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Reviews for April 20th, 2018

Documentary Round-Up

      Lives Well Lived, directed by Sky Bergman, is a potpourri of wisdom featuring seniors aged 75 to 103 who sharie what they've learned from life. Bergman interviews a total of 40 seniors each of whom is charming, bright and candid in their own ways. Many of them have been through struggles just like all human beings, but that doesn't stop them from being filled with joie de vivre, optimism and wit. Their charisma feels palpable and it's a pleasure to listen to them even if some of what they say occasionally seems a little pat. You can sense that they mean what they say and say what they mean. Each of them could have easily been a main subject in separate documentaries. The fact that Bergman managed to edit all of the footage down to a compact 71 minutes without a dull, tedious, schmaltzy or preachy moment is a testament to her skills and discipline as a filmmaker. If it were any longer, it would've become exhausting. Kudos to her for capturing so much humanism onscreen---after all, it probably takes a humanist to capture humanism. Lives Well Lived is a warm, uplifting and enlightening feast for the heart, mind and soul. It would make for a great double feature with Harold & Maude. Shadow Distribution opens it at Laemmle Monica Film Center in Los Angeles.

Dude's Manual

Directed by Kevin Ko

      He Xiaoyang (Dong Zijian) and his classmate at college, Guan Xin (Elane Zhong), get mistaken as lovers when they get caught on video rolling around on a bathroom floor. Guan Xin persuades He Xiaoyang to let her help him to woo the girl of his dreams, Li Shu Shu (Jessie Li), in order to put an end the false rumor about them circulating around the school.

      Dude's Manual begins on a rather deceptive note as a brief crime thriller before turning into a screwball comedy and then a romantic comedy. Its ending can be seen from a mile away, but the journey to that ending, albeit a formulaic one that lacks susprises, is witty and amusing more often than not. The way that Guan Xin maps out a plan for He Xiaoyang to seduce Li Shu Shu is quite provocative, relatable and grounded in realism even if it does oversimplify relationships by boiling it down to math equations. There's a memorable scene in a movie theater while He and Li are on a date together while Guan watches from a distance and makes hilarious comments. Fortunately, the screenplay by Ren Peng knows when to take itself seriously and when not to. It also avoids excessive lowbrow humor; the vomit sequences last a few seconds unlike the 5 minutes of vomiting in the painfully unfunny Hollywood comedy Blockers. Ultimately, Dude's Manual is a breezy, clever and funny romantic comedy, and far better than most modern American romantic comedies.

Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Magnum Films.
Opens at AMC Empire.

I Feel Pretty

Directed by Brad Peyton


Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by STX Films.
Opens nationwide.
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