I got you this lamp…so you can see better how horrible I am…
Definitely not the feel good movie of the year, but a movie that does manage to be enjoyable despite its really tough subject matter. It’s beautiful to look at, has mostly good performances, and looks at a kind of slavery story we don’t always hear much about.
I guess the idea of being kidnapped from the north and being brought to the south to be sold into slavery isn’t any more or less cruel than any other pathway to slavery, but it certainly feels that way when you see it played out on screen. I guess the main character, Solomon (Chiwetel Ejiofor), being an educated black man in the north, has a sense that he is removed from the nightmare of slavery. So when he wakes to find himself in chains, it’s not just shocking, but totally unfair. Thus the mood is set for the rest of the film, where we the viewer constantly hope that his real identity will be discovered, and the illegality of his slavery will be revealed because it’s just not fair that HE would be a slave. Which, of course, we realize is true for EVERYBODY who is a slave.
Some of what we see, we have seen many times before. If it’s a movie about slavery, it’s going to have whipping, and cruelty, and the occasional sympathetic white person, but this movie does some of those same things in a way that makes it really hit home just how horrible and bleak it all was. Plus it pulls out a few scenes that were certainly new to me.
A few of the accents could have been better, and Brad Pitt’s character (or maybe just his appearance) felt forced, but overall the acting was top notch. And hey, good to see Paul Dano step outside of the box and play a character unlike anything I’ve seen him play!
Overall, I guess you could call this a must-see, even if just to remind yourself of how bad things can be, and how crazy it is that people are capable of such horrors. Seriously, this stuff happened. Not that long ago. Ugh.
is somebody over there trying to be quirkier than me!!??
Ah, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Whether it’s Zooey Deschanel, Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel, Kate Winslet, or…Zooey Deschanel, it’s a character that has become all too familiar in movies – particularly indie movies – in the past decade or so. A quirky, unpredictable girl who brings the male protagonist to life and turns his life into a constant adventure.
In this case, it’s Zoe Kazan as Ruby Sparks, who is, quite literally, the dream girl of writer Calvin (Paul Dano). He dreams about her, then begins writing a book about her. Then, to his understandable surprise, one day Ruby materializes in Calvin’s kitchen, seemingly unaware that she had no existence before he dreamed her up. At first all is wonderful and happy for the two (once Calvin comes to grips with this odd occurrence), but eventually Ruby gets bored existing for the sole purpose of making Calvin’s life better. She’s unhappy. So, Calvin writes more in his book, this time making her happy all the time. Her constant joy grows tiresome, so he must write her differently. Needless to say, these rewrites go on for a while as Calvin tries to achieve the perfect balance in Ruby.
This movie, written by star Zoe Kazan herself, takes the idea of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl and reveals why this male fantasy puts so much pressure on the girl in question. At one point Ruby says something to Calvin about him not having any friends. He says, “I have you. I don’t need anyone else.” To which she responds, “that’s a lot of pressure.” This MPDG concept puts all the onus on the girl to make a relationship exciting, with the guy just going along for the ride. All he has to do is accept her for who she is. “I love your mess,” Calvin says at one point.
This whole idea was explored to a similar extent in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. That’s another character, Joel, who simply wants to go along for the ride with Clementine, and she lets him tag along because he’s nice and accepts her manic ways. Though, only for a while, until she gets bored with his lack of emotional intimacy.
The performances are all good enough, including smaller roles featuring Annette Benning, Antonio Banderas, and Elliott Gould. Though, I feel like the concept/story succeeds more entirely than the execution of it. It drags a little at times, and that ending wasn’t so hot…
Robert De Niro plays Robert De Niro as a nutty cab driver who ends up homeless while trying to write a great American novel. Paul Dano plays Paul Dano as De Niro’s son. Olivia Thirlby plays an odd haircut.
This is a somewhat moving, somewhat amusing movie that I’m supposed to really like since it’s based on a true story, but it never really grabbed hold of me the way it clearly wanted to. The ending goes by too quickly…everything gets resolved in an unrealistically easy manner…and it doesn’t really feel authentic (whether it’s how it really happened or not).
Some good moments, but it left no lasting impression on me. Always good to see Lili Taylor though…
Walking out of a bad movie…we’ve all wanted to do it, and some of us probably have done it on occasion. I myself abandoned the movie “O” with about 10-15 minutes to go, though I should have left earlier. Usually, though, if I’ve paid for a movie, I see it through til the end.
But then The Extra Man came along. I didn’t see it in the theater, but I did pay to watch it On-Demand. Before I delve into my experience, please watch this Siskel & Ebert review for the 1989 movie She’s Out of Control, but feel free to skip forward to about the 2:15 mark to get to the part I want you to hear.
Now…I’m not here to say that The Extra Man isn’t better than She’s Out of Control. I mean, it HAS to be…right? But what I am here to say is that at the halfway point of this movie, I realized I had absolutely no desire to continue watching even another frame of it. The only reason I was trying to muscle through it was because I had paid for it, but eventually even that wasn’t reason enough to continue. So, I turned it off and did something else. Thus, I’m not writing a regular review of it because that probably wouldn’t be fair to the movie. Who knows, maybe it suddenly got really good in the second half. Maybe it all started to make sense and stumbled upon some funny dialogue. Maybe…but I don’t plan on finding out.
So why was it so intolerable?
Well, I’m not sure I can easily point out specific reasons…but I’ll try.
may I help you out of the movie, ma'am?
The plot is as follows: Louis (Paul Dano) is a young teacher at Princeton who is let go after he’s caught trying on another teacher’s bra. Yes, Louis likes to dress up in womens clothing. After this setback, Louis moves to Manhattan and rents a room from an eccentric professor/writer, Henry (Kevin Kline), and gets a job at a magazine…or something. There he meets the annoying Mary (Katie Holmes) and develops a crush on her. Meanwhile, Louis discovers that the monetarily challenged Henry works evenings as an “extra man”. That is, he attends dinners and parties with elderly widows who need another man around to fill a spot at a table, etc, or to just feel less lonely. For some reason, Louis wants to do this too.
And that’s all I know because that’s as far as I got. And I may have even messed up some of that plot description. It wasn’t easy to follow as my interest waned.
This was the very definition of a movie spinning its wheels and going nowhere. I honestly thought it had to be almost over before I checked how far into I was and saw that it was only half way through. There was just scene after scene that went absolutely nowhere. I didn’t care about, or understand, any of the characters. The cinematography wasn’t very interesting. The dialogue wasn’t witty or believable. There was no reason to keep watching.
As for the performances…well, I already mentioned that Katie Holmes was just annoying. Paul Dano…well…Paul, admittedly I haven’t seen all of your movies, but judging by the ones I have seen…you might want to think about branching out and trying something new. You’re starting to make Michael Cera look like Johnny Depp. At least try a new haircut.
phonin' it in...
When I described Kevin Kline’s character as eccentric, I meant it. Aside from his peculiar night job, he’s got a few odd views on life and society that he’s not afraid to share…oh, and he likes to dance around and sing in his pajamas. Plus, often Kline seems like he’s acting in a play while everybody else is in a movie. Just one more thing that wore on my nerves.
Normally I don’t condone abandoning a movie half way through, especially if you’re planning to write a review of it later. If I was still doing my movie-a-day thing, I would have powered through this one, but in this case, it just wasn’t worth continuing. As Siskel & Ebert said above, isn’t life too precious to waste watching something you have absolutely no desire to watch?
I decided that it was.
I’d be interested to hear other opinions on this movie, if anybody’s actually watched it…and finished it. Not that I’d be persuaded to go back, rent it again, and finish it, but it would be nice to know that there’s at least something redeeming in the movie.
For now I’ll just assume that I turned it off right before the zombies showed up and ate everybody…
Jacques: Lucas! Never remove an empty glass. It is the customer’s history and a track record of his state of mind. An important documentation which should not be fixed nor falsified.
Lucas (Dano) is a homeless man who has just attempted suicide. In the hospital, he meets Jacques (Cox), an old, angry, antisocial bar owner who has just suffered a heart attack. Jacques takes a liking to Lucas and decides to train him to run the bar so that it will be in good hands when Jacques is gone.
It may be a bit dark, anger-filled, and depressing, but this one also has a touching side to it.
The first thing I noticed was the look of the movie. It’s very gray, washed out, and contrasted. There aren’t a lot of vibrant colors. Both of these lead characters, and the patrons of the bar to an extent, have been beat down and worn out by life, and the look of the movie creates a bit of that feeling in the viewer. It’s certainly not my favorite sort of thing to watch, but it does add to the atmosphere the movie is going for.
Paul Dano and Brian Cox are both very good in their respective roles, but I think Dano is being type cast too much in these quiet, meek parts. He eventually shows a little bit of emotion, but it still seems like he’s playing the exact same character that he did in Gigantic. I probably don’t even need to talk about Brian Cox much. The guy can go from menacing to sympathetic in the blink of an eye. Total pro.
This isn’t the most original story line in the world, and there are definitely some predictable plot turns, but the characters and performances elevate it, as does some amusing dialogue. Also, the introduction of April (Le Besco) into the story stirs things up well. She’s a flight attendant who was fired, I’m assuming after her first flight, because she was afraid of flying. Now she’s in a strange city with nowhere to go and happens to stumble into the bar and meets Lucas. In Jacques mind, a bar is no place for a woman. There will be friction…
Don’t go chasing escaped ducks…
10 – .7 because the grim look of the movie just isn’t very appealing to me – 1 for being a bit too predictable – .7 because it gets bogged down from time to time with repetitive scenes = 7.6
Happy: What are you reading? Brian: Uh, it’s an article about a Tibetan Rinpoche who plays basketball with some other monks in Arizona. It says they got in a fight with five advertising executives in front of a bunch of kids…what are you reading? Happy: Um… mostly just ads. This one’s for a meditation cushion…that’s filled with buckwheat…it costs $249. Brian: It’s a cushion? Happy: Yeah…it’s mostly just a pillow that…looks like a stump. Brian: Seems like a lot. Happy: …Yeah.
Brian (Dano), a salesman of high priced mattresses, has always dreamed of adopting a Chinese baby. He’s single and under 30, so it’s difficult for him to get approved, but he’s on a waiting list. One day he meets Happy (Deschanel), the daughter of a man he sells a mattress to. They start up a relationship which seems a bit destined for trouble.
Okay, that’s a very basic plot description I’ve provided above. There’s a lot more thrown in to this movie. So much that it feels cluttered and unnecessarily complicated. There’s Brian’s lonely scientist friend who seems to exist only in his lab. There’s various scenes with John Goodman being transported around in the back of a station wagon because of his back problems. We get segments involving Brian’s dull family, Happy’s annoying family, the quirky employees at the mattress business, and then the weirdest subplot involving a homeless man (played by Zach Galifianakis) constantly attacking Brian with a pipe, a gun, and his fists.
All of that is in addition to the main plots about Brian and Happy’s relationship and Brian’s attempts at adopting a Chinese baby. Maybe it would all work better together if all of the subplots work, but they do not. Brian’s family is very boring. Ed Asner plays his father, and the movie came to a dead stop every time they let Asner go off on one of his speeches. There just didn’t seem to be much of a point to most of the scenes with the family, especially their little trip into the wilderness.
Zooey is playing yet another, ditzier, variation on the pixie-girl-inserted-into-lonely-guy’s-life character she’s being pigeonholed into these days. This is the second movie in a row I’ve watched with her in it, and though there are some similarities between the two characters, she was much more interesting and enjoyable in 500 Days of Summer. Paul Dano is alright in the lead, but his nearly complete lack of emotion or joy makes it hard to root for him in his quest to adopt a child. It seems like he’s depending too much on the child bringing him happiness, when he should be concentrating on bringing happiness to the child. And there’s another plot twist (I think…) late in the movie that would bring his qualifications as a potential father into question to an even greater extent if other people knew about it.
There are some funny moments here, especially towards the beginning, and it almost achieves some touching moments near the end, but overall I felt very detached from this movie. It did not maintain my interest or make me care about anybody involved, which ultimately makes for an unpleasant movie watching experience.
Sweden makes the best beds because they have longer nights, thus more sleeping time.
10 – 2.5 for dull subplots – 1 for dull lead characters – .6 for the whole thing with the homeless guy = 5.9