Fans of Adam Sandler’s patented man-child character will be pleased to note he revives it for his newest film “The Meyerowitz Stories (New And Selected).” But those not enraptured with his childlike alter ego shouldn’t write this movie off. For the most part Sandler’s new one leaves the lowest-common denominator jokes behind in favour of highbrow (ish) humour. In other words, this is more “Punch Drink Love,” less “Billy Madison.”
Dustin Hoffman is Harold Meyerowitz, embittered sculptor, former art professor and walking, talking embodiment of New York neurosis. He’s also father to Danny (Sandler), Matthew (Ben Stiller) and Jean (Elizabeth Marvel). Harold is a crusty old man, self-centered and very aware of his lack of legacy. Newly divorced Danny has moved into the Greenwich Village home Harold shares with his fourth wife, Maureen (Emma Thompson).
The film studies the strained relationships between Harold and his kids but spends much of the movie detailing the half brothers Danny and Matthew. Danny stayed home to raise his daughter, has never had a job and now feels like a failure compared to the younger Matt, a Los Angeles hot shot with his own financial management company.
When Harold takes ill his children have to reassess their feelings for their difficult dad and each other.
“The Meyerowitz Stories (New And Selected)” doesn’t have the guffaws that Sandler at his best can deliver. Instead it is dusted laughs derived from the situations and characters. At its heart it’s a story of family dysfunction populated by people who never dip into self-pity. Marvel makes the best of her few moments but it is Sandler and Stiller who deliver the goods. Both hit career highs playing toned down versions of their carefully crafted comedic characters. Adding real humanity to Danny and Matthew elevates them from caricature. By not going for the broad strokes they are able to create tender and stinging moments that are some of the best in both their careers.
Hoffman is a hoot, perfectly complimented by Thompson who has some of the film’s best lines. Of the supporting cast Grace Van Patten, Danny’s loving daughter, is a standout.
“The Meyerowitz Stories (New And Selected)” could have been maudlin but when filtered through director Noah Baumbach’s sensibility is a smart and heartwarming.
Richard and CP24 anchor Nneka Elliot talk about the weekend’s four big releases, “Now You See Me 2,” the Cos Play freak-out “Warcraft,” the great Greta Gerwig’s “Maggie’s Plan,” and the spooky atmosphere of “The Conjuring 2.”
Richard and CTV NewsChannel morning show host Marcia MacMillan chat up the weekend’s big releases, the magically delicious “Now You See Me 2,” the Cos Play freak-out “Warcraft,” Greta Gerwig’s marvelous “Maggie’s Plan,” and the spooky atmosphere of “The Conjuring 2.”
Maggie’s Plan, the new film from director Rebecca Miller, is an idiosyncratic look at the lives of some know-it-alls who don’t really know-it-all.
“I love complex geometry where I can connect different people in different ways,” she says, “and where you can completely change relationships over the course of a film.”
Populated by New York City academics—there’s a crypto anthropology prof, a sperm donor who thinks math is beautiful, a tenured Columbia instructor—Maggie’s Plan stars Greta Gerwig as, a single a-type art teacher hoping to have and raise a baby by herself. She has a sperm donor and a plan. Complicating her strategy is John, played by Ethan Hawke, a part-time professor who initially asks her to read the first chapter of his novel but quickly becomes a love interest. The resulting love triangle—he’s married to Georgette (Julianne Moore)—teaches Maggie to make fewer plans and embrace the mysteries of the universe.
“I was looking for something that could be funny, could be set in New York and that I could connect to,” says Miller, who adapted the screenplay from an unpublished novel by Karen Rinaldi. “Some months before I received the chapters Julianne Moore told me the story of a woman who had left her marriage, started a new family, blended a family and found herself in an organizational pickle. She constantly had to figure out other people’s ski holidays and things. I wondered if people could connect to this idea of how complicated it is to be a person right now and how many choices we have. I felt like it was kind of in the air and it felt very real to me. In that sense it had a lot of juice in it.”
The script of Maggie’s Plan suggests Miller may be a spiritual cousin of Woody Allen. Actually, she’s the daughter of legendary playwright Arthur Miller, but the way she writes about neurotic New Yorkers here has more in common with Allen than her dad’s realist morality plays. With a great deal of humour she details the lives of smart but not terribly aware New Yorkers.
“On a totally practical level I wanted to make a movie in New York because I was living here,” she says. “We lived in Ireland for years as our primarily home and then we shifted it here for a time. I was excited to be here but I had youngish children in the house so for me to live and work in the same place was important.
“I have a real love for [New York]. When you have been living here forever you don’t necessarily appreciate it but when you come back to the place suddenly everything looked so beautiful and appealing and wonderful. All my love and feelings for the actual, exact places that are in the movie spilled out onto the screen.”
She also included at least one incident from her life. In one funny scene a character expresses displeasure by burning a manuscript and returning the ashes to its author.
“I did burn someone’s book when I was in college,” she laughs. “It wasn’t a book they had written, to be fair. It was only a book they had lent to me and I was angry at them so I burned it. My salad days. I much more calm now.”
In “Maggie’s Plan,” the new film from director Rebecca Miller, two academics have a meeting of the minds.
Set against a backdrop of the ivory tower of academia—there’s a crypto anthropology prof, a sperm donor thinks math is beautiful, a tenured Columbia professor—Greta Gerwig plays the title character, a single, a-type art professor hoping to have and raise a baby by herself. She has a sperm donor, a pickle entrepreneur named Gus (Travis Fimmel)—“What do I deposit my genetic gold mine in?” he says.— and a plan. Complicating her plan is John (Ethan Hawke), a part-time professor who initially asks her to read the first chapter of his novel but quickly becomes a love interest. The resulting love triangle—he’s married to Georgette (Julianne Moore)—teaches Maggie to make fewer plans and embrace the mysteries of the universe.
The script of “Maggie’s Plan” suggests Rebecca Miller may be a spiritual cousin of Woody Allen. Actually, she’s the daughter of Arthur Miller, but the way she writes about neurotic New Yorkers here has more in common with Allen than her dad’s realist morality plays. With a great deal of humour she details the lives of smart but not terribly aware people. More important than the funny observational nature of the story is the cast’s ability to make self-absorption likeable.
As always Gerwig is a treasure who appears to be living the moment we witness on screen for the very first time. She makes it look easy but her naturalism is not only charming in the extreme, it’s very tough to do. She is the movie’s beating heart and despite some mislaid plans, always comes off as engaging.
Working opposite her is Hawke who effortlessly embodies John’s ego driven quest to be thought of as a serious novelist. Moore hands in a rare comedic performance—complete with an intimidatingly unidentifiable accent—as Georgette, an intellectually fierce but pretentiously over-the-top bundle of nerves.
“Maggie’s Plan” is an idiosyncratic look at the lives of some know-it-alls who don’t really know-it-all. It’s a screwball comedy that is equal parts goofy and great.
Welcome to the House of Crouse. There’s something for everyone on today’s show. If you’re an indie movie fan check out my chat with Maggie’s Plan director Rebecca Miller. Find out why she had to shoot her new movie in NYC. If your taste in films runs more toward the superhero side, listen in on my talk with “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” star Stephen Amell. Cowabunga!
Jason Bateman shares a first name with one of modern horror’s most famous villains, but as an actor he’s best known as a comedic actor. In “The Gift,” however, he explores the dark side of his horror icon namesake.
Simon (Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) are a married couple recently relocated back to Simon’s Los Angeles hometown. Work prospects are good, they live on one of those airy, open concept houses that rich movie characters often own and are even trying for a baby to complete their perfect Southern Californian life.
Things change when the past, in the form of Gordo (Joel Edgerton, who also wrote the script and directed), an old school mate of Simon’s, becomes a little too pushy in rekindling their acquaintance. Unwelcome encounters and unexpected “gifts” bring to light a decades old slight and expose cracks in Simon and Robyn’s relationship.
A study in allowing bygones to be bygones, “The Gift” is a tightly wound psychological thriller that takes it time getting to the surprises. Instead of delivering quick thrills Edgerton concentrates on character. He weaves a linear but complex story that will leave some viewers pointing the finger of blame for all the trouble at Gordo, some at Simon. It’s rich storytelling that sees both sides of the argument and burrows itself under the audience’s skin.
Much of the success of the film is due to Bateman’s startling performance. Years of comedic roles have labelled him the good-natured everyman, long on charm, short on malice. “The Gift” effectively turns that persona on its head, giving Bateman the chance to get dramatic as the heavy, a man content to ruin people’s lives to get what he wants. Bateman is perfect as Simon, presenting him as a caring, giving man before he taking a bone-chillingly sinister shift.
Hall adds to an already impressive resume, evolving the character of Robyn from naïve to gritty. Caught in limbo between Simon and Gordo, she is the film’s emotional core, showing apprehension, betrayal and anger in equal measures.
In front of and behind the camera Edgerton shows a steady hand doling out character and story information in small doses. Each revelation builds tension until the climax, which packs a mighty psychological wallop. No spoilers here, but near the end the thriller aspect of the story gives way to an unsettling Machiavellian revenge angle, but not a Tarantino style bloodbath. Instead it’s a high-minded stab at the heart that cuts deeply to the core of what the movie is really about—should facts get in the way of a good rumour?
“The Gift” is a sophisticated European flavoured scene spinner with fine performances that will have you asking, Who is the real villain?
The old maxim, “never judge a book by its cover” could have been coined to describe Pippa Lee. When we first meet her at age fifty she’s the very picture of composure, a well put together spouse to her much older husband. Of course, the journey to becoming Pippa Lee, trophy wife, is far more interesting than the well manicured facade she presents to friends, family, and even, most of the time, to herself. “The Private Lives of Pippa Lee,” the new film starring Robin Wright Penn in the title role, takes the viewer on the wild ride that is (and was) Pippa’s life.
We first get to know the middle aged Pippa, devoted wife of Herb Lee (Alan Arkin). He’s thirty years her senior and in a move to make a “pre-emptive strike against decrepitude,” he and Pippa leave New York for a retirement home. There her life begins to fall apart, and in a series of flashbacks we learn about her mother—a hopped up Maria Bello—her drug tinged wild young life—as portrayed by Blake Lively—and even a kinky photo session with her aunt’s lover. As her life unwinds, she finds security in the most unlikely of places—with the troubled son of a neighbor (Keanu Reeves).
Based on a novel written by director Rebecca Miller, “The Private Lives of Pippa Lee” is a rambling look at a woman in the midst of “a very quiet nervous breakdown.” The quirky flashback structure shouldn’t work, but Miller teases us, keeping the story fresh by bit by bit doling out tantalizing moments from Pippa’s life. There are ups and downs, and the reckless Pippa often seems to zig when she should zag, but in the end the story is life affirming, but in a grown up way.
Despite the presence of teen dream queen Blake Lively, this isn’t a drama for kids. It’s a study of living life north of forty populated with believable, interesting characters.
Front and center is Robin Wright Penn in the lead role. She’s never made much of an impression on me, despite her great beauty, but here she glows, as if this is the role she has waited all these years to do. As the elder Pippa (Lively plays her as a young woman) Penn hits all the right notes, creating a fully formed person out of a collection of flashbacks and biographical notes.
She is supported by an engaging and able cast including Alan Arkin as her wrinkled husband, Winona Ryder as her teary-eyed friend and (ultimately) betrayer Sandra, Maria Bello as her pill popping Stepford Mom and Keanu Reeves as a love interest with a twist.
“The Private Lives of Pippa Lee” mixes and matches mid-life drama and humor, delivering some surprises and real emotional moments to create an interesting portrait of an interesting person.