Good movie, but best of all time? Hardly . . .
Exactly the movie you think it is, but not the movie you want it to be.
There are moments in this movie where the great movie it could've been peek out... They're fleeting, here, but they're worth savoring, and they happen often enough to make it worth your while.
I just saw this on TV and wasn't wholeheartedly paying attention during the opening credits, but thought the graphics indicated I would be seeing a Woody Allen film. Nope. Sure it had the humor and depth from some of the earlier and lesser known Allen flicks (Interiors), but this film had the unconscious fluidity and stellar acting that Allen's films of late have been regrettably lacking.The writing and direction by Sam Levinson were nothing short of incredible; I totes want to be his new best friend. The casting was phenomenal, and were I in charge of doling out the awards Barkin would've certainly garnered a best actress, Miller best actor, Burstyn best supporting, and of course Best Original Screenplay to Levinson. The screenplay had more meat on it than the Atkin's diet. It never faltered in relating throughout. Levinson must be extremely self aware and a professional at observation to write such tangible characters in the configuration that he did. A weekend of American family dysfunction was under the microscope and Levinson didn't paint with broad strokes nor did he get lost in the details.I can't say enough positive things about the film and the only thing I would take a few digs at would be a couple of tunes in the soundtrack, but that is so minor compared to this work that will resonate with you if you have sort of been "there".
Actually on top form. Which begs the question, why isn't she playing more and bigger roles? It's quite interesting seeing her play this tough role and she is very convincing. She has a stellar cast of amazing people around her. And while I do understand that some people might have issues with the characters on display here, this was exactly the point of the movie. I guess many thought this was a comedy, but it isn't. It's a drama and if you accept that from the start, you might enjoy watching the movie a lot more.Sometimes you are in tune with others who vote here and sometimes, like with this film it seems you aren't. The story is great and I was feeling with the main character the whole time. Family gatherings are not easy. Watching this isn't easy either. Although a lot easier than some other movies I recently watched. Give it a try (but rent first before buying)
Another Happy Day (2011)Another movie filled with inevitable clichés and a mixed bag of jokes and awkward comic encounters. It's nothing special, for sure, and because it seems to have some serious intentions it ends up being even more difficult to love. That said, it was nevertheless watchable because of the growing interplay between curious characters, and because of a couple of strong central performances.An odd but quick way to describe this movie is this: a Woody Allen farce about a contemporary apparently Jewish dysfunctional family in the rich suburbs somewhere on the Chesapeake, but without the grace and pointed brilliance of Allen's writing. It even begins with Allen-styled white on black text. And it's written and directed by the same person, Sam Levinson--who has probably gotten the chance for direct because his father Barry was so successful in Hollywood.What works is the bickering mayhem of a contemporary family. They are geographically dispersed but are reuniting for a wedding. Wayward children and ex-spouses all must encounter one another in what should have been (and sometimes is) a tense, hilarious, richly complicated scenario.The complicated part is there, at least. One of the characters is a son played by Ezra Miller who shows his torment, his dependence of substances of any and all kinds, and his sense of irony really well. The more famous actors like Ellen Burstyn give a strong presence on screen but have to work within the somewhat clumsy construction of the movie. Demi Moore makes a different kind of appearance and is successfully annoying without seeming to fake it one bit. Her husband is played by the ever daft seeming Thomas Haden Church. Throw in Kate Bosworth and a an aging (of course) George Kennedy and you can see how there are moments, or shards, of real potential here.It is rather the writing and the somewhat pushy melodrama that makes it wobbly even as the end tries to make the family gel. Maybe the movie is a sign of something better to come because it's an attempt at insight into the contemporary American scene. But the art of telling this kind of story, and of having actual insight instead of the appearances of such, need some serious work or maturity.
Before I realized that Sam Levinson, the writer of this film was also the director, I watched and wondered why so much technical fancy and stylish conceits were working so hard to sabotage the source material. All too often, it seemed like the hypnotic charm building up to a good scene would snap under the weight of slick camera move or a clever manipulation of sound, perhaps the result of immaturity or lack of faith in the writing itself. This made me think that the script did have some qualities, but most of the characters still lack an "arc" – the film introduces a wide array of folks, each with an apparent story to tell, but few if any have a chance to resolve their yearnings one way or another (sometimes just one line of dialog would be enough). This strips the film of the sort of satisfaction that a good drama offers. The cast is A-list, a fact that is both attractive and suspect, and although it is tempting to say that "performances are great" in truth, they mostly consist of fidgety and hysterical behavior, a touch overboard as always, when actors run a bit unchecked. Obviously, many viewers relate to this, and connect with these less than subtle displays of erratic emotions
"good acting" however, may entail a tad more
To be fair, it is nice to see Helen Burstyn not behave as the most hysterical of the bunch, for once – she delivers a nuanced performance and her role is held-back. Ellen Barkin, a powerful actress as always, brings her familiar intensity and pain. She always lifts a picture, provided that her character is sufficiently aware of its own processes. Here, again, I am not entirely convinced that she is given enough to work with, particularly when her big moment is handed down, and she has to deliver an impromptu speech, bearing all; if we were rooting for her all along, we the audience are abandoned without as much as a narrative footnote to help us understand why we must care. It occurred to me that the art direction of the picture is spot-on, and measured, masterful indeed in its restraint, as is the photography (the quality of the light) which never tries to upstage the performances; this only amplifies the sense that the director himself is drowning in his own pretensions (He did pick his subject matter, one I might add, which we have seen many times before). Ultimately, I would be tempted to ask what if anything this movie proposes to add to the list of depressing dramas about twitchy family dysfunction (Think "Rachel getting married," "Margot at the Wedding," etc.) I did not see anything new, nor did I walk away with any insights.