Tag: Steve Carell

Irresistible

Verdict: Easy to resist.

Written and directed by American political commentator and satirist Jon Stewart (of The Daily Show fame) Irresistible, examines the crazy circus that is the US election system. It’s only Stewart’s second time in the director’s chair after his critically well-received debut, Rosewater. Unfortunately, lightning hasn’t struck twice, and what begins as a whip-smart political commentary descends into smugness and unapologetically spans a rather contrived narrative arc.

The film follows Democratic electioneering strategist, Gary (Steve Carell), who heads into small-town-America on a recruitment drive after seeing an inspirational speech from town-hall upstart Jack (played by Chris Cooper). Much to Gary’s glee, Jack’s rural brand of rhetoric is surprisingly sympathetic to the Democrat cause and Gary is eager to convince him to run for local Mayor, thereby giving the Democrats an unsuspecting voice deep inside the Republican camp… a Trojan Donkey, if you will.

It’s meaty political subject matter and something I would’ve expected Stewart, with his political savvy and witty repartee, to be all over a like Trump tanning booth. Yet, given the opportunities for satirical complexities, Irresistible is disappointingly plain. Carell is typically Carellesque in his humorous delivery, and the ever-reliable Chris Cooper competently negotiates some fairly straight-forward dialogue. But none of the film’s cast (Rose Byrne and MacKenzie Davis included) are stretched to anywhere near their talented boundaries, which speaks volumes to Stewart’s limited experience as director.

Yes, there are some highlights, most notably the film’s final subversive comment on financial involvement in the US election process, but digging beneath the film’s satirical surface reveals an unsavoury whiff of questionable virtues—from the creepy romantic undertones between the Gary and Jack’s daughter (who is half his age), to the tired city-slicker routine which comes across as condescending to small-town-America and whose inhabitants are depicted as simple but warm-hearted people. Shame, because despite Irresistible’s clumsy handling there is a well-meaning film that has some valid points to make on the financially warped US electoral system.

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

Battle of the Sexes

botsTennis seems to be a cursed sport in the world of celluloid, often plumbing the depths of innuendo or injecting romance where it feels out of place. Even the great Woody Allen failed with Match Point.  Unfortunately Battle of the Sexes fares no better, with Directors Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton continuing a slow decline since their excellent debut with Little Miss Sunshine.

At the centre of this true story is a tennis match between tennis great Billy Jean King and former number one Bobby Riggs.  It’s 1973, and King (played by Emma Stone) is the number one womens tennis player in the world. Her attempts to resist the public taunts of self-confessed male chauvinist, Riggs (played by Steve Carell), become too great when he offers her a large pot of money to beat him in a tennis match—a match he touts as “male chauvinist pig versus hairy-legged feminist”. It is a promoters dream and a genuine case of “only in America.”  However, bubbling beneath the buildup to the match are Billy Jean’s personal battles over her sexuality and its impact on her marriage.

In an attempt to find some sort of meaningful message, the film rallies between Bobby Riggs and his gambling addiction to Billy Jean King and her relational problems, and seemingly everything in-between. Unfortunately, Battle of the Sexes seems very unsure about what message it’s trying to give; raising women’s rights, sexual identity, gambling, pay equity, marital balance, etc. It just throws all the balls in the air and lets them land … mostly out of court.

It’s a docudrama, biopic, romance, and comedy all rolled into one story that deserved a more focused telling. It’s a shame when the most compelling part of a film is the “what became of them” text that appears prior to the credits.

To be fair, it’s not all mishits and double-faults—the film does manage to capture the look and feel of the seventies without falling into cliche retro. Also, there are some tender moments that briefly brought me out of my slumber, but don’t expect the sum of its many parts to add up to a coherent whole.
 

You can see my published reviews here.

Crazy, Stupid, Love

Saw Crazy, Stupid, Love last night. Hmmm … not a very good film. But then again I didn’t really expect it to be. So why did I watch it? Well it was a “couch night” with Seema (my wife) and I. She wanted to watch something “nice”, which usually means a romcom (or chick flick). Every now and then you’ll strike good one. Not on this occasion. I thought with Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling starring, this film might’ve climbed out of my pit of pessimistic expectations. Sure we had the odd giggle, but on the whole it was your usual corny romcom pap that in a years time will be lost in the oblivion of similar films. Not without regrets though as a film like this does wonders to my appreciation for good cinema, and of course a night in, watching any film with Seema, is time well spent!