Last week I had to substitute The Losers in place of one of these films, because the disc NetFlix sent me was borked. The replacement disc was borked in almost the exact same place, but I muddled through. I’m nothing if not dedicated. Or committed. Or I should be committed.
Urban struggle, Southern resolve, and Ohio Valley hi-jinx next, on Cinematic Blues…
”No matter where you are in the world, the moon is never bigger than your thumb.”
Here’s one of those movies, based on one of those books. I am so far outside of the key demographic for this film that it seemed ridiculous to even put this movie on my queue. Still, my crush on Amanda Seyfried has yet to find its limitations, so here we are.
In the Spring of 2001, Savannah Curtis (Seyfried) meets John Tyree (Channing Tatum) while both are home in South Carolina – she on spring break from college, he on leave from the Army. They fall in love and spend 2 weeks together before he’s back on duty in the Special Forces. He’s only got a year left, and they spend the movie writing letters back and forth. Then 9/11 happens, Tyree re-ups, Savannah’s situation changes at home, and a literal “Dear John” letter is sent.
It’s treacly, and it’s slow, and Tatum has the acting range of a wet Nerf ball thrown by a three-year old, but it’s pretty to look at. Shot in locations in and around Charleston, SC the scenery is quite stunning. The big house where Savannah lives has been used in films before (most notably The Great Santini and The Big Chill) and the cinematography makes the most of that.
The film also gets points for not telegraphing the plot the way I thought it did from the opening scenes. I appreciated that, since I had such low expectations for my opinion on the film anyway.
The role I really enjoyed was Richard Jenkins as John’s father. Jenkins gives a touching, understated performance of a man who suffers from mental illness, but who loves his son very much. It was the highlight of the movie for me.
Oh, and Amanda Seyfried is still very pretty.
Elwood Says: 3 Half-Built Houses out of 5.
”These tests paint a picture of me with no brain. These tests paint a picture of me and my mother, my whole family, as less than dumb.”
This was the movie I had to rent twice, and I still haven’t seen a 3 minute seqment of it.
Let me tell you, though, Precious is not a happy movie. It is depressing, and dark, and scary, and worth it if you can get through it.
Clareece Precious Jones is 16, pregnant with her second child – both the result of being raped by her father, still in middle school, and living a horror show of a home life. This is not a story about her salvation, but simply about her resolve to make one thing, anything, in her life better.
I don’t know how to review this movie, to be honest. I’m a privileged white male who has never had to deal with even a fraction of the hardship these characters have. I was amazed by the film, but how do I put that into words that don’t sound like liberal guilt or posing?
So instead I’m going to focus on the two leads, Gabourey Sidibe and Mo’Nique. It’s no surprise why they were both nominated for Oscars, and I see now that Mo’Nique’s Academy Award was well deserved. She scared me in this film. Her character is pure monster, and when I read and watch interviews where Mo’Nique talks about drawing from life experience and having been there, I have to believe it. I have only seen bits and pieces of the lives people like Precious and Mary live. There are levels of depravity in Mary that you can only imagine, and I’m glad that Mo’Nique – an incredibly funny stand-up comedian – was able to showcase her dramatic abilities here.
Sidibe is also quite incredible. For her first film she’s got some serious talent, and the way she was able to wrap herself up in Precious was tremendous. Gabourey has weathered some serious criticism, mostly over her weight, but much like the fantasies Precious has about being the better person she’s risen above it. I look forward to seeing her in the new Showtime series “The Big C” when it premieres in a couple of weeks.
Elwood Says: 4½ Stolen Buckets of Chicken out of 5.
”She kissed you? She? With her actual mouth? Kissed you? On purpose?”
Yeah, this was one of those dumb comedies. Nerd gets the Girl. There’s no surprise to the premise, or doubt about the resolution, so it all comes down to the delivery.
Kirk (Jay Baruchel) is feeling like a loser. He’s working a dead-end job for the TSA, his ex-girlfriend is dating someone new (and they’re spending all of their time with Kirk’s folks), and he’s kind of the anomaly in his family. Molly (Alice Eve) leaves her cell phone behind at airport security one day, and the movie goes from there. Kirk fears rejection, Molly’s tired of douchebags, they each have weird friends, there are a few miscommunications…you’ve seen it before, right?
Alice Eve was funny and a good choice for Molly. You could certainly see why Kirk and his friends would consider her a 10, while she’s maybe a 7 or 8 inside her own circle, and was convincing in a role that didn’t necessarily require any nuance. She really sold Molly, and I bought it. It does get distracting that she wasn’t completely able to shake her British accent, and her blend of Brit and American made me think she was Australian.
Overall, though, this movie delivered pretty well. It had more than enough moments in it to keep me chuckling, and I’ve always enjoyed Jay Baruchel’s awkward presentation. His friends cracked me up, too. The extra half-point is for the Hall & Oates cover band, “Adult Education.” AWESOME!
Not a purchase or a destination film, but if you need a good laugh or can’t find anything else to rent you could do a lot worse. Be sure to watch the Gag Reel on the DVD for some extra *snerks*.
Elwood Says: 3½ Sex Yodas out of 5.