Mar 21

“The Face of Love”: A Psychological Love Story with Annette Bening

John DeFore, Hollywood Reporter, sets up the premise of the Vertigo-compared The Face of Love, a new psychological love story starring Annette Bening and Ed Harris: “Depicting an episode of grief-fuled insanity that might tempt anyone in the same situation, Arie Posin‘s The Face of Love offers a widow who, upon meeting her husband’s doppelganger five years after his death, can’t help but pretend he’s the man she’s loved her whole life.”

Nikki had been married about 30 years when she became a widow—her husband Garrett drowned while out swimming one night. Since then her life hasn’t been the same, of course. Meeting the lookalike Tom (who’s divorced from Amy Brenneman‘s character) is one thing, but not telling him why she’s so drawn to him—not even that the man he so closely resembles is dead—is another.

In similar fashion, she also avoids letting either her friend Roger (Robin Williams) or her daughter (Jess Weixler) meet Tom.

You can watch the trailer for The Face of Love below:

The reviews so far have been less than stellar, with more kudos going to the actors than anything else. Some excerpts follow:

Claudia Puig, USA Today: “It’s a maudlin, superficial exercise in obsession masquerading as a heartfelt romance and study of grief, and character development is sorely lacking.”

Justin Chang, Variety: “…verges on ludicrous, but ultimately succeeds at conveying one person’s complicated yet emotionally rational response to a highly irrational situation.”

Manohla Dargis, The New York Times: “…(T)he main attractions are Ed Harris and a deeply appealing Annette Bening as two — actually, make that three — characters brought together by fate and a screenplay that promisingly flirts with fantasy only to come crashing down to bummer earth.”

John DeForeHollywood Reporter: “Posin and co-screenwriter Matthew McDuffie find a wholly credible resolution to this love story, but they can’t resist a coda that is pat enough (especially in its final shot) to be described as tacky. It’s an end as emotionally tidy as the premise is thorny.”

Rex Reed, New York Observer: “A trite, unconvincing ending, in the form of a credo, finally succumbs to the kind of melodrama the rest of the movie successfully avoids and leaves an unsettling aftertaste. But the acting is bliss.”

Sep 06

“Girl Most Likely”: Kristen Wiig’s Fake Suicide Attempt

The critics have been unkind to Girl Most Likely, a film in which Imogene (Kristen Wiig), a Manhattan playwright, has been rejected by her boyfriend, a job, and some friends, and loses her apartment. To get the ex’s attention and/or sympathy, she stages a fake suicide attempt, which backfires. She winds up in the hospital, and the discharge plan involves living with her estranged mother Zelda (Annette Bening), a gambling addict.

Or, Another Movie Description…

Sara Stewart, New York Post: “This lazy comedy plays like a round of Quirky Indie Mad Libs: Kristen Wiig is a struggling New York (blank) who freaks out when (blank) and ends up back in Nowheresville, (blank), with her trashy mom who (blank) and her weird brother who (blank).”

Surely the Cast Makes This Worth Seeing?

Alonso Duralde, The Wrap: “‘Girl Most Likely’ is the kind of movie destined to become the answer to the rhetorical question, ‘With a cast this good, how bad can it be?’ You might think that any film featuring Kristen Wiig, Annette Bening, Matt Dillon and Darren Criss (not to mention supporting turns by Bob Balaban, Natasha Lyonne and June Diane Raphael) would have some redeeming qualities, but you would be incorrect.”

Are There Any Interesting Characterizations That Defy One Unified Mental Health Assessment? (That Would Be Ralph, Imogene’s Brother)

Sara StewartNew York Post: “Broadway regular Christopher Fitzgerald brings the Zack Galifianakis-y edge as Imogene’s brother, Ralph, a mess of vaguely sketched agoraphobic dysfunction.”

Rex ReedNew York Observer: “Mentally challenged kid brother Ralph (Christopher Fitzgerald) wears oversized T-shirts that say ‘Crab Villa’ (emphasizing his obsession with all things crustacean) and crawls around on the floor inside a fiberglass mollusk shell.”

Other descriptions from top reviewers include “socially awkward,” “unusual,” “stunted,” “simple,” “intellectually disabled,” “special-needs,” and “unique.”

The Trailer:

In conclusion, Claudia Puig, USA Today, hits on some of the misfires: “a failure from start to finish.”

Efforts at humor fall more than flat — they’re tone deaf. The film features a cast of unpleasant wacky caricatures rather than remotely credible humans, led by Kristen Wiig in a variation of her luckless character in Bridesmaids, without a smidgen of that role’s relatability. But where Wiig made indignities comical in that 2011 film, here they mostly feel beneath her.

The story is dull, hollow and almost painful to sit through.

May 11

“The Kids Are All Right”: And the Moms Are Lesbians

The true experiences of Zach Wahls (see yesterday’s post) may be reminiscent to some of the recent dramedy directed by Lisa CholodenkoThe Kids Are All Right (2010). It stars Annette Bening and Julianne Moore as a lesbian couple, Nic and Jules, who have two teenagers who were conceived with the aid of an anonymous sperm donor.

Like many parents—of any sexual orientation—Nic and Jules do not have a perfect relationship. And it really teeters on the edge when they actually meet the sperm donor, Paul (Mark Ruffalo), who’s been found by the kids.

The trailer for The Kids Are All Right includes snippets of interviews with the cast about this unique story:

Selected Reviews

Lisa Kennedy, Denver Post: “Cholodenko and cowriter Stuart Blumberg have crafted a loving work about family that will resonate as true for those who find their experience reflected on the big screen and will be revelatory to others.”

Dana Stevens, Slate: “…a comedy that doesn’t take cheap shots, a drama that doesn’t manipulate, a movie of ideas that doesn’t preach.”

Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal: “The basic joke here, and it’s a rich one, is that the dynamics of gay marriages differ little from those of straight marriages. But that joke also serves as a catalyst for some startlingly beautiful considerations…”

A.O. Scott, New York Times: “The performances are all close to perfect, which is to say that the imperfections of each character are precisely measured and honestly presented.”

Dr. Ellen Weber Libby, psychologist: “…captures, with respect and sensitivity, the hard work required to keep marriages alive, to raise children, and for both children and adults to meet life’s challenges.”

Don’t let this element escape you: the kids in this family have in fact turned out all right. And research backs this up. As reported by The Huffington Post, “In a 2010 review of virtually every study on gay parenting, New York University sociologist Judith Stacey and University of Southern California sociologist Tim Biblarz found no differences between children raised in homes with two heterosexual parents and children raised with lesbian parents.”