Tag: jason schwartzman

The Overnight


The Overnight (2015)
★ / ★★★★

Having moved from Seattle to Los Angeles, a married couple, Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling), is worried that they will not be able to fit in and make new friends—crucial especially because they have a young son in need of playdates. While attending a birthday party at a public park, Alex and Emily are approached by Kurt (Jason Schwartzman)—married to Charlotte (Judith Godrèche) and has a son within the age range of an ideal playdate—who is personable, has a lot of recommendations about the area, and is kind enough to invite the former Seattleites for dinner. Alex and Emily accept, convinced that the opportunity is too good to pass up.

Written and directed by Patrick Brice, “The Overnight” is a try-hard pseudo-European, would-be dark comedy about marriage woes and male insecurity. I found it tawdry in appearance, sophomorically written, and unwilling to go all the way when it comes to the promise it makes once it has revealed the strangers’ true intentions. Although it is only about eighty minutes long, I felt it is much longer than a three-hour, complex, sophisticated, ambitious European erotic drama.

A lot of the so-called jokes here involve penile issues. It shows penis prosthetics several times from many angles and it is supposed to be funny or shocking, but it comes off very American—and by that I mean that the overall aura of the film is ashamed of showing nudity by showing fake nudity. Because the dangling plastic looks so ridiculous—insulting even because it is supposed to appear genuine—it is highly difficult to empathize with what the male characters are saying when they begin to open up about their insecurities. The disconnect between the false penis and real emotions is jarring—and insulting.

The movie offers nothing real or important to say about modern or progressive lifestyles. At one point, the possibility that Kurt and Charlotte being swingers is brought up. Instead of exploring Alex and Emily’s concerns, fears, or questions, the screenplay conveniently brushes this fascinating avenue under the rug. Instead, we get a tired, petty, repetitious, and very unconvincing argument between Alex and Emily.

Because the material shows that the two are unable to handle what is in front of them as a team, even in the slightest way, I did not at all believe that Alex and Emily is a real couple who has gone through a lot. More than halfway through, it becomes clear that they are caricatures who belong in a low-grade sitcom, not in a feature film. They are not worth our time and attention.

The performances are a bore, a slog to have to sit through. Scott tries too hard to make us feel that his character is an ordinary Joe with self-esteem issues. The problem is, he looks too tense; an ordinary Joe is more relaxed—especially with his appearance. Schilling has an annoying habit of giving out these crazy wide eyes as if she were on a comedy show signaling the audience to laugh. Scott and Schilling share no chemistry. Schwartzman, meanwhile, does his usual affected demeanor—nothing new or effective there. Godrèche is perhaps the most charming but her character has no dimension, no quality we can really hold onto and root for.

“The Overnight” is probably for thirty-something-year-old, sexually-repressed-but-in-denial-about-it parents who have no Internet or television and so they have a warped sense of what real thirty-something-year-old parents are like in the suburbs of modern America. There is nothing funny or interesting about it. Mr. Brice, what is your intention here? Please explain to me as if I had no advanced education because I felt that my time had been stolen.

Fantastic Mr. Fox


Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
★★ / ★★★★

Based on a book by Roald Dahl, “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” directed by Wes Anderson, told the story of Mr. Fox (voiced by George Clooney) who promised his wife (Meryl Streep) that he would stop stealing food from farmers when she told him that she was carrying a child. Twelve years later, right around the visit of Mrs. Fox’ nephew (Eric Chase Anderson), Mr. Fox felt the need to return to his schemes and eventually got his entire animal community into trouble. The first thiry minutes of this animated film was strong. I was amused with the scenes involving Mr. Fox sneaking into the farmers’ respective lands and facing different and fun challenges. I also liked the scenes that highlighted the insecurities of Ash (Jason Schwartzman), Mr. and Mrs. Fox’ son, when he would often compare himself to his cousin, especially in terms of physicality and athleticism. Those were enjoyable because it had a certain energy and excitement so I couldn’t help but look forward to what would happen next. Unfortunately, like in most of Anderson’s work, the movie began to run out of fuel past the forty-minute mark. When the animals were forced to live underground, the picture felt like it didn’t know where it was going and random references to other films started popping up like the plague. The attempts for dry humor were unoriginal and I could feel the material’s desperation to get any kind of laugh. Despite many things happening at the same, unlike the first third of the film, the material no longer felt fresh. It lost intelligence, tenderness and spark. In fact, the characters started to blend amongst one another. As a result, I merely saw the animals as pests instead of creatures that supposed to reflect us humans. While I thought the animation was interesting to look at (and I did embrace its flaws), the way the story unfolded wasn’t strong enough to get me to care for the characters. Quirkiness could only get a movie so far and unfortunately, “Fantastic Mr. Fox” relied too much on the superficial. Other actors who contributed their voices include Bill Murray, Michael Gambon and Willem Dafoe. However, I didn’t recognize their voices because the picture was too busy trying to deal with the conflict between the animals and humans to the point where it didn’t have enough time to take a minute and convince us why we should care. For all I care, the big names’ voices could have been played by unknowns and it wouldn’t have made a difference. “Fantastic Mr. Fox” received a lot of comparisons with Pixar movies. However, I think Pixar films are much more effective because they are aware of the fact that since we’re not seeing human faces, they highlight the animated characters’ human characteristics to lure us and, more importantly, keep our attention. “Fantastic Mr. Fox” managed to lure me but it didn’t keep me interested.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World


Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
★★ / ★★★★

Twentysomething Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) creepily dated an Asian high school girl (Ellen Wong) after he was dumped by a girl around his age who made it big as a rock star. Having a fiery passion with music, he and his kooky bandmates (Alison Pill, Johnny Simmons, Mark Webber) decided to participate in various battle of the bands until Scott literally met the girl of his dreams (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) named Ramona. Based on the graphic novel by Bryan Lee O’Malley, there is no doubt that the adaptation to screen of “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” is visually creative, hyperkinetic, funny, and charming on the surface. However, I found the picture to be hollow at its core because I did not buy the romance between Scott and Ramona. This was a key problem because we were supposed to believe that Scott was willing to fight for her by defeating her seven evil ex-es (Satya Bhabha, Chris Evans, Brandon Routh, Mae Whitman, Keita Saitou, Shota Saito, Jason Schwartzman) as if he was in a video game. I’m not talking about how they necessarily looked: Scott with his bad haircut and puppy dog eyes and Ramona with her hair color changes every week-and-a-half. After all, we’ve all seen couples where we thought, “What the hell do they see in each other?” I’m talking about how Ramona seemed stand off-ish and almost elitist with her fickle personality of going from one person to another. And it wasn’t like she was warm with his friends either. In a nutshell, whenever the picture had scenes of them together, I could not help but get bored or roll my eyes because the emotion I was supposed to feel did not complement the images I saw on screen. A lot of people might have been easily distracted by the nostalgic images of old school video games (I miss them, too) but I was not one of them. When Ramona and Scott were in the same frame, I wanted to know more about the hilarious gay roommate (Kieran Culkin) who brought home a lot of guys and slept on the same bed as Scott, Scott’s bitter redhead ex-girlfriend (Pill), and the wannabe bass player of the band (Simmons–who was greatly underused; I hated that he was simply there to look cute when I knew he was capable of so much more). As for the battle scenes, I generally enjoyed most of them but was repelled when audio waves were used as weapons. The line between campiness and cheesiness was crossed; there were so many in-your-face images as it is and raping my ears with extremely loud dissonance and feedback was totally unnecessary. I understand that the material was based on the graphic novel and it wanted to remain true to its source (which I appreciated) but I could not help but wish that the duels strictly remained physical or even verbal à la Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” (Ramona vs. Roxy Richter was exciting). I say “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” directed by Edgar Wright, is a classic case of style over substance. It was supposed to be a satire for followers of hipster music and video game addicts but unfortunately I think the ones who will end up loving this film are exactly the people it points its fingers on.

Funny People


Funny People (2009)
★★ / ★★★★

“Funny People,” written and directed by Judd Apatow, stars a bunch of funny people: Adam Sandler as a senior comedian who discovers that he has a fatal disease, Seth Rogen as an aspiring comedian who Sandler hires to write jokes for him, Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman as Rogen’s flatmates, Leslie Mann as Sandler’s ex-lover and Eric Bana as Mann’s unfaithful husband. Unfortunately, the material was not as funny as I expected it to be. In fact, it was quite serious because the lead character was obviously depressed because of his doomed fate. There were a few jokes with chuckling from here and there but there were no laugh-out-loud funny moments as they were in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” or “Knocked Up.” If Apatow was aiming for some sort of a dark comedy because it did (or was supposed to) have jokes about death, then I believe it completely failed on that level. I had major problems with Sandler’s character because I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to feel sorry for him. Not for one second did I feel bad for him because he was a jerk even to those who obviously cared for him. When his character finally met up with Mann after years of not seeing each other, he fell in love with her all over again but I didn’t buy it. After all, how could a guy who didn’t value himself and his friendships value some kind of a romantic relationship (and a flimsy one at that)? The film wasn’t logical and it should have been because this picture was supposed to be for adults. I was more interested in the angle regarding what it took to be a successful comedian instead of Sandler’s so-called plight. I enjoyed the cameos from Sarah Silverman, Andy Dick, Charles Fleischer, Eminem, Ray Romano, and others. With such a brilliant cast who are very funny in other movies, this film failed to take risks. Instead it featured one contrived and sometimes uncomfortable moments on top of one another. If it weren’t for the breathers (such as the cameos) that had nothing to do with the drama in the character’s depressing lives, I would have been harsher with this picture. If you’re a fan of any of the names mentioned, then by all means, see it. However, I warn you to not expect too much because it doesn’t have enough meat to carry a two-hour-and-thirty-minute feature.