Saturday, December 14, 2013

Reel Simple's Top Ten: #8 & # 7

Continuing my year in film--find #8 and #7 below. If you missed #10 and #9, check them out here!

#8: The Way Way Back
Cast: Liam James, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, AnnaSophia Robb
Directors: Jim Rash, Nat Faxon
Release Year: 2013

These days, “summer movie” has become synonymous with “devoid of substance.”  For some mysterious reason, studios seem convinced that once warm weather hits, our brains melt and we can subsist on a celluloid diet of CGI zombies, lovelorn superheroes, and Jaden Smith’s post-apocalyptic spaz-outs

Amidst all the mind-numbing movie mulch, writer/directors Jim Rash & Nat Faxon (of The Descendants fame) present a welcome respite in the form of this nostalgic coming-of-age tale of Duncan (Liam James), a teenager for whom “awkward” would be too understated of a characterization. On holiday at a New England beach house, he battles the myriad usual agonies of kidulthood, including conversing with girls his age and enduring his emotionally feeble mom’s patronizing new boyfriend. But when he takes up a job at the local waterpark and finds both a friend and a mentor in his garrulous boss Owen (Sam Rockwell), his vacation goes from listless to life changing.

We’ve all had that one summer that transformed how we viewed the world and ourselves; this film takes us right back to that time, not so much with specific narrative events as with the characters, emotions, and arcs that evoke memories of that turning point in our own lives. James is a natural fit for Duncan, pulling off with impressive credibility the progression from a meek and muted hermit to a young man comfortable in his own skin. Surrounded by a spirited supporting cast—most remarkably Steve Carell as a surprisingly competent jerk and Allison Janney as the spastic, loud-mouthed neighbor—The Way, Way Back was a much-needed oasis in the insipid desert of summer film season.

#7: Enough Said
Cast: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, James Gandolfini
Director: Nicole Holofcener
Release Year: 2013

If you succumb to one chick flick in what remains of the year, let this be it. Ditching cringe-worthy melodrama for witty yet subdued comedy, Enough Said is an invigorating take on life, marriage, and second chances at relationships.  If for no other reason, watch it as your final tribute to Gandolfini, who confirms with this performance that we lost him way too soon. With Louis-Dreyfus sharing the driver’s seat, the lead couple radiates in this unpretentious and authentic look at modern-day, middle-age romance.  It may change your view of love after 40, your opinion on actors’ ability to break character type…and perhaps even the way you eat guacamole.

Read my full review of Enough Said here.

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