Mini Reviews (September 2010)
You Again, Jack Goes Boating
You Again (September 25/10)
You Again casts Kristen Bell as Marni, a successful PR executive who returns home for her brother's wedding and is subsequently shocked to discover that he's marrying her high school nemesis (Odette Yustman's Joanna). There's little doubt that You Again fares best in its opening half hour, as the novelty of the eclectic cast - which includes, among others, Betty White, Victor Garber, and Sigourney Weaver - goes a long way towards sustaining the viewer's interest even in the face of a seriously sitcom-like premise and execution. It's just as clear, however, that the film, which has virtually no basis in reality, wears out its welcome awfully quickly, with the broadly-played nature of virtually every encounter and episode ensuring that You Again ultimately becomes as unwatchable as one might've feared (ie the majority of this stuff wouldn't pass muster on even the hackiest of sitcoms). Even Bell, undoubtedly a charming actress in her own right, succumbs to the movie's aggressively over-the-top sensibilities and offers up a performance that essentially boils down to a series of exaggerated facial expressions. The eye-rollingly melodramatic bent of the movie's final few minutes cements You Again's place as a total and complete waste of time, although, to be fair, there's a last minute cameo appearance by Cloris Leachman that ultimately stands out as the movie's one reasonably amusing attribute.
Jack Goes Boating (September 30/10)
Philip Seymour Hoffman's directorial debut, Jack Goes Boating casts the actor as the title character - a low-key limosine driver who embarks on a tentative relationship with a fellow oddball (Amy Ryan's Connie). Jack Goes Boating has been infused with a pervasively quirky sensibility that grows tiresome almost immediately, as the far-from-authentic nature of the various characters is exacerbated by an emphasis on dialogue that couldn't possibly sound more stagy. (It's certainly not surprising to learn that the movie based on a play by Robert Glaudini.) And though Hoffman admittedly crawls into the skin of an unlikeable character with his usual ease, there's never a point at which Jack becomes someone that the viewer wholeheartedly wants to root for or sympathize with. The lack of compelling figures certainly applies to the supporting cast, as John Ortiz and Daphne Rubin-Vega pop up as friends of Jack who are undergoing marital difficulties - with their ongoing exploits effectively bringing the proceedings to a dead stop on an all-too-frequent basis (ie they're just not interesting, so it's impossible to care about their problems). Jack's possible coupling with Connie seems like it should be a highlight within the proceedings, and while Hoffman and Ryan are admittedly good together, the two characters have been imbued with so many artificial qualities that it becoes impossible to buy into their possible relationship. The movie's watchable yet uninvolving atmosphere reaches its breaking point with the rather interminable dinner party that closes the proceedings, as the hopelessly over-the-top nature of the sequence ensures that Jack Goes Boating concludes on as anticlimactic and annoying a note as one could envision - which effectively cements the movie's place as a periodically passable yet oppressively uneven piece of work.