Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Quick and Dirties: Ladies' Night


For quite a while, I've been at the point where I watch far more movies than I care to write full-length reviews for. Since I still want to get something written about most of them, I came up with The Quick and Dirties, one paragraph reviews to a group of films. As the series has quickly evolved, each entry has come to focus on a theme. This time around we're looking at movies with female protagonists. Let's get started.


Frances Ha
(2012)
We all know someone who just can't stop themselves from sharing too much information. Invariably, they just keep talking until whatever situation they're in turns awkward. That's Frances (Greta Gerwig). You know that person with some sort of talent, but no discernible direction? That's also Frances. She is a twenty-something single girl living in New York and sorta trying to make her way in the dance industry. She breaks it off with her boyfriend when he asks her to move in with him. Unfortunately for her, her own roommate then informs her that she's moving. Unable to afford the rent alone, we follow Frances as she bounces from one friend's to the next. At various points during the movie, the person or people Frances is having a conversation with get an undeniable look of annoyance on their faces. It's the same look that was on my face for most of the film's runtime. I know that lots of you find this to be funny and charming, however, Frances irritated me to no end. Her lack of drive only fueled the fire. In fact, that's really the major difference between this and the Coen brothers' excellent Inside Llewyn Davis. Even though Llewyn is a jerk, and as misguided as his efforts may be, we can at least feel he's trying. Frances is just gliding along, oblivious to anything beyond the tip of her nose. When her inevitable transformation eventually comes, it happens so abruptly it's jarring. It's like everyone just got tired of making the movie and tied things up in neat little bows at the last second. Rather than the ending being an organic development, it feels like something forced in anticipation of what audiences might like. None of this is to disparage Greta Gerwig who turns in a magnificent performance in the lead, fully convincing from wire to wire. I just didn't care for or about her character.


If I Stay
(2014)
Mia (Chloe Grace Moretz), a teenager, and her family is involved in a terrible car wreck that leaves her in a hospital bed fighting for her life. Other members of her family, along with her boyfriend, keep vigil by her bedside. You know the drill. We get lots of hand-wringing, crying, and "Don't leave us!" Throughout the ordeal, Mia is watching it all unfold even though she's in a coma. Huh? She's having an out-of-body experience and trying to figure a way to wake herself up. It's all touchy-feely manipulation of the sort I don't really go for. If you're the type that keeps a box of tissue just for movie night, have at it. Otherwise, meh. It isn't terrible, but does nothing to differentiate it from similarly themed films.


Tammy
(2014)
After an already bad day that includes being fired from her job at a fast-food joint, Tammy (Melissa McCarthy) returns home to find out that her husband has been cheating on her. She leaves him on the spot, walking down the street to her mom's place. She then gets the idea to just go away, but doesn't have any money. Turns out her grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon), who lives with mom, has thousands just sitting around and is willing to finance Tammy's trip upon the condition that she be allowed to tag along. Yes, Sarandon's presence in a road trip movie instantly calls back to Thelma and Louise. Sadly, this isn't that. This is a string of dreadful jokes that thud loudly as they crash into of bucket of unfunny. Gag after gag completely misses its mark or runs entirely too long as the plot lurches forward. McCarthy's shtick is pretty stale, here. She's been better in everything else I've seen her in. Sarandon's rendering of the alcoholic/skank grandmother is the only semi-enjoyable part of this movie. Just about everything that is even almost funny is in the trailer. And the trailer wasn't that funny.


Gimme Shelter
(2013)
Vanessa Hudgens continues to put distance between herself and her Disney days. This time she does it by playing Agnes, aka Apple, a pregnant teen on the run from her drug addicted mother. Playing totally against type, she's actually pretty good here. For the most part, she's believable, less so when she's called on to act tough around others her age. Thankfully, that's not very often so her overall performance is more than solid. As many others have been, she's upstaged by Rosario Dawson who plays the snarling, torn-stockinged, rotten-toothed mom. It's a gleeful exercise in scenery chewing. the movie as a whole is nice, but falls short of distinguishing itself from many made-for-TV movies due to its reliance on well-worn tropes and a predictable, if a bit misguided, ending.


Moms' Night Out
(2014)
Being a mom is hard work. I have a mom. My wife is a mom. My sister and sister-in-law are both moms. They have difficult jobs. I totally get it. I also get that every once in a while, moms need a break. They just need to gather up the girls and hit the town. I'm all for it. That's the premise of Moms' Night Out. since this is a comedy, everything must go wrong. It is also a Christian movie which means everything going wrong is all part of God's master plan. Allyson (Sarah Drew) is our lead mom. She's completely overwhelmed by her life and blogs about it. At the urging of her BFF Izzy (Andrea Logan White), she organizes a girl's night out for the two of them plus Sondra (Patricia Heaton), the pastor's wife. In typical movie fashion, the husbands that are tasked with watching their own kids are bumbling idiots, and our titular moms have zero confidence in their ability to care for their own children. This means the moms spend much of their night out trying to check up on the dads. By the way, Allyson's hubby is played by Sean Astin of Rudy and The Lord of the Rings fame. As entertainment, Moms' Night Out is silly and only mildly funny on a few occasions. as social commentary, it's frighteningly archaic. The movie yearns for the days when men brought home the bacon for women to fry up in a pan. It seems to think itself progressive because it suggest the guys should lift a finger to help around the house every once in a while. However, it undermines this by asserting that a woman's place is at home raising the kids. Apparently, that's the way God intended it to be. It's even dubious that they need any breaks since taking one turns out so disastrously. It was all a bit much to take. I'm not even a woman and I felt like burning a bra.



And since I feel bad about not really liking any of these all that much...

check out my reviews of better movies with female leads:

14 comments:

  1. Tammy is a terrible film. It doesn't really do anything but make Melissa McCarthy look pathetic and she is never funny in that film.

    Frances Ha is a film that I can understand why you didn't like it. For me, it's Noah Baumbach's best and most accomplished work as it plays into that theme of people trying to grow up as they have a difficult time adjusting to adulthood.

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    1. I really wanted to like Frances Ha. I just couldn't. I'm not otherwise familiar with Baumbach, but I am interested in more of his work.

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  2. There will never be a time that I don't giggle when I see 'Quick and Dirties' pop up in my Blogger feed, ha!
    There's a few I haven't seen here, but I completely agree with your thoughts on Tammy. I really wanted to like it, but it was pants!
    - Allie

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    1. Thanks! And Tammy was pants. Lol, love that slang from across the pond.

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  3. I was always surprised I liked Frances Ha. I was so sure I'd hate it when I started it. The whole premise of Mom's Night Out kind of pisses me off. I hate when they make the husbands out to be as you said, bumbling idiots. It's kind of offensive to me to think that so many assume dads don't know shit about taking care of kids. My husband does. My dad did. My male friends do. I just hate that trope.

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    1. It offends me, too. I'm a dad and I think I do a pretty good job.

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  4. LOVE these little blurbs!

    I ADORE Frances Ha but I think it's because when I saw it I was in a somewhat similar place in my life to Frances. I've seen it since and did not enjoy it as much as that first time.

    If I Stay is ridiculously bad - I saw it with friends as a specific exercise in going to watch a trainwreck. Everyone involved was clearly in over their head adapting a story with a conceit that simply doesn't translate well to film. Tammy is similarly terrible, but whereas the former at least has good intentions, Tammy I don't think has even that on its side. Clearly everyone involved thought everything was hilarious, but outside of the robbery scene it all falls flat as a pancake. No, not even a pancake. Flat as a crepe. It's embarrassingly bad. Thankfully McCarthy rebounded with Spy this year.

    I haven't seen the other two but... Rosario Dawson playing mother to Vanessa Hudgens?!?! This I gotta see.

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    1. I know Frances Ha has lots of supporters, but it just didn't work for me. The less said about If I Stay and Tammy, the better. Dawson is nicely over the top in Gimme Shelter.

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  5. Tammy was just as bad as Identity Thief, and that movie was horrendous. I tend to enjoy most of McCarthy's other work but those two just didn't work out for me.

    As for Gimme Shelter, how many teen pregnancy movies do we need these days? We get it, lots of horny teens out there having babies, do we need a movie for every one of them? Needless to say I'm not interested in seeing this one.

    I almost rented If I Stay one day, but for whatever reason I didn't. Nice to see its nothing special, I'll probably check it out someday
    Haven't heard of Frances Ha and I'm not at all interested in Moms Night Out. Great quick & dirties post, Dell

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    1. Tammy was even worse.

      Understand your sentiment toward Gimme Shelter.

      Don't rush to see If I Stay.

      Surprised you haven't heard of Frances Ha . It got a great deal of praise when it came out.

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  6. Frances Ha is, like, beautiful.

    For real...but I get your complaint so...

    I haven't seen any of the others, but Mom's Night Out (at least the trailer) made me want to punch people in the face. Apparently dad's can't take care of kids...ever.

    B
    S

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    1. You know us dads. Just clueless. Sigh.

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  7. Frances Ha never really fully committed to anything so its emotional object was a bit vague but I think that was its intention. It captures that twenty-something bittersweet emptiness so perfectly. But I understand where it lost your interest.

    I actually saw If I Stay in the cinemas and detested it. I had a great laugh (at its expense) though.

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    1. I just couldn't get with Frances Ha. And I'm sorry you paid to see If I Stay.

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