Sunday, August 26, 2012

Delhi Belly (2011) ***

The thing about this movie is that, as dumb as it is, it represents Indian Cinema becoming more westernized.  Just the fact that the characters don’t break into song every five minutes is a departure (There are only a couple of musical numbers in the film.)  The film also pushes conservative, Indian, entertainment mores with some fairly explicit sexual content, although I don’t recall any actual nudity.  Beyond that, “Delhi Belly” is a pretty silly, predictable, action, gross-out comedy - basically an Indian “The Hangover.”
Tashi, Arup, and Nitin are underemployed, immature, twenty-something guys living like complete slobs in a shared apartment.   Tashi is engaged to Sonia, a sexy, Indian flight attendant who isn’t very bright.  When she helps out a friend by picking up a package from a nervous Russian at the airport, everybody’s lives start to get interesting.
Watching a movie like “Delhi Belly” is like watching a rabbit run from a hound.  Despite all the twists and turns, you know it is headed for that briar patch.  In “Delhi Belly,” all the major plot points are broadcast in advance, because we have seen them in American movies before.  Still, you have to give the directors credit for making a pretty capable movie within a genre that is not standard Indian fare, that genre being foul-mouthed, risqué, action farces.  There are any number of silly, American comedies that are better done than this, but if you are in the mood for something bizarrely exotic, I would say give “Delhi Belly” a chance.

3 stars out of 5

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Wanderlust (2012) ****½

      What a laugh riot!  I can’t believe this movie slipped by me in theaters, but I’m glad we put it on our Netflix queue.  “Wanderlust” brings together some of my favorite people in comedy.  Written and directed by alums of the MTV comedy show “The State” (David Wain and Ken Marino), the movie features several of the old “The State” actors as well as Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston.  On top of all that, Judd Apatow produces.  With a pedigree like that, you may expect something hilarious, and you would be right!
Rudd and Aniston play George and Linda, an attractive pair of New Yorkers who have just purchased a tiny, expensive West Village apartment when their economic world collapses.  Unemployed and facing homelessness, they head to Georgia so George can work for his hilariously boorish brother (Ken Marino).  Along the way they accidentally spend the night at a hippie commune and find the experience surprisingly liberating.  Working and living with George’s brother turns out to be so unbearable that the pair flee back to the commune to give “intentional community” a try.
Someone needs to come up with some kind of facial yoga I can do before watching a movie like this, because “Wanderlust” made me smile and laugh until my face hurt.  From the very first scene, Rudd and Aniston knock the ball right out of the park, and every new character who walks across the screen lights it up.  Everyone is so good that I really can’t mention all the great comedic performances, although Justin Theroux does deserve mention for his over-the-top portrayal of hippie alpha-male Seth.  They also brought in Alan Alda to play the senile commune founder and add a touch of class.  I suppose if I had any criticism it would be that most of the hippie jokes are pretty well-worn.  The movie is fairly predictable, but big deal, they are all predictable once you’ve seen enough of them.  When the story is this funny and told this joyously, it doesn’t matter.
Just. Watch. It!

4.5 stars out of 5

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Me Without You (2001) ****

If you want to understand why Michelle Williams is a big deal, you need look no further than this, one of her earliest films.  Her portrayal of Holly, the longsuffering best friend of beautiful, capricious mess Marina, is heartbreaking.
“Me Without You” is a story about the good, the  bad, and the ugly sides of friendship.  We see the inseparable Holly and Marina (Anna Friel) grow up together from little girls playing in the yard, to teens experimenting with drugs and sex, to college students, and finally adults.  From the time they are girls, it’s clear that Holly is the smart one and Marina is the pretty one, and the adults in their lives, particularly their mothers, constantly remind them of those roles, lest they should ever try to change.
We’ve all had a friend like Marina, someone who keeps us close, but frequently undermines us and tries to prevent us from growing.  Like most of these clinging, suffocating friends, Marina is driven by abandonment issues and lives in fear of Holly growing into a person who won’t need or want her anymore.  Of course, her fear is well-founded; we do outgrow our childhood friends for the most part.  Even if we always remain friends on some level, we move apart, find spouses, and end up not spending every day together anymore.  Over the years, Holly chafes more and more against the constricting bonds of Marina’s friendship, trying to find her own identity.
This may sound like grim stuff, but it isn’t.  “Me Without You” has plenty of humor, and the performances of the two actresses, not to mention Oliver Milburn as Marina’s brother, make it impossible to stop watching.  A warning though: The movie may make you look at your own best friend in a new light.

4 stars out of 5

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

The Women on the 6th Floor (2010) ***

This little international dramedy, in French and Spanish (with subtitles of course), tells the story of a bourgeois French banker.  His family owns a floor in a fine, Parisian building in which all the maids are housed in dormitory-like quarters on the top floor.  Mr. Joubert (Fabrice Luchini) has spent his entire life in that very building, yet he has never paid any attention to all those women on the 6th floor.  This changes when his family hires a new, Spanish maid.  Maria (Natalia Verbeke) is beautiful and confident, and she knows how to boil an egg.  Mr. Joubert is so intrigued by her that he gets drawn into her life and the lives of the other maids.  All Spanish, they turn out to be a fun, lively group, and their friendship makes Mr. Joubert reappraise his way of life even as his attraction to Maria threatens his marriage.  Meanwhile, his friendship with the maids triggers something of an awakening in his wife, as well.
In a sense, the story is perhaps a bit sentimental, celebrating as it does the simple, life-affirming ethos of these working-class women over the bourgeois lifestyles of their employers.  Fortunately, the actors are charming enough to get away with such a cliché.  I had never heard of Fabrice Luchini before, but I get the feeling he is somebody special in France.  His looks are very ordinary, but he radiates a humanity and charisma that make him imminently watchable.  He reminds me a bit of Paul Giamatti or Argentinean actor Ricardo Darin.  Natalia Verbeke holds her own well opposite Luchini, and Sandrine Kiberlain manages to make Mrs. Joubert rather sympathetic.  “The Women on the 6th Floor” is not groundbreaking, but it is funny and quite enjoyable.

3 stars