Up in the Air (US, 2009)

What goes up...

It’s certainly going beyond stretching a point to say this movie is about unemployment but at least the reality for many people, after the bankers have blown the money, is alluded to in this film. And even if the ‘great unwashed’ are used, at the end, to verify the authenticity of family life, at least the film peeks into the horror of losing your job. However as it’s – in essence – a romantic comedy, we shouldn’t expect too much subversion; it’s certainly not screwball. That said, it does retain its indie status by refusing too gushing an ending, though many commentators have been critical of the last 15 minutes.

I don’t understand why Clooney’s up for an Oscar for this, excellent as he is particularly in the scene when his would-be lover describes him as a parenthesis. The role’s  written for his particular ooze of charm. We need to see more of Vera Farmiga, who describes herself as the same as Clooney’s character (Ryan Bingham) except ‘with a vagina’, and Anna Kendrick’s gauche knowitall is pitch perfect. Particularly affecting is the scene where the older couple offer advice to the disappointed in love Kendrick.

Reitman uses locations well, with some terrific overhead shots, and the editing of case packing is as incisive as Bingham’s efficiency. Great soundtrack too.

It’s Complicated (US, 2009)

Second time around the same guy

Maybe with the aging demographic Hollywood is starting to ‘get’ the fact that the cinema-going audience are not all 16-25 year olds and that sex does not stop when children are produced. Certainly kids make it harder but what about when they leave home…? Surely not! That’s disgusting! Well, that seemed to be the emotion of some young women in the cinema I saw this when the leads (tastefully) took off their clothes. However, I don’t think they’d picked the wrong film as their laughter was mostly with the film rather than at it. In addition the film has space to address how children feel when their mum and dad have divorced.

Old, female and sexy is not wholly new to Hollywood, Something’s Gotta Give (2003), visited similar territory and it helps if the leads are charismatic stars. Nevertheless, there’s no doubt that the film delivers emotional resonances for those of us whose marriages didn’t survive, as well as plenty of laughs. The casting of Steve Martin – only given one brief funny scene – works as the ‘nice’ guy but the movie belongs to Streep, still in terrific voice, and Baldwin, whose teenage vitality might not be realistic but he conveys the frustration of a man, who’s made bad choices, very well.

The children are fairly horrible, John Krasinski excepted, something the teens in the audience noticed, but that aside Nancy Meyer’s produced excellent entertainment; though it should have ended at the penultimate scene – but, hey, it’s Hollywood!

Ghost Town (US, 2008)

'Oh no, I can see dead people'

'Oh no, I can see dead people'

I’m not sure when the current cycle of romantic comedies, a staple of Hollywood, began (late ’80s with When Harry Met Sally, 1989?) but I wish it would end. However, if it has to continue let it be in the vein of Ghost Town. Ricky Gervais’ comic genius gives the usual slush an edge; he isn’t credited as a writer but many of the lines are obviously ‘him’.

This was the first film I’ve seen using Virgin’s (a cable company) ‘movie on demand’ service in high definition. Three times the picture and sound broke down into a distorted mess, presumably caused by buffering problems. At £5 a watch I expect better! The picture quality, when it worked, was terrific; though this is hardly a film that needs HD, the autumn colours of Manhattan were gorgeous.

Me and You and Everyone We Know (US, 2005)

Bonkers movie that remains engaging because of a marvellous performance by John Hawkes and the satisfyingly loopy plot/character of Miranda July (who also directs). Some of the scenes are edgy and the teenage girls are out of Ghost World; a typical indie movie so see it. (DVD) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0415978/

Update April 2010

The perfect couple?

Is Me and You and Everyone We Know a romantic comedy? Well it features ‘boy meets, loses then gets girl’ or should it be the other way around as it’s clear that Christine (Miranda July) is the one who’s after Richard (John Hawkes?

In romcoms the ‘ideal’ male often has a perfect bachelor pad, designer clothes, an expensive music system not to mention an enviable physique. Richard, on the other hand, is a normal guy who panics when Christine’s about to visit as his place is a complete mess.

There’s no wedding in Me and You but it does have a romcom ending where we can fantasise that these two oddballs will get together to make a bigger, and maybe slightly less odd, ball.

If it is a romcom, then we’ve left out the two girls seeking sexual initiation and the young boy meeting a woman via a chatroom. Both probably too disturbing for the cloying saccharine that infects the genre.

However, it is funny in its quirkiness (there’s a great first meeting between the two) and Hawkes’ disheveled and loveable ‘loser’ is winning. It’s an indie romcom!