Tag Archives: Rose Byrne

“I Love You, Daddy”

LOUISA: 1 STAR


LOUISA SAYS:

As a critic, I try to distance myself from an actor or filmmaker’s personal life because I find it unfair to punish all of the other cast and crew who worked tirelessly on a film, but the subject matter of the Louis C.K. co-written and directed “I Love You, Daddy” makes it damn near impossible. The Orchard (the studio behind the movie) hastily pulled it from theaters, and now I can see why they made this incredibly good move.

The film feels like a disturbing prophecy of Louis C.K.’s recent unmasking regarding his admitted abuse of power and sexual harassment of women. There’s an ugly, icky, and cringe-worthy undertone to the project now, its story existing in the heavy shadow of the director’s own scandal. Perhaps you can say that C.K. writes what he knows, with tone-deaf gags that objectify women, a character with a penchant for dating underage girls, and several lines encouraging people not to believe sexual predator rumors (yes, really). In what was likely meant to be a provocative, brutal look at the entertainment industry instead comes off and downright gross and appalling given what we now know about the man.

The story centers around television producer Glen (C.K.) and his spoiled teenage daughter China (Chloë Grace Moretz). Glen idolizes legendary film director (and reported pedophile) Leslie (John Malkovich), but he starts to worry when China insists on spending time with the man. The supporting cast is largely female, including Glen’s ex-wife Aura (Helen Hunt), ex-girlfriend Maggie (Pamela Adlon), movie star Grace (Rose Byrne), and his production partner Paula (Edie Falco). Charlie Day shows up as sarcastic actor Ralph and has one of the most disturbing scenes in the entire film (again, due to what we now know about C.K.’s behavior), as he pantomimes exactly what C.K. has admitted to doing in his office in front of women. Yuck.

The characters are insufferable, a gaggle of rich and privileged white people who crack jokes at the expense of Jews and African-Americans, and try to wring inappropriate laughs out of sexual harassment antics and animal cruelty. The film is packed with irritating insider Hollywood references too, making it the type of film that Hollywood types love: arty black and white cinematography, mentions of the business side of the entertainment industry, and the pet project of a (formerly) hot comedian. Oops.

Content aside, the film is technically a misfire. Instead of presenting an original vision, C.K. comes across as a wannabe Woody Allen with a copycat score and monochromatic cinematography. The film is poorly directed with sloppy camera movements too, like he took a master class in bad sitcom directing.

Misogyny rears its ugly head throughout, and there’s a particularly unpleasant riff on feminism and female empowerment that just plain makes me angry and makes my blood boil to think C.K. himself penned it. By the end of the film, Glenn eventually apologizes to all of the women in his life but for them (and for me), it’s far too late.

“The Meddler”

LOUISA: 2.5 STARS MATT: 2 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

In what amounts to nothing more than a run-of-the-mill sitcom, “The Meddler” wants to be something it’s not. The story of meddling mother Marnie (Susan Sarandon) and her semi-successful screenwriter daughter Lori (Rose Byrne) struggles through the thick weeds of platitudes. Marnie has relocated from New Jersey to Los Angeles to be closer to her kid. There’s a barrage of unexpected visits and dozens of phone calls and texts that comprise the majority of the movie. So much so that even I started to get annoyed by the meddling!

Sarandon is fantastic and convincing as the still-grieving mother and at least is able to display her extensive emotional range. Even Byrne, an actress I’m not fond of, wasn’t annoying in this role. The performances aren’t the problem, it’s the pedestrian directing, phony dialogue, and aimless story.

A lot of the mother-daughter dialogue and situations are so bogus that the characters quickly become bothersome. I’ve lived most of my adult life as a daughter with a widowed mother so I have plenty of experience. The level of meddling is just too outrageous to believe. There are too many forced situations, from grief spending and drug tripping to an unsavvy confusion over an iPhone (I’m sick to death of seeing older people fumble with new technology in movies, this is a ridiculous stereotype that needs to go away).

There’s a lot of meddling and pandering to the audience (Marnie pays for a very expensive lesbian wedding because wow, she’s generous and open-minded) with small bits of ‘wacky’ situations. Things really pick up once Zipper (J.K. Simmons) arrives, playing a Harley riding, chicken serenading ex-cop. Simmons is a believable love interest even though he’s basically playing his own version of a Sam Elliott character.

The film feels very personal for writer/director Lorene Scafaria and I’m sure it’s sincere and comes from the heart, but it’s far from successful. “The Meddler” is a well-choreographed, mapped-out cliché, a rip-off of the far better (and much more organic) “I’ll See You In My Dreams.” Rent that one instead.

MATT SAYS:

“The Meddler” is a decidedly adult dramedy that explores the relationship between parents and their adult children. It’s a movie that feels deeply personal; the kind of movie that will be best-received by those who can relate to the relationship between recently-widowed mom Marnie (Susan Sarandon) and daughter Lori (Rose Byrne). The problem, however, is that audience is extremely limited. And while there’s some good stuff there for the rest of us, there’s not enough of it.

The acting is fairly solid; as you might expect, Sarandon is excellent as Marnie. The rest of the actors ranged from over-the-top comical (Lucy Punch) to decent (Cecily Strong) to very good (J.K. Simmons). As Marnie’s potential love interest Zipper, Simmons is hugely likable; it is his chemistry with Sarandon that elevates the movie and infuses it with an energy that makes his story line stand out from the rest. Unfortunately, the film spends too much time on other characters and storylines that are much less compelling.

And that’s the primary problem with the movie: it feels like a series of “and then” events that almost play like vignettes and have little connective tissue that holds them together. If not for the relationship between Marnie and Lori, there would be no sense of structure or beginning, middle, and end. Very little changes over the course of the movie and what resolution there is feels largely unsatisfying.

As a whole, “The Meddler” isn’t terrible, but I can’t really say it’s worth watching, either.

“Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising”

LOUISA:  3.5 STARS MATT: 4 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

“Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” is the latest recycled sequel to a movie that wasn’t good in the first place (2014’s “Neighbors“). I had zero expectations for this movie and I’m surprised to say how much I enjoyed it! This movie is silly and absurd and requires viewers to seriously suspend disbelief, but it is really quite funny and — surprise! — smartly insightful. The rapid pacing kept me thoroughly entertained and the jokes kept me laughing. These weren’t just a few chuckles, this was hearty, sustained laughter. Comedy is subjective, but I found “Neighbors 2” hilarious.

Most of the original cast is back, including co-stars Dave Franco, Ike Barinholtz, and Carla Gallo. Parents Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) are expecting baby number 2 and have just sold their house. They have a 30 day escrow period where the buyers are encouraged to stop by unannounced at any time (see where this is going)?

Flash to the local college where a fraternity party is in full swing. Socially awkward and slightly geeky freshmen Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz), Beth (Kiersey Clemons), and Nora (Beanie Feldstein) cross paths at the party, are disgusted by its “rapey” atmosphere, and decide to move off campus and start their own sorority, Kappa Nu. When the Kappas rent the house next door, they team up with former frat king Teddy (Zac Efron) for advice on how to grow membership, raise capital, and of course, throw killer parties. When the sorority girls have a run-in with their neighbors, the formula from movie #1 kicks into gear and the war begins.

This isn’t a lazy film, however; many of the gags from the first film are NOT recycled. The big twist is that Efron teams up with Rogen and Byrne to fight against the girls’ “right to party.” It’s a fun premise and it works. There are some truly inspired bits of comedy on display, making this one of the better sequels I’ve seen in a while. The actresses are likeable across the board, even when they repeatedly refer to Rogen and Byrne as “old people.” Efron and Rogen have an authentic, easygoing chemistry. The gags are goofy but amusing, with a good mix of both cerebral and physical humor. And there’s a pretty sweet scene involving a seriously buff, shirtless, dancing Efron and a grilled ham.

Despite the silly partying scenes, the movie has an unexpected strong, positive feminist message about girl power and friendship. I didn’t see it coming but I heartily applaud the filmmakers and writers for successfully doing more with what could’ve been another typical college party comedy. This movie is ambitious for cohesively mixing a gross-out comedy with a message movie — and it actually works. “Neighbors 2” is bawdy, funny and has a big heart. This movie surprised me, and I also think it’ll surprise you.

MATT SAYS:

“Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” is the rare sequel that is not just better than the original, it’s significantly better. The trailer would have you believe that “Neighbors 2” is just the first movie all over again, except with a sorority this time instead of a fraternity. It isn’t.

In this movie, Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) are still living in the same home with baby Stella (Elise Vargas) and getting ready to have a second baby. They are enjoying the peace and quiet that has come after the fraternity next door led by Teddy (Zac Efron) and Pete (Dave Franco) has long since left the house. Meanwhile, Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz) and her friends have learned that, surprisingly, sororities in the Greek college system aren’t allowed to have parties. In response, they create their own sorority outside of the system and rent a house. . . and of course it’s the one next to Mac and Kelly.

There is much to like about this movie, starting with its attitudes — which are refreshingly progressive without feeling forced or preachy. In “Neighbors 2,” a major theme is gender equality: Shelby and her friends aren’t looking for boyfriends, and only want a place where they can enjoy college and sisterhood on their own terms. Gay marriage is treated seriously — this may be the first mainstream, R-rated adult comedy featuring a gay relationship that is never played for laughs.

The actors are all well within their element here and are obviously having fun with this material. Zac Efron, in particular, is delightful as Teddy and provides some of the best laughs of the film. Despite its similarity to the first movie, the jokes here don’t feel recycled. With the possible exception of Lisa Kudrow‘s character (Dean Gladstone), all of the returning characters feel like they have a reason for being here which isn’t “hey, do you remember me from the first movie?”

While the movie certainly deserves its R rating, it doesn’t rely on gross out humor to earn its laughs (with one notable exception). For the most part, it’s an inspired comedy and it’s worth seeing.