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On today's entry of Recent Movie Round-Up, it's the end of the world as we know it, a Duplass double-feature, and Marion Cotillard being very sexy as usual. Mini-reviews galore!
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (Lorene Scafaria, 2012)For those of you who don't pay too much attention to the box-office scene, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World was something of a bomb, with a small budget of $10 million and a domestic gross of $6 mil. Ouch. In hindsight, it's a little easy to see why. The film deals with an impending apocalypse and instead focuses on the melancholy drudgery of how normal folks in the world are coping with it. And it's a comedy. Somewhat.
The first act of this film is pretty exceptional, with a sense of world-building that is interesting and hilarious all at once as it looks at how apocalyptic events can alter social taboos (One memorable scene in particular involves a typical suburbanite house party being broken up by one of the members shouting "SOMEONE'S BROUGHT HEROIN! WOOOO!" Lorene Scafaria, the writer of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist making her directorial debut here, nails the tone of these scenes just right, acknowledging the melancholy while also finding dark amusement with it.
Sadly, the second act rolls around and the film kind of meanders, transforming from an original, droll comedy to a romantic road-trip comedy with all that apocalypse stuff just hanging around in the background. There are a few amusing moments, one of them involving Community's Gillian Jacobs and Cloverfield's TJ Miller, but it's mostly just padding. The chemistry between Steve Carrell and Keira Knightley is surprisingly warm and sweet, but their dialogue together is unfortunately pretty stale.
The movie saves itself big time with a surprisingly affecting and emotional third act that worked solely because of the aforementioned chemistry between the two leads. Scafaria certainly has chops as a director, but she just needs to nail some kinks in the pacing before she could land something truly great. Still, I'd like to see what she does next.
Humpday (Lynn Shelton, 2009)Two straight men attempting to have sex with each other for a porn contest? HIGH-LARITY ENSUES, RIGHT?! Despite sounding like the premise of a bad Adam Sandler film, Humpday manages to wring as much truth out of its outlandish premise as humanly possible. Surprisingly enough, Humpday is one of the most observant examinations of the "bromance" I have ever seen, and its conversations about homophobia, gender expectations, and sexual taboos feel genuine and intimate. It takes a while to get to that point, but when it does, it sticks with you. The performances by Joshua Leonard and Mark Duplass certainly help lend it some truth. Speaking of Duplasses...
The Do-Deca Pentathlon (Mark and Jay Duplass, 2012)The Duplass brothers' latest film is about brothers in a feud who attempt to wrestle away their problems by participating in a sporting event of 25 different games, the winner being the best brother. And that's how you segue, folks.
The only Duplass Bros. film that I genuinely loved was Cyrus, while the rest I found just okay, including The Puffy Chair and Jeff, Who Lives at Home (Though I haven't seen Baghead yet). The Do-Deca Pentathlon, meanwhile, may be their most fun and enjoyable film that they've ever made. It's light, for sure, but it also has a layer of empathy that makes this light material really hit home with the laughs and pathos. The two leads, Steve Zissis and Mark Kelly are really fun as well. Speaking of movies with two leads...
Rust and Bone (Jacques Audiard, 2012)Okay, maybe that segue was a bit out of hand. Nevertheless, Rust and Bone stars Matthieu Schoenaerts and Marion Cotillard as a fighter and a SeaWorld-style whale trainer respectively. When one of them gets into a life-changing accident, it's up to the other to bring them back up on their feet. It's a solid French drama, nothing more, but it's worth seeing because of how good Schoenaerts and Cotillard are together. They depict their damages without making it the one thing that defines them, exhibiting many layers in their relationship that genuine and brave; especially when they show the not-so-sympathetic sides of themselves, refusing to hide the harsh truths of their characters. If any of you were annoyed by how Silver Linings Playbook dealt with damaged characters helping each other out by way of tired romantic comedy cliches, Rust and Bone will serve a much more realistic, reserved countermeasure. The final 10-15 minutes are especially emotionally satisfying.