June 1, 2012. Bad Dads. Movies Reviewed: A Beginner’s Guide to Endings, Lovely Molly PLUS In the Family
Hundreds of thousands of students are on the streets of Montreal protesting the old-guard government’s plan to double university tuition and for enacting new laws that let the police arrest almost anyone they want. Does this mean we’re having another 1960’s style youth revolt against the patriarchy? Are Dads bad?
As always, life reflects art and art reflects life. Later on this morning I’m talking with director and star Patrick Wang and young actor Sebastian Blane about their moving new pro-dad film, In the Family, about a father’s fight to hold on to his son when the biological father (his same-sex spouse), dies. But, before that, I’m talking about some bad dads and what happens to their kids. One’s a Canadian comedy about three brothers who learn their late father was the cause of their own imminent deaths; and the other’s an American horror movie about a young woman who thinks her dead bad dad has come back to get her.
Dir: Jonathon Sobel
Duke (Harvey Keitel) is an inveterate gambler in Niagara Falls Ontario, who throws himself into the Niagara River, leaving his three sons in a bit of a tangle. He’s the movie’s narrator and as he attempts to end it all he says only a Hail Mary pass or a genuine miracle could save his three oldest sons. It turns out, he had farmed them out to Big Pharma testing program when they were younger, but never told them about the side effects. This means they’re all as good as gone. So how do they handle their new mortality?
Nuts is the oldest (The Daily Show’s Jason Jones, wearing a Viva Zapata moustache). He has to fight an impossible heavyweight boxing match with an undefeated champ if he wants to save chowderhead bro number four from being punched to a pulp. Cal (Scott Caan), #2, the womanizer, decides to stop picking up girls and instead marry his highschool crush Miranda (the statuesque Tricia Helfer). Unfortunately all her three husbands had died unexplained violent deaths. Straight laced #3, Cob (Paulo Costanzo), vows to quit his job and do all the fun things on his bucket list, instead. But this lands him in a precarious position too.
Can they and will they ever get out of their messes?
A Beginner’s Guide to Endings is a cute, screwball-type idea, and not too bad a movie. It is writer-director Sobel’s first film, and the jokes are hit or miss. He has a bad tendency of killing good lines: Whenever there’s a funny joke, he tells it, then explains it, then has the characters laugh at it, and then brings it up again later in the movie. Doesn’t work. But the comic actors are fun to watch, especially Jason Jones, Tricia Helfer and J.K. Simmons, and it’s good to see Niagara Falls on the big screen again. Not bad for a first try…
Dir: Eduardo Sánchez
When Molly (Gretchen Lodge) moves into her old family home with her new husband, Tim the trucker, everyone tells her it’s a bad idea. The karma’s not right, there. The Feng Shui is way off. Never mind that her father is dead. You see, Molly keeps hearing noises, beckoning her to come out and play. Scary voices. Haunting voices. Voices that might make er do bad things. Molly… lovely Molly… It’s all very strange for her. Tim goes away for a few days on some cross country trucking trip when he should have been at home helping her fight her demons. He keeps coming home to see her sitting naked staring at a closet door that reminds her of something bad from her childhood.
So Molly decide to investigate on her own. She finds old photo albums with pictures of her Charles Manson-like father. And then there are all these satanic-looking horse head designs in the garage. What’s up with that? And she keeps hearing knocks and bangs and footsteps – it must be her father coming to get her! But no one else sees him (although everyone notices the smell of noxious rotten flesh in the house). Creepy Pastor Bob’s no help, neither is big sister who looks like a crackhead, and Tim’s never around. And there seems to be a stalker with a video camera ,too.
So what’s the deal? Is Molly crazy? Is she on drugs? Or is she just reliving some psycho-sexual trauma from her childhood? On the other hand, maybe it is a ghost doing all this. Or a possession. Or maybe Satan the horse-demon himself? Molly says “I saw something but it doesn’t make sense and no one believes me…!” I believe you Molly – I saw something too, and no, it doesn’t make sense.
Lovely Molly is trying, I guess, to reclaim some of the Blair Witch thunder that started the whole genre of found footage films. (Sanchez directed that movie). This one isn’t “found footage” but, like Chernobyl Diaries, includes some of its elements: Molly tries to document the bad guys with her handheld video camera so she can prove they’re really there.
The problem is, it’s a total failure of a horror movie. It tries to be everything and ends up just a confusing mess. It’s got good gore, thrills and chills and some shocking moments and a few unexpected plot twists, but these odds and ends don’t make for a coherent movie.
A Beginner’s Guide to Endings, Lovely Molly, and In the Family all open today in Toronto – check your local listings. The CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival opens on Tuesday, The Toronto Japanese Film Festival starts Thursday, NXNE begins on the 13th, and it was just announced today that Toronto’s first annual Italian Contemporary Film Festival, featuring films by Nanni Moretti, Ivan Cotroneo, and the Canadian Premier of Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love, will be launched on June 26th. Check out icff.ca for more information.
This is Daniel Garber at the Movies each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM, with podcasts and complete reviews available on my web site CulturalMining. com.