Get Out

Jordan Peele’s horror-comedy hybrid “Get Out” is thrilling entertainment but also a great explainer of racial micro-aggressions.

Get Out PosterThe ending of Jordan Peele’s horror-comedy-hybrid “Get Out” seems almost designed to terrify white people. It looks like something out of a Tarantino movie, not to mention a prejudiced housewife’s worst nightmare. You wonder how they got away with it.

Yet leading up to that ending, everything has been designed to terrify black people. Within this well-crafted, unsettling and disturbingly funny movie, Peele has examined the micro-aggressions of racism and horrors that black people in America experience every day. It’s thrilling entertainment but ironically a great explainer of racial insensitivity. Continue reading “Get Out”

Begin Again

Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo feel real in this charming musical drama by director John Carney.

The mini-miracle of 2007’s hit musical “Once” was perhaps not so much of a surprise after all. Director John Carney took well-established Irish rock stars from the band The Frames (himself a former member) and made a simple movie without much of a plot and with much of Glen Hansard’s already classic music front and center.

But the fact that the movie had great music was really only half the battle. Everything about “Once” seemed cobbled together on the fly. Its look was a rough, documentary realism style and the dialogue was so bare bones it may as well have been improvised. And above all, the chemistry and romance between its two stars, Hansard and Marketa Irglova, felt genuine in both its journey and its outcome.

John Carney’s latest film “Begin Again” seems inspired by that makeshift attitude. It’s a story about working with what you’ve got and simply letting the magic happen. This time around, Carney is working with A-list actors, a pop-rock superstar and a budget that must dwarf what he had on “Once”. Yet when we see Keira Knightley singing into pantyhose with a wire inside or Maroon 5’s Adam Levine playing ping-pong, he’s found the magic again by making it feel real. Continue reading “Begin Again”

Enough Said

Julia Louis-Dreyfus is perfect in “Enough Said.”

Julia Louis-Dreyfus is the master of awkward conversations. In nine seasons on “Seinfeld” and beyond, she demonstrated a level of nuance, charm and etiquette in even the most ham-handed, despicable and uncomfortable of moments. She’s done so with a signature guffaw and a smile that looks amicable to her addressee and forced and in agony to everyone else.

“Enough Said” is Louis-Dreyfus’s first real film role in quite some time, and it’s a shame she doesn’t do indie films like Nicole Holofcener’s more often, because she takes everything that has made her an iconic actress and built the most pathos filled role of her career. Given the casual complexity of the screenplay, it’s likely this is a romantic comedy that wouldn’t be possible without her.

Louis-Dreyfus plays Eva, a divorced masseuse about to send her daughter off to college. At a party she meets both Marianne (Catherine Keener), a potential client, and Albert (the late James Gandolfini), a potential boyfriend after the two find they have a little in common.

The rub is that Albert and Marianne were once married, and now each confides in Eva how much they hate the other as she grows to be their true friends.

The first virtue of Holofcener’s screenplay is that it allows this fact to pass by unexplained to the audience and to Eva for quite some time, and we’re allowed to see Eva and Albert develop as a couple with real chemistry before the coincidence drives them apart. Continue reading “Enough Said”


“Cyrus” is what is known as a “mumblecore” film, which is a new revolution of indie filmmaking. The genre is known for its real characters and even more “real,” if mundane, plots. Its lo-fi style makes its characters and their common problems highly relatable, but not all mumblecore films can avoid feeling contrived.

I identify most closely with John (John C. Reiley), a lonely and divorced 40-something who abruptly discovers his ex wife (Catherine Keener) is getting remarried. The two remain congenial, and she invites John to a house party where he can meet a girl and drown his sorrows.

John’s monologue spoken to a disengaged girl at the party, delivered so affectingly and with frailty by Reilly, is very close to what I feel at times, and what I imagine most average people go through. He says he’s in a tailspin, that he’s depressed and lonely, but he knows himself to be a fun person with so much to give if he only finds the right person.

This man is not starting at rock bottom. How many people really do? We go through lonely, turbulent times, but many of us can still persevere and continue living. This is a common and true emotion rarely seen in mainstream Hollywood. Continue reading “Cyrus”

Rapid Response: Being John Malkovich

Few films are as wistfully inventive, bizarre and darkly silly as “Being John Malkovich.” Surely there is something else like it that hasn’t been directed by Spike Jonze or written by Charlie Kaufman, but then, I’m at a loss to say what. Yes, there have been movies that have incorporated puppets into their movies before, but to the balletic and elaborate extent that even goes as far as opening Jonze’s film? I think not.

When I first saw the film about a year ago, I thought of it as something of a mini-masterpiece. I mean, I had never seen anything like it. I’m not sure I loved the entire movie as much as I once did, but there are segments in this movie that have enchanted me and taken my mind to new places like never before.

It’s also really friggin’ funny and weird. This is the type of movie with cerebral and odd sight gags and mind-trip themes that beg to be analyzed, but you’ll have more fun if you don’t. Jonze is a pro at coyly amusing you with one of his visual tricks and then shocking you with the next. Continue reading “Rapid Response: Being John Malkovich”