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Reviews for March 9th, 2012


Directed by Athina Rachel Tsangari

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Opens at the IFC Center.
Released by Strand Releasing.

Friends With Kids

Directed by Jennifer Westfeldt

      Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt) and Jason (Adam Scott), best friends since college, live in the same Manhattan apartment building. They desperately want to have kids, but neither of them likes how parenthood has affected the relationships of their married friends, Missy (Kristen Wiig) and Ben (Jon Hamm), and Leslie (Maya Rudolph) and Alex (Chris O'Dowd). So, they both agree to have a child together without actually becoming a couple. As time-share parents, they hope to be able to remain good friends while looking for love. Julie dates Kurt (Edward Burns), and Jason falls in love with Mary Jane (Megan Fox) who soon moves in with him.

      Friends With Kids might as well have been called It's Complicated because, much like life itself, that's the most accurate way to describe the dynamics of Julie and Jason's relationship once they become parents. How precisely their relationship evolves won't be spoiled here, but writer/director Jennifer Westfeldt should definitely be commended for infusing this romantic comedy with sophisticated wit, warmth and insight that shows that she has matured both as human being and as a filmmaker. The two ephemeral jokes are done within logic and reason unlike in most romcoms nowadays, i.e. the disgusting, overrated, juvenile and unfunny Bridesmaids. It's also worth mentioning that the relationships and chemistries between the characters onscreen feel palpable and, most importantly, believable. You may want to yell at Julie and (especially) Jason whenever they behave foolishly, but that's merely a testament to how much the sensitively-written screenplay allows you to care about them as human beings. Westfeldt treats not only the characters with respect, but also the audience because she's not afraid trust their intelligence and to treat them like adults which comes across as a breath of fresh air in an industry that normally produces stale, inane, forgettable romcoms.

      In reality, relationships aren't easy, and not everyone is always on the same page with their lover or best friend or anyone for that matter. Friends With Kids embraces that reality while never veering toward preachiness or melodrama or heaviness. It recognizes that within anything chaotic/messy there can be order or truth found within it. Conversely, within truth/order you can also find chaos/messiness, but that's precisely what makes life--and love--so beautiful. This might be the first smart, sexy and sophisticated romantic comedy since 500 Days of Summer. Finally, a romcom for adults!

Number of times I checked my watch: 0
Opens in select cities.
Released by Roadside Attractions.

Good for Nothing

Directed by Mike Wallis

      Cohen Holloway plays a nameless outlaw in the American West who kidnaps a woman, Isabella (Inge Rademeyer), after a shoot-out leaves many men dead. One of those men killed during the shoot-out happens to be the man who was supposed to escort Isabella to her Uncle's ranch. The outlaw takes Isabella as his prize and tried to rape her, but when the moment actually comes, he experiences something quite unexpected: erectile dysfunction. So, onward he and Isabella go to find a cure for his "hard" problem by visiting a few doctors along the way while trying to avoid a ruthless posse who want both of them dead. Meanwhile, he and Isabella gradually fall for each other.

      Far from your average Western, Good for Nothing takes everything that you usually expect from a standard Western--serious drama, action and thrills---and jumbles it all up with a dry sense of humor. Almost every scene feels like writer/director Mike Wallis is winking at the audience to remind them not to take what they see too seriously. By poking subversive fun at the Western genre, Wallis makes for quite a diverting and amusing ride--at least for most of the film. None of the comedic moments are laugh-out-loud funny per se, but they'll at least induce a chuckle or two. Had Wallis taken more risks comedy-wise, perhaps there would have been bigger laughs. The actors, though, especially Inge Rademeyer and Cohen Holloway give decent enough performances that make the most out of the often deadpan humor.

      The picturesque scenery looks so breathtakingly glorious that it often becomes a character of itself---a far more interesting character than anyone onscreen. At times, you wish that he could move the comedy aside for a bit while expanding on the relationship between the outlaw and Isabella more. After all, every truly great comedy is rooted in realism, so developing the characters and the dynamics of their relationships would have certainly enhanced the realism.

      At a running time of only 1 hour and 32 minutes, Good for Nothing manages to be an amusing, well-shot deadpan comedy that pokes subversive fun at the American Western genre, but it eventually loses comedic steam.

Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Opens at the Quad Cinema.
Released by Screen Media Ventures.

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