Tag Archives: Will Forte

TIFF19: The Laundromat

“Based on actual secrets,” the screen tells us. Based on the trailer, I sort of expected The Laundromat to be the Erin Brockovich of money laundering. It was not. It was actually just a weak and poor copy of The Big Short.

The Big Short was about the Wall Street crash of 2008, more or less, precipitated by the housing bubble. And how all that lending, and then speculating against those bad mortgages, really fucked a lot of good people over. That film wove together a narrative interspersed with attempts to break down financial concepts to the audience. A celebrity – cameos by Margot Robbie or Selena Gomez, for example – would break the fourth wall to address the audience directly, and explain textbook concepts, like subprime mortgages, to us in a way we could easily grasp. It was celebrated for its unconventional techniques, which helped secure it the Oscar for adopted screenplay.

You can’t really blame The Laundromat for trying to capitalize on its success, but when your success is based on novelty and innovation, you pretty much inherently can’t replicate it. To even try seems…lazy.

Meryl Streep stars as an old lady who goes on a pleasure cruise with her husband, played by James Cromwell. An errant wave hits them and the boat capsizes, killing 21. In the wake of the accident, it is discovered that the cruise company is without insurance. Not that they didn’t have any – they thought they did – but that their policy was bought by another company, and another, and possibly another, until all there were were shell companies and no real policy, no real insurers, and definitely no money for the victims of the accident.

But Meryl Streep’s portion of the film is just one third of what we’re ultimately presented with. The other stories are only loosely connected by a law firm that exists just to hide money for its obscenely wealthy companies. The lawyers, played by Antonio Banderas and Gary Oldman, serve not just as characters, but also as narrators who get to skip through all the scenes, breaking the fourth wall and revealing the film’s sets to be just that: sets. It’s all very meta. And while these characters are a lot of fun, it stinks so badly of The Big Short you can never quite forgive it, even when it’s entertaining.

Based on the Panama Papers leak, the movie tries to reveal even just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the rich getting richer: tax evasion, bribery, fraud, offshore accounts. But it’s sloppily assembled and is such a weak photocopy you can’t help but resent it outright. This is actually a very important issue that absolutely deserves our attention. But Steven Soderbergh just can’t pull this together, and in fact confuses the matter with his weird, episodic vignettes and title cards that just don’t add up. I’m just a lowly 99-percenter who pretends saving is optional and credit is use it or lose it. What do I know? Besides, you know, wanting my money back for this movie ticket.

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Good Boys

Eleven is such a precious age. You’re straddling the cusp of childhood and adolescence. You’re feeling big in your britches but the world’s still treating you like you’re a little kid.

I remember going to Denny’s once, and the waitress brought me one of those paper kid’s menu-placemat hybrids with 3 crayons so I could choose between the grilled cheese or the chicken nuggets. I was insulted. Beyond insulted. The kid’s menu was for 12 and under and I was 9. Nine! Practically a grown-ass woman, I thought. How dare she. I have never been back to a Denny’s. That’s a true story. I hold a grudge. The point being, those tween years are tough. They didn’t even call us tweens back when I was a tween. In fact, my little sister gave me a homemade card calling me a “teeny bopper” which makes it sound like I grew up in the 1950s – actually, that’s just a word she got from my grandfather, but it stuck. I didn’t care much for that either, but surprisingly, I still speak to both my sister and my grandfather, though I do sometimes still harbour dark doubts that they deserve it.

Max (Jacob Tremblay) is the undisputed leader of the bean bag boys, a trio including golden-voiced Thor (Brady Noon) and nervous nelly Lucas (Keith L. Williams). They have just unlocked the most coveted of achievements: they’ve secured an invitation to cool kid Soren’s (Izaac Wang) party, a kissing party with girls and everything. None of them know how to kiss, which is a problem, but not insurmountable. Between the 3 of them, they come up with quite a plan for learning how, but their brilliant plan falls apart when they lose Max’s dad’s work drone to a couple of teenage girls, then steal their drugs in retaliation, then spend the rest of the movie in an epic quest to make things right.

I loved the characters from the start. The script really captures the line they’re straddling between youth and adulthood. The kids are just beginning to think about sex but haven’t got a clue. They talk big and swear hard, but their innocence is always quite apparent. As a grown-up, you just want to clasp your hands to your heart and declare them precious, but doing so would probably have them die of embarrassment. Oh lord it’s hard to be eleven.

All 3 kids are well-cast and have a great rapport. You believe them as a unit, even as they’re starting to realize that they may not be destined to be best friends forever as previously believed. The script is a magnet for vulgarity, and perhaps embraces it a little too heartily, but for all its gross-out humour, it has a lot of heart. I especially love how much the kids have internalized the concept of consent. It gives me hope. Good Boys reminded me of my own awkward transitional years, but mostly it made me think of my oldest nephew, who will turn 8 in a couple of weeks. I cradled him in my arms the day he was born, he peed on me while I gave him a bath, he’s clung to my neck when he had a booboo. But every day he’s getting bigger, and thinking more for himself, and growing apart from the very adults that he used to want nothing more than to play with on the living room floor. It’s nearly impossible for me to stop seeing him as a little guy, but since I’ve known him, all he wants to do is grow. I remember when his biggest goal in life was to weigh 40 lbs so he could go from car seat to booster seat. And then he wanted to be just tall enough to ride the Vortex water slide at the Great Wolf Lodge. Now he wants to be old enough to watch End Game. Meanwhile, who among us doesn’t occasionally wish we could hit pause? Have him stay cute and cuddly forever, sweet smelling and polite?

Good Boys made me laugh, but more than that, it made me smile.

A Futile and Stupid Gesture

A Futile and Stupid Gesture is a Netflix original film that takes some chances. Netflix knows it has some leeway for experimenting in film, and this one was a particularly obvious choice for a little outside-the-boxing. It’s a biopic of sorts for Doug Kenney, the founder of National Lampoon. He was a funny guy who coloured outside the lines and this movie is a fitting tribute to him; it keeps you guessing.

Told in retrospect and narrated by an older, wiser, omniscient Doug Kenney (played by Martin Mull) who watches the events of his life unfold with a little disdain and a huge grain of salt. This device allows for a fair amount of editorializing and joke making at his own expense.

Will Forte plays Kenney, ages 18-33, and despite the fact that he’s 46 in real life, he’s a A-Futile-and-Stupid-Gesture-trailer-700x300great choice. He can pull off the sadness and the savage humour, playing it straight, breaking the fourth wall, talking directly to us, talking to himself. Doug Kenney was the Harvard editor of the Lampoon, and he had such an epically good time just fucking around with his good buddy Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) he decided to just keep it going and took their little humour magazine national. And as if the phenomenal success of the National Lampoon wasn’t enough, they expanded into radio shows, during which they enlisted the talents of Chevy Chase, Harold Ramis, Christopher Guest, and Gilda Radner. And then they started writing movies like Animal House and Caddyshack.  And while some might feel content with having their dreams come true and writing the most successful comedy movie EVER, Kenney never can be. He tries to fill the hole in his heart by shooting stuff up his nose. It’s a circuitous route that doesn’t work very well, but not for lack of trying.

Director David Wain assembles an incredible ensemble to help him out, and by incredible I mean, lots of recognizable faces, but not necessarily well-suited for the parts. Joel McHale gets to play Chevy Chase, and even though the two were on a TV show together for many years, it’s like McHale doesn’t realize he’s a real person with tonnes of footage on which he could base his performance. Instead he does Joel McHale in a bad wig and unless someone is loudly calling him Chevy, I forget which one he’s supposed to be.

I admire this movie more than I like it. I think it’s okay, and at times quite funny, and probably worth a watch if you don’t mind weird stuff. But the thing is, the writers and director are a complete mismatch. The writing is unconventional and wacky and striving for something extra but the director is a little more conservative and a little less inspired so the whole thing just sort of clashes awkwardly. Forte and Gleeson are kind of wonderful though – maybe a little futile, but definitely not stupid.

My Life As A Zucchini

Zucchini goes to live in an orphanage after his alcoholic mother dies. The orphanage is not a bad place. This is not a bad-orphanage movie. It’s about the broken children who live inside. The kids are there for many reasons (deportation, mental health, abuse, poverty, etc); some can dream of one day returning home, while others know they never will. For the most part the children band together and support one another as they cope with loss.

MV5BMGU1ZDI5Y2ItOTY2OS00ZjBiLThkYzEtZDIxOTA4NmVmMjE3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjUyOTI5MQ@@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_My Life As A Zucchini is stop-motion animated in a very compelling way. It’s a simple story with colourful characters and a strange title but make no mistake, there’s little silliness awaiting you. It’s a pretty bleak story.

I watched the version dubbed in English, which features voice work by Nick Offerman, Will Forte, Ellen Page, and Amy Sedaris. But even with all this wonderful adult interference, director Claude Barras keeps the story firmly within Zucchini’s corner. The story is told through the eyes of children, almost without taint from the adult world. It is heartbreaking but also tender and compassionate. By focusing on the resilience of children and the difference even one caring person can make, hope shines its rays even on this dark little tale.

I enjoyed this very much. It’s not as heavy on the heart as it sounds, and Barras manages to wrap things up in under 70 minutes. I’m always a fan of the loving work that goes into stop-motion and this one is no exception – perhaps it is exceptional. The expressive characters and honest story give My Life As A Zucchini a sensitivity, like a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. I’m very taken by this and am heartened to see animation tackling such complex characters so deftly. Definitely worth a watch, tissues at the ready.

Odds & Ends – Netflix Edition

longestweekThe Longest Week – Jason Bateman plays a dependently wealthy man-child chronically working on (or at least thinking about) the great American novel until one day his parents cut him off, he gets evicted, and he shows up on his best friend’s (Billy Crudup) doorstep, begging for a place to stay. And this might have gone well if he didn’t immediately start crushing on and sleeping with his best friend’s girl (Olivia Wilde). Likeable leads. Aiming for quirky but falls into been there, done that.

Touchy Feely – Rosemarie DeWitt plays a massage therapist suddenlyTouchy-Feely-Poster1 stricken with a complete aversion to touch. She can’t do her job anymore but that’s the least of it: all of her personal relationships start to suffer too. Luckily her brother the dentist starts to do really well healing his patients thanks to his daughter (Ellen Page) breeching protocol. The uptight family does some X and wander around and just like this movie, they never really go anywhere.

Life of Crime – Tim Robbins is a rich old white guy with a young, hot wife (Jennifer Aniston) but leaves his wife for a younger, hottlife-of-crimeer mistress (Isla Fisher). Too bad some dumb criminals pick this exact moment to kidnap the wife and demand a hefty ransom. Sure he has the money, but now that he thinks about, he wouldn’t mind if his wife just disappeared – in fact, it would save him on alimony. Not the best Elmore Leonard adaptation but solid, and sometimes charming.

The Giant Mechanical Man – Jenna Fischer plays a woman who’s a little too old to still not know what she wants to be when she grows up. Temping isn’t paying what it used to andmechanicalman she has to move in with her uppity little sister. She feels comforted by the giant mechanical man (Chris Messina) when she spots him around the city – one of those street performers who dress up like a metal statue and never move. Turns out the mechanical man is going through a transition period himself. His girlfriend’s left him because he spends his day wearing silver paint rather than being gainfully employed. The two finally meet when they both take jobs far below their stations, and bond over their common loserdom. It’s quietly sweet, but it’s hard not to think that Pam belongs with Jim, and Danny with Mindy. Call me crazy.