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Non-Review Review: Cake

Cake is very much a performance piece, in the style of Wild. It is a film built around a fantastic central performance that lives or dies based on the strength of that performance. The film itself is almost irrelevant – a collection of familiar emotional and character beats given life by a stellar cast that are all present to support a lead actor offering what is clearly intended to be a career-defining (or even -defying) performance.

Cake is a movie that is carried by Jennifer Aniston’s superb and moving central performance as a woman living with chronic pain – literal and emotional. It is a movie that could easily seem crass or exploitive, focusing on a physically incapacitated and mentally damaged woman who is trying to piece her life back together. Director Daniel Barnz and writer Patrick Tobin find themselves walking a very fine line.

St. Jude, don't make it bad...

St. Jude, don’t make it bad…

Cake manages to stay on the right side of that line. Barnz might be a little fond of long tracking shots of Jennifer Aniston being driven through areas covered by foliage, and Tobin’s script occasionally seems like it is trying just a little bit too hard, but the film itself is comfortable enough to allow Aniston the spotlight. Cake is very much an actor’s vehicle, and it is unashamedly so.

Aniston does great work here, demonstrating the same credibility and vulnerability that she brought to The Good Girl, another example of the performer playing largely against type. Aniston fleshes out the character of Claire Bennett, taking an arc that is perhaps a little too familiar and too formulaic, and gives the role an emotional core that holds everything together. It is a great performance in a solid film.

It all goes rather swimmingly...

It all goes rather swimmingly…

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Non-Review Review: We’re the Millers

We’re the Millers is a fairly humorous premise extended well past breaking point. The basic set-up (a bunch of strangers pretend to be a family to smuggle drugs into the United States) is a solid enough starting point for a comedy, but We’re the Millers often feels like it’s running on fumes trying to stretch the gag out. There are long lulls of the film where nothing seems to happen, and entire subplots that seem grafted in simply to eat up precious minutes. Does the film really need a teenage romance subplot?

We’re the Millers has a few hilarious moments, and Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston have enough charm that it’s never too painful to watch, but the film’s extended runtime means that its cynical premise can only maintain its wry thrust for so long before it’s brought down to Earth by the oppressive weight of sentimentality. For a film that starts out cheeky and subversive, the movie meanders into sappy and cheesy territory with considerable speed.

Family fun...

Family fun…

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Non-Review Review: Just Go With It

I have to concede, I think Adam Sandler is sort of struggling through something a transitional stage of his career. We’re past the point where Sandler can so easily play the angry young man who defined films like Billy Madison or Happy Gilmore or Big Daddy, so we’re faced with an actor trying reconcile himself with that fact. Now, it seems the actor is preoccupied with the idea of finally growing up – as we see in films like Grown Ups and Just Go With It. The problem is that Sandler isn’t nearly as convincing or as interesting as a mellowing out man instead of an acting-out manchild.

Divorced from reality...

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Non-Review Review: Bruce Almighty

I like Bruce Almighty. I’ll concede that I might even like it more than any other of Jim Carrey’s madcap comedies. I think that it’s easily among the best of the comedies he produced after the millennium, doing well from a strong supporting cast and nice central moral. It isn’t deep or profound, and it’s unlikely to offer any more philosophical insight than anybody had going in, but it also manages to avoid being completely vacuous or empty. It’s remarkably satisfying for a light screwball comedy, even if it is a little on-the-nose.

All at sea...

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Non-Review Review: Horrible Bosses

“You can’t win a marathon without putting some bandaids on your nipples!” Dave Harkin, the “psycho” boss of Nick Hendricks, insists throughout the movie. It’s curious, because Horrible Bosses feels like a movie pacing itself for a marathon – and that’s not a bad thing at all. It’s consistently funny, with the humour spread evenly over most of the runtime. It’s hard to point to particularly brilliant sequences that had the audience in stitches, but instead the room was constantly giggling throughout. It’s a solidly entertaining comedy, which makes the most of a clever premise and superb cast, even if it does falter just a little bit as it reaches the finish line.

Spacey is boss...

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Putting the “Man” in Romance: Deconstructing The “Gerard Butler” Romantic Comedies

I had the misfortune of watching The Bounty Hunter last week. It was horrible, really. In fairness, I tend to have a problem with the conventional romantic comedy as it’s mass produced and shipped out to cinemas at least once a month like clockwork. A string of movies which are based on the principle that all men and women (whether they know it or not) want to settle down and get married, argue over stupid things about three quarters of the way through the film and get together again in time for the end credits. Not only are the morals of such films highly dubious, the delivery is generally just excruciating. However, something has changed within the genre in the past couple of years… and not necessarily for the better. I’ll let The Guardian sum up my position:  

I realise it’s high time we refreshed the tired tics and tropes of the kissy-kissy no-boys-allowed modern women’s picture, I just didn’t think the solution would be to take the suppressed homoeroticism of the punchy-punchy male buddy flick then slather it over the vaguely virginal values associated with most Sandra Bullock and Amanda Bynes movies.  

That about sums it up nicely, don’t you think?  

The figure on the left indicates where good ideas come from... the figure on the right indicates where most romantic comedy ideas come from... by the way, he has his back to us...

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Non-Review Review: The Bounty Hunter

It’s a movie which stars Gerard Butler as a bounty hunter. It should at least feature infinitely greater amounts of gratuitous violence, even if it was always going to be just this boring.

If you want to get revenge on a partner, you can take them to jail... or you can make them watch The Bounty Hunter...

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