Film Brief: Love and Friendship

Love and Friendship is not without a modicum of charms, but — as Simon Cowell would say — it’s a all a trifle boring.  I wasn’t buying most of it.

Compared to the great Merchant-Ivory-Anthony Hopkins productions Remains of the Day and Howard’s End, and more relevantly the Dangerous Liaisons trifecta which also includes Valmont and Cruel Intentions, Love and Friendship is a must-skip.  There’s more to a period piece than costumes, sets and erudite elocution with proper British accents.

Reminds me of Much Ado About Nothing.  4/10

Love and Friendship - text block

Film Brief: The Lobster

Me: “One for Scallop”
Ticket Window Attendee: “What?”
Me: “Clam”
Attendee: “Oh, uh…The Lobster?”
Me: “Yea, that one”

Even solemn love stories need to pick up the pace occasionally.  You might think of The Lobster as a cross between Couples Retreat in reverse and Logan’s Run.  I agree with Walter Addiego, SF Chronicle:

If you can live with its blemishes, “The Lobster” is a bracing experience

Critics were generally over the moon for this movie; me, not so much.  It wasn’t clear that the filmmaker really knew what he was doing with the story.  And I know not everything can be Being John Malkovich.  But it’s not good enough to have one little idea about romantic involvement and play it out for a couple hours.  Malkovich took one idea, then added another and another and another, brilliantly executing each one.  The Lobster is a yawner by comparison.

Still, it’s an interesting film that marginally works.   Definitely gets credit for throwing out a unique vector.  6/10

Comparison Notes (all better): Lord of the Flies, Her, Blindness, Under the Skin, Being John Malkovich

The Nice Guys Finish First

Scott Tobias, NPR, mostly gets it:

With The Nice Guys, his wildly entertaining new detective comedy, Black visits the smog-choked, libertine Los Angeles of the mid- to late 1970s, a few years and a few miles removed from private eyes like Elliott Gould in The Long Goodbye or Joaquin Phoenix in Inherent Vice. Only, The Nice Guys doesn’t linger in the haze. It has the byzantine plot of an LA noir, but races through it with the breathless energy of Black’s other work. From a simple missing-person case, the film opens up a full-to-bursting array of running jokes, ornate action set pieces, municipal schemes, and twists large and small. The only trouble is keeping up with it.

A few critics speak to a confusing or multi-layered plot, but I’m not sure what they’re talking about.  I found the story quite straightforward, even simple —  if not especially robust.  But the film does move along well, with lots of fun scenes The Nice Guys - text blockmoving quickly from one to the next.  “Wildly entertaining” is overselling it a bit, however.  Toward the end, The Nice Guys devolves into a sort of fermented corn-and-cheese mixture: the “ornate action set piece” finale I found trite, an obvious take-off on the much better opening sequence of the second Indiana Jones picture.

With its several significant flaws, The Nice Guys nonetheless has more in its favor than against it.  It’s mostly a lot of fun.  The squandered opportunities which yielded American Hustle and Inherent Vice were making me think that no-one could produce a decent ’70s-set movie in this vein, but The Nice Guys comes out on top of this heap.  On the low end of 7/10.

Comparison Notes (all recommended, and more accurately “wildly entertaining”): Chinatown, Catch Me If You Can, Trainspotting, Hail, Caesar!