Joe Swanberg continues to rise through the ranks of independent film directors with his follow-up to 2013's well-received Drinking Buddies. This time, instead of focusing on the impossibility of male-female friendships, Swanberg centers his plot around the neurosis brought forth by the appearance of family. Playing the lead character, Jeff, Swanberg falls somewhat short in an acting capacity, which is only part of what makes this film a pale comparison to Drinking Buddies. Promotional poster for Happy Christmas

After breaking up with her boyfriend, the reasons behind which remain nebulous, Jenny (Anna Kendrick, one of those inexplicably annoying actresses you can't pinpoint exactly why you dislike) takes advantage of the kindness of her brother, Jeff (Swanberg), who offers her his basement in Chicago. Jeff's wife, Kelly (Melanie Lynskey, who you may recognize as the Jaclyn Smith-wearing, baby-toting in a bar woman in Sweet Home Alabama), becomes averse to Jenny after she gets trashed on her first night staying with them. Upon attending a party with her friend, Carson (the always blah Lena Dunham), Jenny gets out of control with her drinking and weed-smoking, prompting her to stubbornly pass out on the hostess' bed.

Jenny's first night out turns out to be a bust

Concerned about her behavior, Kelly feels reluctant about letting her watch Jude (Joe Swanberg's real life baby of the same name), their two-year-old son. Jenny, who was supposed to watch Jude the morning after her party, ends up being too hungover to do so, leading Kelly to call their former basement resident, Kevin (Mark Webber of Snow Day fame), to care for her son while she goes to brunch. Jenny awakens to find Kevin in the living room, and the three end up going to the park together. When Kelly returns, Kevin takes off, but not before getting Jenny's number so he can "lend her some DVDs"--a.k.a. sell her pot when she needs it. Jeff urges Kelly to give Jenny another chance to prove that her fuck-up was a one-time instance, and so, with no mask of certainty, Kelly leaves Jenny alone with Jude while she runs some errands.

Full-time fuck-up

After successfully keeping Jude alive for a few hours, Jenny and Carson pour themselves some drinks from the tiki bar in the basement and invite Kelly to join them. A few sips of beer later, Kelly confesses to feeling a tinge of resentment toward Jeff because she's the one who has to watch Jude all the time, leaving her no opportunity for writing (she had previously written one novel). Jenny and Carson encourage Kelly to keep writing and convince her that she can "have it all."

http://youtu.be/njsI7SZGom8

Filled with a renewed sense of hope for her career's potential as a result of this conversation, Kelly asks Jeff for the Christmas present of being able to go somewhere and write in private. Jeff is happy to oblige, offering up his empty production office as a quiet place for her to work. In the meantime, Jenny keeps herself busy by fucking with Kevin's head. Clearly the one who's more into it, Kevin treats her well and buys her a gift for the holiday, though ultimately ends up pissing her off anyway because he won't come home with her on Christmas Eve (he wants to, but has to wake up early to go to his mother's house the next day--proving that a mother always trumps a girlfriend in these Oedipal times). With her self-esteem in a shaky state after being what she perceives as rejected, she goes back to the basement and proceeds to drink and smoke weed. In this altered state, she puts a frozen pizza in the oven and forgets about it. About an hour later, the house is filled with smoke, setting off the alarm and waking up everyone else.

Christmas morning, after a night of drama caused by Jenny leaving the oven on

Jenny's selfishness and lack of concern is, presumably, supposed to be fascinating to the audience, but, for the most part, it's just vexatious. The main issue with Happy Christmas is how hard Swanberg tries to make his characters seem complex through simplicity, but with dialogue that consists primarily of "like" and "sorry," becoming engaged is a somewhat difficult feat.

 

Perhaps the only place in the world with a higher concentration of mafiosos than Southern Italy is New York City. In the early 1990s, warring crime families were preoccupied with power, glory and, above all, gold jewelry. Director Raymond De Felitta, no stranger to stories centering around New York-Italians, sheds light on a latter day Bonnie and Clyde named Tommy and Rosemarie Uva, two small-time crooks from Ozone Park, Queens (though in the movie, they're from the Bronx and Queens, respectively) who unexpectedly find a way to rob and take down the mob. Michael Pitt and Nina Arianda as Tommy and Rosemarie Uva, channeling a mafioso look of their own

Stylized in a way that requires far more attractive people to play the Uvas, Michael Pitt and Nina Arianda embody the roles of the passionate couple to an artfully artless level of perfection. After spending eighteen months in prison for robbing a flower shop, Tommy gets out to find that Rosemarie has stopped doing drugs and gotten "a real job" at a collection agency. Somewhat inspired by her newfound nobility, Tommy tries to emulate her by also getting a job at the same place. His attention is drawn away from the boredom and soullessness of asking people to pay up by the pomp and circumstance of the John Gotti trial.

http://youtu.be/465bBzCaN6M

Fascinated and repelled by the mafia because they killed his father after he couldn't pay them back for a loan, Tommy is drawn to the trial, where he hears Sammy the Bull's testimony against Gotti. Although the trial is open to the public, it seems as though Tommy is the only outsider interested enough to show up. His interest is further piqued when Sammy the Bull not only gives the addresses of several mafia social clubs, but also mentions that none of the "wiseguys" there are allowed to bring guns. An idea quickly brews in Tommy's head, prompting him to lure Rosie back into another brief flirtation with a life of crime.

The real Tommy and Rosemarie

Tommy's get rich quick scheme? Knock off the unsuspecting mafia members in the social clubs throughout New York. He promises Rosie that once they get enough money to get ahead, they'll stop and go back to living on the level. But, of course, the temptation of the cash proves too great to stop. As the two continue to gain notoriety not only among the crime families of NYC, including the boss, Big Al (played somewhat unconvincingly by Andy Garcia), the media and FBI begin to take notice as well. One reporter in particular, Jerry Cardozo (Ray Romano), highlights their story as one of human interest, and even goes so far as to get involved in promoting their well-being by purchasing them plane tickets to Mexico so they can escape the inevitable hit that's going to be taken out on them.

Robbing the mob

As his first major script, screenwriter Jonathan Fernandez does a precise job of setting the backdrop for a time in New York that people have a tendency to forget about (P.S. "Groove is in the Heart by Deee-Lite" is the perfect choice for establishing the tone for said time at the beginning of the film), as they're often too busy thinking about the 1980s or the years leading up to 9/11. But the inception of the 90s holds a very specific sort of untapped allure. New York was experiencing so many palpable changes and transitions (David Dinkins being one of the main ones). And this is a large part of what makes Rob the Mob so endearing: Its specificity...and yeah, the tragic love story element.

 

 

 

It used to be that, if you were going to write a movie about a woman getting an abortion, she would always end up not getting it (see: "Not So Subtle PSA: Movies In Which the Woman Doesn't Get The Abortion"). The predictability was generally without fail. In Gillian Robespierre's (not to be confused with the famous politician of the French Revolution) writing and directorial debut, Obvious Child, audiences are finally given a somewhat fresh take on the abortion story. Promotional poster for Obvious Child

Very much a movie of firsts, in fact, this is also Jenny Slate's first major role as a lead character. Though she's appeared in just about every show you've ever seen, including Bored to Death, Parks and Recreation and The Kroll Show, Slate has never quite been given the opportunity to reveal her leading lady potential. And considering that the romantic comedy has struggled to be resuscitated for some time now (as evidenced by movies like The Fault in Our Stars), it makes sense that Robespierre would be willing to gamble on a cast of relative novices, including Slate's love interest, Max (Jake Lacy). Considering the overall cynicism toward romantic comedies at the moment, Robespierre does her best to make the story as believable and romantic as possible.

http://youtu.be/r2GN3wdfqbA

Donna Stern (Slate) is, like most New York comedians, a struggling comedian. The two things she has going for her is a steady gig at a dive bar and her relationship with a typical sort of white Williamsburg fellow. One night after finishing a show in which she gets too personal for her boyfriend to bear, he finally confesses that he's been cheating on her with her best friend, Kate (who we never actually see). Crushed and emotionally obliterated, Donna spends the rest of the night with friend and fellow comedian, Joey (Gabe Liedman), getting drunk enough to the point of going home with Max (Lacy), whose made no secret of his interest the entire night.

Romantique

The morning after, Donna has the natural Brooklyn reaction of fleeing Max's apartment. It isn't until a few weeks later while trying clothes on with her friend, Nellie (Gaby Hoffman, whose comeback continues to remain in full force), that she starts to notice the classic symptom of pregnancy: the tender tit. Immediately disturbed by the potential of being with child, she has Nellie go out to buy the test. Right after finding out the result, Max comes into her bookstore to ask her if she wants to go on "a proper date." She tries her best to politely decline in light of the circumstances.

Contemplating her fate

Robespierre's reinvention of a rom-com for the era of hyper-awareness and uncomfortable self-deprecation is a great start for other female directors who want to take note of how its done. And, maybe, just maybe, she's set in motion a different form of cliche in the abortion film--one in which the main character always gets the big A. It's a modern world, after all, and one of anti-moralization at that.

 

Although the sequel movie is usually always an entity that feels forced, directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller--who also directed 21 Jump Street--have managed to highlight this fact to their advantage. With 22 Jump Street, the awkward yet somehow magical chemistry between Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill continues to blossom, reviving the bromance genre that had seemed to be missing for a brief period from the movie theater. Promotional poster for 22 Jump Street

Picking up where Ice Cube left off, Jenko (Tatum) and Schmidt (Hill) enroll in local college MC State to infiltrate yet another drug dealer/supplier situation--though at first they dabble in an online college called University of Internet. The drug they're after is called whyphy (as in wi-fi) and works to keep you focused for the first portion of the high, and then make you trip significant balls during the final part. Jenko and Schmidt hone in on a tattoo in a photograph of the drug changing hands and end up focusing all of their energy on a football player named Zook (Wyatt Russell), who is also a source of friction in the bromance between the two of them.

Two lovers.

One night, when they're being kidnapped as fraternity pledges by Zook, Jenko and Schmidt end up accidentally taking whyphy after eating some special treats baked by their roommates, twins named Kenny and Keith (The Lucas Brothers) who constantly say the same thing at the same time. In one of the most hilarious scenes of the movie, the duo shares a very different tripping experience--Jenko having a pleasant one characterized by driving a baby Lamborghini and Schmidt having one that involves dark rain clouds and Creed playing in the background.

The requisite explosions of a sequel

Screenwriter Michael Bacall (who also worked on the boyish films Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Project X) makes a consistent point throughout the film to mock the nature of the sequel. Referencing the fact that the new address where the secret Jump Street headquarters is now located is bigger, better and more expensive, Bacall makes a connection with the audience through his referential dialogue. And, because of the ever-increasing jadedness of filmgoers, Bacall is shrewd in employing this method.

Hijinks

As for the frequent gay allusions (which are really too overt to be considered allusions), it gets a bit tiresome at times, but I suppose is intended to keep the Midwestern demographic interested. The conclusion of 22 Jump Street is typically bombastic, but what makes it all truly worth the watch is the clip show of subsequent sequels showing Jenko and Schmidt in different school settings (dance school, beauty school, martial arts school, culinary school, etc.). Whether or not this means there will actually be a third installment remains to be seen.

 

How does any bad bitch become that way? Having her heart broken, of course. In Disney's latest re-imagining of one of their own characters, screenwriter Linda Woolverton (no stranger to Disney after penning the screenplays for Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King) humanizes Maleficent as never before. Played by the drag queen who was always meant to lend her that humanity, Angelina Jolie, Robert Stromberg directs her in a way that blends just the right amount of charisma and bitchery. Hardened.

Contrary to popular belief, evil isn't born, it is created by trying circumstances (you know, like Hitler). Maleficent begins innocently enough as a fairy, separated from the rival kingdom next to hers. She knows nothing of the human world and has no interest in it until a thieving boy named Stefan steps into her territory. After talking to him--and both discovering that neither one has parents--the two bond almost instantly. Maleficent cautions him against coming back, and he shakes her hand, accidentally searing it with his iron ring. She then makes the mistake of revealing her Achilles' heel to him: iron fucks her up.

Elle Fanning as Aurora/Sleeping Beauty

As Stefan grows older, he becomes more concerned with worldly acquisitions and power, especially power. He has less time to spare for Maleficent, who focuses on ensuring the safety of her domain. After the dying king of the human world announces he'll give the throne to whoever can take down Maleficent, Stefan quickly forgets about any sentiment he ever had for the fairy queen (no gay man reference meant toward Jolie here), drugs her and clips off her wings. Maleficent awakens feeling expectedly violated. After she collects her bearings, however, she is able to concentrate wholly on hate and vengeance. She transmutes into the "Queen of All Evil."

Stoic.

Collecting a crow friend, Diaval (Sam Riley), that she turns into a human in order to save from being beaten, Maleficent is able to gather intelligence from her little spy. She gleans that Stefan stripped her of her wings to become king and is soon about to have a child. She quells her rage long enough to get it together to crash the baby's, Aurora (Fanning), coming out party. The three nitwit fairies, Flora, Fauna and Merryweather are also given an upgrade as slightly more attractive pixies named Flittle, Knotgrass and Thistlewit. Their attendance at the fete is interrupted by Maleficent's cursing of Aurora. A nod to Rumpelstiltskin is given when she stipulates that Aurora will prick her finger on a spinning wheel spindle and resultantly be sent into a death-like sleep for all of eternity. Maleficent coldly adds that only "true love's kiss" can break the spell, a clause she adds deliberately to get at Stefan, who once told her that her sixteenth birthday present was his own true love's kiss.

Illuminati vibes

Panicked, Stefan takes measures to protect his daughter by sending her away with the pixies. Maleficent watches over Aurora carefully, eventually growing attached to the girl, much to her annoyance. It is ultimately their platonic love that breaks the spell Maleficent had wrongly cast over Aurora. Not only does Woolverton show us that we've become so cynical as an audience that we can't find traditional representations of true love to be palatable, but she also reveals that maybe romantic love isn't as important or fulfilling as it used to be. And in this way, Maleficent is something truly unique in the Disney canon.

It would be easy to say that Woody Allen was always born to play the role of a pimp, but somehow, it doesn't quite come off in John Turturro's Fading Gigolo. After Murray's (Allen) rare bookstore closes, he suggests to his friend and employee, Fioravante (Turturro), the possibility of having a threesome with Murray's dermatologist, Dr. Parker (the typically entertaining Sharon Stone), in order to make ends meet. With an unsteady job at a flower shop, Fioravante reluctantly agrees, quickly discovering his natural knack for prostitution. A pimp and gigolo dream team

Dr. Parker, a married woman, is instantly impressed with Fioravante's attentiveness and understanding of her needs. The friend she considers having a threesome with, Selima (Sofia Vergara), is equally taken with him, though she promises not to act on her carnal impulses without Dr. Parker there to enjoy as well. Word quickly gets around Brooklyn and Manhattan about the talents of this moonlighting gigolo. Murray even goes so far as to recommend his services to a Hasidic woman, Avigal (Vanessa Paradis), who has been a widow for the past two years.

Paradis as Avigal

Murray talks Avigal into employing Fioravante under the pretense of him being a "massage therapist." Upon being touched by Fioravante, Avigal's reaction is one of uncontrollable loneliness. Not realizing how sensitive she would be to another person's touch, Avigal breaks down crying in order to cope with the novelty. The combination of sadness and longing compels her to overcome her issues by seeing Fioravante again. In the meantime, Murray enjoys the perks of his commission by purchasing a couch for his wife and children, who don't bother with questioning where Murray got the money.

Woody Allen as Murray

A neighborhood patrol officer of Williamsburg named Dovi (Liev Schreiber) begins to take notice of Avigal's unusual behavior, and, because he is in love with her, turns it into a personal vendetta. In the meantime, Fioravante continues to see other women, although he is less and less interested in doing so as a result of his feelings for Avigal. In fact, one of his go-to quotes is, "With love comes pain." Thus, becoming a gigolo seems to be his attempt at evading this curse.

Promotional poster for Fading Gigolo

Fioravante's innate ability to understand women ultimately becomes his bane as he starts to take a serious (and forbidden) interest in Avigal. While trying to perform in a ménage à trois with Dr. Parker and Selima, his emotions finally begin to take hold of him, as he can't stop thinking about Avigal. In spite of Murray's encouragement/consolation about prostitution being "the oldest profession," it still doesn't make Fioravante feel any better about his betrayal of the love he has for Avigal.

Fioravante's threesome

Even though Fading Gigolo is, overall, a great film, there is something forced and disingenuous about its conclusion. Avigal's ultimate decision to stifle her love for Fioravante may be telling of the Hasidic sect of Judaism, but it doesn't appear all that plausible in the context of what's happened throughout the film.

 

 

 

For a movie that's supposed to be just another bit of comedic Hollywood froth, Steven Brill's Walk of Shame touches on some fairly heavy issues with regard to perception and judgement. Exploring what it means to wear a tight yellow dress and heels in the early hours of the morning while roaming Downtown L.A. and its vicinity, Walk of Shame also employs that rare filmic technique: Using a wardrobe piece as a talisman. Promotional poster for Walk of Shame

As the film opens on various bloopers of reporters allowing Freudian slips to come out of their mouths and unexpected slapstick events befalling them, the scene concludes with Meghan Miles (Elizabeth Banks) being attacked by a cat in an animal shelter. As time goes by, her producer, Dan (Willie Garson, reemerged from the grave of Stanford Blatch), encourages her to pursue a national news station that's interested in her candidacy for their open anchor position. The day she's supposed to hear back about it, her fiancé, Kyle (Oliver Hudson, yes, related to Kate), breaks up with her. This wound is salted when she learns that the station has decided to go with another candidate named Wendy Chang (apparently not Asian).

Out on the town

Her best friends, Rose (Gillian Jacobs) and Denise (Sarah Wright), insist on taking her mind off of her problems by forcing her to go out with them to a club. But before they do, Rose gets Meghan to switch outfits with Denise, initially the one wearing the yellow dress that will later be seen as only fit for a prostitute. In certain ways, Walk of Shame is reminiscent of Jenny McCarthy's Dirty Love, another movie about an L.A.-based blonde woman who gets dumped and the hijinks that ensue afterward.

Fast and easy romance

Once the requisite amount of archetypal L.A. douches have hit on her, Meghan decides to flee the club, only to find herself stuck on some sort of weird California fire escape. Her knight in shining armor is, expectedly, played by James Marsden in the role of Gordon, a "post-modern romance writer".../bartender. The two hit it off immediately and end up going to his apartment, with him driving her car. In the early morning hours, Meghan awakens to check her voicemail, only to discover a message from Dan telling her she has a shot at the job again and that the head honchos are coming in that day to watch her newscast.

http://youtu.be/RTHZEFo7JsY

Panicked and still slightly drunk, Meghan leaves Gordon's apartment only to realize her car has been towed and that she's left her phone behind (incidentally, there are no names on the building's buzzer, so she can't get back in--suspension of disbelief). This is the moment that sends her on a whirlwind journey through the City of Angels in that signature yellow dress that lands her the name The Hoodlum Hooker.

Mistaken for a hooker

In spite of Walk of Shame having some credibility issues and the expected amount of predictability, there is something undeniably charming about the story, as well as Elizabeth Banks in a lead comedic role. And, considering Steven Brill's past track record (Little Nicky, Mr. Deeds, Without A Paddle and Movie 43), Walk of Shame is definitely a vast improvement. Plus, on the heels of another summer rom-com, The Other Woman, Walk of Shame looks comparatively profound.

 

Irvine Welsh's work is no stranger to the silver screen. His modern classic novel, Trainspotting, was also a success in its 1996 film incarnation. With Filth, a novel that came out in 1998, Welsh gets a similar psychedelic slant from writer-director Jon S. Baird. Following the debauched existence of police official Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy), Filth shows us the depths of depravity as only this Scottish scribe can.

Promotional poster for Filth
Promotional poster for Filth

Robertson's main obsessions in life are his wife, Carole (Shauna Macdonald), getting a promotion at work, and playing what he refers to as "the games," which basically just means fucking with his co-workers and only friend, Clifford Blades (Eddie Marsan). His latest attempts at psychological warfare involve undermining those within the constabulary who he views as a potential threat to his promotion and prank calling Clifford's wife, Bunty (Shirley Henderson, who isn't given nearly enough starring roles).

Not giving a fuck
Not giving a fuck

Amid this drama, the racially motivated murder of a Japanese student has taken precedence at the constabulary, leading Robertson to aggressively pursue potential leads while still finding time to make his co-worker, Peter Inglis (Emun Elliott), appear homosexual to the other members of the force (which he probably is). Incidentally, only from an Irvine Welsh character would you hear the phrase "Pussy's for faggots."

Vaginal animal hallucinations
Vaginal animal hallucinations

Robertson's drug-addled mindset continues to intensify as the film progresses. Hallucinating all manner of hybrid animals and therapy sessions with a cartoonish analyist (the always disturbing Jim Broadbent), we soon come to realize just how unstable Robertson is (cross-dressing is a factor). We come to question if his account of events was ever even real, or an utter delusion. And, speaking of delusions, Robertson also finds it necessary to give Clifford a little dash of ecstasy in his drink while they're in Amsterdam together. Not really sure what the Scottish obsession with "Sandstorm" by Darude is (if you've seen Under the Skin and have an ear for background music, you'll understand), but apparently doing drugs is the perfect excuse to play it.

Hashtag filth

Naturally, in the literary version, things end up slightly more macabre--with Robertson turning out to be the one who murdered the Japanese student. But perhaps casting James McAvoy made Baird feel like Robertson was too pretty to perform such ugliness on others, finding it necessary for him to perform it, instead, on himself.

Argentine writer/director Sebastián Lelio's fourth feature film, Gloria, shows us the woes of romantic dalliances during female middle age. Whimsical, confident Gloria Cumplido (Paulina García) is a divorcee who still loves to have fun and refuses to settle down again with just anyone. Her penchant for dancing in nightclubs leads her to encounter a seemingly like-minded spirit named Rodolfo Fernández (Sergio Hernández), who eventually proves himself to be an utter disappointment. The unshakeable confidence of Gloria

Although Gloria tries her hardest to stave off loneliness--an attempt compounded by the constant bitter rantings of her upstairs neighbor--it is a lingering sensation that creeps in when she wants it to least. With her children out on their own, Gloria does her best to stamp out the void. Moreover, in this particular film, little emphasis is placed on the what Chilean people actually do for a living, and Gloria's nondescript office job is only occasionally mentioned or shown. Thus, it appears she has nothing in the way of fulfillment through a career either.

Gloria with her ex-husband.

Spanish/South American culture is also strongly present in terms of how comfortable Lelio is with showing copious amounts of old people nudity/sex. The very first night Gloria encounters Rodolfo, she's all about pouncing, and the result is the sight of several minutes of flaccid flesh, which continues to be a running visual motif throughout the film. Like Gloria, Rodolfo also has a family: two daughters and an ex-wife. The difference between the two of them, however, is that Rodolfo allows his children to control his life far more than Gloria. His lack of total focus on her leads him to abruptly leave a birthday party for Gloria's son, an action that enrages Gloria and causes her to break up with him.

Promotional poster for Gloria

Almost a foreshadowing of their broken relationship is Gloria listening to the radio and hearing someone request Jeanette's "Why Are You Leaving?". In spite of her contempt for Rodolfo, she lets him worm his way back into her semi-broken heart. This time, he takes her on a romantic getaway, leading her to believe that he's finally taken into account her feelings about his over involvement with his children. However, she is duped once again after she throws his cell phone into a bowl of soup and tries to laugh it off as a joke. This prompts Rodolfo to excuse himself to go to the bathroom, though of course he simply vanishes to tend to an emergency with his ex-wife.

http://youtu.be/h9PrVESAYeA

Feeling shamed and jilted by Rodolfo's desertion, she goes on a bender involving gambling, makeout sessions with inappropriate men and waking up with a hangover alone on the beach. It becomes clear at this point that Gloria is dealing with some very real shit. Not to mention the fact that her eye doctor has recently informed her that she's showing early signs of glaucoma. To make matters worse, Gloria's beloved daughter, Ana (Fabiola Zamora), is moving to Sweden to be with her boyfriend. Enveloped by isolation, Gloria triumphs over her own forlornness--mainly through the film's incredible soundtrack--and shows that it's possible to enjoy oneself even during the bleakest of circumstances.

When you want to cast a film that's at all related to the mafia, you always go to Robert DeNiro. Luc Besson's most recent movie, The Family (alternately called the more sonorous Malavita) highlights the aftermath of a family whose patriarch, Giovanni Manzoni (DeNiro), has snitched on his crime boss. As a result, Manzoni and his family are placed under the careful watch of the witness protection program, led by FBI agent Robert Stansfield (Tommy Lee Jones). Looking real mafioso.

Based on French crime writer Tonino Benacquista's novel Malavita, The Family is positioned as more of a farcical take on life after the mafia. That is to say, since escaping the clutches of gangsters is nearly impossible, life for the newly renamed Blake family is largely dull--especially since they also hate French people and are likewise hated by them. After moving from their secret location on the French Riviera, Agent Stansfield moves the Blakes to a small town in Normandy that Giovanni's wife, Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer), daughter, Belle (Diana Agron), and son, Warren (John D'Leo), all instantly loathe.

http://youtu.be/nwZNypYmPFE

As each family member tries to navigate their new banal lives in the countryside, the imprisoned crime boss that Giovanni wronged grows closer and closer to tracking him down. With so little to do to occupy their time, Giovanni begins writing a confessional memoir of his time in the mafia, Maggie tries to fill her time by shopping at supermarkets that only sell ingredients she hates (they're not Italian enough), Belle pursues a crush on her math teacher and Warren causes trouble at school by finding every student's weak point.

Maggie blows up the supermarket after some French people make fun of the cuisine Americans eat.

The neuroses of the family continue to reach a crescendo in terms of how they react to undesirable situations--generally through violence. Although Giovanni has toned down his murderous tendencies, he still fantasizes about beating the shit out of people, and even actually does it to the town's only plumber when he tries to give Giovanni the run around about the true cause behind why his faucet water is coming out brown.

Bored.

There is also a meta moment when one of Giovanni's neighbors invites him to speak at a monthly film society, wherein Goodfellas is screened. Incidentally, the 2010 English translation of Benacquista's novel was called Badfellas. As The Family reaches its typically Besson denouement (that is to say, laden with plenty of carnage), you start to realize how much fun you've had watching the plot unfold--Besson rarely disappoints in giving his audiences a good time.

 

The movies have taught us time and time again that love is an incongruous circumstance to find oneself in. As film has evolved, so too, has the portrayal of love and all its "romantic" qualities. Now, we almost always see it in a negative light. Roger Michell's Le Week-End has managed to show both sides of the coin as it follows Nick (Jim Broadbent) and Meg Burrows (Lindsay Duncan) on an expensive trip to Paris they can't afford in honor of their thirty year anniversary. Lamenting a 30 year marriage.

Clearly playing up the "opposites attract" platitude, screenwriter Hanif Kureishi (who also wrote Venus, which Michell directed as well), instantly highlights the disparate nature of Nick and Meg through their fight over the hotel accommodations when they first arrive. Meg, already hesitant to have come on the trip in the first place, is livid over what she perceives to be Nick's cheapness and lack of consideration--even though it was the same hotel they had stayed in during their youthful courtship.

Stair climbing has grown more challenging in their golden years.

Disillusioned by her marriage and the boring turn it has taken, Meg is overtly the one with a stronger interest in starting over again. In an attempt to make things more exciting, she checks them into a luxurious hotel that's hardly within their budget. Momentarily placated, Meg still proves unwilling to let things get sexual with Nick (when he asks, "Can I touch you?" she replies, "What for?").

http://youtu.be/vB6508I35Mo

Several times throughout the course of the first day, Meg threatens to leave him. It is during one of their makeups that they encounter Morgan (the always odd Jeff Goldblum), a former fellow student of Nick's from Cambridge. After talking himself up, Morgan invites him to a dinner party celebrating the release of his book.

http://youtu.be/XrZW3zgxgYI

Before heading out to the party the next day, Meg and Nick catch Jean-Luc Godard's Bande a Part on the hotel TV. Remembering the choreography from the iconic dance scene almost immediately, Nick starts busting his moves (no hip crack sound effect included). Meg is still largely disgusted with Nick, especially after discovering that he's been fired from his teaching job for racially slandering a female student.

Promo poster for Le Week-End

From the second the set foot into Morgan's apartment, it's evident that the evening is going to be one of psychological challenges. Morgan takes Nick aside almost right away to tell him of how he left his wife and children in New York to start all over again with his new pregnant wife, Eve (Judith Davis). At the conclusion of Morgan's story, Nick states, "I don't share your delusion." Morgan inquires, "What delusion is that?" Without missing a beat, Nick asserts, "That if you give up on someone you're free."

http://youtu.be/pADDbKzeojk

And that is the entire core of what Le Week-End is about--that most people in relationships are too quick to give up, convinced that there must be someone better, someone more magical out there for them. Such a collective delusion causes people to forget that they're with a certain person for a reason. And if they could just take the time to remember said reason they first fell in love, it's possible to spark the trigger of sentimental memory and find renewed interest in the one they're with.

 

 

Like a spelling bee itself, Bad Words is prone to moments of brilliance with some real cock-ups in between.As Jason Bateman's directorial debut and Andrew Dodge's first screenplay, it's to be expected that there are a few shaky points. Our disaffected hero, Guy Trilby (Bateman), is equal parts Grinch and Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa. Unlike the aforementioned characters, however, we never quite find anything that redeeming about him. Promotional poster for Bad Words

Bad Words opens on a process that Guy has seemed to endure rather regularly since his beginnings on the spelling bee circuit--total persecution, hatred and utter denial that he could possibly be a qualified candidate. Accompanied by a reporter named Jenny Widgeon (Kathryn Hahn) from the "national news publication" Click and Scroll, Guy has only her for support and protection throughout every bee (though he would never admit as much to anyone, least of all to Jenny).

http://youtu.be/Mc-x6tXjUcQ

Admitting to his sad little life as a forty-year-old proofreader for product manuals (pause for contemplation of the tedium), Guy finds a loophole in the spelling bee rule book through meticulous reading and discovers that all you need to compete is a sponsor and to have not graduated past an eight grade level. Thanks to his deadbeat mother, he never did--yet is still some sort of genius with photographic memory.

http://youtu.be/mWflaFHAOvc

Jenny, who has agreed to foot the bill for his expenses on their multi-week tour, can barely pry the most rudimentary information from her interview subject, let alone the motive for his desire for spelling bee destruction. Along the way, he meets a friendless Indian boy named Chaitanya Chopra ("Is that English?" Guy remarks). Reluctantly on Guy's part, the two strike a friendship. Guy's fellow competitor is supposed to serve as our reason to ultimately "like" our antihero, but the obviousness of this tool doesn't make it come off so well.

http://youtu.be/2Gb3TLlwsHo

His intermittent and awkward sex with Jenny is also supposed to make Guy more palatable, but their relationship is too disingenuous to believe. But what makes Bad Words a movie for the "good" column is the way in which it slowly doles out information about the motives for Guy's unorthodox methods--which we don't unearth to the full extent until act three.

Destroying children's dreams, one word at a time.

In many ways, Bad Words serves to further the trend in character development (or lack thereof) in which the "protagonist" doesn't really need to arc that dramatically in order for a film to be deemed watchable by the people with the money. Hopefully for the next go around, Bateman and Dodge will have better fine-tuned the fine line between likable asshole with a motive and just asshole.

 

 

The Grand Budapest Hotel is, in many senses, a one-up of The Darjeeling Limited--and not just because both titles share an exotic name. The closest Anderson has come to writing and directing a full-fledged adventure film (Moonrise Kingdom was also a telltale sign leading up to Grand Budapest) was this train-centric caper. But now, The Grand Budapest Hotel has officially become Anderson's great homage to the action and adventure genre. Taking place in the fictional setting of Zubrowka (think Wadiya in The Great Dictator), the story begins with a young girl visiting the grave of a famed author known to us only as "The Author." The film then commences its multilayered series of plot points set over several decades. The instant classic of a movie poster.

To begin, Anderson takes us briefly back to 1984, where the author (played in his older age by Tom Wilkinson) prefaces the story behind the Grand Budapest by informing us that once you're an established writer, getting inspiration is easy--people simply present their stories to you. Then, we're taken once more through the spans of time to 1968, the year The Author (now played in his younger age by Jude Law) met Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), formerly known as Zero during his days as a lobby boy at the Grand Budapest. In those days--and this is where we cut once more to the past (1932, to be exact)--the Grand Budapest was the height of sophistication. Many an old rich lady traveled there to receive the "special attention" of famed concierge M. Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes, making something of a comeback).

Tending to his most devoted customer, Madame D. (Tilda Swinton).

Madame D. (Tilda Swinton, in a lovely impersonation of an old bag), his wealthiest and most loyal patron, warns him that she has a terrible feeling that this could be the last time he sees her. He assures her this is impossible and sends her on her not so merry way. It is at this point, that Zero's presence becomes known to M. Gustave, slightly affronted that no one had notified him of Zero's so-called hiring. A mere twenty-four hours later, her death is revealed to M. Gustave by Zero, who interrupts him and one of his clients to inform him of the news. The two rush to the family's palatial home after being briefly detained by Inspector Henckels (Edward Norton) near a barley field.

Accused of Madame D.'s murder.

Madame D.'s comically devious family, particularly her son, Dmitri (Adrien Brody, wearing some real on point unisex costumes in this movie) are appalled to learn that M. Gustave has been bequeathed a valuable painting called "Boy With Apple." The family's lawyer, Deputy Kovacs (Jeff Goldblum), notes that nothing in the Will has been finalized, prompting Zero and M. Gustave to steal the painting and flee the scene. The family's cold-blooded private detective, J.G. Jopling (Willem Dafoe, in one of his best roles in both a Wes Anderson film and any film), pursues them into the depths of the snow-capped mountains of Zubrowka. Again, Anderson highlights his gift for the action genre with an intense chase down the mountain as Zero and M. Gustave ride something of a makeshift sled to catch up to Jopling on his skis.

Zero and his great love, Agatha (Saoirse Ronan)

In the meantime, the Grand Budapest has become barracks for troops preparing for a war seemingly modeled after World War II (see: the swastika like thunderbolt flags). Zero's new girlfriend, Agatha (Saoirse Ronan), a pastry chef at the beloved Mendl's, sneaks into the hotel under the guise of doling out free pastries to gain access to the safe where Zero and M. Gustave have hidden "Boy With Apple." It is at the juncture in the third act that Anderson solidifies his ability as a director of elegant action by including a shootout. Although the denouement is filled with joyousness, it is also filled with the bittersweet.

M. Gustave's signature scent.

The fundamental sadness of The Grand Budapest Hotel has echoes of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and is equally as tempered by elements of the hilariously absurd to buffer it above total tragedy. And, of course, the usual staples that make a Wes Anderson film great are all present: The nuanced expressions of each character at unexpected moments, the identification with the under dog of the story and a highly specific and unusual physical trait (in this case, Agatha's birthmark, shaped like Mexico). Concluding with the nameless girl we were introduced to at the beginning reading The Author's novel at his grave, the film adeptly swerves in and out of decades with ease. As Anderson's eighth feature as both writer and director, The Grand Budapest Hotel shows increasing skill in terms of lassoing an audience's affections.

If French movies have taught us anything, it's that love is a motherfucker. And if there's anything that the airplane genre of film has taught us, it's that being stuck in a tin can with someone for hours on end forces you to resolve your issues. In Alexandre Castagnetti's Love is in the Air (or Amour et Turbulences in French), both of these time-honored traditions come into play. Sensible yet artistic Julie (Ludivine Sagnier) encounters her ex-boyfriend, Antoine (Nicolas Bedos) on a plane from New York to Paris after three years of not seeing him. The result is an emotional, often comical portrait of the accepted chemical imbalance known as love. Of course the cuisine on a flight to Paris looks far superior to your standard departure to the Midwest.

Initially, we are introduced to Julie, who comes across as a forgetful, somewhat zany character. She rushes to get to the airport while also trying to read all the Post-It note reminders she left for herself before she departs. Castagnetti's fondness for split screens then becomes apparent as we see Antoine prepare for his own journey to Paris by waking up next to a stranger in his bedroom. Due to destiny and what have you, Julie ends up being upgraded to business class, coincidentally right next to the seat where Antoine will soon join her.

One of the many flashbacks that take place while Antoine and Julie are on the plane together.

Both parties are shocked and silenced upon seeing one another, and both cope in different ways to deal with the issue--Antoine drinks, Julie sulks. After enough time passes, however, the two begin to feel comfortable with one another, even if they've both told lies about how well their lives are going (Julie claims to be selling more sculptures than she can keep up with and that she's pregnant, while Antoine claims he's in a committed relationship with an actress named Pearl). As the other passengers listen in on how their romance began--and then inevitably crashed and burned--it seems as though everyone has a vested interest in the outcome of Julie and Antoine's relationship. But with Julie slated to be married during the coming weekend, Antoine stands nary a chance.

One of the first things Julie says to Antoine

Antoine's history as a philanderer is what simultaneously attracted and repelled Julie (he reminded her of her father). While her jealousy and paranoia about Antoine's faithfulness was one of their first hurdles to surmount, it was ultimately Antoine's stifling of her dream to go to an art school in Tokyo that stuck a nail in the coffin of their trust. When Antoine is the one to answer the phone and learn of Julie's grant to go to the school she had been dreaming of, he instinctively comes up with an absurd lie to deny her interest in attending. It's one of those strange reflexes that love inflicts upon you when you just want to keep the other person to yourself/not have to leave Paris for Tokyo.

http://youtu.be/ViEiu0XrGNE

Against all her better judgment, Julie makes the mistake of forgiving him for his egregious commandeering of her life path and goes to his apartment to tell him as much, only to find another woman hiding in the closet after she pours her heart out to him. But of course, there's more to the story than that, and Antoine must use all his powers of persuasion to get Julie to listen to him and convince her that they're still meant to be.

Promotional poster for Love is in the Air.

Like most rom-coms/French movies, Love is in the Air plays it by the book, with the standard obstacle in act two leaving you to question if the couple will end up together in act three. And yet, there is still something about Julie and Antoine's characters that actually makes you care if they will find their way back to each other again.

To break up with someone is to essentially let go of a part of yourself you might not yet be willing to relinquish. Originally called The BouncebackLove & Air Sex may leave something to be desired in title, but certainly makes up for it in substance with regard to this subject. Starring relative unknowns like Ashley Bell (best known for The Walking Dead), it is easy to focus solely on the message of Bryan Poysner's bittersweet, poignantly delivered story of two exes, Cathy (Bell) and Stan (Michael Stahl-David), who can't seem to fully get over one another--or rather, who they once were when they were with each other. Promotional poster for Love & Air Sex

Told through a series of pictures at the beginning of the movie, we see that after Cathy is accepted to NYU School of Medicine and Stan decides to pursue his film career aspirations in L.A., the two depart Austin with relative uncertainty about their relationship's future. To make the abandonment of Austin even harder, they must leave behind their best friends, Jeff (Zach Cregger) and Kara (Sara Paxton), who are also dating and living together at the time.

Ashley Bell as Cathy.

Six months of separation and Skyping is all it takes to make Stan ambivalent enough to express the desire to take a break a.k.a. break up. But when he sees on Facebook (the bane of all emotional wound healing), that Cathy is going to be in Austin for the weekend, he decides to book a last minute 800 dollar flight to see her. When he arrives at the airport, Jeff is there waiting to pick him up, but immediately makes himself scarce when he sees Kara standing nearby in anticipation of Cathy. While Kara doesn't see Jeff, she catches sight of Stan coming down the escalator and tells him to stay the fuck away from her friend (even though she's also friends with Stan).

Kara air sexing.

Previously unaware that Kara and Jeff had broken up, Stan is surprised to see how things have changed among his friends in Austin. Most surprising of all, however, is Jeff's recent obsession with winning the Air Sex World Championship that takes place at the Alamo Drafthouse. Now that Jeff has been crashing with two of his slovenly friends, he can freely come up with the lewdest possible air sex moves to disgust the audience with.

http://youtu.be/RQ8JN2p0jCs

Stan's focus, meanwhile, is on finding Cathy, a goal that becomes obscured when he meets a woman from L.A. named Haley (Addison Timlin), a musician who's in town for the weekend. After Stan helps her find her phone, she mentions that he should come check out her show, since virtually no one else has. Cathy, too, has encountered her own tall dark stranger on her jaunt out with Kara. Allured by the promise of someone new, Stan and Cathy must decide if what they're both holding on to is causing more pain than it's worth.

http://youtu.be/PnfOpZpu9h8

Full of surprises and not at all embracing of the cliche, Love & Air Sex is one of the more honest films of late to showcase the necessity of moving on from a relationship, no matter how fond of or comfortable you feel with the person.

 

 

The psychosis of a writer is among one of the most unique, as they allow themselves to get completely enmeshed in the alternate universes they create. For Jack (Simon Pegg), that world has become one entirely populated by Victorian serial killers. His research for a project he wants to pitch for a television script gets the better of him, and soon he starts to find a reason to be paranoid about everyone and everything in his midst (and even that which is not in his midst). Even the task of going to meet his literary agent, Clair (Clare Higgins), is an arduous one, solidifying his fear of all when he notices their waiter has what he calls "the criminal stare." While, at times, Crispian Mills' (yes, from The Prodigy) script borders on the entirely nonsensical, it never ceases to humor--even during a scene when Jack is being held captive by an unoriginal serial killer. The fear.

When Clair suggests that Jack step away from his Decades of Death project to work on another children's book--one called Harold the Hedgehog--Jack practically becomes murderous over the very thought. Later on in the evening, after calling him multiple times (but, of course, Jack is too paranoid to pick up the phone), Clair is finally able to get him to answer and tells him she found someone who might be willing to buy Decades of Death, a man by the name of Harvey Humphries, who Jack must meet by 8. The only problem is, Jack has no clean clothes and must face his ultimate fear: Going to the launderette.

Not the launderette!

Before he can admit that he will have to go there if he wants a shirt and underwear that do not reek of toxic waste, he tries to do it himself, putting the wet clothes in the oven to dry. In the meantime, he's superglued a knife to his hand (it's a long story) and, in the panic of this discovery, realizes he's burned his clothes in the oven, which he foolishly opens and gets blasted by. Reconciling that he must face his fear, he first telephones Dr. Friedkin (Paul Freeman) a therapist he's been consulting with for his serial killer project to get some sort of counsel. Friedkin insists that Jack has suppressed a trauma somehow related to the launderette and must therefore face it in order to be free.

http://youtu.be/ceoKk-LGEkU

With all the reluctance of a garden snail, Jack makes his way to a launderette that is a parody of a remote location. Upon arriving, the clientele seems to regard him with an unusual amount of trepidation, which Jack later learns is a result of half his hair being burned off due to the oven gaffe. Jack tries to keep his cool, even though he realizes he has forgotten one crucial step in the washing process: Detergent. Just when he thinks things can't get any worse, a beautiful woman, Sangeet (Amara Karan), walks in. Praying he doesn't get distracted, Jack ends up tossing his underwear out of the dryer only to have it land near Sangeet. When she tries to return the garment to him, Jack forgets himself and takes his hand out of his pocket--knife still superglued to it in full glory. The misunderstanding that follows is only the beginning of the hijinks that must unfold in order for Jack to come to terms with his childhood trauma (Dr. Friedkin asserts that childhood is where all major issues stem from).

Those aren't mine.

Apart from illuminating that the launderette is a place of utter demeanment and should be avoided at all costs (and that writers and serial killers are very similar), Mills' also makes it evident that facing your ultimate fear is the only way to overcome it. There may be a few digressions along the path to this revelation, but it's worth the journey if you're a fan of the fantastical.

Jill Soloway, known primarily for her work as a writer for Six Feet Under and United States of Tara, has proven that TV is a great jumping off point for creating a film that is razor sharp in the presentation of its characters and the many layers beneath (no stripping pun intended). For Silver Lake stay-at-home mom Rachel (Kathryn Hahn, who doesn't get nearly enough starring roles), life has become decidedly dull. Her sex life with her husband, Jeff (Josh Radnor), an app designer, is nonexistent. She spends most of her time dodging another mom at the school, Jennie (Michaela Watkins), who won't leave her alone about volunteering for the Jewish Community Center. It is a life Rachel has grown to loathe, and one that her therapist, Lenore (Jane Lynch), can seem to offer no solution for. Promotional poster for Afternoon Delight

And so, to feel as different as possible, Rachel takes the advice of her friend, Stephanie (Jessica St. Clair), to go to a strip club with Jeff to spice things up. Stephanie and her husband accompany them to a place called Sam's Hofbrau (a sexless sounding title for a strip club, yes) to ease their transition toward novel eroticism. Somewhat jokingly, Jeff buys Rachel a private lap dance from a stripper named McKenna (Juno Temple). Riveted by McKenna's comfortableness with her sexuality, Rachel can't stop thinking about her days later.

An unforgettable lap dance.

To manufacture a "chance" encounter, Rachel stalks the coffee truck outside of Sam's Hofbrau so that she can run into McKenna. Her fascination with this seemingly carefree 22-year-old (though she previously tells Rachel she's 19 as it's part of her method for turning guys on) stems from Rachel's own feelings of sexual stiflement and insecurity. Part of her sexual frustration (she hasn't boned her husband in six months) is a result of being a victim of her own self-perception. Because she views herself as a mother and a wife, it seems that Rachel is stuck in a mode of thinking she is generally frumpy and unattractive.

http://youtu.be/DQpXyke3VC4

After getting to know McKenna over the course of their coffee conversations together, Rachel invites her to stay in her and Jeff's home upon seeing a tow truck taking away all of McKenna's possessions. Determined to help McKenna turn her life around, Rachel offers her a room in exchange for watching over her son, Logan. When Jeff learns what Rachel has done, he is slightly confused by her actions, but stays largely tight-lipped to support Rachel's pet project. Considering nothing and no one has captured Rachel's attention so fully in quite some time, Jeff sees McKenna's presence as an overall positive development.

http://youtu.be/lsn8KQg66Es

As McKenna and Rachel grow closer on an emotional level, Rachel can't be bothered to pretend to give a shit about volunteering for activities at her son's school. Instead, she asks McKenna to let her watch her have sex with one of her clients (for, by now, it's been well-established that McKenna is a "full-service sex worker." Even though Rachel feels like she's going to be able to handle watching McKenna give pleasure to one of her regulars (played by John Kapelos, who has seen better days pre-The Breakfast Club), she is taken by surprise by her own disgust and shock over actually seeing what McKenna does for money.

Waiting to watch.

It is at this point in the film that a schism develops between the two women, further pronounced by Rachel telling Jeff she doesn't want McKenna to watch her friends' children for a sleepover party. Wounded by Rachel's sudden judgmental aura, McKenna goes out of her way to prove that she's the whore Rachel now perceives her to be. In this way, Afternoon Delight throws something of a curveball in that, for most of the story, we assumed it was about McKenna and Rachel's relationship. However, what it really comes down to is Rachel's own emotional and sexual reawakening as a result of encountering McKenna. Even though it would have been nice to see the two women remain friends, McKenna and Rachel each served a singular purpose in the other's life, never to be reduplicated through consistent friendship.

It is quite possible that there is no other population as passionate, expressive and full of life as the denizens of Italy--and Rome especially. In Paulo Sorrentino's (of This Must Be the Place acclaim) La Grande Bellezza, this fact is exuded in every frame--each one dripping with more decadence than the last. An obvious descendant of Marcello Mastroianni as Guido Anselmi in 8 1/2 (though many have compared the movie to La Dolce Vita), Jep Gambardella (Toni Sevillo) is a writer with a penchant for high society and throwing parties. The characters he encounters as he enters his sixty-fifth year (and, as a sixty-five year old, he parties much more intensely than anyone in their early twenties) reveal a different piece of the evocative collage that is Rome and life. Laughing at Rome's absurdity.

Beginning with one of the most unforgettable party scenes ever committed to film, Jep looks on at his eclectic collection of guests as one of the most quintessentially European dance tracks is played in the background. While everyone else is enthralled and enraptured by the throes of a good time, Jep remains unfazed, introducing himself by saying:

"To this question, as kids, my friends always gave the same answer: 'Pussy.' Whereas I answered 'The smell of old people's houses.' The question was 'What do you really like the most in life?' I was destined for sensibility. I was destined to become a writer. I was destined to become Jep Gambardella."

Partying amid the ruins/underneath the glow of the Martini logo.

After the night of his birthday, Jep undergoes something of a vision quest--though it's really more of a visual rumination on his time in Rome, and what's it's all amounted to. The only novel he ever wrote, The Human Apparatus, came out decades ago when he was in his late twenties. Since then, Jep has relied on writing robust cultural articles for a magazine run by a female dwarf named Dadina (Giovanna Vignola). It is through this means that he has been able to cultivate his lifestyle as the king of making any party a success or failure. Throughout the course of the film, a number of people ask him why he never wrote another novel after his first masterpiece (he didn't even bother Salingering it with a few short story collections here and there). To one person--a Mother Theresa-like saint named Santa Maria--he explains, "I was looking for the great beauty, but I never found it."

Taking stock, Italian style.

The great beauty he once found to inspire him was his first love, Elisa, who broke up with him in September of 1970. He is reminded of this time period after Elisa's husband finds him in the wake of her death to tell Jep that she never stopped loving him and wrote just that in a secret diary he discovered. This revelation prompts Jep to reflect intensely, even revisiting an old friend who owns a strip club to catch up and talk about old times. It is there that he encounters the owner's 42-year-old daughter, Ramona (Sabrina Ferilli), who he finds attractive on a cerebral level after she says, "Maybe beautiful things aren't for me." Although he does like her (as much as a jaded sixty-five year old man can like a woman), he is, at the same time, distracting himself from his own boredom.

Pulling a Lucy Ricardo: One of the many colorful characters in Jep's orbit

Ramona's spending habits are apparently what force her to continue stripping, even though she won't tell anyone where all her money goes. She ultimately confesses to Jep that she puts it all toward "curing [her]self." The many layers of this statement is indicative of Rome itself: Youth- and diversion-obsessed, two fixations that can prove to be rather expensive. Later in the narrative, Santa Maria appears to put the exorbitant lifestyle of Jep and his inner circle to shame as she asserts, "I took a vow of poverty. That means I must live it. Not talk about it."

Nuns among affluence.

And this "living" as opposed to "talking" is one of the sources of Jep's issues with returning to writing--he is far too busy with frivolity to concern himself with real action. There is also the film's opening quote to take into account, extracted from Louis-Ferdinand Céline's Journey to the End of Night, which states, "To travel is very useful, it makes the imagination work, the rest is just delusion and pain." Jep's attachment to Rome, his seeming inability to leave it is a part of what has made him static, a caricature of the party scene. Nonetheless, it is often the case that our bane is our inspiration. In a way, we're all writing the unwritten novel of our lives, whether we're actively contriving the direction or not. It is as Jep says: "Beyond there is what lies beyond. And I don't deal with what lies beyond. Therefore, let this novel begin."

We all have those moments. The ones where we've realized that we're jumping over subway rails and rescuing someone's dog. And then we realize that, no, it was all just a daydream. And the cause of such a robust imagination is, of course, a total dissatisfaction with one's everyday office life. So it goes for Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller, reprising a somewhat Greenberg-esque role) in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Promotional poster for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

In this remake of the 1947 film (which explains why the lead character is named something as archaic as Walter) starring Danny Kaye, several tweaks are made to James Thurber's original short story (on which the screenplay is based). Where Walter Mitty was an editor at a publishing house, he is now a negative assets manager at Life Magazine. These aren't the only changes that make Ben Stiller's version (the actor directed as well) somewhat more palatable to a modern audience.

Daydream believer.

While both incarnations of Walter Mitty are endless daydreamers, often forgetting where they are or what they're doing, the new Walter Mitty is a lonelier sort of fellow who has watched the better part of his life pass him by. His infatuation with a co-worker named Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig) also adds fuel to his endless daydream material. Moreover, the addition of a character by the name of Sean O'Connell (Sean Penn), an elusive travel photographer with whom Walter has shared a sixteen year working relationship, serves to highlight the point that Walter has never really been anywhere.

Alternate promo poster

In between discussing personal details of his life with his eHarmony account manager, Todd (Patton Oswalt), Walter must also deal with a new boss named Ted Hendricks (Adam Scott)--leading the transition from print to online--who already has it in for him and his daydreaming ways. To make matters worse, Walter has somehow misplaced the negative O'Connell sent him for the final cover of the print version of the magazine.

More K-holing.

Using this mistake as a reason to talk to Cheryl, who works in photo accounts, Walter is ultimately propelled on a journey to find Sean by taking a trip to Greenland and unwittingly seeking the adventure he had always fantasized about. Once he, at last, gets the thrills of travel he wanted for so long, the daydreams begin to subside. And, unlike so many other movies about chucking the everyday in favor of going on a whimsical trip, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty doesn't fail to leave out the financial challenges of doing so. A scene in Papa John's (yet another corporate company shown love in the film besides Life) reveals Walter balancing his checkbook (quaint, but effective).

Traveling man.

And, eventually, Walter must return anyway if he's going to find a new job after being laid off and continue pursuing Cheryl. In addition to this smidgen of realism, the other refreshing aspect of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is that it brings a certain amount of Frank Capra-esque (what is contemptuously known as "Capra-corn") sentimentality back to cinema. Maybe part of that has to do with the remake being produced by Samuel Goldwyn Jr. In any case, if you want to learn a bit about life's meaning (whether you interpret that as existence or the magazine), take a tip from the Life Magazine motto bandied throughout the movie: "To see things thousands of miles away, things hidden behind walls and within rooms, things dangerous to come to... to see and be amazed."