I REMEMBER A DATE I WENT ON years ago, where at the end of it I asked how they felt about our time together. The answer I got was a complete shock to me. I was told that I was standoffish and appeared unemotional. Not that I was fishing for a compliment, but this was not the type of answer I ever expected. I thought I came across as relaxed and easy going, with a touch of self-deprecating humor. It seemed as if we were on two different dates. Inside my mind I quickly did a replay of our conversation and the topics we discussed. I was able to get a couple of laughs out of some of the things I said, and I know I was paying attention because I did ask questions to further explain things or get a better sense how they felt about the subject we were discussing. Usually at the end of a date I would ask the person if they would be interested in getting together again; regarding this date, I knew there would be no point to ask such a question. My feelings had gotten bruised a bit; I wasn’t going to take a chance of them getting hurt more. I did, however, thank them for their honesty even though I just felt confused about the whole evening. ON THE WAY HOME AND FOR the rest of the weekend I mulled over that date. Calling friends for feedback and input, I really wanted to see if I was missing something. It turned into a thought-provoking time for me. After all the discussions and going through memories, I realized that I did indeed keep a tough façade around me. My friends pointed out that when I am around unfamiliar people I become more reserved, observing everyone with little talking. Once I get comfortable then I begin to relax around strangers and can start to joke and carry on a conversation. I wondered why I was cautious around strangers, but I soon found my answer after delving deeper inside of myself. Having always felt like an outsider, never fitting into a specific group, I was perceived as being odd or just different. As some of you may know, being different in school can be a disadvantage and at my school I was definitely at a disadvantage. When I got teased and picked on for being different, I started to learn to put up a hard front. I was going to show “them” that they could not get the best of me; so, I shut down. I buried my feelings to show I could not get hurt. The main character in this dramatic comedy would certainly understand. NOTHING WAS MORE IMPORTANT TO KATE, played by Taylor Schilling (The Lucky One, Orange is the New Black-TV), than her job. Even when her brother desperately needed her to watch her niece Maddie, played by Bryn Vale (Red Band Society-TV), for one night. With Kate McKinnon (The Spy Who Dumped Me, Rough Night) as Jill, Brian Tyree Henry (Widows, If Beale Street Could Talk) as Pete and Matt Walsh (Into the Storm, Veep-TV) as Dan; this film festival nominated movie’s story was one that had been done before. However, I will say the script offered an edgier version of that story. The cast worked well together, and I was impressed with the performances from Taylor and Bryn. The idea of not fitting in really stood out for me and I had to give credit to the writers for carrying that message through the story. Though I could tell how the story would play out, it did not take away my focus from watching this humorous picture. Also, it felt good to sit in a theater with other viewers who felt the same way as we all chuckled at the same things.
2 ½ stars
GATHERED IN THE HOUSE WAS A mix of adults and children for the celebration. Everyone was getting along and enjoying the food. The children were being kids with their usual interruptions of “She said” and “He did” complaints. There were a couple of incidents where a child was crying, but the adults quickly intervened to calm the child down. At some point a four-year-old came up to me and asked if I could read a story to him; in his hand, he already had a large hardbound book. I told him I would be happy to read to him. He led me over to the couch and told me where to sit. After the boy handed me the book he climbed up and sat next to me. I started reading out loud to him, pointing at the illustrations when they were being described in the story. He seemed to be enjoying the story and even asked me a couple of times to explain something further. At one point, I do not recall specifically what topic I was reading at the time, the little boy pressed his finger to a word on the page then turned and slapped me in the face. He giggled which angered me more. I closed the book, putting it down on the couch. Next, I turned to him as I started to stand up and lifted him at arms’ length away from me. We went right to his parents where I explained why I was not going to finish reading the book to him. WHERE DOES A CHILD LEARN THAT it is okay to strike someone? It is a question I have always wondered about. Some of the reasons I have come up with include the child may have seen family members fighting or the child had been a victim of abuse and/or bulling or maybe the child’s parents had poor parenting skills; I honestly do not know. There is another option I have thought about based on my experiences when I was a small boy. There are just some kids who are bad. Now you may say there is no such thing as a bad child, but I would have to disagree. Maybe it has to do with a child’s environment; however, I feel children at some point understand the difference between right and wrong. If nothing else among their peers, they would be judged on their actions and realize what is and is not appropriate behavior. In school wouldn’t the child get an explanation on why they were given a detention or sent to the principal’s office? I think some children thrive on bad behavior. If you don’t believe me then see what the young boy does in this dramatic horror thriller. HUSBAND AND WIFE JOHN AND SARAH, played by Peter Mooney (We Were Wolves, Rookie Blue-TV) and Taylor Schilling (The Lucky One, Orange is the New Black-TV), quickly realized there was something special about their son Miles, played by Jackson Robert Scott (It, Locke & Key-TV). That specialness however had a good and bad side. I was somewhat surprised by this movie and I think it is because I enjoyed the acting from Taylor and Jackson. The script was a close copy of previous child horror film scripts; there were few new elements in this story. In addition, most of the scenes meant to scare the audience were telegraphed well in advance. I did appreciate at least that the writers and director kept the blood level to a minimum. There was an opportunity here to make something different and scary, but I have to chalk it up to “bad” decisions being made that turned this film into a bland movie watching experience.
The evening went from cordial to odd to bizarre for me. I was brought as a guest to a dinner party, unfamiliar with the couple who were the hosts. Their place was cool looking with a mixture of furnishings from the past several decades. Each room had one wall painted for the color theme of the room; accompanied by matching accents that gave each space its own dramatic flair. The conversation was lively right from the start; however, since I did not know this couple I could not tell if some of the things they were saying were supposed to be a joke. I had to take my cues from the surrounding guests. When dinner was ready we all sat around an oval dining table that was perched on a carved wooded pedestal. It gave the appearance of a wide tree. During the meal there were times where the topic of conversation would veer off into areas that I had a hard time following what the hosts were trying to say. In addition I found some of the things they were saying were not appropriate. Unfortunately the food only added to my discomfort; some things were undercooked in my opinion, besides having a taste that I could not tell was due to spices or spoilage. I know it was a tough spot to be in because there was no way I, who was essentially a stranger to the hosts, was going to say anything. So my time sitting at the dining room table was made up of nodding my head, smiling and picking at my food carefully. I do not know what I would have done if I were with the two couples in this movie. NEWLY transplanted couple Alex and Emily, played by Adam Scott (Friends with Kids, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) and Taylor Schilling (The Lucky One, Orange is the New Black-TV), felt they were making their very first friendship in their new city when Kurt, played by Jason Schwartzman (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Listen Up Philip), invited them to come over for dinner and meet his wife Charlotte, played by Judith Godreche (Stoker, The Man in the Iron Mask). It would be a dinner they would never forget. This film festival nominated comedy had some great dialog in the script. There were parts of this movie where I could relate to what the characters were feeling; but other times I sat in my seat in disbelief. The actors did a good job with their characters, even with the uneven script. I appreciated the fact the writers tried to put a different spin on a story that easily could be found in a comedy show on cable television. It was not fair that I got to experience some of the actors’ emotions in the scenes but did not get to have any of the food.
2 3/4 stars
After the movie ended and I had to climb over the woman dabbing at her moist eyes with a wad of tissues, I was wondering who was the lucky one. Maybe she felt fortunate for seeing this movie; I know I certainly did not, I was the unlucky one. My teachers used to tell me before you give a negative comment, always start out with something positive. I liked the coming attractions. Now that I got that out of the way, let me start with the lead character Logan played by Zac Efron(17 Again, New Year’s Eve). He was so wrong for this movie and shame on the director for not pushing Zac to at least try and act in this movie. I felt he was too young and pretty while he tried to portray a three tours of duty marine. After finding a photograph of a woman, Logan felt it was a good luck charm that protected him, keeping him alive during his military stint. He made a promise if he survived the war, he would find this woman and thank her. The photo he kept close was of Beth played by Taylor Schilling (Dark Matter, Mercy). Her acting was decent, but there was absolutely no chemistry between her and Zac. Besides being passionless to the point of almost painful, this movie was predictable. Syrupy music was used throughout as we were exposed to extended shots of the sun setting or rising. I did not read the book, but I think with a different cast and director this film could have been a better movie and a more believable story.
1 3/4 stars