Tag Archives: Maria Bello

TIFF18: Giant Little Ones

Giant Little Ones is post-gay, mid-spectrum, pro-fluid. It’s a very specific adolescence, and except for a few details, it could be mine or yours.

Franky (Josh Wiggins) is on the swim team at school – the kind of swim team who showers together, shaves together, slings homophobic slurs together, apparently without irony. Franky’s best friend Nic is on the swim team too. They do almost everything together, but for Franky’s 17th birthday he’s planning something without him – the loss of his virginity, to his girlfriend, who is nice enough and pretty enough but just not that interesting. Is that a problem? Nic is emphatic: no. Nic and his girlfriend do it 6 times a day!

Franky’s mom (Maria Bello) leaves the house unattended for the party but things don’t go exactly as planned, and at the end of the night it’s just Franky and Nic, like the sleepovers of their childhood. Except this one ends in a blow job. In the morning, Franky is surprised by this turn of events, but Nic is many more things: ashamed, upset, angry. Nic destroys their friendship, and Franky’s reputation, and makes Franky’s life at school hell. The only person who doesn’t desert him is Nic’s sister, Natasha.

I really love Franky’s openness to this experience.  Josh Wiggins is a big part of this: he is giant-little-ones-e1536901112178charming and sweet, handsome and approachable. Franky doesn’t question his identity, he just absorbs it as part of it. It doesn’t need a label or a judgement. But there is a complication: Franky’s father (Kyle MacLachlan) has recently left the family because he’s gay. Franky’s resentment is mostly due to the abandonment and not the sexuality, but his feelings are complicated and confused and it makes dealing with this just a little harder than it has to be.

Every generation has its own set of unique problems and we’re still uncovering and discovering what it means to be young right now. High school is as hard as ever, but it’s fascinating to be able to peek in through the window to see today’s particulars. I saw Giant Little Ones on a whim and an inkling and it ended up being a really nice find, which is a happy festival occurrence. We go in with such high expectations for the Oscar hopefuls and at best all they can do is meet them. But a little Canadian indie like this can genuinely catch you off guard, and in reinvigorates you when you’re on movie #32 of the festival.

 

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The Late Bloomer

A sex addiction therapist endures a severe kick in the nuts that leads to a hospital visit, that leads to the discovery of a brain tumor. That’s the good news. The brain tumor is benign, and has been leaning heavily on his pituitary gland this whole time, which means 30 year old Peter (Johnny Simmons) has NEVER gone through puberty. Buckle up, folks: he’s about to!

And he’s pleased as punch. He’ll finally get to have sex! Finally know the joys of erections and masturbation and third base! The opening title card warns us we’re in for “some ridiculously fucked up shit” and they’re not wrong. They took a “true story”, made it unbelievable and yet generically raunchy, and stripped it of any humour. The situation is bursting with potential but director Kevin Pollack decided nah, let’s just be basic and boring about it. And be sure to completely waste the supporting cast while we’re at it.

It feels like the stuff that Judd Apatow left on the cutting room floor after editing The 40 untitled.pngYear Old Virgin, and the fact that Jane Lynch is in both is just a painful reminder that this subject actually CAN be funny, should be funny, and in fact probably took a lot of effort to screw up this badly. How much effort, you ask? Well, by my count: there are 2 credited with “story by” and FIVE credited with screenwriting. Five! All dudes, naturally. Dudes who like visual jokes about morning wood and sneaky semen. And that doesn’t even count the guy who wrote the book, you know, the REAL guy that this actually happened to.

His name is Ken Baker. The real dude spent one season as pro hockey’s “oldest rookie” and is a “journalist” who has worked for People magazine and the E! network. He is not and never has been a sex therapist, which is an unnecessary layer added by lazy writers who thought it would be funny and in fact is just plain stupid. How someone smart enough to earn a PhD would refuse to see a doctor about his condition but deem it a good idea to give advice to people about an act of intimacy he’s never done himself and is in fact biologically incapable of completing is just unacceptable. Do not insult me with such stupidity.

If you surf by this one on Netflix, don’t be fooled by the recognizable cast. It is not worthy of your time. It will fail to incite a single laugh. It should be flushed down the toilet like a used condom.

Third Person

960Liam Neeson is a writer doing writerly things in Paris, estranged from his wife (Kim Basinger) after a family tragedy, and making up for lost time with his damaged young mistress (Olivia Wilde).

Mila Kunis is recently a NY hotel maid, the latest in a string of terrible jobs she can’t hold onto. Her lawyer (Maria Bello) is losing patience with her flimsy excuses for constantly missing court – should the custody battle she’s locked in with her ex (James Franco) be her first priority?

Adrien Brody is in Italy to track down designs he can knock-off when he runs into a beautiful woman in a bar (Moran Atias) with a sob story about stolen money and the smuggler who’s holding her daughter ransom.

Three couples, three cities, three stories, 1 movie, by the king of interwoven story lines himself, Paul Haggis. What do they have in common? Kids? Rocky relationships? Trust issues? Wonky coincidences? Unreliable narrators? A third-personweird triangle with an awkward “third person”? Or something a little more…literary? I found this flick on Netflix and wondered how such a monstrously recognizable cast had flown under the radar.

There are definitely small details scattered throughout Third Person that deliberately do not make sense, yet are major hinges to the plot. The stories are vaguely interconnected, but shouldn’t be. They should be divided by the rules of time and space which our universe obeys, but aren’t. It’s damn subtle though, ambitious in its reach. The kind of thing that’ll itch your brain, make you squint at the TV, make your constantly third-person-adrien-brody-and-moran-atiasask your partner “Okay, what?” Haggis’s gimmick overwhelms the movie, and the cracking chemistry between stars just isn’t enough to make up for it.

As frustrating as the film’s structure is, there’s also an underlying message that to me was even more disturbing. The men are all pricks and the women are all passive victims. In one vignette, a character actually says “Women have the gift of being able to deny any reality” but you know what, Paul Haggis? This woman is staring reality in the balls and calling it what it is: a waste of talented actors, pretentious without being smart, and a bit of a bore.

 

TIFF: The Journey Is The Destination

This is supposed to be the inspiring biopic of photojournalist/artist/activist Dan Eldon. But something is lost in the translation between his real-life journals that inform the story, and its appearance on the big screen. Namely, the inspiring part.

Supposedly Dan Eldon was an activist from a young age, raising money for various good causes. British-born but raised in Nairobi, he had a silver-spoon life, having the best in x9kbt0q2zcmaybswkkqklezuxi3education, the ability to visit over 40 countries while still in his teens, and loads of opportunity. He sprinkled his good fortune with charitable acts for others. But in the movie we don’t see a lot of Dan Eldon, activist. Rather we see Dan Eldon, purveyor of white privilege, with a side of white saviour to further sour the milk.

The film is brought alive under Bronwen Hughes’s able direction. She attempts to turn the film into a literal scrap book of sorts, travel-logging his adventures to honour creative source material, though this conceit is used sporadically. And it’s also not a great fit for the film, tonally. By the movie’s end, The Journey Is The Destination will have brought you to some very dark places. Cutesie scribbles and doodle a la Diary of a Wimpy Kid don’t really belong somewhere that ultimately ends up more Hotel Rwanda.

I want to believe in Dan Eldon, good person. It’s just that this movie keeps showing me Dan Eldon, man of many advantages and almost no self-awareness. The cast is strong: Ben Schnetzer is charming as Eldon, plus the likes of Maria Bello and Kelly Macdonald in particular are welcome additions, but they can’t do much with material that’s inconsistent and contradictory. In fact, in researching this guy, I’ve learned that most of what we see in the movie is just plain wrong. And the edits they’ve made, perhaps to make him seem less flighty, more substantial, also make him less sympathetic.

If you’re truly interested in the man, reading his writings is likely the better bet.