Tag Archives: Jay Duplass

Beatriz At Dinner

Beatriz is a “healer” which is what people call themselves when they branch out from straight up massage. If you offer any two of the following in addition, you too are a practitioner of “holistic medicine”: meditation, yoga, reiki, consulting crystals, reading tea leaves, speaking to auras, tasting colours. Beatriz is all of the above (probably) and proud of it. And so when poor Kathy (Connie Britton) has had a long, stressful mid-afternoon of instructing servants on how to throw this evening’s dinner party, she of course calls her old pal Beatriz (Salma Hayek) to come cure her of tension and aching muscles by honouring the age-old method of rubbing them down with massage oil.

MV5BMzgyYmNkZDAtOTEyYi00YjJkLTljZWMtYTgwNTYwNDczYjgwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjk1Njg5NTA@._V1_That would have made for a boring movie had Beatriz’s car started up as it should and allowed her to drive away afterward, but no. Beatriz’s piece of shit car did not start, and her friend can’t come fix it until much later, and presumably she’s too poor to  have it towed, so Kathy extends a shaky, not-really invitation to dinner party since they’re “practically friends” and Beatriz accepts.

The dinner party is to celebrate some recent success in business: Doug (John Lithgow) is a titan of business and Jeana (Amy Landecker) is his third or fourth wife; Alex (Jay Duplass) is the young lawyer seeing his first taste of real money with this deal, and Shannon (Chloe Sevigny) his wife who could get used to this; and Kathy’s husband Grant (David Warshofsky) is the guy who put them all together. Now, there are two reasons this dinner and therefore this movie is interesting to watch. First, Kathy and Beatriz are not really “friends” and they’re both going to discover that in highly awkward ways. Second, Kathy and her dinner guests are conservatives who maybe sometimes think of themselves as better than that but really aren’t. It’s business (by which I mean money) first. And Beatriz is no wallflower. She’s pretty much the opposite of the kind of seventh wheel you’d want crashing your party. She’s not only going to speak up, she’s going to scream and shout, and maybe even cry.

It’s a pretty timely movie for the Trump era but it IS not a guide on how to survive. Beatriz blows shit up. She’s incendiary. Salma Hayek is fantastic. John Lithgow is fantastic. The only thing that’s not fantastic is the end. You’ll see.

Advertisements

TIFF: Outside In

Chris has just been released from prison after serving 20 years for a crime he didn’t really commit. That sounds like a cop out but the shades of guilt were complicated and I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. But he was sentenced at the age of 17 as an adult and it was only thanks to the hard work of his high school teacher Carol that he’s now out.

A couple of things: Chris (Jay Duplass) had developed quite an intense relationship with said teacher (Edie Falco) but now that it’s not a strictly phone friendship, things are different. She’s married. She has a teenage daughter, in fact. But Chris doesn’t really have MV5BMTc3MTE2MzU2NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDg4ODMzMzI@._V1_very many other people in his life, so he’s leaning very heavily on her. His brother isn’t a lot of help – yeah, he’s staying in his garage, but things are pretty tense since Ted (Ben Schwartz) never visited him in prison, and seems to have had something to do with the crime that sent Chris away. Things are very, very tense.

Also: freedom isn’t quite as free as Chris has imagined. I mean, being outside the walls of his cell is intimidating. But he’s also dealing with the confines of probation – not drinking, not traveling, finding a job suitable for an ex-con, etc, etc. And I couldn’t help but feeling like Carol’s less than ideal marriage is a little more prison like than she’d like to admit. So shit’s complicated.

Duplass and director Lynn Shelton wrote the script together and though it’s not very action-oriented, it’s packed with emotional awkwardness and personal growth. Duplass doesn’t make for a typical criminal, whatever that means. Even 20 years of prison doesn’t seem to have hardened him, he’s sensitive and introverted and a little lost and needy. The movie really follows his struggles to readjust to this life, and it’s quickly obvious that the superficial stuff like texting and bike helmets are the least of his concerns. The world has changed, but more importantly, so has he. He’s struggling to catch up; the film shines in small moments, like when Carol’s daughter (Kaitlyn Dever) teaches him it’s no longer okay to use the word ‘retarded.’

Edie Falco is a wonder. I especially loved the complicated relationship between her and her daughter. But the movie flounders a bit, with Chris’s plight a little too internalized. The story’s predictability makes this film good, but not great.

Table 19

I sort of wonder if this is an oddball comedy or just a comedy filled with oddballs. It IS filled with oddballs, that’s the premise. Eloise (Anna Kendrick) is the ex-maid of honour at her best friend’s wedding. Having recently been broken up with the bride’s brother\best man, she knows she shouldn’t be there but to prove a point she RSVPs yes, and as a reward for her bravery, she gets seated at dreaded table 19 with all the other losers and rejects who should have known better.

MV5BYThmOTM1OTktODc4Mi00NzU4LWI5MzItYzc0ZDY1YWJhZjVlL2ltYWdlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjg0ODEwMjU@._V1_The table 19 crew: Bina & Jerry Kemp (Lisa Kudrow, Craig Robinson) who are diner owners who don’t know the bride or groom personally, and barely know each other anymore; Renzo (Tony Revolori), a young kid who’s mother told him he stood a better chance of picking up at this wedding than at his junior prom; cousin Walter (Stephen Merchant), newly out of prison for having embezzled from the bride’s father; and Nanny Jo (June Squibb) who was basically a retaliation invite.

They’re a gang of misfits and the wedding is doomed for them. The critics have doomed Table 19 entirely, but I thought it had its charms. There’s certainly a lot of sympathy for the odd ducks of the world, and the performances are pretty winning (Squibb and Merchant being favourites). Some of the gags are tired but it’s kind of nice to see the weirdos normally relegated to the background have a moment in the spotlight. A Mumblecore film more concerned with characters and dialogue than plot, this movie isn’t going to light the world on fire. But like any wedding, it can be made tolerable with an open bar.

The Duplass Brothers

Today is a momentous day at Assholes Watching Movies because we’re giving out a prestigious award to the two most hard-working guys in Hollywood, Mark and Jay Duplass. giphyThese two have so much hustle that there’s hardly a corner in all of dusty Los Angeles that they haven’t conquered, so when we called up Queen Bey herself to crown them with all the glory implicated in this event, she didn’t hesitate to say yes. To be fair, Rihanna and Katy Perry also accepted but those girls are so confused they couldn’t stop crowning themselves. So, Jay & Mark, in the name of Beyoncé, with the power invested by her entire Beyhive, I now pronounce you Most Industrious Assholes.

Just who are these indefatigable guys? Jay you may know from the show Transparent, duplasswhile Mark’s claim to fame was The League. Then they both appeared on the show they wrote and directed themselves, Togetherness. But that’s just what they do in their spare time. They’re also writing or producing or directing or micro-financing movies pretty much round the clock. Movies are either their passion, or their death wish.

“I consistently go to therapy and work on this one issue. … ‘How do I be a rawworkaholic, do what we love to do, and not die of a heart attack, destroy myself and my family, and keep my friends?’” – a commendable insight from Mark.

 

duplass-2-900x600The Duplass brothers have been at heart of the Mumblecore movement for a long time. Mumblecore movies are a subgenre of indies that are known by their incredibly small budgets, their “natural” (read: amateur) acting, with an emphasis on dialogue over plot, lots of which may be improvised.

Together they’ve written and directed The Puffy Chair (it debuted at SXSW, which is where the Mumblecore genre was first identified in 2005), Baghead, Cyrus, Jeff, Who Lives at Home, and The Do-Deca Pentathlon. They’ve also produced or executive produced Adult feature1-1_3-24-16-6734fefb80e366b8Beginners, Creep, Tangerine, Safety Not Guaranteed, The Skeleton Twins, The Overnight, and half a bazillion more (or less). These dudes are busy. And if the days start growing magical 25th and 26th hours, they’ve also got production deals with both HBO and Netflix, plus they’ve got a book deal at Random House so they can school us in the art of collaboration, which is a rarity in the ego-driven business of Hollywood.

Talented, busy, and honourable: now that their names have bank, their production ff_duplass_1_cart-768x1024company isn’t just about churning out Duplass stuff. They’re also bringing up lots of their friends along with them. They’ve got enough pull to make pretty much whatever they please, but they’re sticking close to their humble beginnings. The brothers are famous for bottom lines of less than a million dollars, and they always come in under budget. With their success and auteur status they’ve recently been asked to helm a real popcorn movie (shh – a superhero one!) and of course they turned it down, unwilling to make the kind of compromiseskaty.gif that would entail. “We’re not making that level of money [of directing a blockbuster franchise],” Jay says. “But we don’t need that level of money because we lived like starving artists for 15 frickin’ years. It’s like, we don’t need things. We just like to make things.”

gm_56660bfa-610c-432f-93fc-1a290a771fd0Jay and Mark aren’t just running their own little empire, they’re changing the industry as a whole. “There’s no excuse not to make movies on the weekend with your friends” says Mark, and you know he really, truly means it.

 

Adult Beginners

Some of my favourite people come together in this movie, so I couldn’t resist, but neither could I legitimately build up my expectations since it was just an unvouched-for indie among many on Netflix.

adultAnd it doesn’t have much of a plot that I can summarize for you; it’s an unambitious slice of life. It’s about a guy (Nick Kroll) who shows up at his sister’s  door in suburbia, looking for a place to live. He’s had some major setbacks and he’s feeling way too old to start his whole life over again. She’s (Rose Byrne) not in a much better place, kind of not sure about her job, her marriage, or even where to be or who to be. They’re listless. But the interesting thing about the movie, to me, is that they’re not painted as losers. They’ve just had some bad luck and some hard times, and that’s life.

Not the laugh-out-loud comedy you’d expect, I was caught off guard by how AdultBeginners_2014_BluRay_1080p_DTS_x264ETRG_mkv_snapshot_01_25_59_2015_08_04_17_47_46thoughtful and mature this movie is – maybe one of the more realistic movies about adult family relationships I’ve seen in a long while. Byrne and her on-screen husband, Bobby Cannavale, are a real-life couple, and they play well together. Throwing funny man Nick Kroll into the mix as a more or less straight-man is a bold and surprisingly effective choice. Everyone is some degree of flawed in this movie but we don’t make monsters out of any of them. They’re very relatable, and there’s a adultbeginnersquiet generosity in the characterization, a forgiveness I’m not used to see in movies that was really refreshing and kind of a relief.

While it doesn’t exactly gift-wrap an opaquely happy ending, it does suggest that second chances are possible, and maybe that’s as happy an ending as I really need.

The Overnight

If you’re one of those people who love Adam Scott because he’s so boyish and charming, and maybe you fell a little in love with him on Parks & Rec – well, maybe this movie isn’t for you. There’s lots of Adam Scott on display here, but really ask yourself if you’re ready to see him, warts and all.

The movie is about a couple, Alex (Scott) and Emily (Orange is The New Black’s over1Taylor Schilling), who move their young family to L.A. and find it a challenge for making new friends. A fortuitous meeting in a park leads them to the swanky home of mysterious hipster Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) and his French wife, Charlotte (Judith Godreche).

Alex and Emily are thrilled with how the dinner party is going – this couple is interesting, funny, and tantalizingly European in their mannerisms and taste. The attention they receive is flattering, until…wait – does something feel off? Yes, something is definitely off here. Alex and Emily are exchanging increasingly worried looks, the old married shorthand, and the night is overnight14f-2-webunraveling. Can it be saved by drugs?

Maybe yes, maybe no. I won’t spoil the movie by telling you what happens, but here’s a little game: one of the following does NOT appear in the movie – masturbation, threesome – no wait – foursome, is that even a word?, prosthetic penis, bologna sandwich. Can you guess which one?

I’m not exactly a movie prude, but there’s decadence, and then there’s thumbnail_21444debauchery. You start to get the sense that writer-director Patrick Brice is just trying to shock us, and is relying on an onslaught of unpredictability to do so rather than any true wit or edginess. I guess I’m supposed to think it was cool and naughty but the next day I’m just feeling like I’ve got a bad comedy hangover. Like – did that really just happen? For me this was a great big no thank you, with a side of please, sir, put your pants back on.

 

The One I Love

loveOn the brink of separation, Ethan (Mark Duplass) and Sophie (Elisabeth Moss) are referred by their therapist to an idyllic vacation house for a weekend getaway in an attempt to reconnect and save their marriage. What begins as playful and romantic soon becomes surreal. 

And at first this weird, creepy little twist is interesting. What does it mean? What are the rules? How does this affect the relationship? But since the movie lacks the balls to actually answer or even address any of these questions, you might just find yourself losing steam because the encounter is monotonous by its very nature.

I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into with this movie. I saw Mark Duplass and hit play (LOVE him in the The League!). Elisabeth Moss? Bonus. Ted Danson? Weird, but okay. I’ll buy it. Duplass and Moss give great performances, luckily, and the little relationship microcosm can be explored almost without limit – but to what end? I love the questions the movies seems to ask of us – Can happiness be sustained long-term? Do we marry a perfect but ultimately false partner and then feel let down when reality is revealed over due course? – but though this movie has potential and great bones, those bones lack meat. I wanted something I could sink my teeth into and ended up unsatisfied.