Plane and bus movies while traveling here. On a flight into Lisbon I actually watched the first 10 minutes of Runner Runner before turning it off and watching Enough Said. That’s something I rarely do, but Runner Runner was so painful and ultimately it was a great decision.
While on the topic: the problems with Runner Runner are many. It opens with a ridiculously expository scene dropping so much not subtle information that it feels like a sketch mocking expository scenes; Justin Timberlake’s portrayal of a grad student is about as interesting as clipping your fingernails; a whirling montage of on-line poker playing sounds as compelling as it is. We turned it off at the obligatory “convenient techy provides quick solutions to what would otherwise be really complicated problems in order to mostly get the fairly stupid to that point narrative moving along.”
Enough Said, on the other hand, is one of the best modern romantic comedies I’ve seen. The two leads – Julia Louis Dreyfus and James Gandolfini in his last role – are fantastic, as is the supporting cast. I like it because the dialogue is well-written, the plot is believable, and, unlike a lot of current films of the same genre, it doesn’t rely on good looks, one-off slapstick jokes, and unrealistic expectations. It’s really very funny, and though at least one plot line is telegraphed – Dreyfus’ relationship with her daughter – it’s still quite affecting.
It’s also a plot that could pretty easily be melodramatic and unbelievable, but writer/director Nicole Holofcener smartly puts us in mostly the same position as the protagonist, Dreyfus’ Eva, so that we learn information at the same rate that she does. That sounds easy, but it’s not, especially given that there are essentially co-leads in this film.
Getaway is one of the worst films I’ve watched in its entirety in a long, long time. The plot revolves around a former race car driver Brent Magna (Ethan Hawke) whose wife is kidnapped. He’s then forced – under the threat of her death – to drive a car throughout Bulgaria wreaking havoc, avoiding cops, kidnapping a young girl (Selena Gomez in such a horrific performance that I almost don’t want to talk more about it…but I will), and ultimately robbing a bank.
The film borrows shamelessly from Speed among others, and is essentially a series of car chases, none of which are any more exciting than the last, none of which change the plot in any meaningful way, and none of which are really all that well staged to begin with.
Selena Gomez really can’t act her way out of a paper bag even if it were torn at the bottom. It’s not all her fault though. The dialogue is dreadful and she’s horribly miscast as the rich girl who’s sort of a badass and sort of misunderstood (I mean, who can be correctly cast in that kind of a role?).
The climax – if you can call it that, we’ve seen so many equally dull chase scenes to that point that it’s a series of climaxes rendering them all anti-climaxes – is ludicrous and filled with ridiculous decisions and a hilariously bad Jon Voigt closing monologue that seals the deal. I’d only watch this film again if it involved Mystery Science Theater or under some kind of life-altering threat.
I suppose it’s pretty amazing that I hadn’t seen The Hangover until I caught it on a bus ride from Berlin to Prague. Surprisingly, I found it pretty funny. Some moments – the whole Mike Tyson bit, Mr. Chow’s involvement – don’t really work at all, but in some ways it’s kind of a hybrid of the above average (but not great) parts of Enough Said and the best (which aren’t great) parts of Getaway: it’s a comedy involving some romance that functions like a thriller/chase film. The writer’s are smart to make it a mystery rather than just a testosterone-fueled bachelor party film, and it’s the first time I’ve really found Zach Galifianakis funny…and I found him really funny here. His song “we’re the three best friends that anyone has ever had,” is hysterically awkward.
On a side note: I wonder if this humor doesn’t translate. At one time I took my headphones off and realized that no one else on the crowded bus – many of whom were watching – was laughing.
The solution to The Hangover is pretty disappointing. It’s one of those films that has a ton of fun with the rising action and obstacles – frequently a writer’s worst nightmare – and then just kind of quickly solves it all without having to have used those anyway. Maybe that’s the point: that the solution was right under (over?) their nose the whole time, but I find that to be a weak excuse: it’s not tight writing in that regard.
Still, I laughed out loud, and that’s really most of what I ask for from a comedy.