REVIEW: The Bronze

18 03 2016

The BronzeUnlikable characters do not automatically guarantee an unwatchable film (see, for example, Jason Reitman’s criminally underrated “Young Adult“). But the keys to success in such an uphill battle for sympathy lie in encouraging identification. These people are like some part of us, whether we want to admit it or not. Flawed figures allow us to embrace, and perhaps even correct, such shortcomings.

The chief issue with Bryan Buckley’s “The Bronze” is that it does not understand this fundamental truth about the prickly protagonist. Instead of placing us at eye level with Melissa Rauch’s heinous Hope, a jaded bronze Olympic medalist turned complacent hometown hero, the film puts us at a position above her. We are meant to look down at her pathetic, juvenile antics. The experience is less like watching indie cinema and more akin to reality television, complete with absurd dialogue (“Are you insane? Why are you insane?”) and hokey plot twists visible from a mile away.

Rauch gives her all to the character, constantly contorting her face into a snarl that makes infinitely meme-worthy Kayla Maroney look friendly. The expression would feel like an extended parody of Olympian attitudes were it not such an accurate representation of her pitch-black soul. As she selfishly tries to sabotage the chances of a potential protege, “The Bronze” adds insult to injury to the experience of watching by primarily indulging her childish whims. This might work as a teen movie, but we are watching an adult.

To be fair, “The Bronze” does earn some points in the final round by exposing a surprise and slightly enlightening motivation behind her appalling actions. But by that point, the film is so far away from the medal stand that it makes scant difference in the grand scheme of things. C+ / 2stars


12 07 2014

With their collaboration on “Tammy,” writer/star Melissa McCarthy and writer/director Ben Falcone construct what may very well be the cinematic equivalent of Sarah Palin’s infamous “bridge to nowhere.”  It’s a film about a road trip to nowhere that gets everyone involved in its making nowhere.

Coming off an Oscar nomination and three box office hits, it’s a shame McCarthy spent what was likely carte blanche with the studios on a project that offers nothing new for her talents.  Even though she was so heavily involved with the film’s creation, “Tammy” offers little humor other than jokes at the expense of her character’s weight or lacking mental capacity.  It’s almost as if she wants the two characteristics to be linked, which baffles me.

Was the point is to prove that McCarthy can play the woman-child archetype as well as, say, Vince Vaughn can play the man-child?  Or that a character like McCarthy’s Tammy can pull in a romantic conquest in spite of her figure and eccentric personality?  I could maybe see “Tammy” sounding like a great feminist victory in its premise, yet in execution, the movie is every bit as bumbling as its titular character.  If McCarthy really wanted to do something radical, she should have made a film where her figure was never addressed at all.

Over the course of 96 minutes (that feel much longer), Falcone and McCarthy give us a whole lot of time on the road with Tammy and her grandmother Pearl, an alcoholic played by Susan Sarandon.  Tammy and Pearl don’t quite have any grand purpose to be road tripping in the first place other than … well, something had to give “Tammy” a plot!

The quite-literal journey in the story is the perfect opportunity to explore a similar progression in the protagonist, but they can never quite figure out what virtues or values Tammy is going to discover.  The film toys with the idea of her gaining self-appreciation while also contemplating a familial love angle, never taking the time to fully develop one or the other.  It ultimately slaps on an ending favoring a rediscovered bond between its two female leads, and the conclusion feels rather unearned.

That’s not to say that McCarthy did not earn the opportunity to make “Tammy,” though.  The fact that this is film she chose to make from that position, however, is likely to remain a question mark for the rest of her career.  C-1halfstars

REVIEW: The Joneses

14 09 2010

American culture gets a good examination every once in a while from some ambitious writers and directors. But in Derrick Borte’s “The Joneses,” culture doesn’t get examined so much as it gets slapped in the face. It’s an address on the state of the American Dream in 2010 where the goal is no longer to better ourselves but to be better than everyone else.

Our image-driven consumer society hasn’t been so heavily satirized in quite some time, and because it’s a movie that speaks to our recession-weary minds, “The Joneses” arrives at the perfect time. Companies with something to sell hire family units like the Joneses to promote their products in affluent neighborhoods. Much like staging a house to sell it, the Joneses move into a neighborhood to sell an image. They are a true model of excess, decked out with the latest gadgets, fashions, and utilities. Reflecting the corporate values that more things makes you happier, each member of the family waltzes around town with a fixed smile and an aura of mystery, arousing curiosity and spiking sales.

The movie is spot-on with its lambasting of consumerism, yet it shows a few minor flaws when trying to delve into typical romantic comedy territory with subplots. It’s just business between “Kate” (Demi Moore) and “Steve” (David Duchovny), but he wants to add a little bit of pleasure to their fake relationship despite her insistence on keeping everything matter of fact. Much more tolerable are daughter “Jenn” (Amber Heard) and her scandalous affair on the side and son “Mick” (Ben Hollingsworth) as he struggles with identity issues.

In spite of everything, though, “The Joneses” still emerges victorious as it hammers the main focus home through and through, even daring to deliver a heartbreakingly devastating and jarring conclusion. Borte integrates humor and a thought-provoking critique of contemporary society so flawlessly that you’ll wonder why all comedies can’t be this good. A- /