Sunday, February 9, 2014

MOVIE WRITEUPS: Enough Said, Blue Jasmine and Short Term 12

Enough Said

Director: Nicole Holofcener
With: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, James Gandolfini, Toni Collette, Catherine Keener, Ben Falcone, Tony Huss, Anjelah Johnson, Michaela Watkins, Eve Hewson

I don't watch a lot of TV shows so I didn't have much knowledge about James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus before Enough Said existed. I know! Shame on me. I only learned about James Gandolfini after he passed away despite watching films with him as part of the cast. I didn't know his name then. I didn't even know that he's popular. Yikes! As for Julia, I've only watched a few clips of her in Lisa Kudrow's Web Therapy, some Youtube clips of Veep and Seinfeld. I also know Julia as the comedy actress who beat Lisa Kudrow's performance in The Comeback back in 2006. I'm a huge Lisa Kudrow fan so my Julia Louis-Dreyfus awakening isn't that good. But I completely forgot about all of these when I watched Enough Said. Main reason is they proved to be good actors. And the film, while just above average, was also very fun too.

From the get go, Julia Louis-Dreyfus made me chuckle with her subtle yet hilarious facial expressions while she massages her clients.  She made a good first impression. Plus points that she's a masseuse in this film. :3 Same with James Gandolfini. I don't know much about his personality or the way he acts. Never saw an episode of The Sopranos, but from what I saw in Enough Said, he acts naturally. He's got the mix of machismo and tenderness in him. Nicole Holofcener's direction and screenplay clearly helped my opinion of them.

Enough Said is a light and simple film that stimulates both our emotions and thinking about love, life, friends and family. It grasps your attention even when there's nothing outrageous going on in the film. Witty conversations and interesting plot drives the film successfully and entertainingly, for that matter. Emphasis on witty because I can watch James and Julia flirt and converse with each other for an hour for the sake of hearing everything that comes out of their mouths. The script is THAT good. Their humorous and natural performances just served as bonus.

Enough Said is nothing short of fun romantic comedy and even bittersweet drama. However, it's also not outstanding compared to other films in the same genre. I might forget about it a few months or years later.

Blue Jasmine

Director: Woody Allen
With: Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin, Bobby Cannavale, Peter Sarsgaard, Louis C.K., Andrew Dice Clay

All the awards to Cate Blanchett! I am rarely in-sync with the award giving bodies' 'bests', but I'm with them thinking that Cate Blanchett is the 'best actress' of 2013. I've always kind of liked her but that doesn't mean that I always find her performances awesome. She's known to be OTT in portraying her characters that sometimes her performance is verging on SNL style of impersonation. Just watch her version of Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator. :)) But here in Blue Jasmine, she's got the rhythym and restraint. I have to give Woody Allen credit for calling her to play the role of Jasmine/Jeanette because aside from the fantastic performance, her appearance suits her character really well - glamorous and sophisticated. But she's not the only perfect cast in it. I thought Sally Hawkins and her gang in the film were also perfect. Their appearance, as trashy as they looked, perfectly captured the opposite worlds of Jasmine and her sister Ginger that Woody Allen was trying to convey.

Blue Jasmine is considered a drama but it's actually a very fun and hilarious to be labeled as one. The character Jasmine reminds me of another character Valerie Cherish wherein both are suffering in their current lifestyles because they're used to their old comfortable lives - Jeanette being rich and Valerie being famous. And while the latter is ironically successful in getting back her fame, Jasmine struggles in finding a new way/person to help her climb back up the ladder of high class society. This causes her to have nervous breakdowns, HILARIOUS nervous breakdowns. She's one of those characters where people would probably be annoyed to deal with in real life, but she's undeniably entertaining if you're just going to follow and watch her journey as a viewer.

Woody Allen continues to write entertaining films and creating characters that will grip you from start to finish. I've always enjoyed the ironies, satires, conflicts and chaos in his works and Blue Jasmine is not devoid of them. In fact, they're everywhere in it. Sort of reminds me of 90's comedies. Blue Jasmine may not be my favorite Woody Allen film, Matchpoint has that honor :3, but it's up there as one of the most entertaining.

Short Term 12

Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
With: Brie Larson, John Gallagher, Jr., Kaitlyn Dever, Rami Malek, Keith Stanfield,

Have you ever met someone who has an almost identical experience as you? And by experience, I mean dark experiences and past. If yes, did you share it with him/her despite not wanting to retell those bad stuff? Most of us probably have those experiences but it's really good when you know someone who shares the same experience as you. That person makes you feel that you're not alone. But at the same time, it may be dangerous because that person will also remind you of things you want to bury in the past. Well, this writeup is starting to become really personal and cheesy but they're all kind of related to Short Term 12. It's a heartwarming film that leads to dark places but finds its way back to the right direction.

Short Term 12 is about dark secrets and dark past as the title itself is the name of a home for teenagers who suffer from these stuff and need guidance. It's a small film that deserves more recognition. Clever screenplay including great children stories and badass original song, creditable performances and themes that would touch your hearts. I keep on mentioning dark stuff but in the end, it's actually a feel great film with nice lessons to tell.

Brie Larson as one of the young supervisors of 'Short Term 12' gave a brave performance, one that would make you admire her character and despite the braveness, she also showed a lot of depth and susceptibility. She also proved her versatility as an actress by showing the mature and independent side of the character. Something that's very different from her roles in The Spectacular Now and Don Jon. Even her fellow young supervisors are inspiring especially on how they treat the at-risk teenagers. They make the difficult and fragile job rather fun and rewarding.

If only Short Term 12 had more back up support by its producers, it would probably be big come awards season. But even I, who consider this a REALLY good film find a hard time integrating this to last year's glut of outstanding movies.