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This is 40

This is 40 film posterSynopsis

Starring Paul Rudd as the husband, Pete, and Leslie Mann as his wife, Debbie.  It’s a story of a married couple facing up to being 40.  He runs a record company and likes Graham Parsons’ music, she is a business woman and frets about age.  They both get on each other’s nerves, their adolescent daughter is also very difficult.  Debbie’s father Oliver is played by John Lithgow, he is a surgeon and rather distant.  Pete’s father Larry is played by Albert Brooks and he is clumsily friendly.  They have parties and arguments and might learn to love each other.

Review

Sometimes the humour in this film gets a bit lavatorial, but mercifully never descends to Adam Sandler’s depths.  There is a lot of nastiness, as when Debbie picks on a nerdy boy whose mother threatens comical violence against the couple for being bad parents.  There are self righteous shouting matches.  People on the verge of middle age are supposed to find all this relevant to their lives and quite hilarious but I was put off by the smug self regard of these people.  The record company is failing and they are going to have to surrender their suffocating affluence (diddums).  Debbie objects to Pete giving money to his father, she is avaricious and hysterical.  They have a touching  regard for status and money, their anxiety about loving it is supposed to ratchet the tension through all this forced humour.

Demonstrations of everyday educated middle class observational acuteness are dutifully paraded: references to bodily functions, existential anxieties, sexual insecurities.  We also get the well tested formulae of comedy situations relying on obsessional glitches and personal weaknesses as if acknowledgement of these is supposed to reinforce the rather routine wit.  We know in the end that love will triumph over the tantrums and quirky self regard.  It’s as if films like this are trying to outdo the oddities in Little Miss Sunshine.  Debbie owns a boutique and thinks the flirty young employee is stealing from the company but it turns out to be the awkward geeky girl who, when confronted with the accusation, takes refuge in a weirdly senseless vocal performance.  This is a disposable light weight film.

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Posted by on April 24, 2013 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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Wanderlust

Wanderlust posterSynopsis

Starring Jennifer Aniston as Linda and Paul Rudd as George.  They are a yuppy couple in New York, she sells bad advertising ideas, and he works for a company who have just sacked him.  George decides to go to Atlanta to work for his brother Rick. On the way they come across a hippy ‘commune’ like a more benign version of the one in the recent Martha film.  The leaders of the group are Alan Alda, as an elderly ‘hippy’, and Justin Theroux who plays Seth, it’s the same role played by John Hawkes in the Martha film.  These people are naturists and other types of ‘new agers’.  Then George and Aniston go to his brother’s hideous house of affluent squalor, the couple reject it and return to the ‘commune’.  Then George wants to sell out the commune to land developers, but does he get his come-uppance?  Maybe everybody lives happily ever after……

Criticism

Considering Jennifer Aniston is in this film, it’s surprisingly funny.  The jokes are bawdy and the timing is pretty good.  Faced with the prospect of ‘free love’ with a sexy blonde, hippy George goes through would-be erotic provocations in the mirror, it should be embarrassing but is mildly funny.  Judd Apatow is into this kind of humour in his other movies.  This view of ‘hippies’ as comic relief is a welcome change from the Charles Manson psycho brigade.  Wanderlust works effectively as satire on those cringe making sixties and seventies cults that incited the freedom to be unembarrassed by obsessive compulsive fetishes.  These people don’t clap, instead they rub their fingers together.  Their supposed challenge to the social conventions represented by Aniston and George are of course an alternative orthodoxy of enforced quirkiness, all expressed with that breathy sincerity which Americans can turn into real comedy.  The bearded young leader Seth is the usual macho threat behind the mask of new age pomposity, he transcends mere smugness.

Wanderlust like other movies of its kind, squanders the opportunity to subvert our everyday values, rather in making the hippies look sanctimonious it endorses the values of middle class materialism since these are at least honest.  There are a couple of hilarious scenes in which Aniston and Rudd hallucinate conversations with a fly and people get all Dali-distorted.  There is a nudist who aspires to write the great novel, and of course this Woody Allen type nerd must have a happy ending.  My generation watched Alan Alda playing liberal decency in the TV series MASH, he played the Catch 22 type hero hating the brutality of war.  Ever since, Alda has played the avuncular liberal house pet, always to be relied on for being sentimentally right on.  In Wonderlust he keeps reminiscing about the commune which he set up in 1971, and he is of course decent, the pleading motor-mouth asking you to take him on face value.  He’s not funny, though he tries hard to be.

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2012 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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