January 6, 2012. Guys Who Won’t Grow Up. Movies Reviewed: Jeff Who Lives At Home, Dark Horse, Starbuck

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies, for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, genre and mainstream movies, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.

It’s a New Year now, and everyone’s scrambling to make vows, resolutions and oaths to change their lives. And there’s one group that’s often makes the most earnest promises of all — I’m talking about that popular caricature, Guys Who Won’t Grow Up. In the movies, they tend to have dead-end jobs, play with toys, smoke pot, live in their parents’ basements and generally strike out with women, despite all their good intentions. So this week I’m looking at three movie, all of which played at TIFF last year, about grown-up boys who decide to change their lives. So all you couch potatoes, it’s time to get up, go out, and see some movies!

Jeff Who Lives at Home

Wri/Dir: Jay and Mark Duplass

Jeff (Jason Segel) lives at home – sits around his his mother’s basement in his underwear, to be exact. He smokes pot, eats chips, watches TV, and waxes philosophical about the cosmos… while sitting on the toilet. He doesn’t get along with his older brother Pat anymore (Ed Helms), a self-centred square who neglects his wife. Pat’s a guy who’s supposed to look at a new home, but instead spends all their money on a Porsche on impulse. And now his wife doesn’t feel so great about their marriage. And Mom also notices a change in her cubicle job when her nest friend tells her she has a secret admirer. So what’s going to happen?

Jeff, is a proto- string theorist (like the characters in the movie I Heart Huckabees) He’s always waiting for “signs” to tell him what to do.

Well, one day he’s forced to leave home for downtown Baton Rouge to pick up a bottle of glue for his mother (Susan Sarandon). But, when something catches his eye on an infomercial, followed by the words “CALL NOW!” at the same time as a strange, threatening wrong number calling for someone named “Kevin”, he gets sent off on a (seemingly) wild goose chase all around the city.

So Jeff embarks on this grand mission – one that eventually ties in with his brother’s failing marriage and his mother’s love life — because he knows, he just knows, that his actions will change the world.

This is a good, enjoyable comedy. I like the Duplass brothers, who usually make low-budget, ‘mumblecore”, semi-improvisational super-realistic movies. They do tend to use annoying, jiggly hand-held cameras, but the movies are interesting enough that it doesn’t bother you after awhile. This one, Jeff who Lives at Home, is the biggest budget and most mainstream so far, with stuntmen, and chase scenes, and big name cast. But I like this direction they’re taking – It’s not a sell-out, it’s a fun, light comedy.

You could say Jeff is a “lite” version of the next character. Now think of the same guy, but 10-15 years later…

Dark Horse

Dir: Todd Solandz

Abe (Jordan Gelber) also lives with his parents, but he’s older, less attractive, fatter, and without any of the cute, endearing qualities that Jeff (who also lives at home) had. He works in his dad’s company, sitting in his glassed-in office, dressing like a white gangsta rapper, in track pants and T-shirts, with a gold name plate around his neck. He drives a bright yellow SUV, listens to hiphop, collects Tron Legacy memorabilia. And he despises his older brother who’s a doctor, and whom his parents idolize. He’s simultaneously arrogant, talentless and uninteresting. He’s the kind of guy who throws something toward a garbage can, says “two points!”… and then misses.

But at a Jewish wedding in suburban New Jersey (a hilarious scene where adults in wedding suits are all doing head spins and break-dancing) he meets Miranda (Selma Blair), a depressed but pretty, dark-haired woman who lives with her parents, after breaking up with her boyfriend Mahmoud. Abe is the worst person at picking up girls, possibly in the entire world. When he hits on a woman he says things like “Do you like jazz? NFL?” without bothering to listen to her answer before moving on to the next failed pick-up line. But somehow — for whatever reason — they end up dating.

Here’s where the movie gets really interesting (and a bit confusing). Abe decides to take the bull by the horns and change his life. The story goes off on these bizarre tangents. Things get bad with his lethargic parents (Mia Farrow and Christopher Walken) who finally put their collective foot down; the older secretary, Marie, at the office pursues her sexual crush on Abe; and he has other troubles with his plastic model collection. Abe can’t take it anymore.

I don’t want to give it away, but once again, Todd Solandz, who is such a good director, (with his painfully dark stories and funny-depressing characters) experiments once again with new narrative techniques, like unreliable narrators; total, sudden shifts in point of view – but without informing the viewers; and fantasy, delusions and dreams almost undistinguishable from reality. Wow. It’s a great movie that I hope will get released soon.

Starbuck

Dir: Ken Scott

David (Patrick Houad) is just not doing that well with his life. Everything just seems to be going wrong. He’s separated from his girlfriend, he’s bad at his job (delivering meat for his family business), and his money-making scheme, a grow-up, must be the only one in the world actually losing money: he owes 80 thousand to a bunch of violent thugs who want it back. His girlfriend – who’s pregnant with his kid – tells him he’d better change things if he wants to be that kid’s father. But these all seem like small potatoes when he’s hit by the biggest news of all – the sperm he anonymously donated at a fertility clinic 20 years go, was fertile. Very. He has 500 adult kids now, and 140 or so are planning a class-action suit to make him reveal his identity (he donated using only the nickname “Starbuck”.)

So he decides to secretly track down as many of his kids he can find, to help them out but without revealing his identity to them. There’s a lifeguard, a drug addict, a street musician, an effeminate goth, an aspiring actor… even if David’s own life is a total loss, maybe he can at least make his mark on the world by helping his many, many kids succeed. But the media pick up his story, making it harder and harder to remain hidden. Will he make it out of his various personal crises? Will he be forced to expose his identity to the world? Will his immigrant family ever feel proud of him? And will his pregnant girlfriend let him back into her life?

Starbuck is a really enjoyable, solid, feel-good commercial Quebec comedy, (from the people who brought us Good Cop, Bon Cop0. It’s playing at the TIFF Bell Lightbox as part of the best 10 Canadian films series starting now, along with the new Cronenberg movie and Monsieur Lazhar.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies for CIUT 89.5 FM, and on my web site, culturalmining.com.

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  1. Adam in chains said, on June 21, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    What women don’t seem to understand is that they have changed the rules. Marriage used to provide us men with a faithfull mate, someone to bring up your kids, look after your house and be attentive to your needs. In exchange we committed and went out and worked to pay for it all. Now we get none of that. At best “commitment” means living with a permanently stressed out woman who puts you at the bottom of the pile, after career, kids, socialising and shopping, who outsources the care of your children and can’t boil an egg. At worst, encouraged by the courts and a sense of dissatisfaction and entitlement, she will disppear with another man and your children, and financially cripple you for life! and this brings on my mind some words of advice:

    THE 4 BIBLE PASSAGES:

    1 John 2:18-19 “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen; from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us.”

    1 John 2:22-23 “Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies THE FATHER AND THE SON(*). Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.”

    1 John 4:2-3 “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.”

    2 John 1:7 “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.”

    From the Bible we can clearly see 3 things. First, the “antichrist” is defined as anyone who doesn’t believe Jesus is the divine son of God. Second, “antichrists” appear to actively teach against Christ. Third, there were many “antichrists” in the world when John wrote the book. This directly contradicts the teaching of modern speculationists who say that one antichrist will arise at some still future time.

    The Greek word from which our English word “antichrist” is translated is very simple to understand. It is a simple compound word and means “anti” + “Christ” = “antichrist”. We use the same compound word every day. We have people who are “anti-smoking” or “anti-gay” or “anti-hunting” or “anti-Semitic” or “anti-abortion”. There really is no big mystery as to what the word means. “Anti-Christ” is anyone who opposes Christ.

    Take this test to see if you are an “antichrist”: 1. Do you actively teach or simply believe that Jesus Christ never walked the earth, but was a mythological figure? 2. Do you actively teach or simply believe there was a man named Jesus Christ, but he did not actually raise from the dead? 3. Do you actively speak out against or simply believe Christianity is a false religion? 4. Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters” Matthew 12:30. Are you an atheist or agnostic who is indifferent and non-religious? Then you too are an “antichrist”! The Bible term “antichrist” could be simply understood to be equivalent to being a “non-believer.”

    The “antichrist” then, has no horns or red glowing eyes. Neither is the “antichrist” some demon possessed super-intelligent human clone. Rather, the “antichrist” are generally.. the women!

    Basically, in the bible there’s a warning to keep women in the right conditions so they cannot harm themselves and men, or everythings will be doomed and the world as (they) we knows will end.

    Today, women gained power (the dragon myth is realted to power), wreak families, childs and destroy the male figure in our societies, If a major religion is praying to a female deity, would it not make sense that the opposite of Christ would be totally inverse? the women? i think so..

    Ancient warn us about women but seems that we don’t really care, even if they are doing exactly what they once told us..

    That’s why men must remember and be, once again, MEN! since the antichrists, the antimen, the women, will ruin men’s life.. check the world around you.. where only a bunch of smart men who use women rules over all.. they earn lot of money just to deceive men using women to drives men life’s crazy and waste their life.

  2. […] this Waltz and People Like Us both open this weekend — as does Todd Solandz’s excellent Dark Horse — check your local listings; the ICFF Italian Contemporary Film Festival continues through […]


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