Tag: Jason Sudeikis

Booksmart

booksActress and activist, Olivia Wilde, has kicked off her feature directing career with a trailblazing teen comedy that belies her inexperience as a film-maker.  Helped by a stable of female-centric writing talent (including Susanna Fogel: The Spy Who Dumped Me), Booksmart is a production that places young women stories front-and-centre without needlessly drawing undue attention to a “look at me, look at me” political agenda. Rather, it quietly acknowledges the gender-correctives that’ve recently hit the headlines and moves on with a normalising modern-day coming-of-age tale. Despite its many genre cliches Booksmart still feels fresh and honest thanks to Wilde’s inventive direction.

Wilde recently described her film as “the Training Day of high school movies.”—an odd comparison, although parallels can be drawn within Booksmart‘s darker recesses. More-so, Booksmart appears to sit somewhere between the goofy style of Superbad and the feminist smarts of Lady Bird.

Kaitlyn Dever (Short Term 12) and Beanie Feldstein (Lady Bird) play two high-achieving students, Amy and Molly, in their final year of high-school. Putting their social lives on hold in order to get into top Universities, the pair are disgruntled to learn that their hard-partying counterparts have also been accepted into similar institutions. Not ones to miss out on a teenager’s rite-of-passage, they head off to make up for lost time at the end of year party.

It’s not a particularly taxing plot, but what it lacks in brain-stretching complexities it counters with a quick-witted staccato styled humour, some richly fleshed-out characters that are a delight to be around and two leads that radiate an immense amount of chemistry.  Amy and Molly crackle and pop with enthusiasm as their giddy level of geeky charisma invites us to plumb the depths of their fomo and then be buoyed by their comical naivety. 

Add a menagerie of vibrant characters (including an amusing turn from Wilde’s husband, Jason Sudeikis), along with some very dexterous writing and Wilde’s whip-smart direction and you have a hilarious teen comedy that’s infectiously charming. Well worth getting a hall pass for.

See my reviews for the NZ Herald here and for Witchdoctor here.

Kodachrome

3Digital giant Netflix’s bankrolling of a film that champions all things analogue is an anachronism that some might smirk at. Others will nostalgically nod at Netflix whose roots lay in the twilight of physical media.  But when Ed Harris says “We’re strictly analogue here” Kodachrome not only makes clear its belligerent stance on the world’s love-affair with all things digital but also underlines the 35mm celluloid that it was shot on—a rarity these days.

Directed by Mark Raso (Copenhagen) and based upon a New York Times article written by A.G. Sulzberger, Kodachrome explores father-son relations against the backdrop of the titular film stock’s death knell.  

It is a pleasantly predictable film that centres on Matt (Jason Sudeikis), a grumpy record exec, who is reluctantly coerced into joining his estranged father to drive cross-state.  His father, Ben (played by the superb Ed Harris), is a renowned photographer who has to reach Kansas before the doors shut for good on the last Kodachrome processing facility in the world.  What adds to the trip’s urgency is that Ben is terminally ill with only weeks to live. His last few cherished roles of undeveloped Kodachrome film provide narrative direction but at its heart, Kodachrome is more concerned with exploring the frail emotional bonds between Ben and Matt.  The always-engaging Elizabeth Olsen (Wind River) plays Zoe who comes along for the ride as Ben’s nurse, and for all the father-son bickering she becomes more a mediator than Ben’s medical attendant.

Ed Harris’s performance can best be described as “nuanced”.  Oh how I cringe at the overused word, but in this instance, it so aptly describes a masterful portrayal that is brimming with subtle shades of expression. Harris sublimely encapsulates Ben’s bitterly cynical demeanour that is fleetingly betrayed by moments of existential joy.

Kodachrome is a warm and beautiful film—Cinematographer, Alan Poon, having made the most of the media it was filmed on. And although it is a touch predictable at times Kodachrome remains an Ed Harris masterclass and worth seeing for his performance alone.
 

See my reviews for Witchdoctor here.