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Films I Neglected To Review: Goodbye Lovers
by Peter Sobczynski

Please enjoy short reviews of "Monday," "The Rookies" and "We Broke Up."

Have you ever wondered what "Before Sunrise" might have been like if the two people who spontaneously meet and connect intensely over the course of one night were self-absorbed and painfully uninteresting schmucks and we found ourselves stuck long past that first day as they half-heartedly attempt to build a relationship that might continue on once the initial hormonal rush wears off? If so, then there is a very good chance that you might get something out of "Monday," a tale of amour fou involving two people with the collective intelligence of a jar of pickles that comes startlingly close to making "Like Crazy" almost seem palatable by comparison. Reeling from the end of a bad romance and preparing to return home after spending the last 18 months working in Athens, Greece, Chloe (Denise Gough) goes to a party, meets fellow American expat Mickey (Sebastian Stan) and the very next morning, they are riding together to the police station after being found naked and asleep on the beach. After spending Chloe's last weekend there together, Mickey impulsively makes a mad dash to the airport to get her to stay and she just as impulsively agrees to stay. This, of course, is where most romcoms end but "Monday" is just beginning. At first, everything is great but once the initial thrill wears off and the two try to make a life together, they soon discover that they are largely incompatible in any number of key fundamental ways and, if that weren't enough, both continue to have baggage from prior relationships lingering over everything.

The idea of using the grand romantic gesture that usually ends a film as its jumping-off point is not an uninteresting one but Argyris Papadimitrpoulos, who directed and co-wrote the screenplay with Rob Hayes, simply has no idea of how to make anything of it. The key problem is that the two central characters, to put it gently, are deeply annoying idiots and while they clearly deserve each other, most viewers don't deserve being forced to watch them struggle to form some kind of union. Mickey is an irresponsible douche right from the start and never really changes and Stan's relentlessly one-note performance fails to find any sort of shading that might make him come across as sympathetic or engaging. Chloe, on the other hand, is meant to be the more ostensibly responsible of the two but there are too many occasions where the screenplay requires her to act in inexplicable ways--from her initial decision to upend her life in order to stay in Greece with a twerp she barely knows to a late-inning choice that has potentially disastrous consequences for both of them--that will simply be too much for most viewers to swallow. Sure, some of the Greek scenery is pretty to look at but unless you have a profound desire to see Bucky Barnes's junk dangling for all to see, "Monday" will prove to be anything but a funday.

As regular readers have probably noticed by now, I have in the past demonstrated a certain fondness for one Milla Jovovich to the point where I am occasionally accused of giving good reviews to otherwise awful movies just because she happens to be in them. While I will concede that perhaps her presence will perk things up a bit, I would like to think that you would trust me enough to understand that am not going to sit around and tell you to go see a demonstrably terrible movie just because she had the misfortune to get involved with it. Take her latest endeavor, the long-on-the-shelf "The Rookies," a would-be action extravaganza that she inexplicably appears in for a few minutes--while her presence is the only thing remotely interesting about the film, it is not nearly enough to keep it from being arguably the nadir of her entire screen career as well as one of the most mystifyingly bad pseudo-spectacles I can recall enduring in recent memory. It centers on Zhao Feng (Talu Wang), a smug social media daredevil whose attempt to parachute from the top of a Hong Kong skyscraper inexplicably lands him in the middle of a deadly business transaction that he barely manages to escape from safely. This inexplicably (trust me, that word comes up a lot when describing this film( leads to him being recruited by Bruce (Jovovich) to work for a secret organization called the Order of the Phantom Knighthood and help prevent a dangerous biological weapon from falling into the wrong hands. Inexplicably (there we go again), this requires him to go to Budapest and, with the help of a low-level Interpol agent with rage issues (Sandrinne Pinna) and a fan with mad inventing skills (Timmy Xu), steal the Holy Grail to use as a bargaining chip in the deal. From that point on, I fear that it gets a little confusing.

I am fully aware that "The Rookies" is meant to be little more than a nonsensical action-packed live-action cartoon (there are even bits of animation here and there) that is best viewed with one's brain shut off. Fine, but even those movies have certain limits and this one keeps stumbling over them right from the get-go. Tonally, the film is all over the map as it veers between badly executed action thrills and staggeringly unfunny comedic asides. (At one point, our hero celebrates his ascension to the ranks of the Phantom Knighthood by partying with an inflatable sex doll that he already has on hand.) Likewise, the screenplay is remarkably incoherent--if you thought that the plot description above made little precious little sense, imagine watching it struggle to unfold over the course of nearly two seemingly endless hours--and eventually becomes so slapdash that one could rearrange the scenes in any random order and it would hardly be any less comprehensible than it is now. And if all of that weren't excruciating enough--and I assure you that it is--the film also has, in Wang, one of the most off-putting would-be "heroes" is cinema history, a turning so resplendent with mugging and devoid of anything vaguely resembling comic timing that from the moment he is introduced, you will be rooting for the bad guys to prevail. As for Jovovich, who delivers her lines in a raspy voice that suggests a dire need of a lozenge, she is the best thing about the film—she is the one element that comes across as remotely professional--but not even she can do much of anything since she is barely in the first half of the film (the aforementioned sex doll may actually have more screen time) and she spends nearly the entire second half paralyzed and only able to communicate by blinking (presumably sending out dire messages to her agents informing them that they need to talk). Eventually she recovers but, alas, the same cannot be said for "The Rookies" or anyone unwise enough to watch it.

The good news about "We Broke Up" is that of this week’s movies involving the personal travails of an uninteresting and ultimately obnoxious couple, it is slightly--slightly--preferable to "Monday." After dating for ten years, Doug (William Jackson Harper) proposes to longtime girlfriend Lori (Aya Cash) and her immediate response is to throw up, a move that soon leads to them breaking up in a parking lot. Alas, the very next day, they are supposed to be leaving for her sister's wedding and since both are members of the wedding party, they elect to keep the collapse of their relationship hidden from everyone--especially newlyweds-to-be Bea (Sarah Bolgerr)) and Jayson (Tony Cavalero) and Lori's highly judgmental mother (Peri Gilpin)--so as not to distract from the nuptials. That proves to be easier said than done as the tensions between them always seem read to erupt in unexpected ways that could have repercussions both for Doug and Lori and Bea and Jayson, who, by comparison, are leaping into marriage after having known each other for less than a month.

The chief problem with the film is that even though it only clocks in at about 80 minutes, the screenplay by Jeff Rosenberg (who also directed) and Laura Jacqmin seems to run out of ideas long before then and ends up spending too much time spinning its wheels while trying to find something to say about relationships that might be interesting, amusing or insightful. This is most evident in regards to the characters of Doug and Lori--neither of the actors have much to work with here, especially Cash, and are too often stranded in scenes that seem to exist only to move the plot along. In addition, whenever it seems that the conflicts between Doug and Lori might be getting to some real and recognizable place, we cut away to the mostly tiresome antics of the other wacky wedding guests--the only one who scores is Cavalero, who brings some energy to the role of the goofy fiancee who turns out to contain a surprising degree of inner strength beneath his laid-back exterior. "We Broke Up" just comes across as shrill and insubstantial, a film that asks us to contemplate why a seemingly happy couple would suddenly decide to split up but never offers up any real reasons as to why we should actually care.

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originally posted: 04/16/21 04:34:29
last updated: 04/16/21 09:34:44
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