AEOS Review: This Is Where I Leave You (2014)

Hey guys! It’s been a very busy few days, so I am just now getting to posting. I got to see two movies over the past few days: The Maze Runner (2014) and This Is Where I Leave You (2014). I’ll be posting a From Page to Screen review on The Maze Runner soon, since my sister is co-authoring that post. But until then, here’s my review of This Is Where I Leave You.

I really wanted to like this movie. I purposefully went by myself to the theater to enjoy and soak in the humor and warmth I was expecting the film to emit. Unfortunately, those feelings were not what I experienced as I absorbed the material. There were bits of humor, and about two total times I actually laughed. There Is Where I Leave You is a movie that isn’t exactly sure what what tone it should take, and that’s what the viewers are left with: a confused movie.

Getting a confused audience was probably only partially purposeful when they adapted This Is Where I Leave You into a film, because after all, the story is about a messed up family trying to sort themselves out when the father passes away. It’s only natural to expect some chaos when you place complicated characters in one space. What I think director Shawn Levy failed to communicate to audiences was the actual direction and goal of the movie. What lesson can we take away from this movie? What character moved forward, changed, or accomplished a goal?

Shawn Levy actually has multiple directing credits, two of which probably most influenced him for This Is Where I Leave You: the remake Cheaper by the Dozen (2003) and Date Night (2010). Cheaper by the Dozen has one too many characters, and I think the same could be said for This Is Where I Leave You. Too often crowded movies lose their impact when there are too many characters to focus on. Date Night and This Is Where I Leave You both share Tina Fey, giving each film a similar humor every time the comedian opens her mouth in both films, even if she’s playing different parts.

Overall, This Is Where I Leave You is probably Levi’s most character-centric film. So of course, I expected the characters to progress, change, or at least do something. The movie has a large star-studded cast, its four protagonists playing the children of their just-widowed mother (Jane Fonda). The movie aims to focus on its lead character Judd (Jason Bateman), but it darts between him, his three siblings (played by Tina Fey, Adam Driver, and Corey Stoll), his sister-in-law (Kathryn Hahn), and a few other supporting cast that included Rose Byrne, Connie Britton, Timothy Olyphant, and Dax Shephard.

This Is Where I Leave You‘s plot isn’t original, as I felt like I saw bits of Elizabethtown (2005), Dan in Real Life (2007), and The Family Stone (2005) at different moments, just to name a few. The cast seemed mostly well chosen, although it seemed like Kathryn Hahn had little to do in her role. Jason Bateman played the same character he played in his Arrested Development (2003) run, being the middle sibling in a crazy family trying to make sense of everything. Dax Shephard seems to get himself typecast into douchebag/bastard roles that only further hinder him from getting offered other roles. Tina Fey’s character, Wendy, was the most believable for me, even when there wasn’t much she could do despite the script. Her chemistry with each of her brothers, especially Judd (Jason Bateman) seemed genuine, and they happened to look like they could be related, unlike Corey Stoll and Adam Driver. After What If (2014), This Is Where I Leave You is only the second movie I’ve seen Adam Driver in, and I think he’s absolutely hilarious. That being said, I wonder if he knows how to play any other character other than an immature man-child who has a few good jokes up his sleeve every now and then.

What I found most disappointing with This Is Where I Leave You is that the writing seemed to plummet, it’s lowest point when [SPOILER] Hilary Altman (Jane Fonda) starts kissing her neighbor in front of her children and half the neighborhood. It’s not so much that she’s kissing a woman as much as it’s at the mourning of her just-deceased husband that she chooses to announce she’s coming out, and that she’s been having a relationship with someone outside her marriage. It’s at this point in the movie everyone realizes why four adults have an impossible time sorting out their own relationships: not only did they lack a positive relationship model to look up to, but they’re also witnessing their only living parent promoting cheating near the deathbed of her spouse. I credit the writing behind the story if that was the goal of that scene, yet I feel like the screenwriters did the movie an injustice presenting this major turning point the way they did.

Speaking of the script, that’s what brings me back to the main problem of That’s Where I Leave You: the characters never make progress or learn. Phillip (Adam Driver) remains the hilarious, immature man-child; Paul (Corey Stoll) retains his boring persona as the mean older brother. Wendy (Tina Fey) plays the sister with all the good one-liners and advice to dole out, even though she’s incapable of taking any herself. Hillary (Jane Fonda) is the selfish mother who places her own sexual desires above her passed husband and living family. Judd (Jason Bateman) is the only character who experiences any possible change by actually dealing with his now complicated life instead of hiding under a blanket and pretending everything’s okay when it isn’t.

One of the pleasant unexpected surprises of the movie is how the soundtrack captured the essence of the movie. My favorite track, “On My Own” by Distant Cousins started when the credits rolled; however, there are multiple good songs off the record worth listening to.

While This Is Where I Leave You certainly disappointed, I give the movie props for a solid cast with good chemistry, somewhat realistic responses to a family death, and an appropriate soundtrack to match the film’s tone. I give This Is Where I Leave You 

Eye Art1Eye Art1  ON SCREEN.

Now it’s your turn. What did you think of This Is Where I Leave You? If you haven’t seen it, do you plan on seeing it? Please join the discussion below, because as always, I would love to know your thoughts.

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Top 10 Actors/Actresses I’d See in Just about Anything

When I saw Fernando’s posts on his top actors and actresses he’d see in just about anything over at his site Committed to Celluloid, I decided I would write a post of my own, paying homage to my favorite actors/actresses that I’d be willing to view almost anything they’re in. *Side note: Later, I learned that Fernando stole the idea from Abbi over at Where the Wild Things Are. So please check her post on her top actresses as well.

Unlike Fernando, I didn’t think I could find ten actors and ten actresses. So I narrowed my list down to five actors and five actresses. And then I realized I had more actors than actresses on this list. So technically with the extra, there are eleven (and probably more, if I thought long enough about it).

*Updated note – I talked with Fernando, and we decided to change this topic idea into a little blogathon to be passed around. So to show the string, first, we started with . . .

Abbi choosing her favorites over at Where the Wild Things Are

Fernando was inspired by Abbi, writing his posts over at Committed to Celluloid

I was inspired by Fernando to write this post

And now I’m going to pass the baton over to Jaina at Time Well Spent.

The Extra: Chris Evans

Why does he almost make the list? In a word, Cellular (2004). The concept would be considered odd today, considering the ease we have with the inception of smart phones in our culture. But only ten years ago, we lacked the technological advances and had to live with just cell phones that lacked a certain smartness. Evans sells the role, plays the hero, and gives what I would consider a remarkable performance. The behind-the-scenes features for the DVD inform viewers that no one else even tried to be as convincing as Evans was for his role in Cellular. Of course, an easy role to thank Evans for playing is Captain America (2011) too. But I (along with my hubby) think Evans was the only good part of the short-lived Fantastic Four (2007) franchise.

Favorite role: Ryan in Cellular

The movie he couldn’t convince me to see: I saw The Losers (2010), but I didn’t enjoy it . . . at all.

Favorite movie quote of his: “Oh, this is much better. Costume’s a bit much . . . so tight. But the confidence, I can feel the righteousness surging. Hey, you wanna have a rousing discussion about truth, honor, patriotism? God bless America . . . ” (As Loki in Thor 2 [2013]).

10) Emily Blunt

Why does she make the list? Until Blunt showed up in The Devil Wears Prada (2006), she was still relatively unknown. But I remember her character in that movie vividly, yet I still didn’t imagine she’d be making the splash she is today. From her little role in Dan in Real Life (2007) to her voice work in Gnomeo and Juliet (2011) to her newfound inner action star in Looper (2012) and Edge of Tomorrow (2014), I think that Blunt has a huge career ahead of her for the taking. Even though Blunt hasn’t necessarily been a part of major Academy-award winning films yet, I think she’s an actress to key an eye on. I’ve enjoyed watching her versatility getting noticed and tapped into for multiple roles, and I can’t wait to see what she’ll be up to next.

Favorite role: Emily in The Devil Wears Prada, and by extension, her small role in 2011’s The Muppets

The movie she couldn’t convince me to see: Gulliver’s Travels (2010), because I can’t think of any other movie she’s in that I would have no interest in.

Favorite movie quote of hers: “I’m on this new diet. Well, I don’t eat anything and when I feel like I’m about to faint I eat a cube of cheese. I’m just one stomach flu away from my goal weight” (Emily in The Devil Wears Prada).

9) Stanley Tucci

Why does he make the list? Oddly enough, one of the roles I think introduced me to the accomplished actor was his role as a fashion editor who worked with Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada. Soon after I saw that movie, I noticed that Tucci appeared in a number of films. While I’ve made only a dent in viewing his massive filmography, I wasn’t able to think of a single performance of his that I haven’t enjoyed, even if I didn’t necessarily care for the movie.

Favorite role: Caesar Flickerman in The Hunger Games (2012), Dill in Easy A (2010), Paul Child in Julie and Julia (2009)

The movie he couldn’t convince me to see: Muppets Most Wanted (2014), because it appeared to be a lame attempt at a sequel for the awesome Jason Segel-starring The Muppets in 2011.

Favorite movie quote of his: “I’m bald and no one in particular” (Jerry Siegel in Maid in Manhattan [2002]).

8) Shailene Woodley

Why does she make the list? Plain and simple, Woodley made this list because I loved her in The Descendants (2011). In addition, she has only added to her film credit with roles in The Spectacular Now (2013) and The Fault in Our Stars (2014) that have convinced viewers and critics that she’s not the idiot teenager from The Secret Life of the American Teenager (TV role, 2008) anymore.

Favorite role: Hazel in The Fault in Our Stars

The movie she couldn’t convince me to see: I have liked all her movies, so the only true title I could add is The Secret Life of the American Teenager, even though it’s a TV show.

Favorite movie quote of hers: “But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful” (Hazel in The Fault in Our Stars)

7) Tom Hanks

Why does he make the list? Where to start with a classy guy like Tom Hanks? I know many millennials who don’t care for the guy, but I have to credit Hanks for last year’s impressive performance in Captain Phillips (2013). He’s still got it. It being that chill-down-your-spine, award-winning smile, likable, every-day-kinda-guy personality who still has that rare ability to win you over even after a string of unimportant roles, reminding you he’s the one and only actor who won two Best Actor Oscars back-to-back.

Favorite role: Josh in Big (1988) and Joe Fox in You’ve Got Mail (1998)

The movie he couldn’t convince me to see: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011), for the petty reason of hating the title. Truly, I’d actually view it if I had to, and I might even enjoy it.

Favorite movie quote of his: “I couldn’t even kill myself the way I wanted to. I had power over nothing. And that’s when this feeling came over me like a warm blanket. I knew, somehow, that I had to stay alive. Somehow. I had to keep breathing. Even though there was no reason to hope. And all my logic said that I would never see this place again. So that’s what I did. I stayed alive. I kept breathing. And one day my logic was proven all wrong because the tide came in, and gave me a sail. And now, here I am. I’m back. In Memphis, talking to you. I have ice in my glass . . . and I’ve lost her all over again. I’m so sad that I don’t have Kelly. But I’m so grateful that she was with me on that island. And I know what I have to do now. I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?” (Chuck Noland in Cast Away [2000]).

6) Jennifer Lawrence

Why does she make the list? If I’m being completely honest, I didn’t want Lawrence on this list. She’s big right now, there’s a lot of hype surrounding her as she’s starring in two major franchises. However, I couldn’t not add her to this list, because out of all the actresses that are “big” right now, Lawrence is one of those whom I do look out for. She has the occasional role that I have no interest in seeing, but often, she seems to really stand out, even in just a small role, in whatever movie she finds herself in.

Favorite role: Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook (2012) and Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games (2012)

The movie she couldn’t convince me to see: I thought House at the End of the Street (2012) looked positively awful.

Favorite movie quote of hers: “I was a big slut, but I’m not any more. There’s always going to be a part of me that’s sloppy and dirty, but I like that. With all the other parts of myself. Can you say the same about yourself?” (Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook).

5) Mark Ruffalo

Why does he make the list? The year 2004 was when I discovered Mark Ruffalo in both 13 Going on 30 and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It’s a little hard to believe that was ten years ago, but it was. I’m not sure what it is exactly about Mark Ruffalo that I love, but perhaps it’s that he established himself as a nice, everyday kind of guy in my mind early on. Since his first recognizable movies, he’s gone on to play multiple other roles. But I’ve always thought Ruffalo was highly underrated.

Favorite role: David Toschi in Zodiac (2008) and Chuck Aule in Shutter Island (2010)

The movie he couldn’t convince me to see: I saw Ruffalo in The Brothers Bloom (2008), but I couldn’t get behind the movie. I would never re-watch it.

Favorite movie quote of his: “I was having a nervous breakdown and then I heard your song. I want to make records with you. Come on. Let’s get out of here . . . ” (Dan Mulligan in Begin Again [2014]).

4) Emma Stone

Why does she make the list? Maybe it’s because Emma Stone is so likable in real life. Or maybe it’s because she appears to make only intelligent choices when it comes to the films she’s a part of. Or, maybe she’s one of the best actresses on the rise. Stone has finally found herself in that enviable position to choose which roles she wants, and which movies to lend her skills to.

Favorite role: Natalie in The House Bunny (2008) and Skeeter Phelan in The Help (2011)

The one she couldn’t convince me to see: I would agree to see only the scene in which Stone appears in Movie 43 (2013), and then be done with it. Gangster Squad (2013) didn’t appeal to me.

Favorite movie quote of hers: “Whatever happened to chivalry? Does it only exist in 80’s movies? I want John Cusack holding a boombox outside my window. I wanna ride off on a lawnmower with Patrick Dempsey. I want Jake from Sixteen Candles waiting outside the church for me. I want Judd Nelson thrusting his fist into the air because he knows he got me. Just once I want my life to be like an 80’s movie, preferably one with a really awesome musical number for no apparent reason. But no, no, John Hughes did not direct my life” (Olive Penderghast in Easy A).

3) Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Why does he make the list? Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one-of-a-kind. He’s difficult to dislike. He’s funny, and he has played so many different type of characters. He’s shown up in thrillers, romantic comedies, big-budget action movies, indie projects, and even starred in his directorial debut. Gordon-Levitt prides himself on his company Hit Record, and he values his contacts both inside and outside of Hollywood, noting that he desires to work with name and no-name professionals. He’s cool, he’s geeky, he’s talented. He’s one of my favorites, and he happens to star in my favorite movie.

Favorite role: Tom in (500) Days of Summer (2009)

The movie he couldn’t convince me to see: Don Jon (2013), because I have no interest in seeing a movie about a guy struggling with a porn addiction.

Favorite movie quote of his: “It’s these cards, and the movies and the pop songs, they’re to blame for all the lies and the heartache, everything. We’re responsible. I’m responsible. I think we do a bad thing here. People should be able to say how they feel, how they really feel, not ya know, some words that some stranger put in their mouth. Words like love, that don’t mean anything” (Tom in (500) Days of Summer).

2) Meryl Streep

Why does she make the list? I think the better question is, How could Meryl not make the list? She’s famous for the most Academy Award nominations in history. Even Saturday Night Live did a hilarious segment on how Meryl Streep could do literally anything well. Streep’s reputation precedes her, and her humility in accepting both rewards praise seems to match the insanely talented actress.

Favorite role: Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

The movie she couldn’t convince me to see: I think she might play her character a little too well in August: Osage County (2013), and I don’t have the heart to see it.

Favorite movie quote of hers: “Oh, don’t be ridiculous. Andrea. Everybody wants this. Everybody wants to be us” (Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada).

1) Benedict Cumberbatch

Why does he make the list? I had never heard of the name “Benedict Cumberbatch” until I got swept away with the brilliant BBC show Sherlock (2010), and ever since then, I’ve tried to watch anything and everything that has his name attached to it.

Favorite role: Sherlock Holmes in SherlockFord in 12 Years a Slave (2013), and likely to soon be added, Alan Turing in The Imitation Game (2014)

The movie he couldn’t convince me to see: As of now, I would see just about anything Benedict Cumberbatch is a part of. But I wouldn’t re-watch The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) just because of how much that movie destroyed the character Smaug.

Favorite movie quote of his: “You can’t go far in this world by relying on people. People are loyal until it seems opportune not to be” (Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate [2013]).

OK, it’s your turn. If you had a top (or ten) actor or actress that you’d see in just about anything, who would it be? What is your favorite role of theirs? Please join the discussion below, because I’d love to know your thoughts.

Ten Reasons I Enjoyed Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

1) Kiera Knightly played a modern-day person.

From playing Elizabeth Swan to Elizabeth Bennet, Kiera Knightly has played every period-piece role under the sun. Some, good; some, not so good. Finally, someone–specifically first-time director Lorene Scafaria–decided Knightly could take another stab at playing a character set in modern time (yes, I know Knightly’s had a few other roles in “current” time, such as Love Actually and that teen soccer movie). I was a big fan of Knightly being just another everyday person.

2) The soundtrack.

The soundtrack is quirky and fun, and has only one score song (which I still recommend buying!), and completely fitting for the film. It makes me wonder what would be playing on my iPod if it were the end of the world. The trailer song, “Road to Nowhere” by Talking Heads, is worth the $1.29 on iTunes alone. Other favorites included “Stay With Me Baby” by The Walker Brothers, “The Air That I Breathe” by The Hollies, and my absolute favorite, “This Guy’s In Love With You” by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass.

3) The use of vinyl records.

I appreciated the irony of using something considered age-old in a modern-day, end-of-the-world flick. Kiera Knightly’s character, Penny, plays this quirky girl who–of course–must love records. But the use of vinyl playing in the film, and the way the music filled the theater made me appreciate the beautiful sound that you can get only from listening to a record.

4) The non-fake-out ending.

Some people will feel the complete opposite I do about the ending; that’s perfectly fine. I fully appreciated the ending, [SPOILER] in that it was what the movie set out to be–the end of the world. If the end of the world were to hit in the way the movie presented, it would be very similar (in my mind) to dying. Instant. Sudden. Lights out. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World didn’t try to be some sci-fi, open-ended film, but be exactly what the title describes it as–seeking a friend for the end of the world.

5) The really funny dude who keeps popping up T. J. Miller.

T. J. Miller cracks me up. In SAFFTEOTW, he plays a hilarious waiter. Watch the trailer below to catch him in action (1:58). His voice is instantly recognizable, and from what I’ve seen him in, he’s on screen to fulfill one purpose: make people laugh. And this isn’t even his first end-of-the-world flick. He also played the “camera man” in Cloverfield, the first movie I remember him from. Miller has also played funny, minor roles in She’s Out of My League, and most recently, a hilarious scene in Rock of Ages.

6) Sorry, and what he represents.

In the last 3 weeks of its life (and the world’s life), a dog–who remains nameless to viewers–assumes the new name of “Sorry” when Dodge wakes up with the dog sitting nearby and a piece of paper taped to him with the one-word message of “sorry.” It’s a pity and a sad thing that someone would be heartless enough to leave a dog to fend for itself in the world’s remaining days, but Sorry added to the overall realness of the film. Accompanying Dodge and Penny on their journey, Sorry serves as a reminder that there are still helpless beings alive and in need of care, even in the world’s last days. And I suppose it is the selflessness of characters like Dodge who choose to care for the Sorrys left to themselves, even in the world’s last remaining weeks, that make us thankful for the Dodges in the real world.

7) Steve Carell tried to drink window cleaner.

Carell has mastered so many different levels of funny, from being Michael in The Office to his other hilarious roles in Date Night, AnchormanThe 40-Year-Old Virgin, and his voice work in Despicable Me. Carell also somehow manages to tug heartstrings in other movies like Dan in Real Life and Crazy, Stupid, Love. In Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, his character doesn’t deal with the impending news of the end of the world at the beginning. While others are killing themselves or partying like crazy, he sits motionless and unresponsive. Finally, after a great deal of frustration builds up after having his wife run out on him, he resorts to return to the place where she left him–a park–and while clinging onto a new bottle of window cleaner he has just purchased for his housecleaner, decides to open the bottle and swig down a big gulp. Of all the ways to consider taking one’s life, I couldn’t help but find the humor in this action, even though the context was serious.

8) The odd pairing of Steve Carell and Kiera Knightly.

You would think that placing Carell and Knightly opposite one another would be a formula for disaster. In the strangest way possible, however, they really do work well for this movie. I tend to be attracted to a film that, while it follows a linear structure, somehow is able to turn a story on its head and be different without appearing as if it’s trying too hard. In my mind, SAFFTEOTW achieves just that, starting first with its two protagonists. The movie is whimsical and light while also balancing heavy and dark moments, and the odd mixture of Carell and Knightly fills out the film well with that combination of quirky oddness, reality, and endearment.

9) The questions the film provokes you to think after viewing.

I’ve hit on this point in the previous numbers, but I have to say, I really do enjoy a movie that demands some kind of thought after viewing it. Maybe not every end-of-the-world movie gets you thinking, but I think it’s safe to say that Seeking a Friend for the End of the World achieves the goal of making people ask themselves what they would do with their lives if they had only 3 weeks left to live (and consider those 3 weeks to not include flights to anywhere or cell phones to communicate). What would you do? Who would you spend your time with? It’s a striking thought when you consider that things like clothes and cars and all material things cease to matter in a world that doesn’t exist in three weeks, isn’t it?

10) It’s Lorene Scafaria’s directorial debut.

Lorene Scafaria is one of those screenwriters who has worked and worked and worked and written and been turned down numerous times. I’m excited that Seeking a Friend for the End of the World finally got her a much-deserved break that has placed her name into the mainstream. Although she’s known more for the screenwriting bomb of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, which was her ninth screenplay and her first adaptation, I believe that a movie like SAFFTEOFW is an excellent directorial debut for Scafaria, and that it shows off her great potential for both writing and directing future films.

OK, has anyone else seen this movie yet? If so, what did you guys think of it? Did you enjoy it as much as I did? Oh, and if you had only 3 weeks left to live, what would you do with the time?

Backstage Spotlight: Dan in Real Life Bonus Features (2007)

Bonus features, special features, extras–whatever you want to call them–are usually on most movies you end up renting or owning. I find them particularly fun to watch, if I have the time. What’s crazy is that I’ve seen Dan in Real Life a handful of times over the past 4 years, yet I never took the time to check out the bonus features until last night.

Let’s break it down.

Behind the Scenes

Writer-director Peter Hedges’s ultimate goal, it seems, is to make films that are different. That’s one of his big points in the “behind the scenes” featurette on the DVD. Dan in Real Life  supports his idea of being different by really being its own movie. Hedge has written a few films across the board throughout his career, from What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993) to About a Boy (2002). Hedge acts as director and co-writer for Dan, bringing to life Pierce Gardner’s writing. That cast had only great things to say about Hedges (of course!), but many of them noted that he was much different than the typical director in that he was very down to earth and was always bringing something different to the table.

One really interesting thing I caught from the featurette was that the entire cast, spare Steve Carell, came onto set a week before shooting to rehearse and hang out in the house where the majority of the movie was filmed. As much as I’ve seen the movie, I really felt like the cast was a family. It’s now only evident that the week they spent getting to know one another paid off in the end product.

About the Score: Sondre Lerche

This segment of the Bonus Features was my favorite. Typically, there isn’t anything expressed in detail regarding the score of a film listed within the special features, especially with someone considered less known, like Sondre Lerche. Dan in Real Life introduced me to this impressive, one-of-a-kind singer-songwriter-composer. No doubt there are a million other Sondre Lerche singer-songwriters floating around, but Lerche separates himself from the rest with his added talent of film composition. Before Hedge contacted Lerche, he had never heard of him, much less could pronounce his name. Hedge’s goal was to bring the film and soundtrack together by finding music that represented the title character, Carell’s Dan. In a nutshell, Lerche fulfilled that goal for Hedge, and a fantastic collaboration was born.

The rest of Lerche’s band flew in from Norway to sing and play in the background of the end scene in the film. Sondre Lerche might not be everyone’s cup of tea (such as Roger Ebert, who specifically called the film out on it!), but in my opinion, his music fit Dan in Real Life nicely, and didn’t come across too literal.

Deleted Scenes

Dan in Real Life might hold the record for the largest number of deleted scenes. Perhaps I’m exaggerating, but viewing 11 new or extended versions of scenes got exhausting and boring fast. There was only one deleted scene I might have even appreciated in the film, and it wasn’t even memorable. Each of these scenes–and probably a few more from the final cut–deserved to be on the cutting board.

Do you ever watch the Bonus Features on your favorite films? What did you think of Sondre Lerche’s score? Did you notice that Office alum Amy Ryan costarred in the film with Steve Carell?

Favorites vs. the Best

It’s a little well-known fact among my peers, coworkers, friends, and family that I’d like to study film in grad school and then work in the field following school. This provokes the question, “What is your favorite movie?”

Hidden in that question are three expectations I must denounce before I reveal my favorite(s):

  • First, most expect my favorite to be something near an Oscar-worthy Best Picture nominee, a documentary that defined my generation, or an inspirational true story that struck heartstrings. I guess my taste is just not classy enough to fulfill that conjecture.
  • The second assumption is that my favorite movies have always been the same. My favorite movie when I was thirteen is not my favorite movie now. Not even close.
  • The most common expectation people seem to have is that my favorite movies and the movies I consider to be some of the best are one and the same.  This stark difference is undermined by your average movie-goer. Good movie-making and a movie that you can watch over and over again and consider your favorite, is, well . . . a rarity.

So with those three presuppositions knocked down, I’ll tell you what my current favorite movies are (in no intended order):

The Wedding Date

Maybe it’s that Debra Messing looks absolutely gorgeous, or Dermot Mulroney’s voice is super sexy and the combination is impeccable. Or maybe I was just impressed by a movie that was written by a woman (Dana Fox, screenwriter), adapted from a book written by a woman (Elizabeth Young, Asking for Trouble), and directed by a woman (Clare Kilner, director). The idea of the movie is hilarious. The protagonist, Kat (Messing), pays an escort to accompany her to her younger, spoiled sister’s wedding where her ex-fiance was the Best Man. Who knows? All I can say is that I found the premise funny, the idea light, the cast enjoyable, and the main character relatable and real.

Dan in Real Life

It’s Steve Carell, only not the Steve Carell most know and love. The Dan in Real Life Carell – that’s the Steve Carell I love. It’s a movie about family, about putting your loved ones ahead of yourself, about taking chances, and about allowing yourself a little freedom to live. Paired with Juliet Binoche, who is naturally beautiful yet doesn’t call attention to herself, the couple is fun to watch on screen together. Dan’s parents’ home feels like the New England home where everyone wouldn’t mind spending a family weekend. It’s chilly, so there’s lots of plaid, lots of snow, and lots of family traditions that makes you feel good inside. Dane Cook unmistakably adds to the movie’s humor, and Sondre Lerche’s beautiful score lends a feeling of warmth and naturalism to the movie.

Elizabethtown

If you’re a fan of Orlando Bloom, you’ve seen him play multiple character roles such as princes, pirates, and outlaws. He’s led in some of the largest and well-known film trilogies including Lord of the Rings and The Pirates of the Caribbean (fine, it’s outgrowing “trilogy,” so screw me!). Ned Kelly, Troy, and Kingdom of Heaven are just a few of the huge movies Bloom has played starring roles in. And suddenly, he’s actually playing a regular, every day person in Elizabethtown. Everyone knew that if Kirsten Dunst could stay out of rehab, she was more than capable of taking on the positive, uplifting role of Claire Colburn. Featuring a fantastic soundtrack that  includes the likes of Elton John, Patty Griffin, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and My Morning Jacket, as well as an original score by past rocker Nancy Wilson, Elizabethtown takes a withdrawn, lonely Drew Baylor (Bloom) who nearly commits suicide, to a small town in Kentucky to attend to the details of his father’s funeral with old, opinionated relatives.  Claire represents a person who understands a lot about life, and knows how to find the wisdom in simple ideas by observing others. She befriends Drew, and in a sense, saves him from himself and his past life that was wrapped up in a job and an empty apartment by forcing him to face his feelings. It’s difficult for me to not fall in love with this film every time I watch it.

And there you have it. My three current favorite films. They may not be considered the best by the majority, the average movie watcher, or any critic, but they’re my favorites. Stick around, and I might let you in on what films I consider to be the best I’ve seen thus far.