Tag Archives: Mark Duplass

Duck Butter

Naima is having a bad day: she’s not fitting in on the set on an indie Duplass Brothers movie and her roommate is a bit of a wet blanket. So she’s in the right kind of mood to fall in love with the beautiful and exotic lead singer at the club that night, and she does. Naima and Sergio go home together and have an amazing time but when Sergio proposes that they should spend the next 24 hours together in an intense, sex-forward, date-skipping, get to really REALLY know you kind of thing.

Naima (Alia Shawkat) cuts and runs of course, as any sane person should. But when the Duplasses fire her she kind of has a change of heart and begs Sergio (Laia Costa) to forgive her reluctance and cowardice and soon enough, their little love experiment is in full swing. And how. These two ladies are not afraid to let shit get REAL. And it’s shot in nullsuch a way that things feel authentic and raw, and the intimacy translates so that we too are made uncomfortable by the too much, too fast. I totally get the wanting to fast forward past the awkward part of dating, the artifice of it,the hiding of one’s true self, but if there’s a way past it, all this movie does is prove that this isn’t it.

But it pretty compelling to watch. I mean: Alia Shawkat. She is a gift to the indie movie scene. She’s versatile and has a pure and brave energy. Her chemistry with Costa is terrific, as it absolutely must be to make this movie work. Shawkat and Costa are impressively willing to go there. It must have been emotionally draining to be so present and in the moment, but they give the movie a bold and brazen but fleeting vibe that’s unique to this 90 minute capsule.

The film is imperfect just like the characters, just like their romance. And if you can imagine spending 24 hours with a stranger who is also your lover and new best friend, it flags a bit in the middle, just like you’d do in real life. But there’s something just so refreshing and weird about this film, about the collision between two people in a certain time and place, that I couldn’t look away.

Now, if you need any more convincing that representation matters, here’s an interesting tidbit. On Rotten Tomatoes, Duck Butter is rated Fresh by nearly every single female critic, and it is rated Rotten by all the men save one. Movies mean different things to different people, and that’s okay. Just don’t let half of those people convince you theirs is the only opinion that matters.

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Tully

Director  Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody, the team who brought you Juno and Young Adult, have at it again, taking aim at motherhood.

Marlo (Charlize Theron) is struggling to keep up with her two young kids – sweet Sarah, who’s 8, has birthday parties and soccer practice to get to, and Jonah, who’s 4, has special needs and quirks that are inadequately addressed but in constant demand of attention. Marlo hasn’t quite pulled her hair out yet, not all of it, but baby #3 arrives quite quickly into the movie, and that’s when things fall apart. Sleep deprived and overwhelmed, she’s either moving through life like a zombie, or she’s dashing around like a crazy person. She feels like she’s failing her kids and her husband and her own personhood, and it’s only in her lowest low that she finally consents to allow a night nurse hired by her wealthy brother to help out. And as soon as Tully arrives, life is transformed. I have several things to say about this movie:

  1. I sat and watched it in the middle of the day, in a theatre with maybe 8 other people in it. There was a pair of old ladies behind me who of course could not shut their mouths for the life of them. One lady was always about 20 seconds MV5BYmEzYmUzMTAtYTMwYy00MDZiLWJhODgtNDc2Zjc3MmIyZGQxXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjgxMTA1MzQ@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1499,1000_AL_behind, as if she was watching the movie on her very own special mental delay. The movie’s not exactly laugh out loud funny, but about 20 seconds after the rest of us had given a low chuckle, she would proclaim “Ha ha, that’s funny.” Except. Except this one joke that was heavily featured in the film’s promotion, in which the young night nurse Tully says that “You can’t fix the parts without treating the whole.” To which Marlo replies “No one’s treated my hole in a really long time.” And then the old lady behind me chimes in “Or mine!” – and you know what, Olga? (I bet her name was Olga) No one needs to hear about your hole, and I’m frankly finding it hard to imagine right about now that you’re capable of keeping any of them closed.
  2. Everyone’s talking about this “raw” and “honest” take on motherhood, and I think a lot of moms identified with the exhausted character they saw in the trailer. Motherhood is not always rosy. Asking for help might be sanity saving (though, hello, night nurses are for the privileged, and help isn’t always easy to come by, or easy to ask for). But mother-martyrdom has been done to death, so to me, the more interesting thing in this movie is how fatherhood is portrayed. Marlo’s husband hardly contributes to the parenting and she doesn’t even seem to resent him for it. He has a life outside the house, and he travels extensively, but even when he’s home he’s hardly helping. This is not my experience of 2018 dads, and I realize that breastfeeding will always keep things unequal, but Marlo’s husband is such a passive, uninvolved father the portrayal seemed dated. And if he really is this worthless, then Marlo needs to find her voice and demand better for herself and her family. But in fact, he gets away with it. The film never condemns him. That felt off to me.
  3. SPOILERS ahead, darlings. The truth is, for all the film’s “honesty”  we find out that the magical night nurse really is too good to be true. Tully is an imaginary friend, perhaps even a younger Marlo. So while postpartum depression is hinted at if not named, this hallucination is in fact indicative of a psychotic break. Postpartum psychosis is rare but very serious, and people have mixed feelings about her lack of diagnosis and lack of treatment seen on screen. All new mothers struggle. All of them. Being responsible for the survival of a completely helpless newborn is all-consuming. And postnatal episodes of depression can hit 10-15% of new mothers, though many are still reluctant to admit to it. Does the film do a disservice in not naming this mental illness? Does the viewer learn anything? In the movie, Tully is eventually dismissed, like Mary Poppins, but that’s not how psychosis works, and we can’t help but be afraid for Marlo as she returns home to a life unchanged, an illness untreated, and a husband who’s still very much in the dark about everything.
  4. EVEN MORE SPOILERS. The movie lost its grip on me when it started making some weird choices on Marlo’s behalf. But once it’s revealed that night nurse Tully is actually a younger Marlo swooping in to save her flailing middle-aged self, those scenes start to make more sense. You kind of wish you could revisit them with your new knowledge in order to understand them for their truth and not their illusion. So this film will absolutely require a second viewing (though not in theatres, for fear of more old lady TMI). In a way, Marlo’s  younger self is sort of her super hero, but they have things to learn from each other. Marlo envies Tully’s carefree life, her sexual escapades, her world of possibilities. But looking back, I’m struck by a line that didn’t mean as much at the time. Tully says “You’re convinced you’re this failure, but you actually made your biggest dream come true.” And if Tully really is a younger Marlo, then this isn’t empty reassurance but a reminder that motherhood was once her ambition.

Tully is a complex movie that needs and wants digesting. I believe it respects motherhood if not mental illness, and I have complicated feelings about that. But Charlize Theron is fearless as Marlo, a woman who has lost herself but thanks to Charlize always feels present nonetheless. Theron and Mackenzie Davis (Tully) have kinetic, intense chemistry and their scenes together add dimensionality to Hollywood’s concept not just of motherhood but of womanhood, femininity, and identity. Theron is self-assured; she uses her physicality in a way we haven’t seen from her before. She is daring and strong and I felt protective of her.

This movie was so quiet I didn’t even feel comfortable eating my snack, despite my stomach eating itself in desperation – it sort of mimicked the lethargy, the sleepwalking feel that Marlo stumbles around in. But whatever hell Marlo is experiencing, she’s taking care of her kids. Motherhood isn’t sacred in this movie, it’s not revered, but it’s honoured and esteemed and it’s clear they want to get it right.

 

 

Darling Companion

Beth is feeling a bit like a neglected wife; her husband Joseph is a workaholic surgeon and her kids are grown. So it’s kind of perfect timing when she finds an injured dog by the side of the road. Nursed back to health, the aptly named ‘Freeway’ becomes her loyal and constant companion. When Freeway’s vet marries Beth’s daughter, the whole family comes together for the happy occasion – until Joseph manages to lose the dog and suddenly the family is down one very important member.

Beth (Diane Keaton) refuses to leave until she’s searched every corner of the back woods where Freeway was last seen. Her sister-in-law (Dianne Wiest) chooses to stay by her side, as does her new beau (Richard Jenkins), and her son (Mark Duplass). Finally feeling the guilt of his inadequacy, Joseph (Kevin Kline) stays back too, and the search party is more like search couples therapy.

It’s co-written and directed by the fabulous Lawrence Kasdan so I wonder how on earth that name paired with this cast could have sailed past me. What was I doing in 2012 that I couldn’t make room for a little Diane Keaton in my life? And the thing is, who better to relate to her character than myself, a woman who would most assuredly go full Billy Madison should any of my dogs ever go missing.

Alas, this is the least successful of Kasdan’s films and it’s not just for the lack of light sabers. I get what he’s trying to do: there’s a fraying marriage, a freshly minted marriage, and new romances for both the young and not so young. It all revolves around this missing dog, but it’s a lot to handle for a film with such a sweet and simple premise and the tone is sometimes a little too “family movie” for my taste or perhaps anyone’s. But dogs have such an uncomplicated relationship with us, in comparison. They like to cuddle and to be fed. They are never not 110% bowled over to see you come, whether you’ve been away 5 minutes or 5 days. Kasdan was inspired to write the script after he adopted a dog himself, and promptly lost him.

This is Kasdan’s first indie film and the cast, featuring three Oscar winners and two more nominees, were so moved by the story they agreed to work for scale. Even if it wasn’t his most successful, Kasdan lists it as his most gratifying, and I suppose in a long and lustrous career, that’s worth something too.

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.

TIFF: Blue Jay

For 16 glorious hours, Blue Jay was my favourite movie at TIFF. Then I watched La La Land and I was in cinematic, technicolour heaven. I’ll tell anyone who will listen every single day of my life that I’m a lucky, lucky girl. Getting to watch 2 astounding, knock-your-socks-off films? Frosting on my fucking cupcake.

Blue Jay is nearly an anti-La La Land. It’s a small, quiet, black and white film that’s not destined for the Oscars, or even really theatres (a small run in LA and NY, and then Netflix by the end of the year – lucky us!). But it is superb.

bluejay_03-h_2016It stars Mark Duplass and Sarah Paulson, almost exclusively. They play high school sweethearts who bump into each other 20 years later. Agony and ecstasy, right there on the screen. And heaping spoonfuls of awkwardness, don’t forget that. Because they were in luuuuurv. The real deal. And now they don’t even know each other. It reminded me of a friend who had recently posted on Facebook that it was her ex-husband’s birthday, a date she can’t help but remember even if she no longer even knows if he’s alive. Isn’t it weird that we can lose track of people who used to be our whole worlds?

For Jim and Amanda (Duplass and Paulson), once they get over their initial weirdness, it’s almost like no time has elapsed at all. They’ve both moved on, new cities, big jobs, other lovers. And yet they can pick up where they left off, the magic reappearing in an instant. It’s like opening up a dorky little hole into time and space, hurtling these two pushing-40-year-olds back to their glory days in high school, when things were light and fun, thecaa09d60-5f6f-0134-3e92-0ad17316e277 sex was hot and heavy, and Annie Lennox was everything. Jim and Amanda will take you down your own worm hole, and if you don’t end the movie thinking about your own First Love, then you my friend have a cold, cold heart.

I picked this movie on two words alone: Mark Duplass. But Sarah Paulson is luminous; she fucking shoots starlight out of her face. The two together have incredible chemistry, and it’s obvious they work-shopped their characters together to perfection – the nostalgic backstory, their lovable eccentricities, the subtle hints to what caused their demise. Duplass and Paulson each deliver career-best performances. No kidding.

If you have ever loved and lost, this movie is for you. If you didn’t marry your high school sweetheart, this movie is for you. If you married him and left him, this movie is for you. If you appreciate things like smart dialogue, meticulous observation, authentic and vulnerable performances, and little bursts of spontaneity that are pure joy on celluloid, this movie is for you.

 

Oh fer fuck’s sake, just see it. It’s for everybody. It’s perfect.

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.