Tag Archives: comedy movie

“Book Club” sucks

Written and directed by Bill Holderman, “Book Club” tells the story of four friends, widowed Diane (Diane Keaton), judge Sharon (Candice Bergen), hot to trot Vivian (Jane Fonda) and married Carol (Mary Steenburgen), whose monthly book club stumbles across the infamous “Fifty Shades” book franchise. Each of the women begins a romance awakening in regards to the books involving a myriad of new lovers like Mitchell (Andy Garcia), old lovers like Bruce (Craig T. Nelson) or long lost lovers like Arthur (Don Johnson).

The entire film feels like a commercial, whether it’s for wine, book clubs, the “Fifty Shades” franchise or aviation. It’s an uninspired, lazy attempt at a women’s comedy, with an endless barrage of sex jokes and age jokes written in the most pedantic way possible. Oh, the old woman fondled in the back of a car. Oh, the old man has an erection he can’t get rid of. Hardy, har har.

There’s a few laughs here and there, but an enormous sense of been-there, done-that with a variety of older actors looking for a paycheck. They’re engaging to be sure because we know them, but there’s not much more beyond that. The plot is a thin excuse for a film unable to carry a story for more than thirty minutes, much less feature-length.

Writer-director Nancy Meyers is able to craft entertaining if not groundbreaking romantic comedies whose plots are not intricate because the viewer can always feel a certain amount of heart in the story. “The Intern”, “Something’s Got to Give” and “It’s Complicated” are charming, light fair that someone put some thought and love into. “Book Club” has all the sentimentality of a Hallmark greeting card from cousins you don’t want to see at Christmas.

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“The Big Sick” an engaging romance story

Many call “The Big Sick”, directed by Michael Showalter, a romantic comedy, but there are deeper issues involving family, partnership and connections that push the film more into dramedy territory, more a true romance with comedic elements. The result is a strong story about how families, no matter how different they appear, are the same because of the love they share.

Based off a true story written by its actual subjects, Kumail Nanjiani is a stand-up comedian who falls in love with grad student Emily Gardner (Zoe Kazan). When she contracts a mysterious illness that puts her in a coma after a big fight, Kumail connects with her parents whom he has just met, Beth (Holly Hunter) and Terry (Ray Romano). As his own family pressures him to marry an Indian woman, Beth and Terry help him learn the ups and downs of a long marriage, and he sees how their suburban culture is so similar to his Indian upbringing, showing him how love can transcend culture.

In a film that doesn’t shy away from the fear of death or the pain of disappointing family, “The Big Sick” manages to be an uplifting story of love that digs beneath the surface farther than many other films of its ilk. The characters are all charming in their own way, the way you love a family member despite their deficiencies, and the character arcs for each is moving and important to the overall story. Holly Hunter and Ray Romano carry the message of the film through their interactions with Kumail and drive the emotional spine.

A criticism may be that the film becomes a bit schmaltzy near the end and the story is very by the numbers, sticking closely to plot point A, plot point B, rising action, etc. and not deviating in a surprising fashion, but for a film that tries to incorporate different themes into this type of story, being overly formulaic is not a true detriment.

The film is about the passing of knowledge about love, across cultures, from one generation to the next and recognizing that finding your own path no matter where you came from is the most important thing in life. It’s a beautiful, timeless story set against a millennial backdrop.

‘The Intern’ is breezy fun

Many people will complain that The Intern is not deep enough or pervasive enough. They will say it is too sentimental and trivializes real issues about marriage and careerism. All their arguments are valid, but they are also missing the point of a Nancy Meyers movie. The writer-director of films such as It’s Complicated (2009), Something’s Gotta Give (2003) and What Women Want (2000) isn’t known for making edgy, topical films. She makes enjoyable, rom-com fluffy movies. So yes, the story of a retiree working as an intern for a female boss in Brooklyn could have been more reflective and a modicum for our current times, but if you go into the theater expecting a Nancy Meyer’s movie, you’ll have a good time.

Robert DeNiro stars as Ben, a retired widower. On a whim, he gains an internship for a clothing line run by Jules (Anne Hathaway), a woman trying to juggle a burgeoning business while still being a mother. Her marriage with her stay-at-home husband Matt (Anders Holm) is suffering because of her addiction to work, an addiction that may force her to consider hiring a new CEO for the company. She looks down at Ben since he is 70 years old, but Ben does not give up on her, seeing the seams of her life start to unravel. He works hard and gains her friendship, helping her sort through her issues with her job, her marriage and her relationship with her young daughter.

If it sounds wishy-washy, it is. That’s okay. Nobody makes rom-coms anymore. You have summer blockbusters, dramatic Oscar winners, teen romances, animated films and dumb comedies. That’s all that gets made now. So perhaps The Intern is just a passable comedy, nothing better than a few laughs for a more mature crowd. It’s still a few laughs more than you would get at The Green Inferno which opened on the same day.

The internal politics of the film are also highly questionable. Without giving too much away, feminism takes a sort of half-hearted victory lap, taking a win in one subplot and getting lopped in another. There was really an opportunity to show a strong, independent woman CEO standing up for herself which sort of happens in the film, but that kind of determination also occasionally requires sacrifices and Hathaway’s character doesn’t need to make any.

In addition, the idea that the older generation did things more nobly than the current generation is also somewhat groan-worthy. Some things may be true (a loss of human interaction in today’s workplace) while others are not (the inherent sexism and racism). Ben could have been on just as much of a journey as Jules, learning about how certain things done today improve upon things done yesterday, learning how to take orders from a woman for the first time in his life. However he already starts the movie having learned all this. In effect, he is perfect and not that dynamic (similar to Keanu Reeves in Something’s Gotta Give).

Anne Hathaway works in the film, but Robert DeNiro really stars. He is highly relatable, has perfect comic timing and brings the best out of the rest of the cast. It is hard to believe that he once played vicious killers in films such as Taxi Driver (1976) and Goodfellas (1990), but it just goes to show you that he is one of the greatest actors of our time.

The Intern will make you laugh. It will not make you cry. It does not stick with you or make you think. It is an enjoyable night out. Is that really so terrible?