What annoyed Nick Offerman as a kid.
Nick Offerman, another John Hughes fan. #Sundance #meandearlandthedyinggirl
The worst pickup line Olivia Cooke has heard. #Sundance #meandearlandthedyinggirl
Something Olivia Cooke's family forced her to do as a kid. #Sundance #meandearlandthedyinggirl
A coming of age movie that stuck with Olivia Cooke. #Sundance #meandearlandthedyinggirl
A performance that inspired Thomas Mann. #Sundance #meandearlandthedyinggirl
Thomas Mann on playing another high school kid. #Sundance #meandearlandthedyinggirl
The worst pickup line Katherine Hughes has heard. #Sundance #meandearlandthedyinggirl
Something that bugged Katherine Hughes when she was younger. #Sundance #meandearlandthedyinggirl
Connie Britton quotes a movie she loves. #Sundance #foulplay #meandearlandthedyinggirl
The much-deserved standing ovation for "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl." #Sundance
4 stars (out of four)
I do not say this lightly: “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” is an instant classic.
That may sound like hyperbole, but A. anyone who regularly reads my reviews knows I can be tough to please and B. every once in a while, a movie comes along and stuns you. This is that movie. And what an amazing surprise, considering that clunky title and a synopsis—high school kid’s mom forces him to befriend a classmate who is diagnosed with leukemia—that sounds like either an after-school special or just an attempt to piggyback on the success of “The Fault in Our Stars.”
That couldn’t be farther from the truth. This movie is so funny I felt like I couldn’t laugh hard enough to suit the material, and it’s the first effort in possibly decades—I really can’t remember an example since “Forrest Gump”—that has made me cry. This thing is just so wonderful, I almost don’t want to say anything about it, so everyone can just go in and have the beautiful revelation that I did.
But a few basics: Right off the bat, Greg (Thomas Mann) tells Rachel (Olivia Cooke) that his mom (Connie Britton) has pressured him into this friendship, so “Earl” doesn’t force us to sit around waiting for Rachel to find out the truth or something. Through narration Greg also says that this isn’t a romance and Rachel survives, so the two things you’d normally be wondering about a story like this are off the table. What develops is an explosion of unpredictable, hysterical, moving creativity, with particular heights hit in the movies Greg and his filmmaking partner Earl (promising newcomer RJ Cyler) make by adjusting the title of a classic (like “Harold and Maude”) into something as dumb as possible (“Harry, Old and Mod”) and creating a short film off of that name. They make tons of these, and they are so, so, so funny. Nothing I can say will really explain why, so I’ll leave that alone.
What I will be raving about for a long time is the way “Earl,” directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (“American Horror Story”) and adapted by writer Jesse Andrews from his novel, delivers that rare feeling of a movie-going experience so extraordinary it leaves you shocked. And not just because of its cleverness—this is an original vision of dealing with death and dealing with being a teenager, portraying things everyone who was ever young knows in smart, imaginative new ways. It also tells a story about using humor to distract from sadness and insecurity and gets the tone exactly right. In other words: A major, major discovery.
More from Nick Offerman on Whisk. #Sundance #meandearlandthedyinggirl
Nick Offerman on Whisk at Chicago/Damen. #Sundance #meandearlandthedyinggirl
Something that bugged Connie Britton as a kid. #Sundance #meandearlandthedyinggirl
Connie Britton, John Hughes fan. #Sundance #meandearlandthedyinggirl
A coming of age movie Connie Britton loves. #Sundance #meandearlandthedyinggirl
3.5 stars (out of four)
“It’s ‘When Harry Met Sally’ for assholes,” says “Sleeping with Other People” writer/director Leslye Headland (“Bachelorette”) during a Q&A after the film’s Saturday night premiere. This is partially accurate. After all, the comparison is mandatory as Jake (Jason Sudeikis) and Lainey (Alison Brie) develop a sexless friendship even though it’s very clear, to us and to them, that their feelings for each other are hardly platonic.
But Headland’s follow-up to the vastly underrated “Bachelorette” isn’t a romantic comedy retread. It’s the best one since “Friends with Benefits,” funny and sexy and only conventional in the sense that it takes a formula and gives it energy and relevance again. Jake and Lainey lost their virginity to each other in college, but more than a decade later they’ve become regular cheaters. Says Jake, it’s not that he doesn’t want to commit, it’s that he doesn’t want to commit to any of the women he’s with, and it’s easier to say he slept with their sister than actually do the mature thing and break up peacefully. Even if Headland can’t quite convince that Jake and Lainey think it’s better off for them to be just friends, the movie is so sharply written and flawlessly cast—these are the exact sort of starring roles Sudeikis and Brie should be getting; a late scene, presented in a single shot, is intimate and unforgettable—that
I both laughed my ass off and got choked up.
Scenes like Jake teaching Lainey about masturbation don’t feel like raunchy bits designed for startled giggles but amusing, character-driven examples of temptation peeking out. And unlike most comedies, “Sleeping” doesn’t stop being funny in its final act, at times feeling like an edgy, modernized update of old-fashioned banter. It thinks about characters of both genders and allows for complicated feelings about sex. It also features a hysterical, odd supporting turn from Adam Scott.
This isn’t the first movie to show the value of friendship as a foundation for relationships. But "Sleeping with Other People" finds a fresh, hugely entertaining way to look at a number of imperfect, sexual, potentially compatible people and consider what they could and should do to, with and for each other.
Man, is “Mississippi Grind” good. Actually, no. It’s awesome. Script, performances, characters, everything. Love it.
Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn (“Black Sea,” “Exodus: Gods and Kings”), finally given a role in an American movie that doesn’t just ask him to be a tough guy, is Gerry, who’s up to his ears in debt and still looking to crawl his way out at the poker table or track. He meets Curtis (Ryan Reynolds), and an instant, unspoken bond emerges. Though writers/directors Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden (“Half Nelson”) effectively generate curiosity from uncertainties about these guys, they never settle for the manipulative or the obvious. This is simply a great onscreen pair, made even better by the spectacular work from Mendelsohn and a career-best Reynolds, who prevents his mysterious character from seeming like a construct. Fleck and Boden trust viewers to think about what’s not explained.
When Gerry and Curtis hit the road toward a high-stakes game in New Orleans, “Mississippi Grind” becomes a road movie on top of its ‘70s-inspired gambling buddy drama. Just when you think it will embrace clichés, it puts them to work until they’re not clichés anymore. Sienna Miller and Analeigh Tipton play beautiful prostitutes but make them neither idealized saints nor cartoonish villains. They’re real people, trying to get by. And “Mississippi Grind” is a study in drawing out themes without underlining them, causing you to start seeing all talent as a kind of magic trick and life as a series of acquisitions you, if you value them, work not to lose.
As much as I liked “The Gambler,” and I liked it a lot, that underrated drama made gambling a little juicy. “Mississippi Grind” lives on a raw, ground level in its study of addiction. It’s complicated and quietly bold, sometimes exciting but also full of exhausted desperation. I cared a lot about these characters, flaws and all, evidence of life’s ability to deliver an unexpected punch in the face, usually figuratively. “When you come to a fork in the road, you take it,” Curtis tells Gerry. What a line, perfect for the character. I’m never one to call something “a great American movie,” but “Mississippi Grind” really is, alive with a deep sense of place and music and the question of what people will do with the opportunities presented to them. And the truth that when you’re always chasing, you never arrive.
3 stars (out of four)
The phrase “It’s an interesting story” isn’t a suitable summary of whether or not a movie is good. Some have said that about “The Imitation Game,” which does have an interesting story. But that doesn’t make up for the fact that the execution of that story is just OK.
“I Am Michael” also has rich, true story-based roots, but that’s not the only reason it’s worth seeing and discussing. (Coincidentally, both films deal with issues of sexuality and bigotry.) As the film opens, Michael (James Franco) advises a young man that heterosexuality is the only way to please God. “Gay doesn’t exist,” he says. “It’s a false identity.” Then first-time feature director/co-writer Justin Kelly, adapting Benoit Denizet Lewis’ New York Times magazine article, “My Ex-Gay Friend,” shifts to 10 years earlier, when Michael lived with his boyfriend, Bennett (Zachary Quinto) and served as the managing editor for a gay magazine. What could have possibly happened in between to make an activist turn into someone advocating for a strict, homophobic interpretation of the Bible?
“I Am Michael” doesn’t always succeed along its answer to that question. The movie has a flat trajectory and several similarly flat characters, generating a sometimes unsteady and narrowly conceived portrait of a controversial, real-life incident. But it matters that no one swoops in and brainwashes Michael; this film doesn’t offer a blanket indictment of religion. Rather, Michael’s fear of death leads him to seek a sense of security he believes only faith can provide, whatever it takes. And Franco’s sensitive performance, as a man who goes from saying sexuality shouldn’t define you to letting it define him at every moment, shows that the cost of that repression may only continue to rise.
Jason Sudeikis on a romantic comedy cliche he wants to go away. #Sundance #sleepingwithotherpeople
Andrea Savage quotes a movie she loves. #Sundance #sleepingwithotherpeople
Andrea Savage on love at first sight. #Sundance #sleepingwithotherpeople
Wise words from Leslye Headland. #Sundance #sleepingwithotherpeople
The best impression Jason Sudeikis does. #Sundance #sleepingwithotherpeople
Alison Brie quotes a movie she loves. #Sundance #sleepingwithotherpeople #mallrats
Back on the line. #Sundance
Unexpected answer from Robin Weigert. #Sundance #mississippigrind
What Ryan Fleck had to learn to master poker. #Sundance #mississippigrind
Who's the deadlier poker player: Ryan Fleck or Anna Boden? #Sundance #mississippigrind
Evidence of that Reynolds/Mendelsohn chemistry. #Sundance #mississippigrind
Ryan Reynolds on costar chemistry. #Sundance #mississippigrind
Analeigh Tipton on lucky charms. #Sundance #mississippigrind
Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn on the worst possible poker tell. #Sundance #mississippigrind
Tight squeeze on packed press line. #Sundance #mississippigrind
Emile Hirsch connects his character's look to an old friend and Mr. Bieber. #Sundance #tenthousandsaints