5 Flights Up

May 9, 2015 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Morgan Freeman, Diane Keaton, Cynthia Nixon
Directed by: Richard Loncraine (“Firewall”)
Written by: Charlie Peters (“My One and Only”)

After being married for 40 years, Alex (Morgan Freeman) and Ruth (Diane Keaton) decide that it might be time to move out of the Brooklyn apartment they’ve lived in for decades. In making the biggest decision of their lives, however, Alex and Ruth must come to terms not only with getting older and accepting the aging process, but with letting go of the place of their dreams.

If there is a strength to be found in “5 Flights Up,” it is the chemistry between Freeman and Keaton. The moments in which they show affection towards one another are well performed, but it extends further than that. There’s a sense of frustration that Keaton is able to convey with her husband that is entirely set in his ways that is completely believable for a couple that has been married for decades. It’s an acknowledgement that they have been together for years, that they love each other, but sometimes they can be extremely difficult to be with. It’s a subtle note that is clearly amplified by two great actors.

As Alex and Ruth begin to interact with those looking to buy their apartment, nearly every person who walks through the door is a weird caricature of an actual human. Yes, it is supposed to be a satirical look at a “younger” generation, but not every single potential buyer has to have a larger than life quirk or be intentionally off-putting.

Of course, most of these issues can be attributed to a less than stellar screenplay. There are some nice touches, like Freeman’s character being confused about not being able to hear on an iPhone that he is holding backwards, but for the most part, his “crotchety old man” dialogue and frustration with young people is generic and cliché. The most glaring script problem, however, comes from the sideplot of a terror suspect on the loose and the resulting news coverage. It’s a plotline that only serves for a loosely connected metaphor that doesn’t register or resonate on any level.

Though are some interesting scenes that show Alex and Ruth as they came to be,“5 Flights Up” is just about as tepid as a film can be. Though some very mild fun that can be had with watching an intense and ongoing real estate transaction happen, that’s about the extent of the level of enjoyment about the film. When it comes down to it, “5 Flights Up” says nothing of importance, is oddly ageist, and is a giant waste of time for its two talented leads.

Darling Companion

June 1, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Diane Keaton, Kevin Kline, Dianne Wiest
Directed by: Lawrence Kasdan (“The Big Chill”)
Written by: Lawrence Kasdan (“Dreamcatcher”) and Meg Kasdan (“Grand Canyon”)

There’s nothing darling about “Darling Companion.” Come to think of it, there’s nothing endearing or satisfying or charming either. No life-affirming lessons to be learned. No significant morals about long-term relationships or unconditional love or the hardships of growing old. Not one single scene for moviegoers to feel even remotely close to any of the two or four-legged characters involved in the story. Unfortunately, real human emotion wasn’t meant to play a part in four-time Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Lawrence Kasdan’s futile foray back onto the big screen after almost a decade. With his latest, he does everything possible to make the search for a family’s beloved pet about as interesting as someone looking for a set of missing car keys.

Beth (Diane Keaton), an empty-nester, adopts a collie mix she rescues on the side of the road much to the chagrin of her self-involved surgeon husband Joseph (Kevin Kline). Nevertheless, the dog becomes part of the family although the script offers no concrete evidence in how close the animal bonds with them over the course of a year. All of a sudden, we’re swept away to the family’s vacation home in the Rockies for a wedding. The set-up is all very trivial in reaching the main purpose of the film: finding the dog after he gets lost during a walk in the woods.

The search itself is excruciatingly dull. The script, written by Kasdan and his wife Meg, fails to effectively confront any deep-seated issues between family members. The missing pup is supposed to be an opportunity for everyone to hash out their individual problems, but the Kasdans’ clueless storytelling wastes the impressive cast they have complied, which includes Dianne Weist and Richard Jenkins. It also focuses too much time on a gypsy (Ayelet Zurer) using her mediocre psychic abilities to help find the lost Lassie look-alike. She’s always wrong, so the idea the family would actually continue to follow her guidance is an absurd plot device.

Despite his success in the 80s with films like “The Big Chill” and “The Accidental Tourist,” Kasdan, who is also lauded for writing the scripts for “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Return of the Jedi,” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, hasn’t done anything of much importance in the last 20 years. “Companion” is definitely not the film that is going to put him in comeback mode. Maybe he’d have more luck writing a film about a director gone missing.

Morning Glory

November 12, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton
Directed by: Roger Michell (“Notting Hill”)
Written by: Aline Brosh McKenna (“The Devil Wears Prada”)

If “Morning Glory” were an actual segment on a news program it would be the equivalent of the fluff piece that comes somewhere during the show when the anchor replays a YouTube video of a parakeet whistling old TV show theme songs. It pointless, harmless, and sometimes even a little funny, but is also usually always forgettable.

What saves “Morning Glory” from becoming totally unmemorable after leaving the theater are the charming performances it features from most of the cast. It starts with Rachel McAdams (“The Notebook”) who plays Becky Fuller, a New Jersey morning show senior producer who is dealt a heavy blow when she is let go from her position after some restructuring.

Her unemployment, however, doesn’t last long when a struggling news station in New York City calls upon her lead their understaffed and underfunded morning show back into contention. It’s no “Today Show,” but Becky accepts the job and commits to it. Although most people don’t think she’ll last, including longtime co-anchor Colleen Peck (an underutilized Diane Keaton), there’s no denying her tenacity.

When Becky is left with an empty co-anchor seat, she seeks out veteran newsman Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford) to bring in some journalistic integrity onto the set. But when Mike’s arrogance begins to get in the way of the show (he refuses to cover news stories he feel are beneath him and uses words like “aggregated” on air), Becky must try to find a way to make everyone happy before their show gets cancelled in favor of game show reruns.

Directed by Roger Michell (“Notting Hill”), “Morning Glory” doesn’t try to be something it’s not. While there are hints the film will examine how the media industry is evolving in this new century, this isn’t’ a film like “All the President’s Men” or even last year’s underappreciated “State of Play” (another media-based movie McAdams stars in).

Instead, “Morning Glory” is a peppy movie that follows the same blueprint as a film like “The Devil Wears Prada,” both of which are written by screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna who, like in “Prada,” trips up the flow of the narrative with an cliché love story that benefits no one.

What “Morning Glory” needed to do was stay within the confines of the newsroom and make those relationships feel more authentic. It would have been nice to see more of a give and take between Harrison and Keaton, who butt heads whenever they share the spotlight. It would have been nice to know a little more about Becky aside from her failed attempts at dating and gluttony for work.

But McKenna and Michell take the easy way to the finish line. While the cast manages to stay likeable (even Ford’s unlikeable anchorman is fascinating in a pompous, Meryl Streep in “Devil Wears Prada” sort of way), the script comes together sporadically and without paying much attention to the multi-dimensional value of any of its characters. It all adds up to lighthearted entertainment that isn’t as newsworthy as it should have been.