It was hard to resist the one-two comedic punch of I Love You, Man and The Hangover. Both had irresistible stories. The Hangover especially had a narrative thrust that could not be denied: three groomsmen wake up the night after a bachelor party with the groom missing. The three can’t remember a thing, and spend the rest of the movie retracing their steps to discover the case of the missing groom. It deflates a bit when all the pieces start to come together, but for a time it’s the perfect movie, with delicious interplay between perfectly mismatched leads Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis. Flick’s wholly redeemed at the end when we’re finally shown photographic evidence of the missing night with a series of rivetingly filthy and hilarious snap shots.
I Love You, Man was aimed directly at guys aged 30-45. Paul Rudd plays Peter Klaven, an average guy in L.A. who, after he proposes to his girlfriend, realizes he has no male friends to be his best man. He begins a painful exercise in man-dating before he meets Jason Segel’s Sydney Fife, a relaxed, single uber-dude who shows Peter the ways of chilling, jamming, and all things Rush. It’s a hilarious love story of a dude and his new best friend.
When the credits rolled for Up in the Air, Liz turned to me and said, “Finally, a movie for adults.” Up in the Air was tailored for the past year of company layoffs, shutdowns, and pay and hiring freezes. George Clooney plays layoff consultant Ryan Bingham. Ryan flies the country firing employees with efficient, practiced lines. His world is shaken twice. First he falls for a fellow corporate jet setter. She’s a reflection of him, so naturally he’s attracted to her. Then at work he’s paired with a young woman who travels with him to learn why he’s so good at his job. Meanwhile his company initiates a new high-tech way of firing people. The film catches spot-on today’s corporate language and the effects company’s blind decisions have on employees. There are no explosions or anthropomorphized animals. The fun is generated from watching a well written character study about a man whose relationships with people and his job are forced to change.
Another movie for adults is A Serious Man, which falls within the Coen Brother’s domain of simultaneous comedy and drama. A Serious Man concerns Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg), a Jewish mid-America college professor in 1967 who finds his life upset by a series of significant events, including his wife leaving, his brother in legal trouble, and a bribe attempt by a student for a better grade. Larry struggles to impress reasoning onto his life while struggling to determine how his faith can help. There are some very funny moments, as in all Coen Brother’s films. It’s an interesting milieu and the movie is never boring. But the ending is indelibly marred by being ambiguous and truncated, while introducing an unforeseen act of nature (or is that God?) just before the credits. This may well hint that Larry’s trials will never end, but this moviegoer was hoping for more resolution.
Cringe when you see another star of the Twilight series on the cover of Entertainment Weekly? Yawn when HBO’s True Blood comes on? Park Chan-Wook's Thirst pumps new blood into that tired trope, the vampire movie. The setup is silly and circuitous—priest turns into a reluctant blood sucker after volunteering for an odd-ball church-run experiment. His new vampire lifestyle puts a real crimp in his old priest lifestyle. He hooks up with the repressed wife of a childhood friend. She’s nuts, he’s smitten; can you say eternal love? There are moments of levity, but also a few of unadulterated terror. Especially the scene when the couple’s friends, over for another game night, find themselves unwitting blood donors. From there things really get nihilistic.
Which movies tickled your toes and flipped your cookies last year?
Originally meant as a two-parter, I'm going for three parts. So, tune in next time when I take a look back at last year's music.