Bernstein (Carey Mulligan) who was a well-known theater actress.

They meet at a party and fall madly in love spending most of their time together. The intrigue is that Leonard is gay and quite openly so before he meets Felicia and becomes famous.

His boyfriend is David Oppenheim, played by Matt Bomer.

This sat well with me and I was impressed by their openness well before the LGBT movement. Unfortunately, we see little of David or Bomer after the early days and Leonard becomes enamored with several young aspiring composers. He then took to doing lines of cocaine into the 1970s and 1980s.

What the film does well is reveal that Felicia is aware of Leonard’s sexuality and loves him despite his appetite for men. This is not always easy for her. They share a love that is stoic and unadulterated and they become one in their bond making it unbreakable.

Maestro gets very dark in the later stages when Felicia is diagnosed with terminal cancer but this gives Cooper and Mulligan a chance to shine, and dazzle the audience with mesmerizing acting performances.

It’s tough to showcase one because both are so good.

Cooper has given the best performance of his career.

Enveloping himself into the role so much that it’s staggering how he gets the mannerisms of Bernstein. ┬áThe composer’s energetic style of expressive body movements and gestures which he was noted for as a conductor are done to perfection by Cooper.

Mulligan doesn’t play the wife role. She has her own story and makes the audience empathize with Felicia’s struggles to deal with her husband’s sexuality especially when rumors come to light affecting her children.

Mulligan gives a genuineness and heart to Felicia’s battle with cancer.

Cooper’s direction is excellent. The first part is shot in black and white giving an artistic, old Hollywood-style feel making the cigarette smoking look glamorous and sophisticated. The lush art direction merges into blurry shadows and angular lighting that fits the mood.

The color enhances the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s time as the characters age. The hairstyles and outfits gleam with sophisticated New York style and the Bernstein’s Long Island home is palatial.

Ironically, the darkest parts of the film are the most vivid and colorful.

Finally, the musical score features legendary Bernstein pieces that give truth to the production not only reminding viewers how talented he was but the choices made enhance each scene where a number appears.

I smiled when a number from West Side Story, perhaps his best-known work was featured.

A knock-out scene of Leonard conducting at a cathedral is lengthy and dramatic culminating with Felecia looking on from the side of the church. At this moment, I knew that the couple were true soulmates.

Maestro (2023) is an exceptional piece of filmmaking that easily secures Bradley Cooper his place in cinema history both in front of and behind the camera.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor-Bradley Cooper, Best Actress-Carey Mulligan, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Sound, Best Makeup and Hairstyling

I Smile Back-2015

I Smile Back-2015

Director Adam Salky

Starring Sarah Silverman

Scott’s Review #654

Reviewed June 13, 2017

Grade: B+

As a fan of Sarah Silverman, the comedienne, I was anxious to see the 2015 film, I Smile Back, which garnered her a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination.

Silverman tackles a heavily dramatic role in a film that teeters on being a pure “downer”. Many fans expecting the actress’s comic wit to be featured need not see it.

Rather, I embraced the performance and found the film to be an independent film treat, thanks to Silverman’s powerful performance. She nails the part and carries it to success.

I Smile Back is a small film that I wish had garnered more viewers.

Laney Brooks (Silverman) appears to have it all. She lives an affluent existence in Westchester County, New York with her handsome husband, Bruce (Josh Charles), and their two young children.

With a gorgeous house, dinner parties, and friends, who could ask for anything more?

Bored and troubled by a tough childhood and “daddy issues”, Laney tends to drink too much, abuse drugs and prescription pills, and carry on an affair with her best friend’s husband, all while managing to run a household.

As she gradually spirals down a darker path, Laney sees her perfect world slowly crumble around her.

Throughout the film, I asked, “Are we supposed to root for Laney or dislike her?”

Director Adam Salky does not make it easy to like her.

In addition to her substance abuse use (or over-use), Laney is rather selfish. From the small scenes when Laney drops off her kids from school and is annoyed when the crossing guard and a teacher refuse to give her special treatment, she mutters insults under her breathe as she grabs a cigarette and heads for her scandalous rendezvous.

But when she is put in great peril later in the film, following one of her benders, I could not help but feel deep sympathy for her.

It is a bit unclear what the audience should feel.

This leads me to conclude that the film belongs to Silverman.

What impresses me most is how believable she is in most scenes. She packs creative lunches for her kids and plays fun birthday cake decorating games with them, but in the next breathe snorts cocaine and rails at a neighbor lady for not celebrating Thanksgiving.

Thanks to Silverman, she plays these scenes with gusto.

Some critics have complained about the script, but I find no real fault. While not the strongest element, it is fine, nonetheless.

I Smile Back is a low-budget indie drama that serves its purpose- it does not delve too deeply into the how’s and why’s of her addiction, and a nice scene with Laney’s father (Chris Sarandon) offers no concrete evidence of why this man drove her to drugs by his abandonment.

The film seems to be more about proving a good performance by Silverman than anything else.

Sarah Silverman commands great respect for her dark portrayal in I Smile Back.

This role, combined with her recent turn in Showtime’s Masters of Sex television series, portraying a pregnant lesbian in the 1960s, proves that she has what it takes to compete with the great dramatic actresses of today.

She is much more than a stand-up comic. Here’s to hoping for more drama from this talented lady in the years ahead.