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No One Wants to Fuck Monday Movies. We Look Like Voldemort.

50/50 is funny and sad at a perfect pitch — it’s hard not to spend the entire movie laughing and crying, each an engine for the other. Since Mysterious Skin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt has been my favorite young actor. He made (500) Days of Summer almost very good and Inception pleasant to look at in parts. He plays Adam, a twenty-something public radio journalist diagnosed with cancer, and a stick up his ass. Adam’s native emotional constipation turns dangerous with the arrival of his cancer, as his support network is patchy at best and he will need more than he can count on.

Bryce Dallas Howard plays his terrible girlfriend Rachael, whom he gives a chance to bail and who rejects it. Perhaps you’ve had a partner like Rachael. She can be distinguished by her need for your approval, which is much louder than her affection for you; as the latter fades away, she will affect ever more monstrous falsities in order to retain the former. There’s something hatable about Bryce Dallas Howard in this role. A lot of it is in her eyelashes. At times maybe 50/50 has its thumb on the scale against her. But mostly you can see where she’s coming from. You can see how cancer would turn a bad girlfriend terrible.

Anna Kendricks plays his therapist, two years younger than he is. She too is out of her depth, but she’s slightly less terrible a therapist than Rachael is a girlfriend.

Angelica Huston plays his mother Diane, also needy, even more empathetic. Perhaps you’ve had a mother like Diane. Adam tries to keep her in the dark because her emotions are a little louder than his. When he finally calls her to ask for help, she answers the phone shouting, “What’s wrong?”

Seth Rogen plays his best friend. Could you ask for a better best friend? Seth Rogen is not as chubby as he used to be, but he’s still a fine Falstaff, going so far as to teach Adam how to use his diagnosis to get laid. At the dawn of bromance, I said that Owen Wilson in Wedding Crashers made homosocial expressions of desire look like “the only kind of sex anyone would ever want to have,” and Rogen carries that flame. Apparently Rogen himself played a similar role for screenwriter Will Reiser when he underwent the events that inspired the movie.

This is a lovely movie about friendship, disease, family, suffering and love. Ultimately, a light one. Mrs. K-sky has two friends fighting cancer, both surprisingly young, though not as young as Adam. This is a short movie. Adam has a short cancer. Death is in the movie, but at the margins. If Will Reiser told half of his story in those 100 minutes, then he was one of the very lucky ones.

What did you see, and how did you like it?


October 17, 2011 - Posted by | Monday Movies | , , , , , ,


  1. I finally got around to watching Bridesmaids. I saw it on an airplane, never the optimal venue, but it got me through a couple of hours that otherwise would have been spent in my usual in-flight half panic. I liked it, maybe even liked it a lot, but I found myself wishing the movie felt, I don’t know, more real, or something. There were these moments — basically, the entire adorable policeman subplot for example — that felt like fantasy, and like a cop-out. Maybe I would have liked it better if the cop had really given up on Kristin Wiig, and she ended up alone, or if we could have skipped that whole too-cute-by-half scene where she keeps trying to get the cop’s attention by breaking the law. Or maybe I’m just in a pessimistic mood right now, and this isn’t a fair criticism of the movie.

    And anyway, it passed the Bechdel test with flying colors.

    Comment by jms | October 17, 2011

  2. 10/13/11 – Mahjongg – Edward Yang 1999 7/10
    Rough boys in Taipei. First half was hard to take, but it got a lot better.
    10/14/11 – Samurai Rebellion – Kobayashi 1967 8/10
    Too soon for another Kobayashi, he didn’t make a lot of movies. Umm, I seem to feel this guy’s reach exceeds his grasp somehow, that he lacks the final bit of craziness to be first-rate. But very ambitious and very fine.
    10/15/11 – Spring Snow – Yukisada 2005 6/10
    Based on a late Mishima novel. Finished the movie, picked up the book. You will never watch a prettier movie. Scathing review in the Japan Times says he sucked the life from the book while putting the surface on the screen. Part of the problem might be is that everyone in Japan knows the book, and he could just flash scenes. Mishima’s level of irony is fucking hard to get on screen. Oh, Genji Monogatari is all over this, including explicitly with a picture of the Prince as a key plot element, and it disappoints how few reviewers, of movie or book, mention it. Because, as the 1st volume of Mishima’s tetrology/final work/suicide note, Genji is what the story is about.,
    10/16/11 – Even the Rain – Iciar Bollain 2010 9/10
    Dedicated at the opening credits to Howard Zinn, and maybe a little heavy-handed in ways. Written by a Ken Loach collaborator. One of the best political movies I have seen. Perhaps overly clever and meta, but intelligent and full of small details, close observations that are fun.

    None of these movies come within parsecs of the Bechdel test.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | October 17, 2011

  3. We watched Hard Eight and This Gun for Hire. The former was very good, though The Girlfriend had already forgotten about it the next day; the latter was amazingly nonsensical.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | October 17, 2011

  4. While I continue to have seen no movies, I do wish Monday Movies to answer me this: why no mention of Brick in the list of Gordon-Levitt accomplishments?

    Comment by ben | October 17, 2011

  5. ben, the sentence is not a list of greatest hits, but one stellar accomplishment followed by two saving graces. That said, for me, Brick has a lot to recommend it, but it’s not a favorite. At times it feels like a slightly older Bugsy Malone. Veronica Mars is a far more grounded and accomplished high school noir. Still, lines like “I gave you Jer to see him eaten, not to see you fed” don’t come along every film year, and the Pin’s situation is hilarious.

    Comment by Josh K-sky | October 17, 2011

  6. You see, I have not seen VM. (Also, I think I will be willing to forgive a movie a lot, if it includes Nora Zehetner.)

    Comment by ben | October 17, 2011

  7. (Especially Nora Zehetner with awesome headgear.)

    Comment by ben | October 17, 2011

  8. Does NZ, or anything else, make The Brothers Bloom worth seeing? It got disappointing reviews, but looked like the sort of thing I would like.

    Comment by Josh K-sky | October 17, 2011

  9. No, absolutely not.

    Comment by ben | October 17, 2011

  10. I turned TBB in about ten minutes, Brody gets somnolent without cattle-prodding. Going through her credits, I don’t see much beyond Bricj that has NZ in it and is remotely recommended.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | October 17, 2011

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