Sometimes it's difficult to get through a full movie review, so we here at Tableau Your Mind wanted to offer you the quickest possible insights into some of the movies playing at the multiplexes this week and ask a simple question: should you HIT the movie theater to see this movie, or is is more of a MISS?
Displaced by the economy and short-sighted real estate decisions, a married couple (Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston, who anchor the film admirably) decides to spend some time in a commune in order to figure out their lives. David Wain and Ken Marino's script is funny, but it's certainly less weird and ballsy than their previous films. Especially given the subject matter, the two don't go far enough into the absurd. The only real fun is seeing Wain, Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter (longtime collaborators on too many amazing projects to list) square off as news anchors in two throwaway scenes that are delightful and absurd. The film needs more of that. It is still very funny, and Ken Marino and Michaela Watkins, as Rudd's brother and sister-in-law, are great and steal the few scenesthey are in.
Now, we here at Tableau Your Mind are longtime fans of Jennifer Aniston, so please do not mistake the following criticism as anything but a random observation. Aniston’s role as a woman with a Type A personality who makes terrible documentaries about dying penguins and really needs to loosen up, seems like it was written for Elizabeth Banks. Banks, who has collaborated with Wain on a number of films (Wet Hot American Summer, Role Models, etc.), would have been a stronger addition to the film. Really, though, the problem with the film is that there aren't enough leaps from odd to odd/funny. Even with a large penis dangling out of focus in numerous frames, the film isn’t ballsy enough.
Still, even though it is never laugh-out-loud funny, it is enjoyable.
Hit or Miss: If you are a fan of David Wain and The State or Stella, HIT
Rating: 8 out of 11 Dying Penguins
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
The disastrously titled Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a good movie. In fact, it's several good movies. It's just not sure what movie it wants to be. Is it an endearing love story, a political satire, a kooky comedy, a plea to end domestic terrorism and encourage intra-country communications, an enduring tale of triumph over adversity? There's just too much in this thing, and a good chunk of story is spent meandering around with no clear direction. Emily Blunt, Ewan McGregor, and Kristin Scott Thomas all do very good work, but the whole thing feels like an examination of how to poorly adapt a novel into a film. If it wasn't for the very fine acting it would be a complete miss. As is, it's a tepid hit.
Hit or Miss: HIT, especially if you're an over-40
Rating: 7,000 out of 10,000 Farm-Raised Salmon
Jeff Who Lives at Home
Yet another film that can’t seem to figure anything out, Jeff Who Lives at Home revolves around Jeff (Jason Segel), a stoner-slacker addicted to following ‘signs’ and finding secret meanings to life's randomness, his dick brother (a woefully miscast Ed Helms), a man going through marriage troubles and a severe bout of douchebaggery, and his mother (Susan Sarandon) who never saw her life turning out as boring and unfulfilling as it has. Judy Greer tags along (as Helms' long-suffering and understandably angry wife) in a film that takes place over the course of a day and could have used a slightly more relaxed timetable. Helms is often called upon to be the emotional crux of the film, and he fails miserably. Part of the problem is he's just too likable a guy, and this role requires him to be both an asshole and a complicated man trying to be successful in all the wrong ways. Segel, Sarandon, and Greer are all very good (Sarandon in particular is really amazing - her acting skills aren’t, as has been previously reported, fading with age). Still, the film certainly does make a viewer wait a while before getting to any sort of point.
Hit or Miss: MISS
Rating: 2 out of 5 beautifully shot bong hits.
Friends With Kids
Jennifer Westfeldt’s latest film is actually quite good, filled with strong writing and admirable performances. For the sake of simplicity, let’s just say that the film is about three couples, one happily married with two kids and no sex (Maya Rudolph and Chris O’Dowd), one a pair of angry alcoholics who used to have a lot of sex (Kristen Wiig and Jon Hamm), and one a pair of long-time friends who decide to have a kid together to enjoy the wonder of having a child without the slog and terribleness of being married to the other parent. Parentage kills romance, so say Julie and Jason, played by Westfeldt and Adam Scott. The film is mostly about Julie and Jason’s relationship as they discover the joys and pitfalls of their arrangement, with occasional visits from the other couples. It’s a shame, really, because the strongest performances and stories come from the supporting cast (Rudolph and O’Dowd have an easy chemistry, and Hamm plays one of those terrible-yet-still-likable people he’s always playing so well). Westfeldt is a gifted comedic and dramatic writer, but her acting often feels so acty and forced, as if, inside her head, she is thinking ‘This is how an AC-TOR reads her lines!” It’s fine when she’s with stronger actors, but the film seriously lags when she acts at human-drywall Edward Burns (sturdy but boring), who, I think we can all agree, is the absolute worst at acting. Megan Fox looks like frakking Meryl Streep next to that guy.
This is all to say that the movie is still very good. Adam Scott may not be believable as a womanizer who throws out monikers like ‘doll’ and ‘baby’ (leave that to the Jon Hamm’s of the world), but he really sells the emotional arc that his character goes through. Things get rushed towards the end, but before the final moments the film has some incredible scenes, including a dinner at a ski chalet that goes awry in the most awkward and brilliantly written confrontation in the movie. Westfeldt treats all of her characters with respect, allowing them to voice their opinions and interact in a way that feels real and emotionally satisfying. If only she didn’t have to cry so much – she is not a pretty crier.
Hit or Miss: Definite HIT
Rating: 6 out of 7 Kegel exercises.