WE BROKE UP (2021)

April 22, 2021

Greetings again from the darkness. They’ve been together for 10 years, and when Doug proposes – seemingly spontaneously – to Lori, her reaction is ‘slightly’ askew from what he expected. The real question here is, how do two people have a 10 year romantic relationship and never once discuss marriage, kids, a house, or literally anything to do with their future? That’s the premise for the dramedy from writer director Jeff Rosenberg and co-writer Laura Jacqmin.

Aya Cash (“Fosse/Verdon” and a Jodie Whitaker lookalike) stars as Lori, longtime girlfriend of Doug, played by William Jackson Harper (MIDSOMMAR, 2019). If the proposal-gone-wrong and subsequent fallout weren’t uncomfortable enough, the timing couldn’t be much worse. Lori and Doug are scheduled to leave for her sister’s wedding, and both have roles in the wedding party … he’s “King of the Ushers”. Since staying away is not an option, the dilemma they face is whether to announce the break-up or pretend everything is fine until the vows are exchanged. They decide not to spoil the wedding and head off to Camp Arrowhead, the former summer camp site that the wedding couple selected for the ceremony.

Sarah Bolger (IN AMERICA, 2002) plays Bea, Lori’s betrothed sister. She’s been dating Jayson (Tony Cavalero, “School of Rock” TV series) for a whole month, and the two energetic free-spirits are total personality opposites from Lori and Doug. As mother of the two girls, Peri Gilpin (“Frasier”) is a tad less than supportive of her daughter’s spontaneous life decisions, while initially clueless to the difficulties faced by her stable and dependable daughter.

The film is well acted by the leads, but most of it feels like a missed opportunity to explore the psychological differences of the sisters or the effects of a long-term “comfortable” relationship with no eye towards the future. Both of the topics are begging for more in-depth coverage, and instead we are left with mostly predictable behavior. One couple that is too fast to the altar, while the other is too slow, presents a goldmine of opportunity. On the bright side, there are some small moments and subtle jokes and gags that are beautifully executed and work much better than the overall comedy efforts. Filmed at Calamigos Ranch in Malibu, the film touches on anger and hurt and excitement, and all emotions attached to love and relationships.

In theaters and On Demand April 23, 2021

WATCH THE TRAILER


MIDSOMMAR (2019)

July 4, 2019

 Greetings again from the darkness. Summer movies are traditionally tentpoles and teen flicks … big budget action movies and those aimed at an audience that are on a 3 month reprieve from school. We are quickly learning that rising star filmmaker Ari Aster cares little for tradition. Well at least he seems to thrive on twisting tradition and spinning off in an unusual direction. His feature film debut was last year’s mega-hit HEREDITARY, a horror film which was noted in most every critics association Top 10 list for 2018.

HEREDITARY was filled with darkness and dread, and Mr. Aster’s second film begins with a similar setting: it’s a dark and cold night as Dani (Florence Pugh, LADY MACBETH) frantically searches for her bi-polar sister through emails and phone calls. During her search, we realize that her relationship with boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor, SING STREET) is a bit strained. The brilliant pre-credit sequence results in a horrific tragedy striking Dani’s family. Christian does his best to offer support, but he’s a typically weasel of a man who feels more at ease hanging out with his grad school buddies than providing love and compassion to his needy girlfriend … and he’s not man enough to tell her, despite the urging of his friends.

An awkward group conversation leads Dani to accept an invitation to go on the boys’ trip to Sweden. The purpose of the trip is twofold: to participate in a 9 day long village festival held every 90 years and for Josh (William Jackson Harper, “The Good Place”) to work on his thesis. The other guys in the group are Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren) whose family in Sweden is hosting the festival, and Mark (Will Poulter, THE REVENANT) who provides much of the comic relief thanks to his overall cluelessness about pretty much everything related to graceful societal interactions.

And with that set-up comes one of the most deranged, unsettling and bizarre movie experiences this year (or most any year) is likely to bring. Try to picture a Folk Horror Comedy Fairy Tale Break-up Pagan Cult film, which at any given time reminds of MOTHER!, THE WICKER MAN, THE WIZARD OF OZ, THE VILLAGE, SUSPIRIA, and a handful of other cinematic oddities we’ve seen over the years. It is quite likely the sunniest horror film you’ve ever seen. And that’s a literal description … like the production could have been solar-powered. Most of it is filmed outside during Sweden’s Midnight Sun – constant sunshine accompanied by mostly bright white skin and even brighter white cotton costumes (embroidered as if meant for Woodstock). The daylight messes with your senses and expectations. Bad things are supposed to happen in the dark, not in broad daylight enveloped by picturesque wonders of nature. Although the opening is cold, dark and punctuated with tragedy, the rest is so bright, it almost blinds you to the atrocities on screen.

So without giving away anything, here’s what we are in for: a welcome to Sweden mushroom trip, a Waco joke, a caged bear, a sacred tree, a Powerball game you hope to lose, and flowers and trees that seem to breathe. We also are reminded not to forget the birthday of our significant other, living to age 72 is not really rewarded in this commune, and no one should ever dance till they drop – even to be named the Queen of May. Of course, as with most horror films, it’s easy to sit back as viewers and question the decision-making of the characters, but it’s not like they realize they are in a horror film … at least not until it’s too late!

Ms. Pugh (who reminds of another talented young actress, Haley Lu Richardson) is terrific here. Her character experiences shock, personal grief, a strained relationship, hallucinations, and a shot at revenge. The excellent music from Bobby Krlic, better known as The Haxan Cloak, is a mix of compositions and songs that create the mood for each character and scene. I was so shell-shocked at the end, that I’m unable to confirm that the version of “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore)” is that of The Walker Brothers (Scott Walker died earlier this year) or that of another band. Director Aster’s second film proves the exaggerated and diverse spectrum of what constitutes a horror film, and cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski’s disorienting camera work perfectly complements a rare cinematic blend of frightening and funny. The cheery faces and pastoral beauty very nearly distract us from what might be the ugliest break-up movie ever.

watch the trailer: