Tag Archives: Toni Collette

Movie Review: Glassland (2014)

glassland-poster

Rating: A/ From the title I thought this movie was about methamphetamine, since ‘glass’ is a synonym for crystal meth. It turned out to be about a young man’s mother with a pretty serious alcohol problem. In fact, Jean (Toni Collette) has hit the bottle so hard that she’s slowly killing herself, and her ever-faithful son John (Jack Reynor) both tirelessly cares for her and enables her. Continue reading Movie Review: Glassland (2014)

Advertisements

Jesus Henry Christ (2012)

]

Unfairly bashed by critics as self-consciously quirky and “hipster,” “Jesus Henry Christ” is a entertainingly quirky little film, featuring highly intelligent characters who must find their own way towards being happy.

Henry James Herman (Jason Spevack) is an enigma, a brilliant youngster raised by his single mother Patricia (Toni Collette.) Henry has a keenly incisive mind and a photographic memory, but there is one thing he doesn’t know… who his dad, an anonymous sperm donor, is.

Enter dweeby professor Slavkin O’Hara (Michael Sheen), whose latest mistake is putting his 12-year-old daughter Audrey (Samantha Weinstein)’s face on his new book, Made Gay or Born That Way? Audrey, as it turns out, is gay, but she’s not ready to be outed just yet, and Slavkin’s bug-up provokes the merciless taunts of her peers.

Henry decides to locate his father, which leads to a series of sometimes sweet, sometimes sad, sometime revelatory occurrences, which in the long run brings Henry’s makeshift family together.

But first Henry must contend with his skeptical mother and furious half-sister, while Henry’s appearance dredges up old memories in Slavkin, who must come face-to-face with how fractured he and his daughter’s relationship has become.

This film is not a masterpiece. I didn’t like parts of it. For instance, the white character who thinks he’s black and refers to the other characters as “white Devils” was kind of silly. The scene where Henry is bullied for writing an atheistic paper in Catholic school was a little obvious (Will there ever be a movie where the kid is bullied for being Catholic? Probably not.)

The movie I’d compare “Jesus Henry Christ” to is “Amelie.” The dark/cutesy whimsy and off-beat narration tie the two films together, but Jason Spevack’s Henry is simply not as likable as Audrey Tautou’s Amelie Poulain.

I mean, Jason Spevack is fine, but the real discovery here is Samantha Weinstein as Audrey, Slavkin’s defiant adolescent daughter. It’s hard to make a character of a preteen who hates everything and everyone not seem like an entitled brat, but Samantha Weinstein makes you sympathize with Audrey.

There is also a scene where Henry and Audrey go on a carnival ride, and Audrey’s shrieks of fright become joyful screams, that I thought was beautifully done. “Jesus Henry Christ” is an unfairly bashed addition to the genre of offbeat indie movies.

The Way, Way Back (2013)

the way way back

After a rocky, strident beginning, “The Way, Way Back” straightens itself into a pretty darn lovable movie, which also has the honor of giving a decidedly dark and against-type role to funnyman Steve Carell. Carell plays Trent, the verbally abusive, passive-aggressive boyfriend of needy Pam (Toni Collette.) The abuse perpetrated by Trent is not directed towards Pam but towards her self-conscious 14-year-old son, Duncan (Liam James.)

Duncan is in that awkward stage of youth where just about every phrase uttered by him is monosyllabic and he’s at a loss to talk to anyone, especially girls. Trent is frequently hostile and bullying but plays nice in front of Pam, who doesn’t seem to notice the behavior. Trent takes Pam, Duncan, and Duncan’s bitchy daughter, Steph (Zoe Levin) (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, I suppose) to vacation home for the summer.

Surrounded by unbearable adults, including an alcohol-guzzling floozy (Allison Janney) and Trent’s insufferable friends (Amanda Peet and Rob Corddry,) angst-ridden Duncan loiters at the theme park Water Whizz, and is befriended by the park’s wise-cracking manager Owen (Sam Rockwell.) Owen recognizes a kid in need of support in Duncan and offers him a job. The summer proves to be empowering and life-changing for Duncan, who even falls in love for the first, with the floozy neighbor’s attractive and similarly disaffected daughter Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb.)

The beginning scenes are a little bit on the overcooked side, as we are introduced to an assortment of dingy grown-up’s, each with the apparent identical goal of making Duncan’s life as awkward as possible. It’s hard to believe anyone could be this stupid, or at least with such a lack of subtlety, even Kip and Joan, who we are led to believe are incessantly high.

There is a definite improvement in storytelling and substance about thirty minutes in, when Duncan breaks away from Trent’s asinine friends and neighbors and starts spending a numerable amount of afternoons with Owen. Owen might be a bit childish and hedonistic, but he’s exactly what Duncan needs to develop a sense of self-worth and confidence.

Owen also knows that strictly verbal abuse can be as harmful as physical blows, and he tries to help Duncan move past Trent’s taunts. Duncan’s conversations with Susanna are cute not because of what he says but because of what he doesn’t say, which is basically anything of discernible value. So paralyzed by shyness is Duncan that he is reduced to mumbling “I guess” and “I dunno” and babbling about the weather. We’ve all been there, but what makes  the duo so charming is that the incredibly patient Susanna still likes Duncan, still LIKE likes him, not I-want-to-go-to-the-movies-as-friends likes him. For a kid who barely even likes himself, that’s a small miracle.

“The Way, Way Back” might have a little bit of the “Juno” syndrome, where witticisms are a bit too pithy to be natural (nevertheless, haters, I still love “Juno”) and the script might have some sitcom-y moments, but it is still a charming coming-of-age story for those whose movie tastes run toward the quirky and the droll.. There should certainly be more Owens in the word, who can see the  good and the worthy in the most gawky adolescent. If that were the case, my teen years might have been a Hell of a lot less miserable.

waywaybck