Tag Archives: Molly Shannon

Private Life

Rachel and Richard are a couple their niece Sadie looks up to – their tiny NYC apartment has cachet because of they live and work in the arts. When she drops out of college, it is natural for her to turn to them for support and a place to crash – much cooler than her parents’ place in the suburbs.

But as Sadie’s parents know, Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) and Richard (Paul Giamatti) aren’t exactly living a carefree life. They are deep in the throes of a fertility struggle. They’ve tried everything, and they’re still trying multiple strategies at once, which requires MV5BMTUyNTMyODc4Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjk5ODg1NDM@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_careful juggling and judicious lying (the adoption people want to hear that IVF is behind you). Like any couple wanting a baby they can’t have, they’ve suffered heartbreak. As the technologies and treatments proliferate, so too does the potential for loss. These people have suffered in ways my privileged uterus hasn’t even heard of – including a catfishing scam I can only wonder at. Still, Rachel and Richard persist, even in the face of their family’s disapproval and the strain on their bank account and the stress on their marriage. But they balk when the doctor suggests an egg donor – or Rachel does, feeling cut out of the deal. But then the young woman living in their home starts to feel like an option – it’s just a delicate matter of how to ask the vulnerable, tetherless niece to do something that will affect her profoundly for the rest of her life? Is that even fair?

This is a movie about fertility, but even more so, it’s a movie expressing rage against the lie that women can have it all. Rachel has delayed kids for career and the price is high. Her husband is sympathetic but ultimately this is her worth as a woman being questioned and her body betraying them, even as she ravages it with attempt after attempt. Private Life is about the ebb and flow of hope and what it does, long-term, to a marriage.

 

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Half Magic

Heather Graham has made a feminist movie about trying to get a feminist movie made,

Honey (Graham) meets two new friends at a female empowerment workshop where they compliment each other’s bodacious tatas and decorate their pussies. Candy (Stephanie Beatriz) is a self-styled “hope-ologist” who helps the ladies cast a spell for hot sex with someone who’s really nice to them (really, really low-bar stuff). Eva (Angela Kinsey) is a designer with access to fun parties and a failed marriage she’s still bummed about.

MV5BMTUyNjUzNTE0N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTEwMjkwNDI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1498,1000_AL_But you know what? They should have been summoning their own self esteem instead. Nice men are fine, but it’s still assigning your own happiness to someone else. Agency, ladies!

Anyway, it’s nice to see a movie about female friendship where they actually love and support each other, and men are just a sidebar. And I think real talk about female sexuality is invaluable, and so rarely seen in movies. These women are old enough to know their bodies and their preferences. But like lots of women, they haven’t always gotten what they wanted, or felt comfortable asking for it. And that’s a real shame, isn’t it? That Heather Graham had to write material for herself, had to write what might be the only script that says things like: lick it!

Half Magic isn’t a great movie but it isn’t half bad (har har). It made me want to join these ladies for a glass of wine and some bawdy talk. That’s what it gets right: believable female characters. And it’s amazing how rarely I say those 3 words in that order.

 

Wild Nights With Emily

Emily Dickinson, that is.

This movie started and I was like: ugh. They’re really flaunting their teeny-tiny budget. This is a period piece but the costumes look rented and the sets are old (but not old enough) houses and the accents are atrocious and the props are vintage perhaps but certainly not antiques. But once I let go of my authenticity bias, I relaxed and could appreciate that no, this film can’t afford to look like an ethereal Austen period piece, but it does have something important to say.

Emily Dickinson was a brilliant American poet who was never published or recognized during her lifetime because her lifestyle was not “becoming.” In order to publish them MV5BOGIyNjg0NWItYjMzMS00N2I0LTllYjUtMzBhMjJkMDgzMWM3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTc5OTQwMzk@._V1_posthumously, a narrative was created about her that has ever since called her a recluse, a virgin, a socially awkward spinster, which are all words attributed to women who just didn’t fit the mold. In reality, Emily had a passionate love affair with her brother’s wife, Susan. Many of her fieriest poems are dedicated to her – and name her. Traces of their relationship were of course literally erased from history in order to sell her poems to a conservative market. Dickinson was a woman ahead of her time in so many ways and this movie’s ambition is to have us reconsider the things we think we know about her.

Director Madeleine Olnek knows that letting Dickinson’s true flag fly may prove controversial, and that people generally don’t enjoy lectures about feminism, so she’s made a film that we can laugh at. And the best signal that this movie will be tongue-in-cheek is her casting of Molly Shannon as Ms. Dickinson. Molly gives Emily an energy and a joie de vivre that has been absent in our conception of her. But it’s clear from her poetry that Dickinson was in fact a woman of real passion – she loved and was loved. She was also constrained by her gender, class, and status, and all of those things have shaped our image of her. It’s only thanks to Susan’s daughter that we know of their great love and lifelong relationship, and to dedicated scholars who have uncovered the clues that were of course there all along. Don’t watch this movie if you can’t think outside the box. But do watch if you think the world needs more feminist, lesbian heroes – they’ve always existed, they just need our acknowledgement.

Miles

Ron’s heart bursts while reading the Saturday morning paper in his lazy-boy. He leaves behind a wife, Pam (Molly Shannon), and a teenage son in his senior year of high school, Miles (Tim Boardman). His family is devastated, but not in the usual way. Miles is desperate to escape the confines of his small town for film school in Chicago next year, and Pam has been slowly asphyxiating in her crappy marriage for years. Turns out Ron wasn’t a very nice person, and he recently used his son’s college fund to buy his mistress a Corvette. The mistress is the only one without dry eyes at the funeral.

Pam copes by flirting with a widower (Paul Reiser) in her grief group, and by threatening the mistress, and the mistress’s mother. Miles copes by joining the girl’s volleyball team. Apparently it’s the only scholarship he’s eligible for.

The movie is set in 1999, which means the AV club consists of rolling a large tube TV around on a trolley and chatting looks boxy and pixelated and awful. But it still encompasses a pretty big chunk of the plot. There’s really to recommend setting the movie in 1999 except it’s based on a true story, which is also an awkward implication.

But anyway: we’re going to rock the boat in small town wherever, circa 1999, when boys didn’t play on girls teams and coming out to your parents was still an occasion. So maybe there’s still room for this kind of courage, whatever that means. There’s an effort here to be relevant but the truth is, our protagonist is narrow-minded in his own way. He sees only his own needs and wants, not the larger picture, so it’s hard to really extrapolate the kind of meaning that would make this film feel satisfying.

Fun Mom Dinner

Usually the mere fact of a “mom movie” makes me cringe. Bad Moms make Bad Movies. I’m not a mother and I think more highly of the ones I know than to buy this whole “constant need to complain about the hardships of motherhood” bullshit. Which is not to say I think it’s easy. I just think it’s a choice. And that most of the mothers I know do a little bit of complaining and a little bit of boasting and a whole lot of being a regular person. If you hate your life so much, the LAST thing you should do is make a whiny movie about it so the rest of us are subjected to it too.

MV5BMTYwNzk5MzQ5MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDQ1ODE5MDI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1347,1000_AL_When Sean reluctantly fingered this title on Netflix, we did the math: I love Toni Colette + I like Katie Aselton + I hate Bridget Everett + I really hate Molly Shannon = an uncomfortable tipping toward the negative side. Not a great start. But the movie’s not a total write-off.

The Fun Moms go out for Fun Mom Dinners not to complain about being mothers but to complain about being wives, which is a fun twist. And it turns out that I don’t hate Bridget Everett in movies, I just hate her stand-up persona (she was in Patti Cakes too). Anyway, the fun  part is in kind of short supply, and inconsistent. The movie kind of wavers between a bit of a good laugh and utter predictability. If I never see another girls-night karaoke montage, I’ll have lived a good life.

Bottom line: mothers deserve better from us, better than this “behaving badly” reputation we’ve lately given them in the movies. They’re women, and I guarantee you they have more going on than shitty diapers and dirty dishes. This movie, under the direction of Alethea Jones and the pen of Julie Rudd, actualy gets closer to normalcy, and to comedy, than most in its crummy little genre. This is one of the best Moms movies I’ve seen in a while, but that’s an unforgivably low bar.

Other People

Cancer is what happens to other people. It just so happens that right now, the Mulcahey family are those other people. It’s happening to them. Technically, it’s happening to matriarch Joanne (Molly Shannon) but her last year is having quite an effect on the whole family – on her husband, Norman (Bradley Whitford), on her son David (Jesse Plemmons), on her two daughters, her colleagues, her friends, her extended family, on a whole bushel 960of people who are grieving even as she still lives, dealing with a loss that is still happening before their very eyes.

David has moved home to care for and spend time with his mother. He lives in New York City, and is trying to be a writer, but the pilot he was working on didn’t get picked up and he hasn’t had much other luck. His return is complicated by his religious family’s refusal to accept his sexuality. Ten years after he came out to them, his mother is trying to make amends but his father is still unable to come to terms with it.

The movie avoids most of the cancer cliches and rewards us with a more subtle look at loss. Plemmons is really great, and I like Zach Woods in a small role as his boyfriend. But I’ve been holding onto a dirty secret for two whole paragraphs now and it’s time to air it: I really dislike  Molly Shannon. I disliked her on SNL and I’ve disliked her in every thing since. She just bothers me, but for some reason I feel like a bad feminist admitting it. In this century, all of the greatest SNL talent has been female, but in the 90s, that wasn’t true. With the exception of the truly great – Gilda Radner, Jane Curtin, Jan Hooks – female cast members were tokenish, ill-used, mistreated up until Tina Fey and Amy Poehler landscape-1473341376-other-people-leadstarted turning things around. But Molly Shannon was a break-out, and some of her characters even got movie deals. I just didn’t like them. I thought she was brash, over the top, and obnoxious. I still do. But in this movie, as they dying mother, she’s none of those things. I still don’t like her, but she was easier to stomach when he’s mostly occupied evacuating hers. Is that a terrible thing to say? Yes it is. But it’s the truth.

This movie blends comedy and drama successfully, with a touch of cynicism and just enough compassion. Cancer isn’t exactly new ground to break in an indie film, but you’ll find that writer-director Chris Kelly finds truth in small things, and those add up to a pretty satisfactory whole.

Against the Crowd

bannerfans_16176859Wendell at Dell On Movies has proposed this inspired idea for a blogathon: Against the Crowd. Basically, you name one movie that you love even though everyone else hates it, and one movie that everyone loves but you actually hate. I’m already licking my lips in anticipation! Thanks, Wendell, for letting us play!

 

Sean’s picks:

46a639ecd69330827bc6a3212bab82a0One I love that everyone else hates: Night at the Roxbury (11% on Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer) – Honestly, if you hate this movie, I don’t want to know you. It’s wonderful. It’s so funny and kind of sweet and somehow all came together out of a one-note SNL skit. It’s pure genius, like seriously, the wedding scene is the best possible way to break up your brother’s wedding to Molly Shannon. And casting Richard Greico as himself, and then having him give life advice to Dan Hedaya? Simply amazing.

 

 

One I hate that everyone else loves: Life of Pi (87% on the Tomatometer) – After reading the life-of-pi-01-1920x1080book, the movie was such a let-down, and somehow it still got a best picture nod? You know, I’m not much of a reader but this book is one for the ages and the movie simply does not do it justice, and butchers the end reveal which absolutely defines the book and makes you want to immediately read it again.

 

Jay’s picks:

One I love that everyone else hates: Mixed Nuts (7% on the Tomatometer) – This movie is not well-known, so let me paint you a picture: a small group of counsellors are running a crisis line on Christmas Eve while facing down joblessness (hello, funding cuts!), clients with no boundaries (but a transgendered Liev Schrieber does a mean tango), and of course, loads of their own personal shit. The counsellors include Steve Martin, Rita Wilson, and the esteemed Madeline Kahn. So when a certain counsellor (namely, myself) goes to work at her own crisis line on Christmas Eve, the blow is made that much softer by watching this movie that makes me feel just a little less alone, and a little more merry. The jokes are as cornball as they come, but once a year I want to see Adam Sandler play his ukulele, Jon Stewart get road rage on rollerblades, Garry Shandling dress as a Christmas tree, Anthony LaPaglia get high on tranquilizers meant for dogs. Is that so weird?

One I hate that everyone else loves: Can I possibly pick just one? Sean suggested “any thing comic book” which is almost but not quite true (maybe more “anything super hero” but even that’s not fair, because a couple have transcended the genre but otherwise, yes, I’m tired, and they’re clichéd and over-reliant on CGI), and then “anything franchise” which again is almost but not quite true – and I don’t think it’s fair for me to pick Lord of the Rings or Star Wars Or Hunger Games because the truth is, I haven’t seen them. I just hate them on principle. So I’m left with two movies that will assuredly get me into hot water: The Hurt Locker (98% on the Tomatometer), and 12 Years A Slave (96%). I hate them both for basically the same reason: while I wouldn’t say either is bad, I’d say both are derivative and listless. I’ve seen better, more memorable movies in both their respective genres. However, I suspect these particular movies garnered their excessive attention from the Academy for reasons other than strictly merit. And that’s really frustrating. I saw The Hurt Locker almost immediately upon release and was like: “meh.” I don’t like Jeremy Renner. I’m pretty sure this movie was supposed to be suspenseful but when you spend the whole time thinking, “God, why won’t he just die already”, it sort of cooks the goose. And I know it’s a proud American tradition to demonize one’s enemies, but the situation in Iraq was so much more complex than this movie knows how to give it credit for. It has no point of view. Yes, dismantling a bomb is a gruelling job. But where are these bombs coming from? Who is making them – and why? This movie wants to be important but congratulates itself for being “apolitical” when political context is exactly what’s needed. 12 Years A Slave I watched before the Oscars of course, but late enough after its release that I’d heard all the hype and went in believing it. There is one scene, one particular scene, where he is left hanging from a tree, with his toes just barely brushing the ground, left there for hours, constantly on the verge of death, and worse still (for me, the viewer anyway), all the other slaves witnessing this scene yet completely helpless to do anything about it – fuck. That scene went on WAY too long, which was exactly the right amount of way too long because it makes us the right amount of crazy uncomfortable. That scene was the only redeeming moment in the whole 12 years. The rest was torture porn, every bit as exploitative of Django Unchained was accused of being, only without Tarantino’s style. Chiwetel Ejiofor is sublime, communicating so much with his eyes – but he has to. The script sure isn’t giving him much more than the same trite lines that have already been recited. In fact, it almost feels like this movie belongs to the villains – Fassbender has the juiciest bits, that’s for sure. McQueen is intent on making us flinch, making this film feel like a slavery-themed edition of the Saw series. The Academy awarded what should have been a movie of hard truths, but in reality it was just hard to watch. (Dear white people: hating this movie doesn’t make you racist!) The gruesome images served to shock people into forgetting there was no emotional complexity here. And even if there was, it would come to a screeching halt with the Brad Pitt stunt-casting. How is it even possible to over-dramatize a movie about slavery? McQueen finds a way. I’ve read Solomon Northrup’s 12 Years a Slave and you know what? The material deserved a better treatment.

What about your picks? Half as juicy as mine?

p.s. Matt – you’re it!