Two Comedies from Alliance
The Guard (January 3/12)
Written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, The Guard follows Brendan Gleeson's Gerry Boyle, an unorthodox Irish cop, as he teams up with a straightlaced FBI agent (Don Cheadle's Wendell Everett) to investigate an international drug-smuggling ring. It's clear immediately that McDonagh isn't looking to cultivate an atmosphere of gritty realism here, as the first-time filmmaker has infused The Guard with a decidedly off-the-wall feel that's reflected in its broad comedic sensibilities and less-than-subtle performances. And although Gleeson and Cheadle are great together and share a great deal of natural chemistry, The Guard is, in its early stages, overwhelmed by McDonagh's persistent (and increasingly desperate) efforts at eliciting laughs from the viewer - with the ongoing emphasis on eye-rollingly absurd bits of comedy diminishing the strength of the movie's positive elements. (There is, for example, an unreasonably silly exchange in which a character wonders if and how a person being liquidated would actually be turned into liquid.) The film's turning point comes just past the one-hour mark with an unexpectedly riveting sequence that immediately grabs the viewer's waning interest, and there's little doubt that this scene, involving a tense one-on-one conversation between Gerry and a would-be assassin, paves the way for an almost incongruously exciting climactic gunfight - which ultimately cements The Guard's place as a woefully uneven yet sporadically engaging debut feature from McDonagh.
I Don't Know How She Does It (January 4/12)
Based on the book by Allison Pearson, I Don't Know How She Does It follows working mother Kate Reddy (Sarah Jessica Parker) as she attempts to balance her hectic home life with the increasing demands of her high-powered job. Filmmaker Douglas McGrath has infused I Don't Know How She Does It with an almost egregiously slick sensibility that immediately proves problematic, as the movie subsequently suffers from a lack of authenticity that prevents the viewer from working up any real interest in the central character's ongoing exploits (ie Kate just doesn't feel like a real person). The sitcom-like atmosphere, which is most keenly felt in the emphasis on broadly-conceived jokes and gags (eg Kate must contend with a lice infestation during a pivotal meeting), inevitably dulls the impact of the film's admittedly charismatic performances, which is certainly no small feat given the presence of such notoriously compelling actors as Greg Kinnear, Pierce Brosnan, and Kelsey Grammer within the supporting cast. (Parker's relentlessly frenetic turn as the protagonist grows more and more grating as time progresses, however.) There is, as a result, little doubt that the more sentimental elements within Aline Brosh McKenna's screenplay fall hopelessly flat, which inevitably confirms I Don't Know How She Does It's place as a pandering and thoroughly irrelevant bit of chick-flick filmmaking.