Tag: matt dillon

Girl Most Likely

Girl Most Likely (2012)
★ / ★★★★

Dumped by her Dutch boyfriend (Brian Petsos) and fired from her job shortly thereafter, Imogene (Kristen Wiig), a failed playwright, stages a fake suicide—which snowballs into, due to her deep-seated sadness, actuality. The hospital signs her off to Zelda (Annette Bening), Imogene’s mother. The problem is, she and Imogene have not seen or spoken to each other in years. Imogene has always hated her roots and believes that New York City is where she can thrive even if the cards in her hands say otherwise.

Though the actors play their characters with conviction, “Girl Most Likely” is ultimately an unsuccessful picture because it never gets the tone just right in order to allow the colorful personalities to really come through and convince us that Imogen’s story is worth telling. Instead of taking the character under a microscope, we see her through a pair of binoculars: we get an impression of her struggle through her body language but we never get a solid grip on what makes her tick.

The material, written by Michelle Morgan, takes risks by incorporating comedy with a dramatic core but much effort is required to humanize its protagonist. In other words, Imogene is not worth rooting for. From the beginning until way past the middle section, she is highly unlikable. She thinks her every need is an emergency. She whines a lot. She considers herself better than everyone just because she lives in NYC. Meanwhile, we grow restless and wonder where the story is going.

When she does begin to loosen up—predictably after putting more than few drinks in her system—by opening up to her mother’s boarder, Lee (Darren Criss), it is the point when we finally get a taste of some sweetness in the script. There are a few missteps involving the friendship but, as a whole, it works. There is something nice about a woman in her mid- to late-thirties finding a genuine—and surprising—connection with someone in his early- to mid-twenties. It could have been sleazy, played for cheap laughs, but it never crosses that line. When the film refrains from trying to wring out laughs from the audience, it works.

But every good scene is almost always followed by an eccentricity. Most off-putting is Zelda’s boyfriend named George Bousche (Matt Dillon), a man who claims to be a CIA agent and a samurai. Each time this cartoon character is on screen, I felt like I was watching a Wes Anderson film—and that is not a compliment. Dillon is a good actor and it shows, but the character has no place in a movie like this. There is a lot of pain surrounding Imogen’s family and I wished that the writer had the courage to deal with it directly.

Directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, “Girl Most Likely” has the quirks but it lacks the substance. It shows that good performances can only take the material so far. It is a shame because, if the lead character and her circumstances were written better, I imagine that it could have spoken to many people who fear that they are losers or failures. It takes courage and a willingness to offend to make that type of story compelling.

Sunlight Jr.

Sunlight Jr. (2013)
★★ / ★★★★

“Sunlight Jr.,” written and directed by Laurie Collyer, is a bare bones picture in that is a but peek into a life of a couple with barely enough money to get by. There is no beginning or end, not even a standard parabolic dramatic path typically found in works of fiction. On some level, I admired it. Still, I am not sure as to who the picture is intended for.

It shows poverty in a realistic way. Most might ask why Melissa (Naomi Watts) and Richie (Matt Dillon) are not shown to be more practical especially since they are continually pushed to desperate financial situations. For instance, although Richie has lost the use of his legs, why is he not able to to get a job? I offer superficial answers. First, he is an alcoholic. Second, he has not yet come to terms with his handicap. Third, I believe that a part of it involves depression—not one we always see represented in the movies but the kind that exists in the real word, the kind of depression that is too common yet not always recognized.

Though Dillon and Watts are capable of delivering the necessary gravity to create believable characters, their performances are not completely transformative. Their clothes appear to look as though they have been washed too many times and their hair could use a bit of clean-up but I consistently saw movie stars doing their job. As a result, I was unable to invest emotionally in the characters. We recognize Richie and Melissa’s plight but we do not feel like we are ever in their shoes.

Perhaps the picture might have had more of an impact if the lead characters were played by unfamiliar faces. I am talking about ordinary faces, plain statures, and body types that may not be considered appealing or attractive. The film is supposed to be rooted in realism. And yet when I walk into a convenience store, I never see anyone who look like Watts behind the counter. I may see someone who looks like Paul Giamatti or DJ Qualls. I don’t mean to be insulting to these performers. What I mean to say is that if the material wishes to get down and dirty, every element must fit or else it may come across as phony at times.

One of the implicit questions asked is whether love is enough to withstand the winds of adversity. I enjoyed that it offers conflicting answers. One of the most common words used to describe the film is “depressing.” I don’t think that it is. At least not really. Yes, what the couple goes through is tough. We watch their every day battles—whether it be about work, unspoken disappointments between the couples, things that must be sacrificed. But if one looks closely, there is always a silver lining.


Tex (1982)
★★★ / ★★★★

In Bixby, Oklahoma, two brothers are left by their father to fend for themselves. Since their mother had passed away from pneumonia years prior, Mason (Jim Metzler), nineteen, feels it is his responsibility to try his best to take care of his fifteen-year-old sibling, Tex (Matt Dillon), who makes matters worse by constantly getting in trouble at school. Not receiving a dime from their father (Bill McKinney) for several months, their financial situation has gotten so desperate that Mason has no choice but to sell his as well as Tex’ beloved horse to pay the bills and have food on the table.

The brilliance of “Tex,” based on the screenplay by Charles S. Haas and Tim Hunter, is that although it touches upon the topic of abandonment, it has a knack toward being just light enough in order for it to remain appropriate for younger audiences. After all, it has important lessons about empathy, responsibility, and forgiveness. This is mostly accomplished through Tex’ relationship with people who care most for him.

Most crucial is the bond between Mason and Tex as the former clumsily walks on the elder sibling shoe on his left and substitute parent shoe on the right. Mason leads with his right which causes friction between the two. I enjoyed that when they get into an argument, it is difficult to take sides. Tex is young and wants to experience life by experimenting so blaming him for not having the autonomy to become more responsible does not feel fair at times. And yet there are instances when he makes very stupid decisions which made me want to shake some sense into him.

On the other hand, Mason, as much as he tries to embody the role of the father figure in the household, has his share of young adult problems, too. A talented basketball player, there is a good chance that Indiana University might give him a full scholarship given he remains at the top of his game, fills out the forms correctly, and keeps healthy. To fulfill each category is at times a challenge because of the every day stresses he is subjected to. He is the easiest character to root for because of his seemingly endless ability to give, not only restricted to his brother but going as far as offering kind words to a friend even if he himself did not necessarily believe it.

I wished that the director, Tim Hunter, had given Metzler more close-ups in order to force us to feel closer to Mason. For instance, during scenes of showing how Mason really feels when Tex is either blasé or downright ungrateful toward his efforts. Having us tight and close might have given us the more subtle emotions like frustration, anger, and perhaps even the nagging feeling of wanting to quit being the caretaker of their family.

The less impactful scenes involving Tex’ best friend, Johnny (Emilio Estevez), and crush, Jaime (Meg Tilly), have nice and brief touches to them. When Johnny and Tex have a fight, the resolution is very true when it comes to male friendships. Sometimes no apology is necessary because a perfectly timed positive gesture can clearly communicate a chance to wipe the slate clean and allowing the butting heads to move on.

Jaime, the only female voice in the film, has a sharp tongue but she is smart. Each time she speaks, I was interested in whatever she has to say. I understood why Tex is attracted to her. Maybe if I knew a girl like her, she would have grabbed my attention, too. Sure, Tex wants her because he is young and curious but there is also a genuine sweetness in their friendship.

Based on the novel by S.E. Hinton, one can argue that “Tex” could have been more powerful if its emotions weren’t so muted. I counter its emotions are muted only outwardly. Watch Tex and Mason long enough and one can almost feel them wanting to break out of their lives, out of Bixby, Oklahoma.


Singles (1992)
★★★ / ★★★★

While admiring cute puppies in front of a pet store, Linda (Kyra Sedgwick) meets Luiz (Camilo Gallardo), a university student from Spain whose visa is about to expire in a few days. Not one to have much luck when it comes to romance, Linda is reluctant at first but she is won over eventually because Luiz knows exactly what to say to her and how. After he supposedly leaves for Spain, however, Linda catches him in a bar with another woman. Linda is furious. She makes a personal promise: she will focus only on her career and not get in a relationship any time soon.

Written and directed by Cameron Crowe, “Singles” does a good job in setting the pace of three relationships on a precipice of change which is particularly a challenge because dispersed among the three plots are colorful commentaries from people who have recently gotten out of relationships and those looking to get in one. It might have come across gimmicky, trite, than a necessary moments of insight within and outside of the story being told.

While Janet (Bridget Fonda) and Cliff (Matt Dillon) do not have the most interesting romantic relationship, their storyline is arguably the most rewarding because Janet is allowed to change in a meaningful way. Initially, Janet is used as merely a source of comedy due to her unhealthy level of attachment to the grunge-rocker who does not care for her affections. I was annoyed by yet another portrayal of a dumb girl throwing herself onto a man who clearly does not want her. As the screenplay unfolds, I realized that the material wishes to offer a statement. Janet is like liquid: an available man is a container she feels she must fill order to satisfy him.

The messages are geared toward people in twenties. Although the lessons Janet learns about self-esteem and self-empowerment may seem obvious, a lot of young women (and men) will be able to relate to her on some level. For example, there is resonance during moments when she is so desperate to be liked, she actually considers altering her body to fit someone else’s fantasy, or worse, her idea of someone else’s fantasy. While film lampoons her in the beginning, the picture is willing to change gears and allow us to care what might happen to her. Unlike many of the characters in the film, she has real thoughts and insights about what it means to be single and alone versus single and free.

The couple in the centerpiece involves Linda and Steve (Campbell Scott). Their interactions are sweet and romantic but sometimes heartbreaking and forced. Although there are chunks of the film when I felt like I was watching a television series because of the type of conflicts they must deal with, Sedgwick and Scott have a nice chemistry which keeps their storyline afloat. I would have preferred to know more about what Cliff really thinks about Janet. It wouldn’t have hurt the material if it had offered the audience a twist involving the inner-workings of Cliff’s mind. It is difficult to believe that he is stoned all the time and all he seems to care about is his band.

And then there is Debbie (Sheila Kelley): so desperate to no longer be single, she actually advertises herself on television so that she can have a pool of options. It can be argued that the amusing scenes surrounding Debbie make a statement about her relationship with herself. Debbie is the antithesis of Janet because, unlike the latter, the former does not seem at all interested in looking in the mirror and asking difficult questions about what she really wants. And she wonders why nothing seems to work out for her.


Crash (2004)
★★★ / ★★★★

Several people’s lives in a multicultural, post-911 Los Angeles collide in Paul Higgins’ racial issue drama. I distinctly remember watching this movie for the first time back in high school and I was riveted because there was a certain honestly in its portayal of a very diverse community but the people in the community didn’t quite accept each other. Having been raised in a place where diversity was abound, I thought “Crash” was multidimensional and it managed to avoid some traps concerning movies about characters turning out to be connected to each other in several respects. I still don’t believe “Crash” should have won over “Brokeback Mountain” for Best Picture, but the film was solid because it clearly set up an argument. That is, racism is a part of us and just because we project that ugliness to the world from time to time, it doesn’t mean that we are not capable of good or that we or not capable of changing. My main problem with the movie was it had too many characters and not all of them were fully explored. I thought the ones that worked were Sandra Bullock as a politician’s (Brendan Fraser) wife who was traumatized after a night out in the city, Ryan Phillippe as a cop looking for redemption, Matt Dillon as a cop dealing with his father’s health, and Thandie Newton as a Hollywood director’s (Terrence Howard) wife who was disgusted with the way her husband dealt with the situation after she was sexually harrassed. Side stories like Don Cheadle’s strained relationship with his mother and Ludacris running around stealing cars, as good as they were in their roles, weren’t at the same caliber and intensity as the others. Those unnecessary scenes held the movie back in terms of pacing and focus; they just didn’t hold my attention and I found myself standing up and taking a bathroom break during those scenes. Furthermore, I thought the ending didn’t quite stay true to the tone of the picture. I enjoyed that some characters went through drastic changes while others didn’t change at all, but the ending was borderline silly. Instead of pushing me to ponder over the images and the dialogues that I just saw and heard, it took me out of the experience and I felt a bit emotionally cheated. However, “Crash” is one of the better movies about racism because it wasn’t afraid to address certain issues head-on (such as being a light-skinned African-American versus being dark-skinned) and to show that there is more to a person than what comes out from his or her mouth. I suppose with a movie like this that tries to tackle very controversial issues, we always feel like it missed something or that there wasn’t enough deep exploration in terms of character development. But for what it’s worth, I think it managed to be right on target for most of its running time.