LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE – This film seems to alternately loved and loathed, and I guess I was sorta reluctant to see it in the theaters given the high preponderance of folks in the latter camp. I didn’t need to worry – it was a mostly funny, well-made indie-by-the-numbers comedy with some strong performances from Toni Colette and the always-great Allan Arkin, as well as from the little girl whose beauty-pageant dreams kick the road-movie, dysfunctional family shenanigans into high gear. I can see why this was the hit of Sundance last year because, while being unique in its content, it hued so closely to the structure & feel of past wacky indie comedies that it figured the audiences there would go bananas for it. Solid film, definitely worth a rental. B.
THE OH IN OHIO – On the other hand, this one was a total monstrosity. Staring the once-reliable Parker Posey as an uptight executive who can’t bring herself to climax with her husband or solo, the film is a shapeless, unfunny, poorly-acted mess. I knew we should have turned it off when Danny Devito showed up. His scenes with Posey near the film’s end (they hook up! Right!) are stunningly tone deaf and badly written, and when the thing ends it does so with a total thud. This film is the final proof I needed that Posey, who I & everyone else loved early in her career, really isn’t much of an actress when you get right down to it – she’s great in certain roles (usually when she gets to be a clueless, shrill bitch), but everything else I’ve watched her in lately has had total diminishing returns. This one’s the worst of her sorry 21st Century lot by far. D-.
SUMMER IN BERLIN (pictured above) – They have this great “Berlin & Beyond” film festival in San Francisco every year, and this was the opening night release. It’s about two Berlin-based women trying to figure out how to move their lives beyond the rote and day-to-day, and maintain their deep & very personal friendship as they do so. One, Karin, is a 39-year-old single mom with a serious drinking/depression problem; the other is a smoking-hot, thong-wearing twentysomething who cleans bedpans by day and hits on the fellas by night. I thought the film did a good job capturing their relationship and what happened to it when a man entered the life of the younger woman; that said, there was a lot of hackneyed dialogue and a few scenes that absolutely perplexed me as to why they weren’t cut. “Summer in Berlin” might get a wider general release – I guess it was good enough – but I’ll venture to say it probably won’t. It was what I like to call a “film festival film” in every sense of the phrase. C.