Screened Out: Love most ordinary

Screened Out: Love most ordinary

StephenMillerHeadshot_560873495.jpgGoing the Distance
(Starring Drew Barrymore, Justin Long, Christina Applegate, Jason Sudeikis)
Going the Distance is the sort of off-color romantic comedy most critics hate but audiences love. In truth, the plot is sketchy at best, loaded with stock characters and simple set-ups for jokes. However, the film still manages to be a charmer.

Long is a Manhattan bachelor squeezing out a living at a record company. Barrymore is a journalist who—after a disastrous relationship—starts her career late in life, finishing up an internship at a New York City newspaper. When they meet, the couple knows they have limited time, so they promise not to fall in love. They realize they’ve failed just as Barrymore is boarding a plane back home to California. So the lovers embark on an arduous long-distance relationship.

SODistance_736270108.jpgDirected by Nanette Burnstein (American Teen), the story is humorous and quirky, even if it isn’t surprising. Real-life couple Long and Barrymore have chemistry, and the dialogue is chock full of gross-out sex jokes. The genial comedy ambles on, even over some of its biggest laughs.

Sure, it’s not going to win Oscars and the script won’t be studied in film school. A lot rests on clichéd characters, like the sexist friend Sudeikis and neat-freak sister Applegate. Even the slick, indie soundtrack is used in ways we’ve seen a hundred times before.

Still, Going the Distance manages to be funny and charming, which is enough for a successful date night.

Eat Pray Love
(Starring Julia Roberts, Billy Crudup, James Franco, Richard Jenkins, Javier Bardem)
Spiritual transformations are difficult to show onscreen; this movie is proof. Eat Pray Love is an enjoyable biopic that noticeably lacks inventiveness and cohesiveness. There is a sense that protagonist Elizabeth Gilbert seeks deeper meaning, and the millions of people who read her biography apparently got this. The movie version, however, fails to create a consistent emotional arc of her philosophical globetrotting.

In 2004, Gilbert (Roberts) decided to end her first marriage, causing much heartache and angst. Before she got too serious with a New York City actor (Franco), she ran away on an extended world tour. The author spent a year in Italy, India and Bali. On her trip, she learned about her stomach, her soul and her love life—hence the title.

This flick does have a sense of wish fulfillment for people who long to travel. By nature, the scripting is choppy and episodic, making Gilbert’s spiritual evolution just about impossible to fathom. Gilbert visits exceedingly poor countries, but the poverty is secondary to exploring the cuisine, the clothing, and new romances. Towards the end, even her enlightenment seems like an egocentric little hobby.

Still, all of the actors give solid performance, and every so often, true emotions emerge. The cinematography is great for travel junkies. The chance to make a deeper, soul-changing connection with audience—to show Gilbert’s process of enlightenment—is missed.

The Switch
(Starring Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston, Patrick Wilson, Jeff Goldblum, Juliette Lewis)
The Switch is a little romantic dramedy where Bateman accidentally impregnates his BFF Aniston. It’s a creepy premise, but the movie ignores its own weirdness for “comic interruptus.”

SOSwitch_472726720.jpgWhen Aniston realizes her biological clock is winding down, she informs anal-retentive Bateman that she’s going to find a donor and have a baby. Bateman is nonplussed; he’s deeply buried his romantic feelings for Aniston. The prospect of losing her is so great that Bateman gets extraordinarily drunk, locks himself in her bathroom, and “hijacks” Aniston’s pregnancy (in a slightly unbelievable plot twist—don’t apply logic). Bateman’s crime is so heinous—and he is so inebriated—that our hero sublimates the memory until he is faced with the little walking product of his debauchery.

Bateman and Aniston are wonderful at subtle, character-based comedy. The script, though, sells them short, cutting its own potency. Bateman’s repression and neuroses are flaccid, making his emotional transformation less effective. Minor characters Goldblum and Lewis are just sloppy secondary characters without purposes or wants of their own. At moments when all hell should break loose, there is a sense that everyone holds back.

The whole shebang ends up being a pleasant enough one-night stand. It won’t inspire repeat performances.

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