Aug 03

“Faults”: An Unusual Deprogramming of a Cult Member

In the film Faults, called by Simon Abrams (rogerebert.com) a “black-comedy/thriller,” a religious cult has taken over the life of a young woman, Claire (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). In order to get her back, her parents hire a mind control expert, Ansel Roth (Leland Orser). After Ansel manages to free her, he takes Claire to a motel room for the five-day deprogramming.

The movie was written/directed by Riley Stearns, who also happens to be married to actress Winstead. Tomorrow it comes out on DVD, following a limited theater run.

Consider yourself warned about the trailer—definitely gives off a creepy and violent vibe:

The Deprogrammer

Who is this guy exactly? Andy Webster, New York Times: “Ansel has his own baggage: Once a renowned expert in the vein of the cult authority Rick Alan Ross, he mourns his failed marriage, owes money to a creditor and unsuccessfully hawks his latest book at second-rate venues. Between the intimidating posturing of Claire’s father (Chris Ellis) and the alternately hysterical, vulnerable and assertive Claire, he finds his mettle challenged to the limit.”

Oct 16

“ACOD”: Adult Child of Divorced Parents “Helped” By Quasi-Therapist

Not to be confused with the real world’s ACOD, which for years has stood for the 12-step program Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families, the title of the new film A.C.O.D. stands for Adult Child(ren) of Divorce.

Co-written and directed by actual ACOD Stu Zicherman, the movie is officially described as follows:

A.C.O.D. follows Carter (Adam Scott), a seemingly well-adjusted Adult Child of Divorce. Having survived the madness of his parents’ (Richard Jenkins and Catherine O’Hara) divorce, Carter now has a successful career and supportive girlfriend (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). But when his younger brother (Clark Duke) gets engaged, Carter is forced to reunite his bitterly divorced parents and their new spouses (Amy Poehler and Ken Howard) for the wedding, causing the chaos of his childhood to return including his wacky therapist (Jane Lynch).

But is she really a therapist? It’s set up in the trailer:

So, ACOD Carter discovers when returning to Dr. Judith in the midst of a crisis that she wasn’t in fact his child therapist; actually, she was studying and writing about kids of divorce. And now that she’s seen him again, she decides she’s interested in doing a 20-year follow-up.

This is groundbreaking stuff, after all. “Do you realize you’re the least-parented, least-nurtured generation ever?,” asks Dr. Judith.

Although film critic Dan Callahan, rogerebert.com, disses Lynch’s character as “an oblivious and self-centered quasi-scientist who made big bucks out of telling his childhood story in a book and who now wants to make more money with a sequel,” that doesn’t mean she’s unimportant. Indeed, Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly, gives Zicherman kudos for making Jane Lynch’s relationship with Carter a key ingredient of the film. “Lynch, less farcical than usual, speaks hilarious truths in her lightly hostile way.”

Claudia Puig, USA Today, agrees: “…(S)he imparts obvious truths like ‘I’ve always thought funerals should be about the person that died’ with an air of scholarly authority.”

Another key element of the movie’s plot is that Carter’s life adjustment isn’t what he thinks it is, which leads to an existential crisis and relationship problems.

Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly: “Carter is an expert at managing his own life; he’s just not so great at letting go and living it.”

A conclusion from Manohla Dargis, New York Times: “…an unfunny comedy about a guy mooning over his parents’ divorce decades later, is so eager to please it’s hard to hate. But it’s sluggish even at 87 minutes, clichéd and gives you nothing of interest to look at other than some familiar faces.”

Nov 08

“Smashed”: Obstacles in Early Sobriety For Alcoholic

For her role as Kate in Smashed, a new movie co-written and directed by James Ponsoldt about an alcoholic teacher, lead actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead really did her homework. Per an interview with Daily Actor:

I spent a lot of time in AA meetings, I spent a lot of time with James just really carving out Kate’s backstory and becoming really, really specific about that. And just spending a lot of time on myself and my own issues emotionally. It was a lot like, just, therapy. Working through my own stuff. That ended up being the most important thing, the thing that connected me the most to the character — sort of relating my struggles to her struggles and my issues to her issues, and sort of linking those two things up. It was an amazing experience.

According to many reviews, apparently it paid off.

Susan Burke, age 30, the other writer of Smashed, admits she has an intimate knowledge of what it’s like to be Kate. Although the movie is not about her, she has admitted that she’s been sober since the age of 24.

Michael NordineVillage Voicedescribes the story:

Kate has already hit rock bottom at film’s beginning—no, seriously. She wets the bed, pukes in front of a classroom full of first-graders, and smokes crack within the first 10 minutes and spends the rest of it clawing her way back into civilized society. Smashed is as much about recovery as it is about addiction, with Ponsoldt successfully making the case that the 12 steps are sometimes more difficult than whatever necessitated them in the first place. Kate’s main obstacle in her struggle isn’t her own willpower, it turns out, but rather the influence of her enabling husband, Charlie (an equally good Aaron Paul, no stranger to this sort of material), who, having never hit the same lows as his wife, can’t quite see the point in getting on the wagon.

Therapy is involved in Kate’s recovery attempts, at least at some point and to some degree. Joe NeumaierNew York Daily News, reports that “(a)fter one night too many of booze and drugs, Kate halfheartedly tries therapy — partly out of curiosity, it seems, but also out of an inchoate sense of desperation …” How does it turn out? He doesn’t say—nor can I find the answer elsewhere.

Included in the cast of characters are some helpers, such as her AA sponsor (Octavia Spencer) and the vice principal of Kate’s school (Nick Offerman), who’s in recovery himself.

In the category of non-helpers, there’s Kate’s enabling spouse, of course, as well as her mom (Mary Kay Place), who evidently has her own untreated alcohol issues.

Although Kate is generally perceived by reviewers to have “hit bottom” before getting help, critic Christy LemireAssociated Presscomplains that Kate’s “…bottom isn’t low enough, the struggle isn’t difficult enough, and the characters (especially the supporting ones) don’t feel developed enough to provide necessary context for our heroine’s journey.”

Notably, though, the current thinking on this subject is that you don’t have to hit bottom before seeking help. It’s actually ill-advised and risky.

And now, the Smashed trailer: