FOREVER MY GIRL (2018)

January 18, 2018

 Greetings again from the darkness. To determine if this is your type of movie, you need only answer one question: Are you a Nicholas Sparks fan? Even though this is based on a novel by Heidi McLaughlin and not Nicholas Sparks, no normal person would be able to tell the difference, as the formula and story structure is very familiar (even the marketing campaign capitalizes on this). Perhaps that is the key to the success of movies like this – the stories are like a warm, comfy blanket to some folks.

Picturesque (and fictional) St Augustine, Louisiana is the setting for the love story of Liam and Josie. Things get off to a rocky start as the jilted bride is stranded on her wedding day. The film jumps ahead 8 years and we find that Liam (Alex Roe, THE 5TH WAVE) is now a country music superstar with a drinking problem and a duct-taped flip phone, while Josie (Jessica Rothe, HAPPY DEATH DAY) is a successful business owner and single mom. It’s at this point where you could most assuredly guess what happens next, as predictability and commitment to the formula are the mission.

Bethany Ashton Wolf is the writer/director and her film benefits from the presence of star-in-the-making Alex Roe and the precocious Abby Ryder Fortson as Josie’s daughter. Mr. Roe spends much of the movie in various stages of sweat (I guess that’s supposed to be sexy?), but the camera loves him and he has a unique approach that sets him apart from the endless line of pretty boy actors. Young Miss Fortson has already played the daughter of ANT-MAN and she has the ability to come off as normal kid, rather than an actress playing a kid.

John Benjamin Hickey (Liam’s dad), Gillian Vigman (publicist), Tyler Riggs (Josie’s brother), and Peter Cambor (Liam’s agent) fill the supporting roles, and it’s Travis Tritt who adds an all-too-brief touch of authenticity to the music and local saloon. The movie is exactly what it portends to be … nothing more, nothing less. If it’s to your taste, it’ll be that soft comforter that brings you serenity. If it’s not your style, it will likely be as itchy and scratchy as a new wool horse blanket.

watch the trailer:


HELICOPTER MOM (2015)

May 21, 2015

helicopter mom Greetings again from the darkness. Just when it seems everything we say or do is offensive to someone and most every topic is considered politically incorrect, a movie shows up that seems to say it’s ok to be offensive if you are trying to make a worthy point. It’s kind of like someone defending their actions by saying “I’m not a racist – I have an African-American friend.”

Helicopter parenting is defined as an overly involved parent who thinks they are best serving their kid by staying involved in every detail of life – from homework to activities to love life. As sad as this phenomenon is, this movie from director Salome Breziner and writer Duke Tran is so exaggerated, a more appropriate title would be Chainsaw Mom. Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) stars as the clueless and relentless single mom obsessed with her son … especially the uncertainties of his sexual orientation.

Ms. Vardalos seems to have patterned her approach to the role after some of the wide-eyed over-the-top characters of Keenan Thompson from “SNL”. This is beyond caricature and it’s also beyond annoying. The character is not believable in any sense, and is fortunately offset by more grounded performances from Jason Dolley, who plays her unfortunate son, and Mark Boone Junior, who plays her ex-husband and his father.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking on a topic like teenage sexual ambiguity/confusion with a comedic approach; however, much of this comes off like a cheesy sitcom. The only thing missing is the laugh track … and maybe Vardalos hiding behind a potted plant while wearing Groucho glasses and mustache. I say maybe, because it’s possible the latter occurred during one of the many segments where I was rolling my eyes or shaking my head in disbelief.

Fortunately, there were some genuine father and son moments between Dolley and Boone. In fact, Boone’s performance is so good, it’s like someone changed the channel every time his character appears. Dolley and Skyler Samuels (The Duff) also have some very sweet and believable scenes together. It’s just a shame that a moment as poignant as the confused son asking his father “When did you know you were straight?” is offset by mom publicly humiliating her kid and herself in yet another unimaginable display of inappropriate and cartoonish behavior.

The supporting cast also includes Kate Flannery (TV’s “The Office”), Gillian Vigman (The Hangover), and Dallas’ own Hockaday girl Lisa Loeb – who has a role as a teacher, and wrote the song for the opening credits.

Confusion over sexual orientation in teenagers is certainly a topic worthy of film treatment, as is the cultural phenomenon of helicopter parenting. The slapstick comedy approach seems to overwhelm the first message, while the 1980’s sitcom style destroys any commentary on the second.  The only person who thinks a boy’s best friend is his mother is Norman Bates. And Hitchcock showed us how that turns out.

watch the trailer: