Category Archives: Romantic Comedy Films

The Object of My Affection-1998

The Object of My Affection-1998

Director-Nicholas Hytner

Starring Jennifer Aniston, Paul Rudd

Scott’s Review #1,249

Reviewed April 24, 2022

Grade: B

The Object of My Affection (1998) is a romantic comedy riddled with the standard cliches and obvious situation setups of similar types of film. As a whole, it is plot-driven rather than character-driven.

The redeeming factor is that it adds a left of center approach and delves into LGBTQ territory, albeit in a soft touch, which more mainstream American films were only starting to do in the late 1990s.

The best part of the film is the casting of Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd who have tremendous chemistry as a potential couple who has no chance of riding off into the sunset together. At least in any romantic sort of way.

He is gay and she is straight and nothing can change that.

Though fluffy, The Object of My Affection deserves some level of praise. Several gay men can easily relate to a situation where he finds a female friend enamored with him and experiences a return of affection differently.

It’s common to fantasize about what might have been if feelings were different and as the film explores, even try to go straight.

The film itself has a definite Will & Grace vibe, a popular television program emerging at this time, and even has the same location. The main characters become the very best of friends, watching movies together and sharing intimate moments just like a romantic couple would do.

The late 1990s was a time when gay characters took the center stage so The Object of My Affection gets a thumbs up for being part of the herd.

Nina Borowski (Jennifer Aniston) lives in Brooklyn, New York, and works as a social worker. She invites her new gay friend, George (Paul Rudd), to move into her apartment after he breaks up with his longtime lover, Robert (Tim Daly).

Meanwhile, Nina gets pregnant and decides to keep the baby, but ends her relationship with the child’s father, her controlling boyfriend Vince (John Pankow).

As Nina and George live and experience her pregnancy together, they grow close and Nina realizes she’s beginning to fall in love with her friend.

Aniston and Rudd work well together as a couple, friends or otherwise, and the chemistry tones are terrific. Even during the sappiest of scenes, and there are many of them, I always smiled a bit at their bond.

When Nina and George have the inevitable dramatic scene and express their feelings it doesn’t feel as forced as one might expect. Their bond is solidified and the film unsurprisingly has the pair remain in each other’s lives, presumably forever.

In satisfying form, Nina and George do ride off into the sunset along with little Molly but in solid relationships with other mates. Each character finds their destiny and soulmate while keeping in each other’s life.

While nice, there are many hurdles the filmmakers could have gone further with but don’t. The message is clear- regardless of sexuality, race, religion, or politics, a friend is a friend and a bond is meant to be forever.

It’s a warm message which is the basis for what the intent was and the film delivers a heartfelt story that eases the conflict of real-life and perhaps that is needed sometimes.

As much as The Object of My Affection (1998) has its heart in the right place with a progressive and inclusive slant, the film is bogged down by standard cliches and a fairy tale ending.

It’s a nice, fulfilling fantasy film but skates over hard-hitting realistic issues in favor of kid gloves type situations making it feel dated nearly twenty-five years later.

Other films in the years ahead would supersede the premise and take it to different and more interesting levels delving outside the box further and further.

But, a nice attempt.

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 dies. 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 crossover appeal so that all audiences can enjoy it. This is in large part in 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 but 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.

The 40-Year-Old Virgin-2005

The 40-Year-Old Virgin-2005

Director-Judd Apatow

Starring-Steve Carell, Catherine Keener, Paul Rudd

Scott’s Review #1,214

Reviewed December 31, 2021

Grade: B-

I am not a fan of director/producer Judd Apatow. His brand of silly comedy that includes objectification of women, homophobic language, and plain old unfunny attempts at slapstick comedy doesn’t go very far or sit particularly well with me.

His directorial debut is The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005) which contains a fresh feeling and would ultimately lead to less worthy efforts like Knocked Up (2007) and This is 40 (2012).

Admittedly, the title alone had me and many others brimming with curiosity.

The freshness is mostly because of leading actor Steve Carell in a role that would propel him to film stardom and much better roles in the future. So, I guess The 40-Year-Old Virgin deserves credit for that.

Typically, in Apatow’s films, the female characters are written as uptight, shrewish, and bitchy whereas the male characters are goofy and fun-loving. The audience is ‘supposed’ to root for the men and dislike the women.

The 40-Year-Old Virgin is no exception.

Still, the film does have a sweet-natured and innocent feeling amid the stereotypes, potty jokes, and raunch that lie within. We root for the underdog to succeed in life and champion his plight despite it being a carnal and sexual one.

Andy Stitzer (Carell) is a tender yet socially inept man who works a lowly job at a big-box store. Single and living alone, 40-year-old Andy whiles away the days playing video games and admiring his action-figure collection. He is your classic, lovable nerd.

He harbors an embarrassing secret. Despite his age, Andy has never engaged in sex, so his friends, including his closest friend David (Paul Rudd), encourage Andy to lose his virginity. While attempting to get over his awkwardness around female customers, Andy meets a local shop owner Trish (Catherine Keener), and they begin an early romance.

With any Apatow film, the rest is highly predictable and the blueprint is formulaic and very easy to figure out.

Andy will face humiliations as a result of his predicament and because of the bumbling yet good intentions of David and his other friend Cal, played by Seth Rogen. He will inevitably have awkward encounters with a few other female characters, in this case, the aggressive Beth, played by Elizabeth Banks, before finding love with the ‘good girl’ Trish (Catherine Keener).

They will ride off into the sunset to live happily ever after. Spoiler alert- they have sex!

The best, and arguably only good part of The 40-Year-Old Virgin is Carell’s Andy. The character brings a warmth and a vulnerability that causes the audience to sympathize with his plight. While the majority of the viewers will not relate to being a virgin at his age they can at least relate to having an embarrassing issue to deal with.

I am glad that this film led to meatier roles for Carell. Foxcatcher (2014) and his storied role as Michael Scott in television’s The Office (2005-2013) immediately spring to mind.

Keener, mostly known for her dramatic rather than comedic roles is decent as the main love interest, Trish. She, like Andy, is a rootable character though we don’t know too much about her. She is fond of Andy so, therefore, we like her and hope she takes Andy’s cherry.

The rest of The 40-Year-Old Virgin is riddled with standard comic setups and situations. When Andy slips and reveals his virginity by the next day his entire store knows his secret. From there, the insulting additions of a transvestite prostitute and a weird speed dating situation arise.

We know all along that Trish is the girl he will be with.

Apatow unwisely gives an interminable two-hour and thirteen-minute running time to his film which feels too long for a situation comedy. One hour and thirty minutes would have been ideal and more desirable.

The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005) is not the worst offender of the Apatow collection but it lacks any surprises or attempts at diversity. It’s a perfect example of a tried and true adult sex romp with, thankfully, a likable central character.

Christmas in Connecticut-1945

Christmas in Connecticut-1945

Director-Peter Godfrey

Starring-Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan

Scott’s Review #1,211

Reviewed December 24, 2021

Grade: B+

Christmas in Connecticut (1945) is a flavorful holiday romantic yarn that will please those looking for a snowy and laugh-out-loud experience with zany moments and silly situations but that works nonetheless.

Any foodie craving a film that dazzles with showcasing wonderful meals will enjoy this treat that left me salivating.

The film also oozes New York’s sophistication and New England’s atmosphere making it a cinematic balance between city and country.

Despite the colorful cover art Christmas in Connecticut is shot in black and white which is better.

The key selling point is the instant chemistry between the leads, Barbara Stanwyck and Dennis Morgan who carry the film. Stanwyck had just made the vastly different Double Indemnity (1944) and Morgan was a singer which allowed him the ability to perform a memorable song. Together, they shine.

Supporting players like character actors Sydney Greenstreet, S.Z. Sakall and Una O’Connor provide perfect comic timing in their roles which allows the leads to take the stage in the romance department.

Not to be missed is the timely release of the film in 1945, the year that World War II ended and a necessary time for a cheery film like Christmas in Connecticut. The main character is an Army veteran and begins the film injured in a vet hospital but the film opts not to make it a dreary, real-life experience.

The action starts somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean where war hero Jefferson Jones (Dennis Morgan) is stranded on a raft with his mate. He imagines the raft a clean dining room table brimming with delicious food and his mate his waiter.

Awakened in a hospital, he tricks his nurse, Mary Lee (Joyce Compton) into becoming his fiancée so that he can be fed steak dinners. While recovering he grows familiar with the “Diary of a Housewife” column written by Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck) who is the Martha Stewart of the 1940s. She provides cooking advice for her readers.

Mary arranges with Elizabeth’s publisher, Alexander Yardley (Greenstreet), for Jeff to spend the holiday at Elizabeth’s lavish Connecticut farm with her husband and child. But the column is a sham, so Elizabeth arranges to marry her friend, John Sloan (Reginald Gardiner) to make it appear she is the domestic she claims to be in her columns.

How she can write popular columns that dole out cooking and housekeeping advice without knowing anything about either subject is ludicrous but part of the fun.

When she meets Jeff, they fall madly in love with each other at first sight.

The film is one madhouse situation after another and there is never a doubt that Elizabeth and Jeff will live happily ever after but how they will reach that point is the main appeal. From the first scene when they meet at the Connecticut farm there is instant chemistry between Stanwyck and Morgan that lasts the entire film.

Their gazes and glances made me root for them.

The fun is the situations the pair is put through and mostly Elizabeth. As she scurries to pretend she has a baby she borrows a neighbors baby and hastily names him Robert unaware that the baby is a girl. When Jeff who is more domestic than Elizabeth changes the baby’s diaper he is in for a shock.

That Elizabeth knows nothing about cooking or taking care of a baby is the hilarity of Christmas in Connecticut. She awkwardly tries to flip a flapjack or handle a cow or any number of other situation comedy moments that make the film as good as it is.

Stanwyck is fantastic in these moments as a woman on the verge of being found out.

Handsome Dennis Morgan portrays a good American man who will make an even better husband which is a large part of his appeal. We long for Elizabeth and Jeff to be together.

A bevy of food scenes and references appear. Besides the flapjacks and steak sequences, steaming plates of good food and drink appear in seemingly almost every scene.

Elizabeth’s uncle/chef and housekeeper played by Sakall and O’Connor respectively light up the screen in comical scenes. I was hoping the pair would find their romance together but this never came to fruition.

An endearing seasonal nugget, Christmas in Connecticut (1945) will please fans of good-natured romance tinged with physical comedy. It has a heart and a pleasant veneer showcasing hapless misunderstandings that lead to the inevitable and satisfying conclusion.

What’s Up, Doc? -1972

What’s Up, Doc? -1972

Director-Peter Bogdanovich

Starring-Barbra Streisand, Ryan O’Neal 

Scott’s Review #1,162

Reviewed July 20, 2021

Grade: B+

Careful trepidation must be advised for filmmakers chartering into humorous or slapstick comedy waters especially if known more for dramatic films. Since we’re talking 1970s cinema here, there is only one Mel Brooks and plenty of films with physical humor and gags fail miserably.

What’s Up, Doc? (1972) is not one of them and is a refreshing success.

Brooks’s influence can easily be seen throughout the film and this is no surprise. Before doing any post-film research I immediately was reminded of the popular television sitcom Get Smart which ran from 1965-1970.  Buck Henry, a frequent Brooks collaborator, co-created Get Smart and wrote the screenplay for What’s Up Doc?

The antics and comedic moments scream Brooks. If one is unfamiliar it really is like watching a Mel Brooks film.

Director, Peter Bogdanovich, most notably known for the 1971 masterpiece, The Last Picture Show, changes course and instead goes for comedy with lots of screwball situations and physical comedy activities that are completely different from his previous works.

Speaking of Brooks, Madeline Khan, a mainstay of his films, makes an appearance as a particularly neurotic character named Eunice Burns. It is her first film role.

I must say I was thoroughly impressed by What’s Up, Doc? that oddly pairs two Hollywood superstars of the time, Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal. One might be surprised to think of the duo as romantic partners, and the chemistry comes and goes throughout the film but the antics and quick dialogue is joyous and timed perfectly between the actors.

What’s Up, Doc? intends to pay homage to comedy films of the 1930s and 1940s, especially popular Warner Bros. Bugs Bunny cartoons, hence the title, but the reference doesn’t appear until the final scene. This caused me to ponder why the specific title was used.

The premise goes something like this. Doctor Howard Bannister (O’Neal) arrives in San Francisco to compete for a research grant in music. He is accompanied by his overbearing wife, Eunice (Khan).

Already nervous and on edge because of Eunice, he meets a strange yet charming woman named Judy Maxwell played by Streisand in the drug store. They are drawn to each other yet are not sure why. She both annoys and fascinates him.

In a subplot, a woman has her jewels stolen and a government whistleblower arrives with his stolen top-secret papers. Ironically, all the players have an identical red plaid bag and stay in neighboring hotel rooms, adding to the confusion and the hilarity.

My favorite moments are the screwball scenes. Especially memorable are the hilarious sequences that take place in and around the hotel guest rooms as a constant in and out of parallel rooms transpires. Each character has a particular motivation as he or she sneaks around the hallways and rooms. It is delightful fun.

When I realized that Streisand and O’Neal were the romantic leads I was skeptical at first but their chemistry is not bad. They are not the sort of couple that he and Ali MacGraw were in Love Story (1970) and certainly have no heavy drama to play but they play comedy off of each other well. In fact, the film makes a joke about the film Love Story.

Unfamiliar to me, I am glad I took the chance and watched What’s Up Doc? (1972). The film provides laughs, entertainment, and good chemistry among the cast who know how to deliver rapturous humor with perfect timing.

Rated G, the film can be enjoyed by the entire family as there is not a double entendre or otherwise offensive moment to be found. Just good, old-fashioned humor. I would argue that the film influenced the 1970s as much as paid homage to comedy films made decades earlier.

I would see it again.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen-2011

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen-2011

Director-Lasse Hallstrom

Starring-Ewing McGregor, Emily Blunt

Scott’s Review #1,152

Reviewed June 15, 2021

Grade: B-

Despite exceptional chemistry between leads Ewing McGregor and Emily Blunt, who were also bankable stars in 2011, the romantic comedy Salmon Fishing in The Yemen (2011) is predictable, dull, and lacks a good identity. It is the feel-good film of the year and that is not meant as a compliment.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s above par as compared to the usual drivel emerging from one of my least favorite dramas, the rom-com, but it should offer more than the by-the-numbers plot it churns out. Someone either felt lazy or was instructed to create a banal film.

With good actors and fabulous locales, I expected more edge from Swedish director, Lass Hallstrom. But, alas, we get something merely adequate.

Doctor Alfred Jones (McGregor) is a fisheries scientist who one day receives an unusual request from a strong businesswoman named Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Blunt). She wants his help in fulfilling a request from a wealthy sheik played by Amr Waked who wants to bring sport fishing to Yemen.

Jones declines at first, but when the British prime minister’s spokeswoman (Kristin Scott Thomas) latches on to the project as a way to improve Middle East relations, he joins in. Romance blooms as Jones and Harriet work to make the sheik’s dream come true.

If this brief synopsis sounds like it’s taken from a novel that’s because it is and it is as straightforward as you can imagine. The film is based on a 2007 novel which certainly must have been better than the film.

Let’s be fair and clear. McGregor and Blunt are as good as they can be with the material they are given and they succeed in bringing some life to the big screen. The trouble is there isn’t very far to go with their characters. Harriet is a businesswoman with a task at hand. Alfred is a handsome doctor with something she needs. Did I mention he’s a doctor?

Harriet’s romantic interest is hardly a surprise and Hallstrom puts nary any real obstacles in their path towards getting together. The fact that early in the film Harriet is dating British Special Forces Captain Robert Meyers played by Tom Mison and Alfred is married to a woman named Mary (Rachael Stirling) is laughable after Robert is quickly killed off and Mary is sent away to Geneva for a conference. Predictably, Alfred and Mary realize their marriage is over.

But wait, there’s more! Robert resurfaces from the dead alive and well. Harriet struggles with her emotions and quickly realizes that her feelings for him have changed leaving her to be with Alfred.

The setup for Harriet and Alfred is as predictable as what peanut butter and jelly sandwiches will taste like.

Poor Kristin Scott Thomas, a fantastic actor is reduced to playing the cliched role of Public Relations Patricia Maxwell. She straightforwardly plays her as aggressive, impatient, and bitchy. The performance doesn’t work well.

Second, to the sweetness of McGregor and Blunt, the locales are thankfully plentiful. Visits to London, Scotland, and Morocco are blessed treats.

A silly subplot of the salmon being removed from British rivers and something about farming goes nowhere and is not worth the effort to go into. Suffice it to say it does little for the film or as a companion to the main plot. The only thing viewers should focus on is Harriet and Alfred’s romantic involvement.

I only recommend Salmon Fishing in The Yemen (2011) for those fans of either McGregor or Blunt or who yearn to escape to a fantasy world with a happily ever after ending.

If one enjoys fishing or fly-fishing (is there a difference?) that may be enough cause to give the film a twirl too.

Otherwise, the film offers nothing that hasn’t been seen countless times before. By the conclusion of the film, I felt weary and bored for so much unchartered potential left on the cutting room floor….or somewhere else.

Emma-2020

Emma-2020

Director-Autumn de Wilde

Starring-Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn

Scott’s Review #1,128

Reviewed March 31, 2021

Grade: B

I haven’t read the classic Jane Austen novel written in 1815 nor have I seen the 1996 film version starring Gweneth Paltrow. Neither of these is a prerequisite to enjoying the 2020 version of Emma starring Anya Taylor-Joy in the lead role of Emma Woodhouse.

The film, while set in the early nineteenth century, feels incredibly contemporary and seemingly makes little attempt at a classic style save for the hair, makeup, and costumes. These items are splendid, and the high point, and make the film stylish and bright.

Beautiful, smart, and rich, Emma (Taylor-Joy) enjoys her matchmaking skills that sometimes lead to awkward or failed matches and romantic missteps. She claims to not be interested in her romance or potential suitors though that changes with time.

She struggles with the challenges of growing up, though she is pampered and has a habit of involving herself in other’s business. Emma is also mischievous and not always kind though deep down she is a good person and has regret when she hurts someone’s feelings with her antics.

In a good, coming of age way, she finally realizes that love for her and a proper match of her own has been there all along and staring her in the face.

The film begins with Emma’s governess, Miss Taylor (Gemma Whelan), marrying and becoming Mrs. Weston. She and Emma are best friends and Emma is saddened so she settles on Harriet Smith (Mia Goth), a younger girl whom Emma supposes is the unclaimed child of a gentleman; Harriet’s parents are unknown, but her education has been provided for. They become bonded and Emma’s influence is immeasured.

Taylor-Joy does a wonderful job in the title role and carefully makes Emma naughty and sometimes unlikable before carefully reeling her in with an act of kindness. She has no malice in mind but is often bored and looking for excitement. I found myself rooting for her to find romance with Mr. Knightley (Johnny Flynn), which she does but not without a hurdle or two on the way.

Other characters come and go with flirtations and romantic possibilities explored.

Speaking of Flynn, the actor is rumored to play rock icon David Bowie in a future theatrical feature. A real musician, Flynn should be the perfect casting for that important part. He is the only character to show some flesh, his bare bum, in Emma and one wonders if female director Autumn de Wilde did this purposefully. After all, traditionally in cinema, it’s been the female who is more commonly nude. Turnabout is fair play.

While Taylor-Joy is good she is nearly upstaged by the delightful Goth who is fabulous as the insecure and impressionable Harriet. With humor and innocence, she makes her character quite likable. I’d like to see more from this young actress. Bill Nighy is perfectly cast as the comical father of Emma while Miranda Hart as Miss Bates steamrolls over every scene she is in.

Some inconsistencies exist especially where Miss Bates is concerned. A quick mention that Miss Bates and her family had once been rich and are now struggling is not explored where it reportedly was in the novel.

Dividing the film into seasonal sections (Autumn, Winter, Spring, and Summer) is a good decision and makes it more like a novel. The winter snow and Christmas festivities along with a summer picnic do wonders to add fresh atmospheric tidbits. The many scenes of delicious spreads of food and drink laid out for hungry eyes to see offer a robust and colorful glimpse of the culture.

The vibrancy, the food, and the aforementioned clothing, all brimming with richness based on the seasons are the main draw. The castles and large houses featured surely small-town English style brim with vastness and atmosphere.

Emma (2020) is a fun film and the story is not the best part of it. Predictably, all characters wind up with romantically who they should wind up with and there is a happily ever after sensibility.

Adolescents can easily sit in comfort with their mother and father and enjoy the lightweight affair. Nobody will be offended and all will be satisfied. It’s a solid romantic period piece.

Oscar Nominations: Best Costume Design, Best Makeup & Hairstyling

Tadpole-2002

Tadpole-2002

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 for that matter, 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 terribly 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 clearly 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 own age are actually 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.

Sex Tape-2014

Sex Tape-2014

Director-Jake Kasdan

Starring-Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel

Scott’s Review #980

Reviewed January 15, 2020

Grade: C

Sex Tape (2014) is a cliched, by the numbers, standard romantic comedy that meets expectations, but does little to exceed them. It is a raunchy affair, perhaps too raunchy for some, and riddled with juvenile moments.

The film contains good chemistry between the leads and is fun up to a point. The final sequence strays too far into dumb, situation comedy-style moments, with way too many seen before stereotypes, that take most of the preceding fun away.

With universally scathing reviews, I expected to hate the film and salivated over the opportunity to craft a good, old-fashioned terrible review, but alas, Sex Tape is marginally fair to middling.

Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel, reuniting again after starring in Bad Teacher (2011), do what they can with the material given, offering strong convictions and fluid moments of enamored charm.

In a supporting role as the boss, Rob Lowe is fine in a stock role, and the child actors are abhorrent (what else is new in romantic comedy casts?)

The film treats the viewer to a brief backstory, narrated by Annie, about the fresh romance between twenty-somethings, Jay and Annie Hargrove (Segel and Diaz).

Much in love, they can barely keep their eyes off each other and have sex at the drop of a hat. Once they settle down and have kids, their romantic interludes must be balanced and scheduled amid bath time, feedings, and the necessity of sleep.

Annie writes a popular blog, expressing the challenges of being a mom, as she bucks for a well-paying job at a company run by Hank Rosenbaum (Lowe).

One day, while feeling naughty, Jay and Annie rapturously and spontaneously decide to record their session of hanky panky on video, to enjoy later.

Predictably, an error occurs, and their lovemaking session is inadvertently synchronized to video to several iPads the couple had given away over time, which ridiculously is the entire cast.

They struggle to retrieve the iPads one by one and erase their session while being blackmailed by an anonymous viewer.

The strength of Sex Tape is in the pairing of Diaz and Segel because without these actors the film would be drivel. In physical comedy films, chemistry and antics are everything, and these two have it down.

We accept that the married couple, despite it being ten long years, is still smitten with each other, avoiding the doldrums. What they need is a spark and it is fun watching them come up with a sneaky idea.

Even when the film gets bad, the actors are a hoot.

The supporting cast is what one usually gets in a romantic comedy and wonder of wonders is why these characters are always written as a “type” and not better fleshed out.

Examples are Jay and Annie’s best friends, Robby and Tess Thompson (Rob Corddry and Ellie Kemper), one-dimensional and offering merely extensions of the lead characters, with no character development of their own. The same can be said for Annie’s mother (played by Nancy Lenehan), and the children.

To say nothing is how the studio attempts to promote the latest technological tool, the iPad, to death is strongly evident. If one more iPad appeared on screen I would have screamed. And how is it possible to record yourself in numerous sexual positions with an iPad? If they were filming themselves how did they move the iPad and get into those positions? Why did everyone and their brother have an iPad? A weak explanation alluded to Jay’s occupation being somehow responsible.

Sex Tape (2014) does not rewrite the comedy road map and will assuredly be forgotten over time- might this film’s bad reviews and the disastrous remake of Annie (2014) be the reason why Diaz retired from acting altogether? Regardless, for a pleasant Saturday night of silly laughs over a cosmopolitan or two, this film may be the way to go, but for fans of Diaz, watch There’s Something About Mary (1998) instead.

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 filmmaker intends to showcase a romance between Abby and Jake so that the elements are set up in a way as to makes the characters likable, leaving a very predictable experience. When Jake arrives at 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 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 are 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 1960s 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 a meandering plot thrown in for good measure. The film is saved somewhat by the interesting locales of London and Kent England, but 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 grows 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 McGivney).

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 of 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 a 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 of 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 star’s 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 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.

Oscar Nominations: Best Actress-Doris Day, Best Supporting Actress-Thelma Ritter, Best Story, and Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (won), Best Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, Best Art Direction, Color

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 is a New York University college professor, and he is 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 is 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 filmmakers 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 an American film.

The storyline 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 cliches and manipulations Crazy Rich Asians have a nice flow and offer 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 filmmakers 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 introduce 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 looks 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 lives 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 cliches, 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 advantage. The pair’s 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. 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 finds 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 1930s, 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, 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 1930s and 1940s and a teachable moment for all filmmakers delving into the same genre territory.

Oscar Nominations: Outstanding Production (won), Best Director (won), Best Actor-Clark Gable (won), Best Actress-Claudette Colbert (won), Best Adaptation (won)

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 take 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 that 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 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 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 are 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.

Oscar Nominations: Best Original Screenplay

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

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 Apatow (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.

It is 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 the 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 setups), 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.

Oscar Nominations: Best Supporting Actress-Melissa McCarthy, Best Original Screenplay

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 a 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 the 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 are 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 is the hideous hairdos that Nichols has Tess and Cynthia don- frizzed out and caked with aqua net hairspray is over-the-top even for the 1980s.

Then there are the inevitable tacky outfits complete with bright colors and shoulder pads as the girls hustle to their dull jobs. With these costume tidbits in addition to the filming style the tone just screams the 1980’s.

The casting of the three leads is very good- Griffith, Ford, and Weaver all share nice chemistry 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.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director-Mike Nichols, Best Actress-Melanie Griffith, Best Supporting Actress-Joan Cusack, Sigourney Weaver, Best Original Song-“Let the River Run” (won)

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 rides 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 everyman, 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 (1934) 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.

Oscar Nominations: Best Motion Picture, Best Director-William Wyler, Best Actress-Audrey Hepburn (won), Best Supporting Actor-Eddie Albert, Best Screenplay, Best Story (won), Best Art Direction, Black-and-White, Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, Best Costume Design, Black-and-White (won), Best Film Editing

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 principal 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 characters.

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

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor-William Hurt, Best Actress-Holly Hunter, Best Supporting Actor-Albert Brooks, Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing

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 filmmaking. We have two current comedic actors here- Steve Carrell and Tina Fey- circa 2010- at the top of their game.

The filmmaker’s 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 quite an 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 Tripplehorn’s) to obtain their table after the other couple’s 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 are 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 can 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 makes 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 are 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 whoever 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, humorously, 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 wanting to see this film for me, 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 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 another trademark of Woody Allen films.

Marisa Tomei, Daniel Radcliffe, and Anna Camp (True Blood) have very small roles as do 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, who 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 to its time rather than appearing staged with actors merely dressed up 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, which used a similar technique with his actors.

The point of Café Society is that nobody 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 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 this film 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

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Reviewed July 4, 2016

Grade: B

Ruby Sparks is a smart, creative, indie film from 2012. The film’s 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 writer’s 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 writer’s imagination, but I admire its creativity and thoughtful premise.

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Screenplay