|Films I Neglected To Review: Mmm. . .Keira Knightley In Shorts!
|by Peter Sobczynski
Please enjoy short reviews of the latest Milla Jovovich vehicle, the most bald-faced "Glee"-related ripoff since that "Glee" concert movie and a compilation of star-studded shorts.
In the indie comedy-drama Bringing Up Bobby," Milla Jovovich stars as Olive, a European immigrant and single mother who uses her considerable wiles and flair for con games to provide a life for young son Bobby (Spencer List). Having landed in Oklahoma, Olive is running the usual scams with an old friend (Rory Cochrane, making the film a mini-"Dazed and Confused" cast reunion) while still trying to be a good mother to Bobby when her sordid past winds up catching up with her. At the same time, she and Bobby cross paths with a friendly local businessman (Bill Pullman) and his wife (Marcia Cross) who wind up taking Bobby in at a time of need and who represent the possibility of a better life that she, despite all of her love and considerable efforts, could never hope to provide for her son. Marking the directorial debut of actress Famke Janssen, the film starts off as a breezy comedy that is buoyed up by the considerable charms of Jovovich and it is at its best during these initial scenes. In the second half, however, the story takes a turn for the grim as it invokes the soapy likes of "Stella Dallas" and "Imitation of Life" and while Janssen's screenplay does make a couple of smart moves (such as the way that it doesn't portray the rich couple as straight-up selfish jerks), it winds up getting a little too bogged down in its melodramatic excesses for its own good. That said, the best thing about the film and the key reason to see it is the lead performance by Jovovich, an underrated actress who gets a chance here to display her comedic and dramatic talents while showing that she is indeed capable of doing much more onscreen than looking fabulous while kicking zombie ass. On the whole, "Bringing Up Bobby" is no classic by any means but it is a must for Milla fanatics and a perfectly pleasant, if resoundingly unsurprising, take on familiar material for everybody else.
Moving from vaguely derivative to outright theft, "Pitch Perfect" is such a blatant ripoff of the TV series "Glee" that it is somewhat surprising that Fox hasn't slapped a massive lawsuit against Universal Pictures in retaliation. Under normal circumstances, that would be bad enough but the makers of the film compound the error by choosing to rip off not the fresh and exciting early episodes but the lazy and hackneyed later ones in which the trademark blending of outrageous comedy, heartfelt drama and endless singing and dancing had finally become a tiresome bore. Anna Kendrick, in a role that she is way too good to be wasting her time on--plays a spunky rebel who is forced to go to college instead of pursuing her dream of being a deejay. Through circumstances too contrived to get into, she winds up joining one of the numerous a cappella singing groups that are rife on campus and tries to liven things up by trying to convince the stick-in-the-mud leader that musical mashups are all the rage and might engender more excitement than Ace of Base covers. Although it strains mightily to be a crowd-pleaser, this is as unpleasant of a cinematic experience as you are likely to have right now--the comedy isn't funny, the drama isn't interesting , the music isn't especially inspired and the stabs at gross-out humor simply don't jibe with the rest of the material. (I can forgive one scene involving endless projectile vomiting but not three, especially when the final one expels enough fluid to allow a character to make a puke angel, if you know what I mean and I am sorry if you do.) The only aspect of the film that works at all is the winning supporting turn by Rebel Wilson as a zaftig fellow singer who calls herself Fat Amy so as to prevent others from doing it behind her back. She brings an energy to her scenes that is otherwise lacking and some of her off-hand comments manage to inspire actual laughs but, much like her similarly heroic efforts on behalf of the equally annoying "Bachelorette," all that you come away with after watching "Pitch Perfect" is the urge to see Wilson in her own starring vehicle as soon as possible.
Brought to you by the same people who put together the annual compilations of Oscar-nominated short subjects that have grown in popularity over the last few years, "Stars in Shorts" offers up another collection of short subjects with the hook this time being the presence of well-known faces in the films instead of friends of the director or acting students. "Friend Request Pending" finds Judi Dench struggling to get a hang of online flirting. "Procession" stars Lily Tomlin and Jesse Tyler Ferguson as a monumentally mother and son whose attempts to ditch the burial service of someone they don't even know takes on "Seinfeld"-like proportions when things go hinky. Speaking of "Seinfeld," Jason Alexander pops up in "Not Your Time," a musical-comedy in which he plays not just a screenwriter but a screenwriter on the edge. Keira Knightley has a string of increasingly strange encounters with downstairs neighbor Colin Firth in "Steve" while the sci-fi-themed "Prodigal" finds Kenneth Branagh as a strange man pursing a younger girl with mysterious powers. Finally, the always-acerbic Neil LaBute contributes the screenplays to the final two selections--"After-School Special" centers on an encounter between adults Sarah Paulson and Wes Bentley while watching their youthful charges in the play area of a fast-food restaurant while "Sexting" (which LaBute also directed) has Julia Stiles as a young woman confronting her lover's wife when she gets a hint that he may not be leaving her as promised. As with all compilations of this type, everyone will have different favorites and for me, the LaBute contributions are the best--both shorts are essentially support systems for their dark punchlines but since the punchlines are undeniably effective, thhat isn't a problem. Of the rest, I liked "Steve," felt that "Procession" could have used one last rewrite to work out some of the kinks (though Tomlin is a hoot) and felt that the rest dragged in spots despite their relative brevity.
link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=3434
originally posted: 09/28/12 23:56:54
last updated: 09/29/12 00:32:58