Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Under 250: The Girlfriend Experience

The buzz surrounding Steven Soderbergh's low-budget RedOne shot The Girlfriend Experience made it sound like a super erotic work of sexual controversy. Starring adult-film actress Sasha Grey as a cold and bland high-priced escort, let me assure you that this in spite of its subject matter, this is a piece less about sex and more about business. While the film looks great, artfully capturing the Manhattan haunts of the elite through an almost documentarian lens, don't be surprised if the content leaves you totally cold. Soderbergh has a big statement to make about society and our current state of affairs, there's a lot going on feels almost crushingly real. All sorts of floating notions about human commodity, sexual exchange, recession, and manufactured proximity. A "girlfriend experience" after all, refers to the hiring of an escort not necessarily for sex, but for the feeling of having someone close. This is all interesting in theory, as is the notion that as Grey's character (who is in a committed relationship) gets deeper into her career she becomes more entangled in her temporary trysts than her real attachments. Yet, all things considered, the film drifts between business meanings and discussion of capital with nary an attention-grabbing hook. The characters are vapid, and Sasha Grey's partially improvised dialogue feels amateurish while her face registers little to no emotion. The Girlfriend Experience drifts like a corporate Godard experiment. In future years I'm sure it'll resonate as an esoteric artifact of our times, but right now it's a mediocre distraction. See it for the ideas it brings to the table, but keep your expectations in check.







(extra points awarded for merit and ambition)

The Girlfriend Experience. dir. Steven Soderbergh. starring Sasha Grey, Chris Santos. Rated R. Running Time: 78 minutes.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Love: Surrogates

I haven’t read the source material for The Surrogates, so I can’t tell you how the new film matches up or how well it does the original story justice. I can tell you that the film version is inventive and thrilling, with a story that twists and turns effortlessly across murky philosophical questions and elegant performances.

The film follows good cop Tom Greer (Bruce Willis) as he unravels the mysteries surrounding the deaths of several people murdered while connected to their surrogates; the slightly more robotic looking and more realistic versions of Second Life avatars. Eventually the entire world finds itself in danger as Tom sheds his own avatar to save everyone else.


The content is weighty and brings up important questions we should all be asking ourselves, and inevitably will after the release of James Cameron’s Avatar. What is the future of technology? How does our integration with it affect our humanity? How far will we escape into the cold arms of a computer? How paranoid does this make those that choose not to follow it? The list goes on. But the film deals with each issue with surprising ease where it just as easily could have drifted into preachy “Superman 4” territory, revealing this thread only at its most emotional moments, a fault I can forgive considering the quality of the rest of it.


This balance is achieved mainly in the subtle and skillful performances of the entire cast. Willis expands his character beyond the typical gruff John McClaine stereotype he’s good at, and hits real emotional depth without reeking of pretension or banality. Willis is bolstered by Rosamund Pike as the perfect stepford wife with a conscience while Radha Mitchell’s FBI agent’s subtle transition between operators reminds us why we missed her big screen presence. James Cromwell is a big standout, playing surrogate inventor Dr. Canter with the type of artistic fervor and humanity missing in many mad scientists.


The film does have a few nagging flaws. I would have liked to see a more lush, visceral setting and deeper attention to detail. I often found myself distracted by the outdated technology mixed with the new (Would a hospital still have land line phones in a world advanced enough to have surrogate technology? Would we still have gas powered vehicles if we could power a human avatar that big?); these seem like easy fixes. I also found some key areas such as the “human only” safety zones to be plain and boring, just like the surrogate world.” It is this attention to developing a world that draws the viewer in, and the similarity in concepts often times made me ache for the beauty and depth of Ridley Scott’s Bladerunner or even (dare I say it?) Michael Bay’s The Island. That may be an unfair comparison, but with a film exploring the darker technology obsessed voyeurs in us all, it may have done some good to draw us in visually. This would have made this good movie a great one. But all in all, the film balances depth and entertainment to produce a fun, interesting fall flick.

3 out of 5

Read more from M @ Bubbly.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Love: The Informant!

Steven Soderbergh is one of those directors who has somehow managed to balance his ratio of mainstream blockbusters with his art house efforts. He can make Ocean's 13 without breaking a sweat, then turn around and cash out the paycheck shooting the much lauded 2-parter Che. Or, in the same year he can release the sexually raw no-name Girlfriend Experience and follow it with the (in some ways equally risky) Matt Damon vehicle The Informant! You've got to admire that sort of reckless yet calculated drive to keep making cinema at all costs. Especially when your newest blockbuster (and yes, after coming in 2nd in the weekend box office, i think we can consider this a success) is a quiet, intricate, detail-oriented heist of a different, taupey color.
If you go into The Informant! looking for slapstick and Ocean's style deception, the likelihood is that you'll be disappointed. Forget the wide release, the poppy posters, and the ad campaign. The Informant! is comedic, to be sure, but not in the way you might expect. It's more cerebral giggles than thoughtless guffaws. Inspired by true events and based on the book of the same title, the story follows Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon), a biochemist who finds himself in the upper crust of lysine development company ADM. Confronted with a megalomaniac need to continue climbing the corporate ladder, Whitacre tells a small fiction that launches an FBI investigation. One lie begets another and another, and soon Whitacre is playing the part of informant and criminal, clumsily setting up and manipulating events in an attempt to cover his initial claim. While the actions themselves suggest a parodical procedural situation, the film is surprisingly invested in making this seem as thoroughly business as usual as possible.
This means that as Mark Whitacre conducts meetings and day to day activities, the gags are few and far between and the humor is subdued. So, if you're not in it for the character, you might be wont to shy away from the mode of storytelling. This is not an exciting movie. It's not high-energy or combustible. It's almost a docudrama. Yet, what it lacks in other departments, it makes up for in Matt Damon. Damon's Whitacre serves as our lens into the world of the film. His constant internal monologue of non-sequitors and thoughts are the only hints we get (through 75% of the movie) at what's really going on. Like a character from a story by Barthelme or George Saunders, Whitacre's corporate consciousness is misleading and underhandedly humorous. It's hard to imagine Whitacre as capable of effectively taking the trash out without distraction, let alone leading an FBI investigation.
Damon proves, once again, that he can act. He jabbers incessantly and plays his doltishly duplicitous character with a convincing air of latent Midwestern aggression. There's an escapist quality to the downhome, 1990's atmosphere enhanced by a patently absurd Marvin Hamlisch score that forces us to see Whitacre's little lies as his own personal battle against Dr. No. Damon gets both the character's own ego and the viewer's sense of Whitacre as a sort of addlepated schlep and mixes them together in a way that comes across as effortless. In his wake, the other actors could be almost anyone. Melanie Lynskey functions well as Whitacre's loyal milktoast wife. Scott Bakula is suitably bland as Whitacre's FBI contact. And if you've been eagerly awaiting a shift to high-profile on the part of Soup host Joel McHale, this is a good start, but not a breakout performance.
Overall, I can't say that I enjoyed The Informant! as much as I wanted to. Yet, I appreciated it in a way i found surprising. The film welcomes an age of unexpected early 90's nostalgia and will undoubtedly be cause for several Matt Damon nominations come award season. Keep in mind, however, it's that kind of movie. Just because it showed up at your local multiplex doesn't mean it isn't the type that usually spends weeks slowly building up steam in limited release. I'd recommend a listen to the This American Life episode that got Soderbergh's attention several years back before you jump in unawares.

Chicago International Film Festival!

The Chicago International Film Festival's schedule was released to the public today, which means if you're hanging around the Midwest, you should check it out. Opening night is the Uma Thurman comedy Motherhood, closing night is the period epic The Young Victoria with Emily Blunt heading up a cast of formidable Brits. If the choices seem odd, don't worry, a slew of favorites from Cannes, Telluride, etc. are lined up for the two weeks in between. How excited am I? So excited.

Under 250: Observe and Report


I have observed, and I'm now here to report that this film is hugely disappointing. Months ago, when Jody Hill's (Foot Fist Way, "Eastbound & Down") Observe and Report was floating around the theaters, i'd looked forward to it, and why not? Here was a film purported to be severely deranged starring comic actor of the moment Seth Rogen, an anti-Paul Blart with raw humor and a more depressing take on the world of retail, the way i saw it: what wasn't to like? As it turns out, even though it's all of these things, there's a lot not to like. Disregarding the inflammatory claims of date rape (the scene in question sits in a grey area within the context of the film), the most offensive aspect of Observe and Report is simply that it's not so funny. Unless your definition of humor is constructed solely around repetitive use of the word "fuck", the script leaves a lot to be desired. There are clunky subplots, slapped together resolutions, off putting modes of character development. On the surface, the film is actually closer to dramatic tragedy than comedy, Rogen's protagonist is a confused man-child suffering from serious psychological disorders and struggling to find a place in a world that he's not fully able to function in. While Rogen himself makes a convincing latent sociopath, alternating effortlessly between naivete and rage, the film's own bi-polar tendencies undermine the movie. Observe and Report can't decide if it's Falling Down or Police Academy. The side characters are wacky cliches and the scenes tend towards the comic absurd, but in the end it's rooted in something too heavy to succeed under the constraints its created for itself. The result is that the jokes fall flat and the drama occupies an uncomfortable terrain that the audience stews in. While part of me appreciated the unconventional route and the level of commitment needed to keep this story operating at the level it does, i have to admit i was dubious and a little bored.
2 out of 5.
Observe and Report, dir. Jody Hill, starring Seth Rogen, Anna Faris, Ray Liotta, Michael Pena. Rated R. Running Time: 86 minutes.

Classics Under 250: The Company of Wolves

I started watching The Company of Wolves at 4 a.m. on Sunday night merely for the comforting 80’s nostalgia I knew I’d receive from it. But within the first ten minutes, this little known film made my list of top horror/fantasy films. Neil Jordan (best known for The Crying Game and Interview With a Vampire) directed this one of few haunting ruminations on fairy tales, reminding the viewer how terrifying and deeply rooted they are in our Freudian psyches.

The film begins with a modern girl (Sarah Patterson) asleep and feverish in bed. As she tosses and turns, we quickly follow her into a deep dream world filled with interesting twists on the classic wolf-centric fairy tales we all know and love, especially focused on the tale of Little Red Riding Hood. Angela Lansbury acts as the film’s main narrator, playing the role of the girl’s proverbial granny that meets a foul end via a wily wolf.

The film isn’t exactly linear, not far from my other favorite surreal 80’s offerings from the likes of Cronenberg or Lynch, but also contains some of the best man to wolf transformations I’ve seen yet. They are, realistic, disgusting, and horrifying, a far cry from the overly CGIed manwolves we can expect from the upcoming New Moon. Again, Jordan proves why he’s one of our greatest directors, and reminds us just how scary the big bad wolf really is.

5 out of 5

Read more from M @ Bubbly.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Love: Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

Last week, I never would have guessed i'd be reviewing Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs before Jennifer's Body and The Informant!.  Now, here we are, discussing an animated movie based (loosely) on a beloved book from my childhood. How did this happen? I don't know... but I have no regrets. This is one meteorological disaster movie worthy of close inspection. Not only is Cloudy whimsical family fun, it also operates as a wholly intact and remarkably effective work of legitimate comedy as well. SNL's fabulous Bill Hader lends one of his thousands of voices to Flint Lockwood, a bright young inventor with a track record of experiments gone kookily awry and a need to prove himself to his unibrowed father (James Caan). Flint works in a makeshift laboratory built around the tree house of his childhood, seeking to solve the world's epidemic of untied shoelaces and searching for a cost effective means of saving his struggling island town from eating sardines for the rest of their foreseeable futures. He invents a device that transforms water into any food imaginable and, after a powerful jolt, accidentally rockets it into the stratosphere. Hence, what would have otherwise been your usual H2O precipitation begins manifesting itself as falling food.
Flint's device is an accidental hit. Through the wonders of satellite technology he can order up food on request. It keeps wannabe weather girl Sam Sparks (Anna Faris) on the island, promises to boost tourism, and makes for many a moment of wonder on screen.  If handled improperly, the film could easily have lost itself to juvenile sight gags and an overwhelming sense of self-deluded grandiosity and syrupyness. However, the cloying moments are amazingly non-existent. The filmmakers here take on the content with a sparkling wit and imagination that makes the film infectiously fun and, believe it, thoroughly engrossing. This is one of those bright, bubbly movies that's perfectly safe for little ones (it snows ice cream!) but has a whole 'nother level of humor adults can appreciate as well (while not over stuffing it with references and allusions that will render the movie obsolete in a few years, i'm looking at you Dreamworks...). There are puns, well-timed reaction 'shots', and the vocal talent of a who's who of pop cultural cult icons: Bruce Campbell, Mr. T, and Neil Patrick Harris all find places here.
This is Sony's first outing with 3D animation, and it's definitely a success. While it's no Pixar, the characters' expressive capabilities and goofy looks are perfectly suited to the storyline. Meanwhile, the film's humor is underscored by real heart. The 'family film' messages here are several, but the main one is to be who you are, and if that person is a total brainiac nerd...that's cool, there's a place for you.  Its delivery, it should be mentioned, takes place in a Jell-O mold palace complete with bouncing replicas of David and the Venus de Milo.
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is an enjoyable romp that mixes genres (from disaster to romantic comedy) with ease and silly sophistication. While it's certainly a far cry from the 1978 book by Judi and Ron Barrett, it captures many of its memorable moments and delivers a charming explanation to the events illustrated in that classic piece of kiddie lit. If you've got a few ounces of imagination and the ability to suspend your disbelief, this is a great little addition in what is shaping up to be a year of surprisingly superior animation.

My main complaint? Not enough meatballs.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

(Not Even Close To) Under 250: X-Men Origins: Wolverine

I knew it was going to be bad when they insisted on inserting the ‘X-Men Origins’ bit before the title. My expectations were low. They became lower still when I heard the theatrical reviews. Now, having actually viewed what is undoubtedly one of the worst films of the year, the only positive remark I can make is that I was admittedly more entertained than my seventh circle deep expectations expected. That’s not because it was an especially flashy and rollicking film, no. It’s because it was at a comical and embarrassing level of bad. Like, in a way that makes it glaringly obvious that a solid groundwork for Marvel at the Disney corporation is nothing if not a GOOD THING. If you’re going to watch Wolverine, it would be wise to have no prior knowledge of the character, or any of the X-Men, because your viewpoint will be shattered. And yet, if you go in not knowing any of the X-Men, you will leave knowing even less. Characters are introduced and alluded to constantly, without any acknowledgement or hint at their chosen identities and catchy names. You may be confused, for example, when a boy known as James suddenly grows up and is referred to as Logan and then chooses to call himself Wolverine. Or, Sabretooth is a prominent character, but you’ll never know you met him. The film makes vast temporal leaps and snap decisions, its characters communicate through snarky dialogue and yells of hilarity inducing rage. It’s frantic, brazenly unconcerned with character development, and big into ignoring logic. Hugh Jackman makes a decent Wolverine in small doses, but when his character is the focus of the film he loses steam fast and becomes a hollow vessel. Yet, as offenses, all of these things pale in comparison to the horrible quality of the special effects. I haven’t the damnedest idea who they outsourced that job to, but there are several minutes where Wolverine stares at his new adamantium claws and they look like dimensionless cartoon drawings. Later in the film, the same wunderkinds designed Emma Frost’s “diamond-hard skin” as being made out of literal diamonds. No, it wasn’t cool, it was ridiculous, like they went back in time and made this movie at the dawn of CGI. For a movie this big and this well-funded, one really has to question where the money went. Wolverine sets up a sequel, but I hope to god they never make it.

1.5 out of 5.


X-Men Origins: Wolverine, dir. Gavin Hood, starring Hugh Jackman, Liev Schrieber, Danny Huston, Ryan Reynolds, Taylor Kitsch, Kevin Durand, Will.I.Am. Rated PG-13, Running Time: 107 min.

Under 250: Duplicity

Julia Roberts is sort of like the female version of Tom Cruise. Her star power is undeniable at this point, but for the most part the characters she chooses to play are just different versions of the same character: Julia Roberts. Don't get me wrong, she's pretty good at it, and every once in awhile she falls into a role that amplifies just the right aspects (Erin Brockovich, for one). Duplicity isn't a exactly one of those roles, it's more of an Ocean's rehashing, but it's a fair diversion as things go. Roberts stars as an ex-CIA agent involved in a high-stakes corporate espionage game alongside the rogueishly appealing Clive Owen. The film is slick, heavy in traditional caper style, equally heavy (too heavy) in plot. The story is so intricate and twisty, it becomes difficult to parce out the details that matter from the ham-handed romantic backplot. Who's conning who turns into a question of how long can whoever's holding the strings can keep adding layer upon layer to confuse and exhaust the audience. About 3/4 of the way in, I couldn't tell if I was anxiously awaiting the big reveal, or fidgeting because I just wanted it to be over. Ultimately, the turns manage to be unexpected, but underwhelming. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it, but it's not deserving of a panning either. Basically, this is a mediocre movie with a limited shelf life, fun while it lasts but not lasting fun...if you know what i mean. Do you?


3 out of 5.


Duplicity, dir. Tony Gilroy, Starring: Julia Roberts, Clive Owen, Tom Wilkinson, Paul Giamatti. Rated PG-13, Running Time: 125 min.

Under 250: Rudo y Cursi

Leaving the terrain of Y Tu Mama Tambien behind, Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna team up once again for cartoonish buddy flick Rudo y Cursi. Directed by Alfonso’s brother Carlos, Bernal and Luna play Tato and Beto, half-brothers trapped in a dead end life of poverty on a banana plantation. When a talent scout’s (Guillermo Francella) car breaks down in town, Tato sees a chance at launching the music career he’s always dreamed of. Fate sees otherwise, and soon Tato and Beto are on a rags-to-riches trip off the plantation and onto national soccer teams. It’s a familiar tale of quick starts, greed, and excess played for quirky laughs and situation-comedy spikes of over-the-top dramatic occurrences. While not particularly unique or especially memorable, the shift in setting and situation (down south from Hollywood) makes the film charming if not ever so slightly heartbreaking. There’s a steady undercurrent of repercussions and real danger that eats away the shallow surface to reveal just enough to make this film pop. Bernal and Luna make the most of it, with the former lending a high-energy exuberance and the latter adding temperamental gravitas. While certainly not the best Mexican export in recent memory, Rudo y Cursi is an accessible film and worth a look, if only to hear Bernal’s off-key performance of “I Want You To Want Me”.


3.5 out of 5.

Dir. Carlos CuarĂ³n, Stars: Diego Luna, Gael Garcia Bernal, Guillermo Francella, Dolores Heredia. Rated R, Running Time: 103 min.

(Not Exactly) Under 250: The Informers

Here’s the thing, right? I’m that sick sick person who has a special place reserved in their heart and bookshelf for Bret Easton Ellis. Even as I shoot for higher literary pursuits, Ellis will always be my nightmarish idea of a beach read. I love his twisted displays of decrepit moralism, showcasing humanity at its absolute worst in order to indirectly warn of the outcome. With such Hollywood ready source material, I didn’t think it was possible to make a dull film out of The Informers. Rock stars? LA wealth? Drugs? Open relationships? Kidnapping? Vampirism (not of the supernatural variety)? Jesus Christ was I wrong. Boasting an ensemble cast, a solid soundtrack, and decent cinematography, The Informers manages to squander what its been given, edit the hell out of storylines, and present a glowing hot mess of plot and coked out nihilists just before the advent of AIDS. Even as you find yourself unable to look away, you’re as bored as the characters on screen who fuck without reason and whose motives are never revealed by the dialogue or director. Yes, it’s got style. Yes, there are parts that work well, many of them. The story focused on the crumbling family life of Billy Bob Thornton & Kim Basinger’s characters is cold, but intact. You can believe their situation and the disillusionment of their troubled teens. You can even buy into Lou Taylor Pucci and Chris Isaak’s creepy father-son relationship. Where the movie completely an utterly fails, however, is in tying one piece to another. The connections are flimsy, the logic is flawed, by the time the film ends, you don’t know what you’ve seen or how it was designed to function. There are pieces that seem like they should be poignant, but which fall flat because the impact has been dampened by improper lead-up. Plus, for anyone who’s ever read the book: the most shocking moments have been left out. There is no vampirism. That’s right: no vampirism. If you don’t have a connection to the source material, don’t bother. If you want a solid mix of Los Angeles short stories, go rent Short Cuts. Or, watch the opening credits of this film just to hear “New Gold Dream” by Simple Minds, relish the 80’s luxury, and shut it off.

1.5 out of 5.

Dir. Gregor Jordan, Stars: Mickey Rourke, Winona Ryder, Billy Bob Thornton, Kim Basinger, Jon Foster, Amber Heard, Lou Taylor Pucci, Chris Isaak, Rhys Ifans. Rated R, Running Time: 98 min.

Under 250: Adventureland

If I liked Adventureland the first time, I fell completely in love with it upon a second go. Adventureland is one of the most successful comedies of the year and amongst the most believable (and endearing) coming-of-age stories of the decade. Set deep within the pitch-perfect nostalgia of the 80’s, the film follows the post-collegiate trials of James Brennan (Squid & the Whale’s Jesse Eisenberg), an intellectual whose dreams of traveling Europe and university graduate programs are crushed by his the financial woes of his parents. Forced to find a summer job, James finds that with no experience, the only place willing to hire him is the local amusement park. He makes a few equally disgruntled friends and finds himself entering a conflicted relationship with a charmingly misdirected girl named Em (Kristen Stewart). What follows is a story of angst and triumph that effectively chronicles the ups and downs of being just on the verge of real responsibility. While the characters are familiar and the story swings back to John Hughes, the actors sell their roles no matter how small. The only potential weak spot here is the oddly cast Ryan Reynolds, who as the two-timing park repairman, may or may not be purposely shallow. Eisenberg, in playing himself, slam dunks his character’s archetype, and Stewart’s vulnerability reminds viewers that she is capable of far more than the cold dreck of her Twilight limitations. The references and soundtrack work as a perfect score to the summer and the film never stays in one mode for too long, striking an even balance between sex, drugs, crudity, and heart.

4.5 out of 5.


Dir. Greg Mottola, Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Martin Starr, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Ryan Reynolds. Rated R, Running Time: 107 min.

Under 250: Sunshine Cleaning

Goodness, gracious, we have gotten a little behind. Chalk that up to the fact that we're still getting off the ground and, well, school work has returned. We are busy people here at Love & Squalor, but that's no excuse. So, while they may be late, i'll try to give the run down of (at the very least) a bunch of newish DVD releases you may have been considering picking up.

The producers of Little Miss Sunshine attempt to duplicate their previous success using what someone must have considered a fail safe formula: Amy Adams + Alan Arkin in a movie with the word Sunshine in the title = certain success. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work. In theory, Sunshine Cleaning has all the hallmarks of an interesting story. Amy Adams plays Rose Lorkowski, a single mom who divides her time cleaning other people’s houses and having an affair with her former high school sweetheart (Steve Zahn). When it’s suggested there’s real money to be made in the exciting world of crime scene clean-up, Rose grabs her cynical sister Norah (Emily Blunt) and jumps head first into a blood-stained career. Blunt and Adams turn in solid enough performances as frustrated and emotionally fragile siblings, and as their curmudgeonly father Alan Arkin is (of course) a delight, yet their familial chemistry isn’t enough to save the film from its own lack of focus. Plainly put: none of the characters are strong enough to hold the film up on their own. The real interest here, and the only aspect that makes this standard family drama unique, lies in the business itself. The intricacies of the crime scenes, the ways in which these women enter someone’s life post-mortem, are not mined nearly enough to leave a mark. Instead, we’re given an all-too typical tale without rhyme or reason, acting alone can’t save a bland story.

3 out of 5.

Sunshine Cleaning, dir. Christine Jeffs, stars: Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Alan Arkin, Steve Zahn. Rated R, Running Time: 91 min.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Short Film: 9


Whether you've seen, are thinking of seeing, or don't know anything about 9, you might want to consider watching its source material: the original Oscar nominated short that the film has been extended from. While I've yet to see the feature length version, i have it on good authority that Shane Acker's animated feature uses many of the same story elements as his theatrical cut. So, check this one out for free and see what all the buzz might be about.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Under 250: The Go-Getter


2007's The Go-Getter is charming and sweet, due mostly to the acting of Lou Taylor Pucci and the comforting voice of Zooey Deschanel. But the film is also visceral and moving, bringing a similar flavor to, but grittier feel than Away We Go.

The story follows 19-year old Mercer (Lou Taylor Pucci) as he steals a car and goes on his own Huck Finn inspired journey to find his lost half brother. Deschanel is the owner of the stolen car who follows Mercer's journey while they talk via the car’s cell phone about life and his mother’s death.

This is one of few indie gems in which the use of more realistic film stocks and filters feels more warm and truthful, as opposed to cheap and shaky. This does not trap the Hynes the director either, as he slowly slips in the surreal during Kate and Mercer’s talks. Each shot is beautiful in composition and color, a perfect foil for the incredible performances.

For once, Zooey Deschanel's indie girl persona is allowed to soar and gains a depth she is rarely allowed to reach, rendering the viewer just as in love with her as Mercer. Pucci, who is better know for his breakout role in Thumbsucker is an incredible natural actor who disappears into the role. Whether laughing at his mother’s deathbed or upset over the loss of the stolen car, his emotions are haunting and subtle, making you feel as if you’re watching a real life unfolding before you. Look for the amusing supporting work of Jean Malone and Maura Tierney (in a role you’d never expect from her). This is the movie I expected to see when I saw 500 Days of Summer.

5 out of 5

You can read more from M @ Bubbly.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Late Night Trailers: Rage

Glad to have you back Sally. The legendary filmmaker of the beautiful films Orlando and the Man Who Cried, Sally Potter, has returned with a variety of our favorite Brits (and a few Yanks).

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