Here we are stuck in Mid-March. The weather’s wearing us down…too much snow, too much rain, with only the slightest hint, the tacit promise of a spring break down the proverbial pike to buoy our sagging spirits. By now, diligent filmgoers have mostly finished catching up with the award-mongering flurry of notable nominees and winners released on DVD (or re-released on the big screens) for post-awards season. Into this lull limped two romantic films, one comic and the other dramatic. More than usual, their two trailers gave away practically everything for free; I even flirted with the experimental idea of writing this smack before venturing into the theater and making necessary minor adjustments after viewing the films but lost the will to bother.
Both films somehow managed to crack the top five box office in their opening weekends; I expect they’ll linger a while until the mad rush of May crowds the screens with more gigantic and eagerly anticipated lures. Team Edward probably got their Twilight fix already, ogling their favorite glittery vampire, glitterless this time but stubbornly sporting the usual pallor and emo gloom. Jay Baruchel (hardly a household name) leads a mostly no-name cast of Apatow wannabes in the Geek Squad rom com for boys. Is either venture worth your hard-won capital? Read on.
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In This Corner
“Remember Me” is a gloomy romance filled with random bursts of lethal violence. Robert Pattinson plays Tyler Hawkins, bohemian manchild of divorce. His older brother’s suicide hangs heavy on his heart and mind, making him the perfect match for Emilie de Ravin’s plucky survivor Ally Craig, whose nurse mother gets gunned down before her ten-year-old eyes in the first few grueling minutes of flashback that open the film. Ally’s father is an overprotective NYPD cop, Tyler’s a detached tycoon. The two fall in love and out of love, they fight and reconcile. His younger sister gets into a heap of trouble. He gets in trouble too, thrown in jail and bailed out twice to be precise. When this poor kid plays superhero, he gets battered by the bad guys and the cops. These hapless star-crossed lovers have only their troubled family relationships, death and loss in common. Isn’t it romantic?
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In That Corner
Familiar Canadian Jay Baruchel plays the ever-so-unlikely romantic lead, shows considerably more skin than anyone might wish, and makes us love him in spite of his shortcomings. He’s a charming actor, even when playing a mostly aimless slacker. Alice Eve makes an auspicious debut as the perfect ten who falls for him. Yet another Brit playing American, she’s convincing and a real find, an altogether worthy object of love and lust. Lindsay Sloane plays a slight variation on her usual, the bitchy best friend, and a trio of mostly unfamiliar funny guys (T.J. Miller, Mike Vogel, and Nate Torrence) make up Kirk’s airport-working posse. Director Jim Field Smith delivers a solid multi-character comedy, a younger, more British Judd Apatow.
Pierce Brosnan. Robert Pattinson. Emilie de Ravin. Jay Baruchel. Are there any Americans playing Americans any more? Is this some sort of revenge scheme to balance the whole Gwyneth Paltrow/ Robert Downey Jr.-Sherlock Holmes/Renee Zelwegger-Bridget Jones thing/? I’m just asking. I have nothing against British, Canadian and Australian actors. Nothing whatsoever. I merely pose the question: Does all our work (even acting) have to be outsourced?
Twilighters aside, there’s precious little to recommend the largely forgettable “Remember Me,” a pretentious romantic exploitation film that uses recent real life history to hype its otherwise tepid dramatic stakes. Director Allen Coulter (of “The Sopranos” renown) knows his New York tough guy patois better than this venture might indicate; poor Pierce Brosnan gets hung out to dry with the least convincing New York accent in movies since the arrival of talkies. Pattinson plays at-sea and moody, indicating the depths of his grief and misery by smoking cigarettes (unconvincingly) and guzzling beer (equally unconvincingly). His roommate is probably the most annoying little shitheel ever to make it to the silver screen, the unnatural spawn of Hal Sparks and Satan. Emilie de Raven’s American accent (she’s an Aussie) is convincing but geographically unspecific.
The story is predictable and the mood somber; a pall of death and loss hovers over the proceedings like cloud cover spoiling a picnic, but the overreaching, undeserved ending really pushed my every button. No! Too soon! How about never exploiting any moment of national tragedy for fiction’s sake? While I shuddered at “Shutter Island” piling up Holocaust victims to add historically horrific depth to pulp fiction, this film’s total lapse of taste struck me as an even more gigantically egregious misstep. I’m struggling not to spill any spoilers here so you’ll have to trust me. I hereby propose that filmmakers step away from the Holocaust, mass graves, terrorist attacks and any other built-in references to real life tragedies and make your own drama from scratch. Earn our sympathy, earn our tears; to do otherwise is cashing in on communal pain and suffering. And it’s just plain wrong.
“She’s Out Of My League” isn’t a great film by any stretch of the imagination, but on its own modest terms, it works. A few characters are actually freshly imagined and performed; Nate Torrence plays the sweetest best friend ever, and Kyle Bornheimer is hilariously poised on the brink of a terrific career playing unmitigated assholes. The film is occasionally exceptionally gross; since I’m hardly its target audience, I won’t carp on moments that border on offensive or others that overstep that border and pitch a tent. If you’re easily offended, you know who you are. Please steer clear, and keep small children out of the theater for crying out loud. Interestingly though, once you steer past the premature ejaculations and the testicle shaving, you’ll find the spirit sweet and the message surprisingly clear and uplifting.
Hardly a ringing endorsement, but you could do a lot worse than taking a date to “She’s Out Of My League.” If you’re on the geek side, you’ll find it inspiring. And if you’re not on the geek side, what the hell are you doing reading about film on the web? Shouldn’t you be outside throwing a ball or something?