The Little Hours: Forgive Me Father For I Have Sinned

“Forgive me Father for I have sinned.” is a line from The Little Hours, but it’s also a literal confessional. I’ll discuss the movie first and then segue into my own transgression.

The Little Hours is a new movie by Jeff Baena, most famous for writing I Heart Huckabees. He had two other mainstream movies: Life After Beth and Joshy, but neither of those concepts lure me into trying a library loan….which brings me to an intersection of art and life, a struggle between what’s funny and what’s mean.

Let me contrast a library loaner, Rumba, the third film I’ve partaken by Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon (Lost in Paris-his new one recently at Burns Court in Sarasota, L’Iceberg the eldest of the three, and Rumba, (the lost middle child and aforementioned I’ll discuss here). There were moments in Rumba that were not funny to me. A house fire is not funny, punching children also not funny, and a woman with a wooden prosthetic, again, not funny. The saving grace for Rumba was the visual rainbow of colors, the dancing and the fact that I really don’t think Dominique Abel, nor Fiona Gordon are truly mean people.

On the other hand, The Little Hours lampoons the Middle Ages, late 1300’s to be exact. And unless there’s some serious reincarnation going on, this movie can not possibly offend. Safe to say 700 years is not ‘too soon’ to joke about. While religious folks would probably still find this blasphemous, hearing the anachronistic quality of an f bomb by monks and nuns was immature fun to me.

Now for the bad news. I avoided this movie a few weeks ago on its opening, assuming it was a one trick pony, meaning that the anachronism I just mentioned, as well as libidinous desire and conflict in 1389, lost its edge about half way in. And sure enough, my instinct was right. Though I have no regrets about going as I got to sit next to, and kibitz with, a new friend who I should do a prayer of thanks for right now (!) due to his having a sense of humor and easy going personality.

Jeff Baena is obviously very intelligent. I base this on a New Yorker piece I read where he pontificated on his obsession of Bocaccio’s “Decameron” on which The Little Hours in based. But intelligence doesn’t always translate into a full length comedy.

The acting was great, I mean who doesn’t love John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, and Aubrey Plaza? Having not watched much of Mad Men or Community, I also was introduced to an actress new to me, Alison Brie, who is currently hot due to the show Glow. Dave Franco, Fred Armisen and Kate Miccucui were also very talented as the Medeival answer to pool boy, overly serious monseignor, and dorky nun respectively.

My confessional goes back to what is funny vs. what is mean spirited: I feel guilty for poking fun at a trend (which I won’t even mention here due to shame) which really I should just leave be. I don’t want to be a social commentarian. Or I should at least wait 700 years. I’ll stick to my self-deprecating don’t-I-look-like-the human equivalent-of-a praying mantis jokes. Even though I didn’t even do this mocking in a public stand up routine, but rather privately to an equally cynical co-worker, I still feel ashamed. So, since John C. Reilly is not around, I’ll give myself my own penance of three hail Mary’s or even better, go out of my way to be kind to someone in need today.

Now I Get the Hyperbole: L’Iceberg

Ok, last week I saw Lost in Paris and was unimpressed. Yet I now see this as a Woody Allen analogy after seeing Abel’s earlier film L’Iceberg which was a knockout. So, it’s like seeing Woody Allen’s Match Point and going, ‘what’s the big deal about this guy?” and then seeing “Anne Hall”.

L’Iceberg was from 2005 and is the perfect suburban-neglected-wife-and mother-who-runs-away story. While watching this fun film over the course of two nights (I work a lot), I was also reading Horse Walks Into a Bar by David Grossman. Coincidentally, both the film and book had intriguing sub-plots that kept you involved. In the movie L’Iceberg, the story is bookended by a Inuktitut woman explaining how she met her husband. In Horse Walks Into a Bar, while we watch the stand up comic from the childhood friend’s POV, we are also cognizant of the fact that the friend has lost his wife.

Like Lost in Paris, Dominque Abel and Fiona Gordon wrote this film. And now I clearly see the Buster Keaton comparison. The physical comedy in L’Iceberg was phenomenal and I watched with mouth open at how Fiona bent her legs and body (without serious injury). The scenes on the sailing boat were entertaining as well, especially since some of the splashes were clearly produced by a bucket of water thrown in the air. And I’d be remiss not to mention Philippe Martz who plays the sailor in L’Iceberg, an entertaining Peter Boyle in Young Frankensteinesque performance. In Lost in Paris, Philippe is underutilized as the neighbor.

Since this is a foreign film, it may be hard to find on some library systems. I was blessed that Selby Library in Sarasota was able to procure it for me. Next up is Rumba, which I am equally excited about.

I implore Dominque Able and Fiona Gordon to keep writing. Woody Allen kept going after Match Point to find better material and success (Blue Jasmine for example). Keep going, aim higher!

Lost in Paris, Found in Hyperbole

Ok, here’s the weird phenomena. During the movie Lost in Paris (directed by Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon), I turned to my friend Carrie and said, “Sorry I blew it, we could’ve been watching Sean Penn smoke a doobie.” (To be explained momentarily). But this morning, as I researched the writer (aforementioned Dominique Abel), I find myself wanting to see his other films: The Fairy and Rumba.

First, what’s with the Sean Penn reference, did I have a chance to go to Haiti? No. Fast Times at Ridgemont High was playing on a big screen in Sarasota (and also nationwide for two special nights). But being a good girl and researching briefly on Rotten Tomatoes, critics had cited Lost in Paris at 89% and certain reviewers compared it to Buster Keaton (if you hear rumbling that’s Buster rolling over in his grave) and Tati’s Mon Oncle. (Jacques Tati is also writhing 6 feet under).

This comparison is as ludicrous as saying LaLa Land was the worthy comeback of great musicals! First, there was nothing real about the stunts. The Eiffel Tower scene was totally cgi. Second, though Abel used color creatively, there were plenty of dead scenes where nothing was going on artistically. This could have been a better film, by adding color to every scene, creating more absurdist moments, and developing characters that moves us.

Instead it was akin to a 90 minute cartoon played out by humans.

Still as reported, I find myself somewhat endeared by the combination of Dominique and Fiona, proof that at the very least these two have good on screen chemistry. I’ll see if my friends at the Selby Library have either of his past films.

In conclusion, I’d say, go if you’re feeling down and need a bit of a light distraction, but enter knowing you need to have very low expectations.