After premiering at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, The Skeleton Twins is finally showing in theaters and fortunately for us, at the Avon.
Starring Saturday Night Live alums Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, The Skeleton Twins is about Dean (Hader) and Maggie (Wiig), a pair of twins who had not spoken in ten years before reconvening after they both attempt and contemplate suicide on the same day. Pretty dark for two people who made Studio 8H roar in laughter and applause not too long ago, right?
The Skeleton Twins is not a comedy, but with Wiig and Hader, it reminds us that even in the most depressing parts of our lives we can find people who understand us and maybe make us laugh, or at least share a smile. Their performances are phenomenal and incredibly nuanced.
Maggie is married to an adorably oblivious husband, played by Luke Wilson, who wants to starts a family in the near future. Maggie, on the other hand, keeps her reservations about having children a secret, leading to questionable choices with other men. Dean has been living in Los Angeles, trying to make it as an actor but struggling to make ends meet as a waiter. His relationship with his boyfriend has evaporated, and he has no one to turn to. We finally see the twins together when Maggie comes to pick up Dean at the hospital to bring him to her home in New York after his attempted suicide. Through a series of flashbacks, we see the chemistry they’ve shared since childhood and eventually learn that their father committed suicide in their early teenage years, leading to further familial complications.
The Avon is still feeling the Oscars excitement, so they’ve brought back two films that picked up a combined four Academy Awards.
12 Years a Slave is back, for those of you who missed it the first time around. Having won Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay, the film has done pretty well for itself. I have to admit that the promise of tears, fear, and depression kept me away before, but I’m committing to finally watching 12 Years this week.
Who doesn’t love watching Joaquin Phoenix being weird (in real life or fictionally)? Her is everyone’s new favorite love story which explores the increasingly relevant idea of alienation in an overly technological society and the question of whether artificial intelligence will always be so artificial. It is better summarized, though, as a man falling for Siri, our beloved alumna.
12 Years a Slave is playing at 1 p.m. and 6:20 p.m. daily, with Her playing at 3:40PM and 8:55 p.m. Don’t miss out on either one. Oh, and if you haven’t already, please watch this amazing video of kids acting out all the Oscar nominees. My personal favorite: The Wolf of Wall Street spoof, but I have to say the baby Joaquin does a pretty stellar job.
I knew that I wanted to see Gloria when I first saw its preview a few months back. The two-minute clip didn’t give away much—there was a quirky-looking middle-aged woman in thick-rimmed glasses laughing by herself a lot and some empowering Spanish music. The film was attractive because it looked like both a feel-good indie film and a likely projection of someone I could relate to in thirty years. Now that I’ve seen it, I can’t say the protagonist and I are quite the same. Gloria is way, way cooler.
Gloria delves into the life of your typical divorcée who has lost herself and her sense of purpose in the rubble of family, friends, and daily life at work. Though she fits the mold of millions of characters we’ve already met, there’s something whimsical setting Gloria apart. Directed by Sebastian Lelio and starring Paulina Garcia, Gloria was shot and takes place in Chile. The movie is acted in Spanish and paired with subtitles, yet felt just as relatable as your go-to rom-com about old folks smoking weed and falling in love (It’s Complicated, The Notebook, etc.).
The best thing about Gloria isn’t even the inherent need to cheer alongside her as she kicks ass in all that she does. Rather, it’s the small details so cleverly snuck in. For example: in the first few minutes of the film, Gloria returns home to find an ugly cat in her foyer that belongs to a neighbor. No matter how many times she shoos the cat away, it constantly finds a home in Gloria’s bachelorette/hip grandma pad throughout the film, teasing her spinster way of life. Gloria will have great sex but will return home to find the cat; she goes bungee jumping and then finds the cat. As we follow Gloria through a romance more youthful than some I’ve experienced, undertones of aging linger constantly. The film, therefore, becomes whatever you want it to be. A moderate chick-flick for the intelligent woman; a clever love story for the avant-garde guy.
It’s almost besides the point to say that 12 Years a Slave, which began playing at the Avon on Friday, is a great movie. Of course it’s a great movie. It’s technically polished, well-acted by all involved–Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender, primarily, with brief appearances by everyone from Brad Pitt to The Wire‘s Michael K. Williams –and well-managed, if a bit self-consciously, by director Steve McQueen (not the guy from the 70s car chase movies). But this is beyond a great movie: it’s a statement, with enough sheer power to transcend its medium and become something far more important.
A lot has already been written about 12 Years a Slave‘s cultural significance, including this Washington Post article that quotes African Studies professor Tricia Rose and this Grantland column that is near as long as War and Peace. I can’t speak to the kinds of issues those pieces bring up. I’m not well-read or well-learned or well-cultured enough to be articulate about the broader relevance of the film in the context of American race relations or in the context of American filmmaking.
It is very active decision on my part not to include the trailer for Enough Said in this post. Like too many a trailer these days, it reveals too much of the plot, ruins too many jokes, and leaves little to the imagination of the viewer. (Having said all that, it is cut to “German Love” by STRFKR, which is a commendable cutesy-indie soundtrack choice.) The film stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Eva, a divorced massage-therapist with a daughter soon to be leaving for college, and James Gandolfini, also divorced with a college-bound daughter, both hoping to find a better love the second time around. With that in mind, it’s pretty easy to conclude that Enough Said follows a predictable romantic trajectory—or at least, the new predictable rom-com trajectory. It’s full of those uncomfortable moments, idiosyncratic characters, and cringe-worthy statements that fill the current independent romantic film genre, a comment that I’m aware I made about last week’s In a World… But Louis-Dreyfus is as great a comedian as ever, and the film is certainly funny, if wildly uncomfortable. There is more to the film than pure comedy; in a more tender moment, Eva tells Albert, “I’m tired of being funny,” and we feel the emotional exhaustion of a woman hiding behind humor.
Enough Said focuses on a fairly untapped demographic in the rom-com genre: middle-aged, not-so-good-looking people. Let me clarify: I’d never call Louis-Dreyfus unattractive, but surely we can agree that the late Gandolfini, whatever his other talents may be, did not get by on his looks. He’s big and hairy and losing his hair, and Louis-Dreyfus declares at the party at which she meets him that she is not attracted to a single person present. And while we have become adjusted to the independent film industry making romantic comedies about less glamourous people—Demitri Martin of In a World…, for example, is no Brad Pitt —it does still seem highly irregular to have an older, actively un-sexy man assume the romantic lead. The boys on Girls may not be heartthrobs by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re still in their 20s and thin, and thus the idea of them having sex seems much less bizarre than watching Gandolfini clumsily fondle Louis-Dreyfus. Continue Reading
If you have a chance before Friday, you should actually attempt to catch a showing of In a World… at the Avon. The film won Best Screenplay at Sundance this year, and tells a sweet coming-of-age (in your 30s) story of a woman desperate to break into the voiceover industry, in which her father is already a huge star. Lake Bell starred in, wrote, and directed the film, whose title stems from the commonly used phrase in movie trailers. Bell’s directorial debut, In a World… has a pretty fantastic balance of cutesy-realistic love story, eccentric but well-written family dynamic, and feel-good female empowerment moments. You could call the film formulaic, but regardless, when you get the elements of the formula down so well, you end up with a great result.
Bell has a familiar face. She has made appearances in many a mediocre romantic comedy during the last few years (the awkward girl in No Strings Attached, the crazy second wife in It’s Complicated, the best friend in What Happens inVegas), but perhaps most importantly, she was the love interest/female lead in HBO’s short-lived but criticallyacclaimed How to Make it in America.