I recognise that perhaps the setup for this film is not the most original, and the characters are fairly dull as characters (they’re mostly variations on entitled middle-class white people), but yet I really enjoyed this relationship dysfunction comedy because it’s funny, and I am a huge fan of the always-underrated Melanie Lynskey, not to mention Alia Shawkat. The former is playing within her comedic element, as Annie, a woman who invites all her closest friends to a retreat at a family home out in the countryside as the pretext for staging an ‘intervention’ for her friend Cobie Smulders’ marriage, which ends up giving Annie a chance to rethink some things for herself. The film’s narrative arc is fairly predictable as are the ways everyone falls out with one another and then comes together again, but this is all about the performances from its ensemble cast, who are uniformly delightful. It also, importantly, doesn’t overstay its welcome.
Director/Writer Clea DuVall | Cinematographer Polly Morgan | Starring Melanie Lynskey, Alia Shawkat, Clea DuVall, Cobie Smulders, Natasha Lyonne | Length 88 minutes || Seen at home (streaming), London, Monday 2 January 2017
Having recently watched director Leslye Headland’s first film Bachelorette, I get the sense that she likes characters who are deeply unhappy — not unreasonable, as happy people can make for dull comedies — but at least in this case they are largely likeable. Jake (Jason Sudeikis) and Lainey (Alison Brie) first hook up in college and then, over a decade later, run into each other in New York, whereupon they resume a flirtatious relationship, all of which takes place against various meltdowns in their respective personal lives. It’s the usual stuff of romantic comedies — misunderstandings, infidelities, messy breakups, awkward one-night-stands — except here our leads are largely to blame. It’s the easy charm of the actors that prevents their self-involved sex-addicted characters becoming too tiresome, and they have some nice laid-back chemistry together. The last 10 minutes feel particularly forced, including a stupid cafe fight worthy of Bridget Jones’s Diary, but it allows generic convention to run its course. The film also makes Jake’s notable character trope his tendency towards mansplaining, which is really pushed into the territory of uncomfortable laughs. I guess that kind of blend of discomfort and comedy is a hallmark here, and viewers could go either way on it. I’ll be honest: my benign tolerance for it might be something to do with seeing the new Tarantino film directly after, which scorched the earth to such an extent that I can’t help but feel fondly about this little unprepossessing New York-set romcom-with-a-twist.
NEW RELEASE FILM REVIEW
Director/Writer Leslye Headland | Cinematographer Ben Kutchins | Starring Jason Sudeikis, Alison Brie, Adam Scott, Jason Mantzoukas, Natasha Lyonne | Length 10 minutes || Seen at Prince Charles Cinema, London, Saturday 9 January 2016