The Sunlit Night: ‘Coulda’ been a Contender (if only…)

I use to be disappointed in kids who cheated when I was a teacher, but downright angry when a super smart kid would cheat.

That’s why The Sunlit Night made me slightly mad. It’s probably a screenwriter issue, which is a shame in this instance, Rebecca Dinnerstein Knight wrote the book from which the movie is based AND the screenplay. So come on girlfriend, why’d you cheat?

What I mean is why be so damn overt with the sexual stuff….like Jenny Slate’s mother picking a leech (which wasn’t a leech but a worm) out of her bottom….or Jenny posing in underwear (when she’s the artist). Sexuality is fine and even fun to watch when it’s not random and super conspicuous.

Mind you, I may still have Little Weirds (Jenny Slate’s recent book which was equal parts moving and Eat Pray Love maddening at the end book) taint on me.

So Miley, what’s good? Ok, there were some beautiful aspects to the movie. First and foremost the cinematography of Norway, bravo to director David Wnendt and cinematographer Martin Ahlgren. Second, I did enjoy Jenny Slate’s character’s allusions to resemblances of people with historical paintings, but Rebecca, why not start that fun narration from the get go, instead of the unevenly paced family melodrama you began with?

I love the artist in residence aspect of the film and thought the head artist’s (Fridtjov Saheim) performance was very realistic. I also appreciated the mourning man’s (Alex Sharp) portrayal as important and raw. As much as I adore Zack Galifinakis, his Viking Tourist Attraction seemed eerily Baskets-like, and the comedic dryness seemed off balance in this story.

To be fair, translating novels to screen is tough business. I just feel like under more objective hands, this could have been a great film, when in the end, it was just mediocre.

Landline, an abrasive ringer, but it gets your attention

A GETROXY TRAILER: Coming soon, I’m going to try my hand at an audio widget! Stay tuned!

Landline is a new movie written by Gillian Robespierre (also the writer of Obvious Child) and Eisabeth Holm (creator of the doc Paradise Lost which sounds grueling to watch, but perhaps worth the torture considering it involves the Innocence Project).

Acting: Much like Obvious Child, Landline stars Jenny Slate, who I absolutely loved in Robespierre’s original film. In Landline, Slate’s character is less likeable, but in the end I respected her performance in an unflattering though very realistic role. Jay Duplass, who is a mystery to me based solely on the fact that he looks nothing like his brother Mark, does a very good job making a refreshing wholesome man who’s not a wimp. Edie Falco, who I’ve had mixed emotions for post Sopranos (horrible blase` role in The Comedian, too soap opera-like in Nurse Jackie) does well in Landline as the wife-in-denial-over-her-misandrist-role in her husband’s infidelity and fierce tiger mom. John Turturro is always rock solid and here he continues his prowess as the philandering Dad who wants to do right. Abby Quinn is a relatively new actress who has promise, if only as a gritty tom girl.

Plot: The narrative has verisimilitude in portraying marital engagement for the twenties set, when fear of choosing the right person and the perfect career path can make for emotional messes. Also marriage in general is viewed under an unforgiving 100 watt light, for all its blemishes and unrealistic expectations. I’m not sure we needed the 90’s motif to fulfill this as the movie (where the title comes from, pre cell phones) could have just as easily happened today*, but it was neat to see a floppy disk and telephone booths.

*One after thought that angers me, is the breezy look at heroin use in teenagers. I don’t care if this was a harmless 90’s thing, it is currently the main drug issue in our country. I think it is downright careless to have heroin in a film without some kind of skull and cross bones warning. “Opiod deaths have nearly doubled” is literally what I just heard on a WSRQ radio newscast.

Theme: Just today in a soulful conversation with a female co-worker, we agreed that these days (current times) we are realistic about the fantasy of this thing called a long term relationship, and the absolute importance, instead, of moments. Moments of connection, moments of fun, and if we’re lucky, moments of bliss. This is really all we have in 2017. This belief has made a former fan and recent visitor of mine head for the hills, rather than be grateful for the fun we had. Que cera cera. And for shame on folks who insist on everything being perfect in both materialistic and idealistic ways. Perhaps for some, image has become too much of their core, and therefore, too addictive to leave behind for precious ‘moments’. Though I understand and am not bitter (though I still invoke Todd Rundgren’s “Can We Still Be Friends?”, I am just grateful I have never cared for image over depth.

You need to wade through the muck of the first quarter of Landline in order to enjoy the prize. It’s not a perfect film, but is worthy in possessing heart, realism and dramatic arc.

Mr. Right indeed, but the Movie, Mr. Mediocre

My number one fantasy man is still John McEnroe (not a movie actor-smiley face). He’s the primal adolescent raging hormone man I fell in love with, and plastered my bedroom wall with a giant photo collage with, so long ago. And speaking of high school, I felt that way and this photo reflects that sentiment at a recent ‘Meet up”:

And now you’re asking, what’s with the fantasy talk lately, first Bright Star and the James Taylor dance and now this? Wait for it. But also in my defense, this is Florida, the supposed sunshine state and yet it has rained almost (one was rain free) ten consecutive days. But do spread the word on the miserable Florida weather, I’d like to stave the population rush here (newspaper reports 600,000 new Fla. residents annually…is that even possible?).

Back to the movie review, I knew going in that Mr. Right (directed by Paco Cabezas (if I ever become domesticated myself, Paco Cabezas is my next cat’s name hands down!) was not well reviewed. In fact, I believe it went straight to dvd.

At any rate, I knew I wouldn’t hate it since my number two fantasy man (told you I’d get to it) is Sam Rockwell. I’m geeky enough to have watched and re-watched his audition (a dvd special feature) for Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. Which I just realized I loaned to Mr. “Hey Let Me Tell You What to Watch and Listen, But I’m Not Going to Quid Pro Quo”. Oh well, perhaps I don’t need to see Sam break dance any longer.

As much as I do like Sam (best film “Moon” though “Snatch” is also great), he looked like he wasn’t totally enjoying being Mr. Right. I may be projecting given that I am not an Anna Kendrick fan (though I don’t dislike her-best film “Up in the Air”). After wracking my brain thinking of who would have been good in this female lead, I came up with two ideas: Sarah Silverman and even better, Jenny Slate. Max Landis (screenwriter) wrote a crazy girl role, but then someone chose Pollyanna (Kendrick)to play her. Bad choice.

But on a rainy Saturday, a little profanity and flirtation wasn’t half bad. Althought Mr. Right was a Kiss Kiss Bang Bang wanna be, it was still a good PPLL.

“Obvious Child”: Pregnant in its Details

Gillian Robespierre may have been inspired by Louis CK’s stand up comedian’s “life on display” award winning formula in her film Obvious Child which she both directed and co-wrote. The movie stars comedian Jenny Slate (as Donna) and actor Jake Lacy (as Max). Although I enjoyed the flick as a whole, overly antiseptic aspects mixed oddly with quasi corny romance kept me from going full term, so to speak, in my adulation.

In any art form, pushing the envelope is necessary to make an indelible mark. And if anything, this new century will be remembered for the ‘killing sacred cow’ genres; Tarantino, Jack Ass’s Tremaine, Sasha Baron Cohen’s movies just to name a few, not to mention Stone and Parker’s musical The Book of Mormon.

sacred cow

And while I’m very much pro-choice, knowing that quality of life (loved and cared for the premiums) equals the overall peace and joy on earth, AND that I am saddened by the recent Supreme Court decision severing a recent Massachusetts law that banned protesters within 35 feet of abortion clinics, I feel Obvious Child may have taken a too clinical approach for a rom-com.

At times, I felt like I was watching a really, really well done how-to video: here’s how you perform a pregnancy test, here’s how you talk to a doctor, here’s how you tell your mother, here’s how you lay on the table.

The characters were all likeable, though realism was stretched a bit when Jenny’s mother (played by Polly Draper) does an about face from austere critical mom to an understanding touchy feely one.

But let’s be positive. The drunken fun of Donna and Max dancing in varying states of disrobing to Paul Simon’s song “Obvious Child” was suffused with palpable joy. The scene where Donna goes to a fellow comedian’s (played by Dave Cross) loft and is consequently hit on after he changes into a hideous cowpoke patterned tank top is also a stitch.

“Obvious Child” is definitely worth seeing for those moments and because it has done what few, if any, has attempted, to build a story around a sensible choice, that has before this film, been a woman’s shameful secret.