For movie watchers, few things can be more frustrating than films that begin with a sequence of immense promise, only to show over the remainder that the emperor truly wears no clothes. Two new examples come from the horror realm.
Until now, Ethan Hawke was having a wonderful year. Before Midnight, the third leg of his trilogy with director Richard Linklater and actress Julie Delpy, brought waves of critical acclaim and talk of another Oscar nomination for their collaborative screenplay, while The Purge turned a meager investment into a highly profitable box-office take.
Neither a chain of spice stores nor a Food Network program, The Seasoning House is a bleak-as-nuclear-winter thriller set during the Balkan conflict of the 1990s. A deaf girl named Angel (Brit teen Rosie Day) is taken from her home by soldiers who shoot her mother dead.
Paul Schrader’s The Canyons opens and closes with a montage of abandoned movie theaters. For this film in particular, that choice strikes one as symbolic in several ways: not only as a comment on the state of the industry, but on the state of The Canyons itself. You’re unlikely to find many 2013 films this empty.
What's a director of classic musicals doing in science fiction? Making Saturn 3, one of the worst of the genre Hollywood made in the immediate post-Star Wars / Alien era. Stanley Donen (Singin' in the Rain) takes to it about as well as you'd expect; he's in over his head.
Nine decades after women earned the right to vote, it’s unfortunate that “Bridesmaids” is being hailed as something revolutionary, as if the better half has never been funny onscreen before.
Can’t we just call it “really hilarious” and leave it at that?
Then again, consider that Hollywood’s women-fronted comedies are almost always of the rom-com variety and aggressively push Kate Hudson on us. This work is not of that lineage, and thank the Lord for that.
“Bridesmaids” marks not so much a breakthrough for females as it does for its star, co-writer and co-producer, Kristen Wiig. She gives a honest-to-God performance that’s worthy of award consideration. If you love her each week on “Saturday Night Live,” you’re going to love this. And if you don’t, give her another chance. The added dimensions may surprise you.
The trailer tells you everything you need to know plot-wise — Annie (Wiig) is asked to be the maid of honor by her lifelong best friend, Lillian (Maya Rudolph, “Grown Ups”), and does a horrible job at all the duties that come with it — but almost nothing about the film’s true layers. And that’s OK in an Internet age of inescapable spoilers. It’s less about slapstick and gross-out antics, and more about Annie’s changing relationship with Lillian, and with herself: lonely, miserable and dirt-broke.
In other words, those “Bridesmaids” of the title? When it comes down to it, we don’t see as much of them as you’d expect. The one exception may be Rose Byrne (“Insidious”) as Helen, an über-wealthy, über attractive woman who’s only known Lillian for a few months, yet is dead-set on usurping Annie for that BFF title.
As the men in Annie’s screwed-up dating life, Chris O’Dowd (“Gulliver’s Travels”) is winning as a cop who’s too nice for his own good, and an uncredited Jon Hamm (TV’s “Mad Men”) is riotous as her occasional, in his words, “fuck buddy.”
That term was used so memorably in Judd Apatow’s “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” and he serves as producer of this like-minded film, which resides on an equal plane of big laughs and big heart. Some audience members got misty-eyed at its end, but no worries: They also laughed so loud and long that portions of the next scene could not be heard — always an encouraging sign. —Rod Lott