Attending a wedding is a little like going to a dinner/theater performance. Sometimes the food can be good while the production is lukewarm; other times, it can be the exact opposite. Wedding receptions are a double edged sword for me. There have been occasions where the bride and groom made it their mission to find me the same happiness they had by seating me next to one of their single friends. Can we say awkward? Usually every wedding has one relative in attendance who feels everyone should be having as much fun as her or him. In my case it usually was a tipsy aunt who found out I could dance and wants to dance the night away with me. So you see why I accept wedding invitations with some trepidation. I had similar feelings about seeing this comedy; my expectations were low. Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook, Being Flynn) and Diane Keaton (Mad Money, The Family Stone) played former husband and wife Don and Ellie. If it was not going to be uncomfortable enough seeing each other for their adoptive son’s wedding; it was going to be a monumental task to pretend they were still married for the sake of their son’s strictly religious, biological mother. Granted the story was far-fetched, but the actors gave it a decent shot. What made it work was the chemistry between Robert, Diane and Susan Sarandon (The Company you Keep, The Client) who played the girlfriend Bebe to Robert’s character Don. It was a pleasant surprise to see Robin Williams (World’s Greatest Dad, Good Will Hunting) playing a more subdued character as Father Moinighan. There were amusing scenes as well as lame scenes throughout the movie. It may be due to my years of exposure to family (dys)functions; but as a whole, I did not mind sitting through this film. At least I did not have anyone sitting next to me or was forced to get up and dance.
2 1/4 stars
There have been so many times I have heard someone say, “Act normal” and I just want to ask them, “What is normal?” Or when someone remarks, “They are the perfect family” I question them on what that exactly means. Where are these requirements written that describe the perfect family? As far as I am concerned, there is no such thing as acting normal or being a perfect family. To me it seems judgmental to compare one person or family to another. For these reasons I found this movie to be exceptional. The family was real to me; I loved all the characters…and I do mean characters. Bradley Cooper (The Words, Limitless) was outstanding as Pat Solatano, the recently released inmate of a state institution. Jobless and homeless, Pat had to move back in with his parents Dolores and Pat Sr., played by Jackie Weaver (Animal Kingdom, The Five-Year Engagement) and Robert De Niro (Being Flynn, Goodfellas). Spending his time thinking of ways he could get back with his wife; Pat was presented with an opportunity after he was introduced to recently widowed Tiffany, brilliantly played by Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games, Winter’s Bone). I am still processing why I felt these characters were like family to me; each actor was believable with their little neuroses and quirks. Having a well toned, hilarious script was certainly a big plus. Even Chris Tucker (Rush Hour franchise, The Fifth Element) who can be over the top was wonderful playing Pat’s friend Danny. The three performances that stood out for me came from Bradley, Robert and Jennifer. They did some of their best work in this romping good film. After you have spent some time here with the Solatano family, you may have to come up with a whole new definition for the word normal.
3 1/2 stars
There are parents that do whatever they can to give their children a better life. Whether they push their kids to work harder at their studies or to give more time to their practices, most parents want the best for their children. Growing up my mother would always tell me that I should become an accountant, because I was good with numbers. I did not know if it was because at the age of 8 years old I started selling my brothers’ comic books and records on the street corner, unbeknownst to them. Or at the age of 13, I got a job with my friends selling household products door to door; I was enterprising but had no desire to grow up and become an accountant. From what I have seen, you just never know how a child will turn out. The family dynamics were fascinating to me, in this touching drama. Recent widower Frank Goode, played by Robert De Niro (Being Flynn, Limitless), realized he had to find some way to connect with his children, now that their mother was gone. When the children cancel a planned holiday trip to come in and visit him, Frank decided he would surprise each of them by showing up at their homes unannounced. Some surprises, however, do not turn out as planned. Just because someone says they are fine, doesn’t necessary mean they are okay. In the past few years I felt Robert De Niro was becoming a cartoon character of himself. It was so good to see him take this role and bring out a nuanced, emotional vulnerability; I thought it was one of his better performances. Playing his daughters Amy and Rosie, Kate Beckinsale (Underworld franchise, The Aviator) and Drew Barrymore (Charlie’s Angels, Music and Lyrics) were quite good in this poignant film. I certainly will give more thought before telling someone I am fine, after having seen this movie.
3 stars — DVD
There is such a fascination with stars. Whether it concerns their death or birth, their names, when they are falling or even shooting; there is something about them that intrigues us. Oh, by the way, I am referring to stars in the astronomical sense, not the Hollywood variety. “When You Wish Upon a Star” or “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” are part of the magical hope and desire we place on these brilliant, little lights in the sky. This fantasy film was a wonderful example of taking the magic of a star and bringing it to life. The story played just like one of those classic fairy tales I remembered from my youth. Tristan Thorn, played by Charlie Cox (Stone of Destiny, Casanova), to prove his love for the girl of his dreams, vowed to retrieve a fallen star. However, he would have to cross over into the neighboring magical realm, where he would have to contend with the sinister Lamia, played by Michelle Pfeiffer (People Like Us, New Year’s Eve). There were equal amounts of action, humor, drama and fantasy in this beautiful movie. If I am not mistaken, I think Michelle brought out a little of her Catwoman persona because she was just evil in her role. There was the added benefit of a solid cast of other characters played by Robert De Niro, Claire Danes and Ricky Gervais. It was a real treat to watch this fanciful film. I cannot imagine anyone watching this movie and not adding a little magical dreaming, the next time they gaze upon a star.
3 1/4 stars — DVD
Welcome back Mr. De Niro, you have been missed. For the longest time, Robert De Niro (New Year’s Eve, Goodfellas) has been more like a caricature of himself; doing some cheesy, crappy movies. I was grateful to see him take on the role of Jonathan Flynn; a delusional, self-proclaimed writer. As an absentee father to his son Nick, played by Paul Dano (There Will be Blood, Cowboys & Aliens), Jonathan re-appeared into his son’s life, when he walked into the homeless shelter where Nick was employed. With this set-up the audience was treated to some fine acting from father and son, as the conflicted Nick wondered if there was a chance to connect with his dad. I felt the scenes in the shelter were some of the best in the movie. The story periodically jumped from present to Nick’s childhood, where we were fortunate to see Nick’s mother, Jody Flynn played by the wonderful Julianne Moore (The Kids Are All Right, Chloe). For the latter part of the movie, I felt the story weakened, slowing down the pace. If nothing else, it was good to see Robert De Niro take on a decent role. I only hope he continues to take on challenging roles and display that fine acting we were used to getting.
2 3/4 stars