“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.