Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sister's Summer Sleepwalk

     This batch of home viewing options includes a return to narrative film making after a foray into the documentary field, a comedy act adapted into a movie, and a pleasantly twisted romantic comedy.  Might as well dive in...

  Sleepwalk With Me - I must admit that I only decided to check out this debut feature from writer/director/star Mike Birbiglia because it co-starred Lauren Ambrose and I haven't really seen her do anything since Six Feet Under was cancelled.  It turned out to be a pretty decent feature, a sort of anti-rom-com.  It did rely a little heavily on stand-up segments (not surprising considering that the auteur responsible is known mostly as a comedian), but told an original story and presented a few chuckles along the way.
     I was a little bit disappointed that the delightful Ms. Ambrose did not play a more substantive role, but the delightful and unexpected inclusion of Carol Kane in the cast (as the protagonist's mother) almost made up for it.  The movie was obviously made on the cheap, but sometimes it is about what you do with what you have.  3 1/2 of 5 stars.

  Red Hook Summer - It has been awhile since writer/director Spike Lee was at the top of his game, at least with films written as narrative fiction.  His heyday, of course, is considered to be during the late eighties and early nineties when he was making his little Brooklyn-set films, most famously Do The Right Thing.  So this small, intimate family drama set in the housing project of Red Hook in Brooklyn was like a beacon of hope that maybe he was poised for a great return to form.  Maybe if I hadn't raised my expectations so high, I would have walked away a little more satisfied.
     Instead, I'm mostly left sort of ambivalent about the film as a whole.  The script was okay, but definitely a little more preachy (literally) than was needed.  Mr. Lee used to have a little more thematic finesse.  Maybe working on documentaries has made his film making a little more literal in nature, but it did not suit his purposes here.
     The cast was also pretty uneven in both capability or execution.  Jules Brown, in the lead role of Flik Royale, definitely gets top honors.  His performance is the best thing about the picture, and he anchors it nicely.  Unfortunately, he plays opposite the casts' weakest link in Toni Lysaith as Chazz Morningstar.  Her line deliveries are stilted enough to halt otherwise touching moments between the kids right in their tracks.
     And it was sort of like that for me.  Some good.  Some bad.  Some expectations I'll try to keep bottled up when Oldboy comes out later this year.  2 1/2 of 5 stars.

  Your Sister's Sister - I had never really noticed actor Mark Duplass before I saw Safety Not Guaranteed earlier this year.  He was good in that film;  in this one he's better.  The whole leading trio of this film is pretty great.  Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt round out the cast as half sisters who wind up at their family cabin with Duplass's character one weekend.
     I guess you could bill this as one of the best acted and scripted rom-coms of the year and probably feel pretty safe in that statement. I am unfamiliar with the earlier works of writer/director Lynn Shelton, but this picture had greater depth of character development than most flicks of it's genre.  This sets the talented cast up nicely, each finding multiple opportunities to shine, both dramatically and comically.  A few interesting twists are thrown in, keeping the plot pleasantly clear of formulaic. My top recommendation of the post.  4 of 5 stars.

Related Post:  Deep Part of Safety (Safety Not Guaranteed review)

No comments:

Post a Comment