The Overnight

March 20, 2015 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling, Jason Schwartzman
Directed by: Patrick Brice (“Creep”)
Written by: Patrick Brice (“Creep”)

After a chance encounter at a playground, Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling) run into Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) who invites them to meet him and his wife at their house for a dinner party. Soon enough, the craziness begins to become amplified and things get weirder as the night goes on. While Alex embraces his newly found personal development, Emily wonders what the actual motive of this seemingly normal couple really is in “The Overnight.”

From a comedy standpoint, “The Overnight” relies heavily on the personalities of its actors, and nobody shines better than Schwartzman. It isn’t far off from many characters he has played, but there’s a certain earnestness and sincerity, even when he is showing hubris, that Schwartzman can pull off perfectly. Scott and Schilling are also good here, especially in the juxtaposition of their reactions to the events taking place. There are certainly some funny moments throughout the film, yet it wouldn’t be quite fair to call it a straight-up comedy.

Where the film gets a little interesting is in its presentation of complacency, normalcy, and being comfortable. While writer/director Patrick Brice plays a lot of things close to the vest, it becomes apparent quite early on that the purpose of this gathering is not quite what it initially seemed. Without giving too much away, the film dips and dives into areas of sexual comfortability, body shame, and yes, swinging. The problem is, every moment feels set up to be shocking. Any time an interesting point is made about how the evening is making people rethink their insecurities or impacting their relationship, it doesn’t have much of a punch because something “crazy” happened before or after it to blunt its impact.

In a lot of ways, “The Overnight” is about stepping out of your comfort zone, albeit in a very adult fashion. The main problem, however, is that Brice seems to rely far too heavily on the film’s eccentricities and catching the viewer off guard by way of shock value. There’s a theme of curiosity that permeates through the film, and it almost feels mirrored in Brice’s approach to see how his audience would react. That isn’t to say that there aren’t good performances or some interesting complexities to the situations at hand, but “The Overnight” never quite extends past the idea that all relationships get boring after a while.

The Overnight was screening at the 2015 SXSW Film Festival.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

December 27, 2013 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott
Directed by: Ben Stiller (“Tropic Thunder”)
Written by: Steve Conrad (“The Pursuit of Happyness”)

In “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” Ben Stiller plays the title character, a man with a menial job working in the photo department of Life Magazine. Walter spends much of his time daydreaming about grandiose and heroic scenarios, mostly involving Cheryl, (Kristen Wiig) a co-worker he has a crush on. When the decision comes down to discontinue the hard-copy version of the magazine in favor of an online format, Walter must go on a journey to places he never expected (including inside his own imagination) to try and save his job and the integrity of the magazine.

One thing that can be said for “Walter Mitty” is that there is not a lack of ambition from a filmmaking aspect. Acting as both star and director, Stiller uses the budget to his advantage and creates a large scope, complete with big set pieces and visual effects. Regardless of the content, the film can at times be extremely beautiful to look at, especially during the portions shot in the Icelandic mountains.

The main issues with “Walter Mitty,” however, lie in the heavy-handed screenplay. The film has a clear message and has no problem whacking you over the head with it, losing any and all subtlety it could have had. One particular message that gets overplayed is the slogan of Life Magazine, which, of course, turns into the film trying to define “the meaning of life.” Not only is this slogan read over and over again, but it is actually visually presented to audiences. In these scenes, text is spread in various ways across the screen in sequences that lacks any sort of restraint. Stiller and screenwriter Steve Conrad (“The Pursuit of Happyness”) toy around with other themes like someone going through an adult midlife crisis and the lack of satisfaction with lifestyles that go along with those moments in someone’s life, but these messages are too obvious and are approached with kid gloves.

There’s a few moments of decent comedy throughout the film. Comedian and actor Patton Oswalt has a particularly humorous small role as a representative of the online dating company e-Harmony (one of the many not so subtle instances of product placement throughout the film). Still, “Walter Mitty” is an underwhelming, yet often picturesque tale of a man looking for more out of his life. Stiller and Kristen Wiig, who both bring in the reigns of their usual over the top performances, are both good here but nothing can save a screenplay lacking grace.

Adam Scott – The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

December 27, 2013 by  
Filed under Interviews

As great as he is as all-around nice guy Ben Wyatt on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation,” actor Adam Scott truly excels at acting like a jerk. Whether it’s his obnoxious and mean character in the comedy “Step Brothers” or his stunning performance as the cynical and sarcastic Caleb Sinclaire in the criminally underseen and brilliant 2009 film “The Vicious Kind,” Scott’s dry wit gives him the ability to shine as an unlikeable character.

In “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” Scott taps into those types of characters again to play Ted Hendricks, a dickbag executive who mocks Walter (Ben Stiller) when his imagination gets the best of him. In a recent interview, Scott spoke with me about his magnetism to these unkind characters as well as his propensity for childhood daydreaming and explained what is up with his dominating beard in his new film.

In this film, Walter is obviously a big daydreamer and there are themes of people not doing the things they want to in life. It seems like people might daydream about being an athlete or famous actor. What does an actor like you daydream about?

I have kids now so I daydream a lot about my kids. Like any parent does, you’re constantly afraid of something bad happening to them. I have daydreams where I’m rescuing them from peril for whatever reason. But I grew up constantly daydreaming. My family’s nickname for me was “space cadet” because I was always just sort of staring off into space. I think it’s a good, healthy thing to space out. One thing that worries me about us all having these devices in our pockets at all times, and I’m certainly one of them, is that it’s cutting down on our space out time, which I think is healthy for the imagination and for your brain to stare out the window for a few minutes. The sections of time where we used to is now being filled with your device and your email or Twitter or whatever, which I certainly do and I kind of miss that time to reflect on the day or whatever. I think that’s something that resonates with me with this movie.

You’ve worked on “Friends With Kids” with Jennifer Westfeldt where you had someone who you were both acting with and who was the director of the film. How was it different working with Ben Stiller in both of those roles, especially considering the grander scale and a bigger budget?

When you’re directing and starring in a movie like Ben is with this, like he’s in every scene of the movie, it’s an enormous epic that we’re making…it’s a gargantuan task but you wouldn’t really know it watching him. He’s so focused and calm through the entire process of making the movie. The amount of hats he was wearing was mind-boggling. He was completely calm and relaxed the whole time and I think in order to complete something this big, you have to be. It was really inspiring to watch.

With your roles in movies like “Step Brothers” and “The Vicious Kind” and now “Walter Mitty,” is it getting easier for you to play these really unlikeable characters? To tap into that persona do you have to be in a certain mindset?

I don’t know what it is, I just really like, for a lack of a better word, “a-holes.” I like them in real life. I like watching them. I think they’re really funny. Just petty, petulant brats. Egocentric, ultra-confident a-holes. I think they’re really funny and I love playing them for whatever reason.  But I also love playing nice people as well. It was a relief when “Mitty” was done and I went back to “Parks and Recreation” and I could play a nice person again. It felt better, but it was a lot of fun playing the bastard as well.

This film features a pretty big fight sequence between yours and Ben Stiller’s character. How was it working on this sequence compared to say, riding a jet-ski in “Piranha?”

(Laughs) I love doing action stuff. I don’t get the opportunity to do it that much but it’s so fun to do and it was really fun on “Mitty” because it’s this quick one or two minute sequence in the movie but it took us weeks to shoot it. It’s incredibly complicated. We were up on wires barreling down 5th Avenue at like 45 miles per hour fighting each other over a Stretch Armstrong doll and it took a long time. We had “The Bourne Identity” stunt team helping us out and they were incredible. Just being a part of an enormous set piece like that was amazing. And same with “Piranha,” like riding a jet-ski and carrying a shotgun. These are the things that, like it or not, when I was a little kid and I wanted to be an actor, those are the things I really wanted to do. You know watching “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” that’s why I wanted to do this in the first place. So getting to do stuff like that in “Mitty” was literally a dream come true.

I have to ask you about the beard in the movie. It seems like it’s almost an intimidation beard you have going on and there’s purposely a lot of attention drawn to it. What was the inspiration behind the beard and was that something you brought or something that Ben brought?

You know it was in Steve Conrad’s script. He wrote that Ted had a “business beard” and Ben said he wanted it to be kind of like a Grecian beard. Like in the 80’s they had those commercials for Grecian formulas to dye your beard. So the beard is an intimidation beard. Ted Hendricks is the ultimate alpha male and the beard is kind of a sign of his masculinity. “I’m going to have the best beard in the world and I’m going to fire you while you’re looking at my beard.” It’s almost like a distraction when he walks in the room. You’re kind of marveled. It’s a hypnotizing beard, is what it is. So you’re distracted while he’s firing you from your job.

Friends with Kids

March 13, 2012 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Adam Scott, Jennifer Wesfeldt, Jon Hamm
Directed by: Jennifer Wesfeldt (“Kissing Jessica Stein”)
Written by: Jennifer Wesfeldt (“Kissing Jessica Stein”)

These days there are so many ways to have a family that hardly anything could really be classified as “unconventional.” But when long-time best friends Jason (Adam Scott) and Julie (Jennifer Wesfeldt) devise a plan to have a child without subjecting themselves to the pitfalls of marriage, their friends cannot believe they could follow through with such a crazy scheme.  This experiment of essentially going halfsies with the responsibilities of a child sets the stage for “Friends with Kids,” a dramedy that starts off uniquely funny but ultimately loses steam in its familiar dénouement.

Scott remains one of Hollywood’s best-kept secrets. Although not as dynamic as his stunning role in 2009’s “The Vicious Kind,” he shows he is perfectly capable of anchoring a movie in a lead role. He has a very natural and understated comic delivery and he is no doubt at his best when he is being a little abrasive. The rest of the cast is somewhat of a reunion from the film “Bridesmaids,” as four principal cast members from that film are in “Friends with Kids.” While Jon Hamm has a couple of great scenes to work with, the rest of the “Bridesmaids” alum doesn’t contribute much. For example, Chris O’Dowd sports a very strange accent that is hard to distinguish and Maya Rudolph’s character exists only to nag. It’s hard to believe director/writer Wesfeldt couldn’t even give the versatile Kristen Wiig something more to do other than drink wine and give piercing stares.

The set up in “Friends with Kids” is respectable, with a unique spin on the romantic comedy with two platonic friends agreeing to have a kid. It continues to be unique when just about everything goes perfectly smooth and there aren’t any problems. Of course, nobody would want to watch a movie about a situation working flawlessly and things inevitably begin to crumble. And as with the events on screen, so goes the structure of the film as it begins to feel formulaic and familiar.

“Friends with Kids” is certainly not a “laugh-out-loud” type of comedy. The humor is predominantly subtle and largely thanks to Scott’s knack for biting sarcasm. The film is certainly at its best when it hits its dramatic beats. One especially fantastic scene in particular is when Scott and Hamm’s characters have a war of words at a dinner table. In this scene, we get to see Scott’s acting chops on full display. When the film displays the chaos and strain having children can create in a relationship is when things get authentic.

The film ends with Wesfeldt uttering a strand of six utterly unromantic words that is almost certain to rub a good portion of the audience the wrong way. With the triple duty of acting, writing and directing, Wesfeldt probably should have focused her attention on making just one of those elements stand out instead of providing three so-so efforts spread around. It isn’t a terrible movie, but one can’t help feel like “Friends with Kids” could have been so much more.

Leap Year

January 8, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Amy Adams, Matthew Goode, Adam Scott
Directed by: Anand Tucker (“Shopgirl”)
Written by: Deborah Kaplan (“Made of Honor”) and Harry Elfont (“Made of Honor”)

It might have been forgivable for a movie called “Leap Year” to be released during a non-Leap Year, but when screenwriters Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont put their heads together things usually get far too ugly and aggravating to let anything slip by.

Whether we’re talking about a musical comedy like “Josie and the Pussycats,” a family comedy like “Surviving Christmas,” or a romantic comedy like “Made of Honor,” there’s little Kaplan and Elfont have done in the last decade to prove they actually know how to write something with even a hint of humor. Instead, the writing duo falls back into the safety of their grab bag of clichés and scoops out a few to get them through the day.

While “Leap Year” isn’t as dreadful as the aforementioned films, it doesn’t mean Kaplan and Elfont are getting any better. They manage to take someone as adorable and talented as two-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams (“Doubt”) and wedge her into some middlebrow comedy that really is not befitting for her.

In the film she plays Anna, an upbeat apartment stager who decides that if her cardiologist boyfriend Jeremy (Adam Scott) is not going to propose to her after four years, she’s going to take it upon herself to pop the question. Anna has just learned that it’s supposedly a romantic Irish tradition for the woman to propose to the man on Leap Day, Feb. 29. As luck would have it, Jeremy is in Ireland on business. How very serendipitous!

After one diverted plane ride to Wales, Anna is stranded in the English countryside where her only chance to make it to Dublin to see her boyfriend is to hitch a ride with Declan (Matthew Goode), a cheeky local pub owner who could use the fare. Oh, he’s also charming and attractive and has the ability to sweep American women off their feet, go figure.

Of course, the drive to Ireland isn’t that simple. Kaplan and Elfont give us a few sitcom-worthy obstacles the predictable couple has to overcome if they want to get to their final destination on time. From flooded cars to missed trains to – gasp – renting a room with only one bed, romantic comedies can’t get any more formulaic and stereotypical than this.

The conventional story includes the idea that tossing a city girl into the great outdoors and waiting for something hilarious to occur is just about the greatest thing anyone has ever come up with since, well, last year when Renée Zellweger traveled to Minnesota in “New in Town;” Sandra Bullock trekked through the snows of Alaska in “The Proposal;” and Sarah Jessica Parker ran through the wilderness of Wyoming in “Did You Hear About the Morgans?” Why screenwriters find these terrible fish-out-of-water tales so appealing is beyond comprehension.

While Anna and Declan frolic through the pretty scenery, director Anand Tucker (“Shopgirl”) doesn’t do much to build on the thin material. How do they become so infatuated with each other in the span of two days when half of their time together is spent fighting? Why is Jeremy made out to be a horrible boyfriend when he’s really done nothing to justify Anna forgetting the last four year of their relationship and reinventing her life on a whim?

It all makes little sense in “Leap Year,” an unrealistic and over-calculated mishap that won’t have legs past January.