REVIEW: PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN (2020)

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PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN (2020)

Film finds thirty-something Cassie (Carey Mulligan) working in a coffee shop and still living with her parents (Clancy Brown and Jennifer Coolidge). Cassie was a med student seven years ago, but the date rape and resulting suicide of her best friend Nina caused her to drop out. Now the emotionally troubled Cassie plots to get back at the man responsible and those who covered for and defended him. She also goes to bars at night, pretends to be drunk and teaches a lesson to anyone who try to take advantage of her. Her nocturnal activities and the path to payback for Nina hit a bit of a snag, though, when she meets a charming and handsome pediatrician (Bo Burnham).

Powerful flick is written and directed by Emerald Fennell and is an extremely impressive feature film debut. It tackles the subjects of date rape, sexual misconduct at schools and the effects on the victims, through the vengeful Cassie, but not without an undercurrent of dark humor. Through Cassie and her confronting those involved, we learn of how Nina was taken advantage of at a party, raped and then having to watch the perpetrator Al Monroe (Chris Lowell) defended and covered for by the school administration and other students, such as classmate Madison (Alison Brie). It turned Nina into an emotional wreck who we safely assume finally took her own life. The film boldly faces down how the perpetrators of such acts become the defendants and the victims the villains, in this society of boys will be boys. It illustrates how more concern is shown for not ruining the accused’s life than for the victim’s trauma and pain. Cassie also confronts like individuals by going to bars, playing drunk and then confronting these guys as they plan to take advantage of her. The film is unflinching, yet the underlying dark humor helps keep these timely subjects from bludgeoning you. Fennell deftly keeps you attentive, receptive and sensitive to the subject matter, as it’s cleverly woven into the story and thus better received and the points better made. As we watch the tale unfold, we get what writer/director is trying to say, slyly, but not too subtly as to miss those points. Emerald Fennell takes the gloves off and through Cassie calls out the frat boy, wolf pack mentality that protects the guilty and leaves victims humiliated and ostracized. She also directs with a lethal sarcasm and a hip and colorful style, as we follow Cassie along her path to retribution that culminates in a riveting and disturbing last act at Al Monroe’s bachelor party. A film with an important message for the #metoo generation, told with a lethal wit by Fennell. A viciously witty indictment of all too common behavior and the lack of consequences for that behavior.

The cast is strong with Carey Mulligan giving a brilliant performance as the young woman who beneath her sarcastic, slacker exterior is seething with anger and rage. A woman who’s pain and frustration, at how her friend was treated, has been focused into an intelligent and borderline sinister plan for payback. Until she reaches her target, she vents her anger out on lecherous bar patrons, she lures in by playing the naive drunk girl. It is also a direct statement on the mentality of far too many men when we witness just how often her trap works. Bo Burnham is charming and funny as Cassie’s unexpected love interest, Ryan. Is his interest in her and her growing feelings for him enough to make her put aside her inner turmoil and rage? This film is worth watching to find out. Clancy Brown and Jennifer Coolidge are good as her disappointed, frustrated and somewhat clueless parents and Chris Lowell is appropriately slimy as eternal frat boy and party rapist Al Monroe. In smaller, but effective parts are Adam Brody and Christopher Mintz-Plasse as men who Cassie vents her anger at…with good reason…along with Alison Brie and Connie Britton as the student and school dean, respectively, who covered for Monroe and dismissed Nina’s accusations.

Overall, this was an intense flick with a powerful message told with a very dark and sarcastic sense of humor. A smashing directorial debut from Emerald Fennell with a powerhouse performance by lead Carey Mulligan. It takes on it’s subject of sexual abuse and how society protects the accused and vilifies the victim with gloves off and head on. It has a lethal wit and a very hip style and comes to a climax that will stay with you for some time. Bravo to Emerald Fennell on a borderline masterpiece film debut and very, very highly recommended!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 4 (out of 4) sexy nurse hats!

 

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE RENTAL (2020)

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THE RENTAL (2020)

Flick has two couples, Charlie and his wife Michelle (Dan Stevens and Alison Brie) and his brother Josh and girlfriend Mina (Jeremy Allen White and Sheila Vand) renting a remote oceanside house for the weekend. Things get off to a tense start when Mina accuses handyman/house owner Taylor (Toby Huss) of being a racist and as Mina and Charlie are business partners, there is tension between them of the sexual kind. Add to that, a mysterious individual is watching the couples from without and within the house and it’s a recipe for a weekend of infidelity, betrayal, violence and murder.

Flick is the debut feature from actor/director Dave Franco from his script with Joe Swanberg. It’s an atmospheric but bland mix of genres and sub-genres that never really grabs hold of you. We get a slasher flick, mixed with a stalker/voyeur flick, mixed with a ‘self-centered yuppies try to cover up a death to save their selfish asses’ flick and none of these elements are engrossing, nor is the mash-up itself one that is put together with much cleverness. Taken as a whole, or in it’s genre/sub-genre parts, it’s all very flat and routine. Mix in the fact that none of the characters are particularly likable and there is no one to care about or root for, either. They are all self-absorbed and seem to have little problem cheating on, lying to and backstabbing each other. Once the stalker and slasher element kicks in, we really don’t care if any of them fall victim to his hammer. We don’t care if he uses his acquired footage to turn them against each other, either. Besides, why go through all trouble manipulating them if you’re just going to hunt them down and try to kill them regardless? Even the victim whose death the four are trying to cover up…in a sub-plot that adds nothing and doesn’t further the story any…isn’t particularly likable. The dog Reggie (Chunk) is the only character we do like and even he conveniently disappears for most of the last act. There is some graphic violence and some bland shower sex and overall, this is simply a very routine and forgettable flick beneath the sumptuous cinematography and a bit of atmosphere in the last act.

The cast are solid enough in their parts, but, again, none of the characters are particularly likable. Stevens’ Charlie is a bit full of himself and is apparently a cheater and does so as Michelle sleeps in the next room. Alison Brie’s Michelle is a bit of a prissy whiner, even before she has to deal with infidelity and a dead body. Josh seems like a stereotypical hotheaded punk and while White is fine in the role, he comes across as a jerk, especially when he outs Charlie to Michelle about his cheating ways. Vand is possibly the most likable, as the feisty Mina, but she looses any sympathy when she cheats on Josh with Charlie. Even Toby Huss’ homeowner Taylor is accused of being a creep and a racist, so we don’t endear to him either, even when he gets caught in the middle of couples and killer…which is no spoiler, as it is obvious from the start that Taylor isn’t our stalker. No strong suspicion is ever set up. As for the killer, he doesn’t generate enough menace to make an impression and is given no personality. Even the climactic coda has been done before and is nowhere near as unsettling as it’s meant to be. Again, bland.

Franco shows he can give a flick a little mood and atmosphere and has a good visual eye, but needs to come up with a better script and story to put that to good use. This flick is a ho-hum mash-up of routine elements, some that don’t even really seem to serve the story much. Why pit the couples against one another with infidelity and the murder cover-up, only to have them stalked indeterminately by the killer anyway? It seems like filler and a waste of time. Overall a very flat and routine thriller from Dave Franco and IFC Midnight.

-MonsterZero NJ

 

Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) shower heads complete with spy camera.

 

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TV REVIEW: GLOW (2017)

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GLOW (2017)

Glow is a fun and nostalgic 2017 Netflix original show based on the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling tv program that ran from 1986-1990. The original show featured a bevy of female wrestlers performing cartoon-ish stereotype characters and soap opera-esque story-lines along with in-ring matches…which isn’t too much removed from professional wrestling in general. This ten episode Netflix series fictionalizes the creation of the show when struggling exploitation director Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron) agrees to put an all girl wrestling show together for wannabe producer Sebastian (Chris Lowell) who has a rich mother. Sam’s actual goal is to get “Bash” to fund his next flick. Answering the audition call for the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling are down-on-her-luck actress Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie), her former best friend and ex-soap opera actress Debbie (Betty Gilpin), along with ten other women. The show mixes comedy and drama as it chronicles Sam and the ladies’ struggle to train, come up with their characters and get along, without killing the show, or each other, before they even step into the ring.

Glow starts off a bit shaky, but after a few episodes hits it’s stride quite nicely. The shaky start is due to the need to get the story moving quickly as there are only ten, half-hour episodes to tell it. The show needs to establish Ruth and Debbie as friends, turn them into enemies…when Ruth sleeps with Debbie’s husband (Rich Sommer)…and then thrust them back together as they become the show’s intended star rivals. This is hastily done in the first two episodes and doesn’t quite gel as we never get a feel for them as friends before they are at each others throats, literally. Ruth’s motivations for sleeping with her friend’s husband are never really convincing either. Just not enough time to really make it work. Once this occurs, the show kicks into gear as the production seems doomed from the start, yet the group start to come together like a dysfunctional family to try to make it happen. Not everything works, like an abortion sub-plot that literally lasts for one episode and seems to add nothing, and occasionally some of the humor falls flat, though mostly it works. Otherwise, this is a lot of nostalgic fun, especially if you remember the actual show that inspired it, or are a fan of everything 80s. The finishing touch is that it’s all wrapped in some awesome 80s tunes across it’s ten episodes and the whole thing leaves us wanting more.

The cast work really well and as a character driven show that is important. Alison Brie has shown a flair for comedy in the TV sitcom Community and some of her recent film roles and she shines here as Ruth. Ruth sees herself as an actress and it takes a while for her to get used to this brand of acting, but once she does she dives in with both feet. Brie works very well in the part of a woman desperate to find her place and is adept as the physical comedy, too. Gilpin is solid as Debbie. A respected TV actress who left her soap opera role to be a wife and mother and now finds that home broken by Ruth and that she has a need to be more than a babysitter. Gilpin portrays well a woman with an axe to grind who wants to be star of the show and does so without making her unlikable. Marc Maron is perfectly cast as the somewhat sleazy filmmaker, who does have a heart underneath all that cynicism and sarcasm. He really does good work here at making the guy very likable, even when he’s being a bit of an ass. The supporting cast all are strong, including Sydelle Noel as “Cherry” who becomes the groups trainer, as well as, one of the wrestlers know as “Junkchain” and Britney Young as a gentle giant of a women who only wants to prove she can be a wrestler like her famous father and brothers. A well rounded and well cast group of eccentric and eclectic characters.

So, the show does have a few flaws…and most shows take at least one season to hit their stride…but it overcomes them to become quite engaging. It’s a fun, nostalgic and clever look back not only an era, but one example of that era’s outrageousness. It’s well cast, has some fun moments and mixes the drama and comedy very well nicely. Another fun, entertaining and original show from Netflix!

The cast of Glow

EPISODE LIST

  1. Pilot – directed by Jesse Peretz and written by Liz Flahive & Carly Mensch
  2. Slouch. Submit – directed by Wendey Stanzier and written by Liz Flahive & Carly Mensch
  3. The Wrath of Kuntar – directed by Claire Scanlon and written by Nick Jones
  4. The Dusty Spur – directed by Melanie Mayron and written Sascha Rothchild
  5. Debbie Does Something – directed by Phil Abraham and written by Rachel Shukert
  6. This Is One Of Those Moments – directed by Kate Dennis and written by Jenji Kohan
  7. Live Studio Audience – directed by Jesse Peretz and written by Rachel Shukert
  8. Maybe It’s All The Disco – directed by Sian Heder and written by Nick Jones
  9. The Liberal Chokehold – directed by Lynn Shelton and written by Liz Flahive & Carly Mensch
  10. Money’s In The Chase – directed by Tristram Shapeero and written by Liz Flahive & Carly Mensch

-MonsterZero NJ

3 wrestling rings!
glow rating

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BARE BONES: BORN and COMPLIANCE

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BORN (2007)

Unintentionally hilarious horror stars Alison Brie (Sleeping WIth Other People) as a virginal young woman who is impregnated by a demon at her mother’s funeral…don’t ask. Now as she falls under her unborn child’s evil influence, she goes on a killing spree to supply six victims for it’s birthing ritual.

Low budget horror is as stupid as it sounds and as filled with clichés as you’d expect and gets more and more ridiculous as it goes on. Star Brie recites some side split-tingly awful dialog and goes completely over the top in scenes that are meant to be shocking and scary, but provide rib-tickling laughs instead. The sex scene is worth watching this for alone… you’ll laugh till you cry…as is the scene where her water breaks and it looks like green dishwashing liquid! And the whole thing is meant to be serious! Epic fail for them!…Win, win for us!

Also starring Denise Crosby and genre favorite Kane Hodder who actually looks embarrassed to be in this. Crack open your favorite brew and enjoy this schlock-fest.

Oh…and for those watching for the charming Alison Brie, there’s good and bad news…the Community star does get to kiss another girl and talk hilariously dirty during a sex scene, but sadly uses an obvious body double for the brief nude scenes. Below rating is purely for ‘so bad it’s good’ entertainment value.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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COMPLIANCE (2012)

A disturbing thriller based on supposedly true events about a mean spirited prank pulled on the employees of a fast food restaurant. A caller (Pat Healy), claiming to be a police officer, tells manager Sandra (Ann Dowd) that one of her employees, Becky (Dreama Walker) has committed a theft and needs to be searched and detained. The caller asks Sandra and her staff to do increasingly humiliating things to Becky all under the guise that it is part of a criminal investigation and none of them seem to have the courage to question the increasingly depraved acts until it’s too late.

Compliance is a tough movie to sit through and it would be hard to believe that people could be stupid enough to go along with such a horrible prank for as long as they did, except for the fact that it is all taken from a case in 2004 at a Mc Donald’s in Fort Washington, Kentucky. Craig Zobel writes and directs the story fairly straightforward and he gets good performances out of his cast and the result is a disturbing movie that is tough to sit through…even more so, because it actually happened. Not a great film. The aftermath seems rushed after the film took it’s time portraying the events, but it is still effective and fairly well made.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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REVIEW: SLEEPING WITH OTHER PEOPLE (2015)

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SLEEPING WITH OTHER PEOPLE (2015)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Offbeat romantic comedy tells the story of Lainey (Alison Brie) and Jake (Jason Sudeikis). Twelve years ago they lost their virginities to each other in college and never saw each other again, until reconnecting twelve years later at a meeting for love addicts. Now, despite that neither of them can stay faithful in a relationship, they form a bond which may lead to the thing they both have been running away from since that fateful night…true love.

Writer/director Leslye Headland delivers a rarity, a romantic comedy that is not only cleverly funny and delightfully raunchy, but has some very heartfelt emotions that are never intrusive or overbearing. The film tries to avoid many of the clichés we are used to seeing in the more mainstream rom-com flicks and when it can’t, it uses them in a fresh and offbeat manner. Best of all, it is raunchy as can be, but unlike most flicks these days, there is some definite wit behind the raunch and thus it rarely, if ever, slips into the just plain vulgar, like so many other flicks fall right into. It gives us two very eccentric, troubled but very likable characters in Lainey and Jake and we are rooting for them to finally get together as we watch them avoid the inevitable, by continuously entering in relationships that aren’t right for them. The banter between Sudeikis and Brie is really crisp, funny and very well written and the delivery by both actors is impeccable. There is also a genuine heart to this flick that makes it work so well without ever getty sappy or overly sentimental. Sure it stumbles a bit in the last act, but regains it’s footing and gives us a satisfying conclusion fitting the eclectic characters.

This brings to the forefront the skilled cast that Headland has assembled. Community‘s Alison Brie is endearing as sweet but, very love-challenged Lainey who avoids risking her heart by pursuing a man (Adam Scott) with his own commitments. Sudeikis is really good as the kind-hearted ladies man, Jake, who avoids putting his heart at risk by sleeping around and breaking off anything that starts to resemble a relationship. He has some really clever dialogue and delivers it masterfully and has a nice self deprecating humor that keeps the character humbled despite his numerous conquests. He and Brie have a great chemistry together and their conversations are engaging and often hilariously dirty. There is also a definite spark between the two stars and you can see their feelings bubbling beneath all the evasiveness and denial. There is also top notch support from Amanda Peet, Adam Scott, Natasha Lyonne and Marc Blucas as the various people around our leads. All slightly eclectic characters that refreshingly avoid the stereotypes that usually populate these movies.

I really enjoyed this flick. Not only was a it an engaging romance, but was delightfully offbeat, cleverly written and very raunchy and funny. It had a sweet love story at it’s core surrounded by some eccentric but endearing characters. Filmmaker Leslye Headland gives some needed wit to the dirtier material and gets great chemistry and performances out of her cast. She also films New York with a loving lens and it makes you fall in love with the city, as well as, the characters she’s let loose inside it. A really entertaining indie romantic comedy.

-MonsterZero NJ

  3 and 1/2 green tea bottles…just watch the movie.

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