Tag Archives: Greta Gerwig

The House of the Devil (2009)

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After watching and loving Ti West’s creepy cult flick “The Sacrament,” I decided to try this on for size. Bad idea. Let’s see, how does this movie exasperate and *piss the living crap* out of me? Let me count the ways. First (but not firstly) the premise- where have I seen this before? A pretty girl is hired to take on the babysitting job from Hell? Wait, I remember, dozens of horror movies and urban legends. Eek.. “Have you checked on the kids?” You know, that kind of thing.

This movie was also transparently derivative of “Halloween” in many ways, but I was willing to overlook that. ‘Homage’ and all that. You’ve got the good girl, the edgy friend (friend(s) in the case of Halloween.) Oh look, the waif fights back. Still, “Halloween” is the far superior film, with genuine scares and a strong and likable character in Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode.

But nothing could prepare for the craptastic number of infallacies in the plot. It’s the night of a solar eclipse, and pretty, perky  Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) leaves her campus to go to a house in the middle of nowhere, under shady circumstances, on a babysitting job. Never ONCE does she ask the man hiring her about the age of the child, any medical conditions, etc. over the phone. The man insists that the job is extremely important and never once does Sam question the intensity of his request.

Finally Samantha and her friend Megan (Greta Gerwig) drive off to this strange house. Megan thinks something’s up (huh, at least one of these girls has half a brain between them) so *SPOILER* of course Meg’s the first to go belly up. *END OF SPOILER* Enter effeminate old Mr. Ullman (Tom Noonan) and his overly touchy wife Mrs. Ullman (Mary Woronov, who is seriously manhandling Sam in her first scene.) When she gets there, they kindly inform her that it is not a child she will taking care of, but Mrs. Ullman’s mother.

Samantha understandably tells them that she is not trained to play nurse, Mr. Ullman advances on her menacingly and demands that it is ‘crucial.’ Well, as it turns out, our leading lady’s willing to do it… for a price. Fork it up, Ullman. Remind me why we’re supposed to be rooting for this girl?! Sam doesn’t ask to see the old crone, or even question if there IS an old crone. She simply takes the job no questions asked, because if she turns out raped, injured, or dead, at least she’s being paid well for it.

When the movie deteriorates into Satanic nonsense, I was already bored and fed up. There’s a weird demon thingie that looks like the love child of the faun from “Pan’s Labyrinth” and Lord Voldemort, a menacing pizza man, and a blood ritual. Eh. The beginning is extremely slow, but never in the establishment of the story do we get any innovation or character development. The climax is laughable. Even as someone who has a legitimate fear of demonic imagery, I was left unimpressed.

Needless to say (judging by my bitter, cynical rant, in other words) I was disappointed by this film. But charitable soul that I am, I may be willing to give Ti West another try. Anyone who was NOT turned off my misanthropic dissection of this film may discuss Ti West and his worthwhile endeavors (or lack thereof) with me. People who were can ignore me and watch it at their own risk. You can’t spare everyone, I guess.

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Frances Ha (2012)

“Frances Ha” is admittedly not normally my type of movie, but I was sporadically entertained by its down-to-earth charm. Filmmaker Noah Baumbach, who skyrocketed to indie fame after acquainting us with a cast of outrageously cruel, petty, narcissistic characters in “The Squid and the Whale” (I guess I’ve made my stance clear on that movie,) squares in on the lifestyle of the big-city intellectual again in “Frances Ha,” but at least now the characters are tolerable.

Greta Gerwig gives a amiable performance as well-meaning, somewhat ditzy college grad Frances Halladay, who aspires to make it as a dancer. Her BFF is the bespectacled and kind of bitchy Sophie (Mickey Sumner,) and and two are as devoted as two friends ever were. When Sophie prepares to move to Japan with her boyfriend who she doesn’t really love, ‘Patch’ (Patrick Heusinger,) Frances feels lost without her best friend, and her life starts to veer off the the tracks.

Not a lot happens in this film. What’s special about it is the real-life quality of the acting and dialogue. However, I did not like this as much as similarly naturalistic “Wendy and Lucy” because there was no high drama. I know, not every life contains a lot of intense drama. But in that movie Michelle Williams was struggling to keep her head above water financially and her fight to provide for her and her dog. She has a goal. Live. Or starve. We can’t look away.

Frances simply flounders. She complains about money, but scrounges up enough to take a trip to Paris where she never leaves her apartment. She lives with two hipsters for a while and it seems like something romantic is going to happen with one of them, but nothing ever does. She wants to dance, but lacks the talent to make it happen. Frances is a nice girl, but the film lacks immediacy.

However, there are pleasures to be had from watching this movie. There is something to be said for getting entangled in a characters life, uneventful as it might be. Frances is a well-written character, and all the side characters seemed real. The down side- the astonishingly tasteless moment when drunken Sophie *SPOILER WARNING* stoically describes the miscarrying of her unwanted baby as ‘cool’ *END OF SPOILER*. Ouch. It’s hard to have sympathy for her after that.

I like the way this movie deals with the everyday awkwardness of relationships. The social difficulties Frances faces never seem forced or exaggerated. Anyone who has said something they later wish they hadn’t (that’s everybody,) drunk or sober, can relate to Frances. The film chronicles little moments on Frances’ journey to become a self-made woman. I’m down with that. I just wish the story had been a little more arresting.

Note- This film is in black and white. Resident whiners and trolls beware. No it is not in color. No we do not need to hear how ‘behind-the-times’ or ‘pretentious’ the filmmaker is. You have been warned.