Tag Archives: Josh Charles

The Ex

Is this movie worth watching for Paul Rudd’s douchey earring?

Jason Bateman plays a dick very well. Unfortunately, Zach Braff plays a dick very naturally himself. Like, even when he’s not supposed to. Even when he’s supposed to be the sympathetic character. Does anyone actually like Zach Braff?

Tom (Braff) is a NYC cook who loses his job on the very day his wife Sofia (Amanda Peet) gives birth. As punishment, they move to Ohio where Tom mv5bmtkyodq0njk4of5bml5banbnxkftztcwnzc2ndywna__v1_cr025266150_al_ux477_cr00477268_al_will work with Sofia’s dad at some new-agey ad agency while she stays home to care for the baby. Tom is mentored at work by Chip, the son his father in law never had, and incidentally Sofia’s ex-boyfriend. Chip (Jason Bateman) is a grade A ass but for some reason only Tom (and we) see it, possibly because Chip is in a wheelchair and kind of milks that for all it’s worth. But as hard as Bateman tries to steal the scenes with smug, smarmy schtick, he just can’t keep this stinker afloat.

The Ex has been disowned by nearly everyone who made it. The credited screenwriters, David Guion and Michael Handelman, insist that most of what you see isn’t really their material, nor the director’s, come to think of it. “It was unfortunate because the director, Jesse Peretz, is great and very talented, but the movie was ultimately taken out of his hands.” I’m not sure if that’s true – certainly there’s not a lot of evidence of capable direction in the film. It feels half-cooked, sitcomy, and oddly truncated, like someone was just washing their hands of it rather than actually finishing it. And yet it’s been presented to audiences like it’s a real film that you should watch. And it just isn’t (despite the fact that I’ve seen it twice now). Viewer beware.

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Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Based on a memoir, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is the “true story” of Kim Baker, an American journalist sent to Afghanistan to be a war reporter despite having absolutely no experience (being unmarried and childless was short straw enough). In Afghanistan she is immediately confronted with the concept ftf-11806r_2_wide-54dfd259b4cfc0e148859666f964e90321c3fd1b-s900-c85of “Kabul cute” – women who were a 4 back home in New York are suddenly 10s. Tina Fey plays the 4. Margot Robbie plays a 15.

Afghanistan is windy and gritty, basically a forgotten war now that Iraq is a better news story, but the more she sticks with it, the more Kim elicits candid remarks from her subjects. Billy Bob Thornton plays the guy who finds her nothing but a nuisance, admonishing her not to sleep with his marines.

It’s actually not a bad movie, considering it bombed at the box office. What went wrong? Possibly people didn’t like to see one of their favourite comediennes amid such a serious backdrop – it’s hard to laugh at limbs being blown off. And the very same war fatigue mentioned in the movie may contribute not wanting to hear about it in theatres, either. Bill Murray’s Rock the Kasbah suffered the same fate. And maybe Tina Fey’s just not ready to cross over genres, or to headline her own movie alone. Martin Freeman was great support in the movie but didn’t get any screen time in the trailers. And Whiskey_Tango_Foxtrot_reviewthe trailer, for that matter, played up the movie’s comic aspect even though the movie’s a dramedy at best, lobbing one-liners like hand grenades into a pretty grim war zone.

But Fey actually does well, if you give her the chance. I thought she and Freeman were great together. The movie just doesn’t have a lot to say. It’s not a commentary on the war so much as one woman’s less glamorous version of Eat, Pray, Love. The real Kim Barker never broke any major news stories so there’s not a lot of insight and not much authenticity. I think the script had some great pieces but suffered from abrupt lurches in tone. Overall though, I’m glad I gave it my time, even if I didn’t Lima Mike Foxtrot Alpha Oscar.

 

I Smile Back

I Smile Back is tough to watch from the start, and it only gets worse.  It tells the story of Laney (Sarah Silverman), a housewife struggling with “drugs and daddy issues”, whose primary question of her therapist is, “which do you want to talk about first?”  Laney is married with two young children, so her apparent drug and sex addictions are significant problems for a whole number of reasons.

I am by far the least qualified asshole to diagnose Laney, being the only one who’s not a mental health professional.  But since Jay’s in a pain and morphine-induced haze right now, and Matt hasn’t seen the movie, you get stuck with me as your tour guide!  So here we go.

First, the easy part.  Silverman is excellent in the lead role, and is well-deserving of the acclaim she has received so far (nominated for a SAG Award for Best Actress).  I found her very believable as a woman who loves her family and truly wants to be part of it despite struggling with all sorts of stuff.  That Silverman is so good makes the movie all that more difficult to watch.

Beyond that, it gets much tougher.  Because of how difficult the movie is to watch, looking at I Smile Back critically is very hard for me.  I did not like watching it but I know I was never supposed to.  Nothing that happens in Laney’s life gives us a lot of hope that things are going to get better, and the movie does not end on a happy note (in fact, at the end things are at their very bleakest).  Silverman has made us care about Laney by then.  I wanted Laney to get better and repair her relationship with her husband Bruce (Josh Charles), so I was hoping for a typical Hollywood ending.

Suffice to say, I did not get a happy ending, and after reflection I think that was the right decision by writers Paige Dylan and Amy Koppelman (the latter of whom wrote the book on which the movie is based).  But something still was missing, and after staring at this computer screen for a while, I think I have put my finger on it.  In a meta sense, the movie is worthwhile because it gives Silverman the chance to show a whole other dimension to her acting.  But within the movie itself, I Smile Back didn’t give me anything meaningful.

The only meaning I can find within the movie is that anyone may be struggling with mental health and it’s not easy to recover even if he or she really wants to.   And while that’s something I agree with, it’s something I already felt coming in and the story in I Smile Back really didn’t go beyond that basic notion.  Everything in the movie was consistent with that idea but it felt like we were on a fixed path because of it.  Looking back, almost all the characters we meet other than Laney are primarily plot devices to give Laney a chance to make another bad decision, and she rarely misses the opportunity.  The opportunity that feels missed is on the part of the writers, who rather than fleshing out characters or situations, just keep things moving by giving Laney more chances to do bad things.   Because of that, I never felt that seeing these awful things happen onscreen was worth the pain.  I never felt any payoff for my discomfort within the movie and I needed there to be something.

Overall, this movie was worth checking out for Silverman’s performance but it’s really not great otherwise.  I give it a score of six out of ten.