Tag Archives: quirky comedies

TJFF: Future ’38

How do I explain this? . Future ’38 was filmed last year but is pretending to have been filmed in 1938. It is set in 2018 but, remember, this is the 2018 as imagined by fictional filmmakers from the 1930s. Or present day filmmakers imaging what 1930s filmmakers would think 2018 would look like.

Film historians or whoever’s job it is to uncover lost screwball comedies about time travel from 1938 have recently uncovered a lost screwball comedy about time travel from 1938. After a brief introduction by a real life scientist who praises the scientific accuracy of all the time travel bits, the film begins in black and white in the height of World War II. Essex (Nick Westrate) is the most dependable GI this side of the Atlantic. His mission: Leap 80 years into the future in search of the powerful isotope Formica which, according to Dr. Elcourt from the Laboratory of Science, will be strong enough by 2018 to win the war for the Allies.

Essex wakes up (in Technicolor) in 2018. A version of 2018 you just have to see for yourself. On the one hand, it’s a startlingly accurate picture of 21st century life. On the other, it’s filtered through the limited imagination of a fictional 1930s science fiction writer. They have a 24 hour news cycle, for example. it’s just a guy on a unicycle though yelling “Extry Extry”.

In 2018, Essex almost immediately meets Banky (Betty Gilpin), a streetwise hotel manager who thinks he’s just “a little queer” because he’s from Pasadena. Once she agrees to show Essex around (“I could use a little fun and you’re Coney Island without the smell”), Future ’38 quickly finds its rhythm. The way they get the 21st century both right and wrong at the same time is funny enough. But Future ’38 is at its absolute funniest as a straight 30s style screwball comedy that mimics the fast-paced dialogue, slapstick, and romance more than it mocks it.

There’s a joke or two here that are maybe just a bit much. Most do land though even once the novelty of the outrageous style and concept has worn off and Gilpin and Westrate play off each other like true stars of the 30s. This could have easily been unwatchable had the writing, casting, and attention to detail not been so spot on. I think you’ll like it.

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SXSW: The Breaker Upperers

For such a little country, New Zealand not only has a lot of talent oozing out of its confines, it’s also got a pretty distinct voice. Which is not to compare this movie to New Zealand’s most famous export, Taika Waititi (although it is produced by him), but there is a sense of humour there that is unique to its people, but travels well.

Madeleine Sami and Jackie van Beek write, direct, and star in The Breaker Upperers about a couple of best friends who, sharing a history of bad breakups, now run a business together breaking couples up. Mel and Jen think it’s pretty genius work. breakerSomeone wanting out of their relationship will contact them, and they’ll do what it takes to make a clean break – anything from singing telegrams, to pretend cheating scenarios, to even faking someone’s disappearance (which on paper sounds cruel, but this is all played for wide-brimmed comedy, and largely succeeds). It’s good money for them and quite entertaining for us, but we start to get an inkling that perhaps this line of work has stunted them – neither woman has a love life of her own to speak of. But when Mel starts to have a little too much sympathy for the wrong (ie, non-paying) end of the couples, what starts breaking up is their friendship, which is inconvenient when it’s the only relationship you’ve got.

The Breaker Upperers will definitely appeal to those of us who appreciate comedies that happen outside the Hollywood mainstream. Sami and van Beek have free reign to mine and prod whichever corners they choose, and they always find some sort of comedic dustbunny. If that means a 5 minute tribute to Celine Dion, then so be it. And it is funny, funny in the way it reminds of you of a movie you might have made with your own friends when you were twelve. It’s comedy that doesn’t have to hit specific buttons. It doesn’t have a predetermined arc; its route is more meandering, and retains the ability to surprise you without forgetting to entertain you.

I’m not sure how much reach this film will ultimately have, but I think it’s one worth seeking out, particularly if you’re a fan of Waititi’s, in which case, both their faces should already be familiar to you. And if they aren’t yet, they will be.

SXSW: The Unicorn

Sometimes a long-term relationship can feel stale. Some couples sink into this feeling of familiarity and comfort and stability, and others try to buck it. You might spice things up with date nights or couples therapy or a second honeymoon. Or, if you’re like Malory and Caleb (“Mal and Cal”), in their 4th consecutive, stagnant year of engagement with no wedding date in sight, you might try a threesome.

Is this the right move for Mal and Cal? Their problems seem to stem less from bland sex than from the fact that neither is keen to commit since neither feels “sure.” TheUnicorn-1Although neither knows what “sure” will feel like. They say you’ll “just know” and they don’t, so is this not love? Or not forever love, anyway? Mal’s parents are celebrating their 25th anniversary and they’re as randy as ever – apparently because they dabble in the ole menage a trois. So of course the night before the vow renewal, Mal and Cal decide to recruit a stranger into their bedroom (a “unicorn” if you will) and they realize that there’s a reason they call it menage (which means work!).

Lauren Lapkus and Nicholas Rutherford have some great chemistry, which is a funny thing to say because of course the comedy here stems from their mutual awkwardness. Nothing goes the way they think it will because of course what they need to do is understand themselves, and each other, not bring a third entity into the mix. But there’s something about a sexy third wheel that brings your true feelings to the forefront real quick. Are they cool about it? Of course they’re not. It’s total awktopus comedy, and you’ll have to look no further than the landscape of Rutherford’s face to see how well (or, let’s be real – how explosively badly) it’s landing. Watching this thing as a silent voyeur, you’re nearly a unicorn yourself, certainly a narwhal at least, so why not give it a go?