August 24, 2012. Underground economics. Films Reviewed: Lawless, For a Good Time, Call… PLUS Route Irish, TIFF

Posted in 1920s, 1930s, Biopic, Cultural Mining, Manhattan, Movies, Sex Trade, TIFF, Uncategorized, US, Women by CulturalMining.com on August 24, 2012

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, documentary, genre and mainstream films, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.

Feeling a bit… unemployed lately? Does it seem like there are just not enough jobs to go around? Well, fear not – there are lots of jobs out there, they’re just not all particularly respectable or legal. But they are out there. Just depends on how underground you’re willing to go.

So, this week I’m looking at two movies about people who stray from the straight and narrow in order to make a decent living. One is a comedy about two roommates who find that talking sexy can make them rich; the other is a depression era biopic about hillbilly moonshiners.

For a Good Time, Call…

Dir: (Torontonian) Jamie Travis

Lauren (Lauren Miller) is an uptight junior editor in Manhattan who is homeless after getting dumped by her dull, yuppie boyfriend, while Katie (Ari Graynor) is about to lose her late Grandma’s beautiful Gramercy Park apartment. But they are brought together by a mutual gay friend Jesse (Justin Long – from the “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” commercials). But the two are an odd couple, like Oscar and Felix, who can’t possibly get along. Blond Katie is a gaudily- dressed, pushy, uncouth, heavy drinker, and forthright about her sexuality. Dark-haired careerist Lauren (a Jennifer Love Hewitt-type) is prim, proper, and comes from a rich Long Island family whose mother cuts her sandwiches into neat squares. But when a newly jobless Lauren puts her business acumen to work, the two of them start up a phone sex company out of their apartment, called 1-800-mmm-hmmm. It’s to tide them over until they can find better jobs. They practice kissing noises, play with giant dildos, and relax in the bubble bath with their retro pink, sex-line telephones. They gradually grow to understand each other better, make money, and turn into independent women ready to face the world.

This is a pretty funny, female buddy-pic comedy – not the rom-com it seems to be at first. Watching the movie, I felt like I was secretly intruding on some “girls’ night out”, hearing things no guy should be allowed to hear, but that just made it fun. The two main actresses are endearing and carry their parts well. And the supporting guys – especially Katie’s customer Sean (Mark Webber) are good, too. And while about a third of the jokes sink without a trace and the comedy relies more on character than on sight gags, it manages to be low budget without looking cheap or clumsy, and a humorous movie about sex without resorting to toilet humour, gratuitous nudity, or extreme disgustingness for its laughs.

Lawless

Dir: John Hillcoat

It’s 90 years ago, between the World Wars, in Franklin County, Virginia – the “wettest” county in dry America. (Prohibition, that is.) And the Bondurant brothers – Forrest, Howard and Jack – are the most successful bootleggers around. They make a good living delivering crates of moonshine to speakeasies all around the county, including a payoff to the local police to look the other way. The oldest brother, Forrest (Tom Hardy), is a monosyllabic monolith, given to grunts and mmmggghhs. It’s said he’s indestructible – can’t be killed. He has his eye on the beautiful and sophisticated Maggie (Jessica Chastain), a Chicagoan who recently fled the big city. The youngest one, Jack (Shia Laboeuf) is the runt of the litter, physically smaller and bullied by his brothers, and forced to rely on his wits rather than his strength. He wants to impress shy Bertha, the farmer’s daughter.

But into this happy, bucolic world comes the conceited, corrupt and sadistic villain, Special Agent Charlie Rakes (Guy Pierce), to take over their operation. He wears his hair perfectly parted in the middle and despises the local hillbillies. His gang of thugs are armed with Thompson machine guns and looking to mow down anyone who stops them from getting their cut. The Sherrif switches sides and is now in Charlie Rakes’ pocket. Throw in a gang of city gangsters, headed by a rough, tough Gary Oldman as their kingpin, and you’ve got a big battle waiting to happen.

Will the Bondurant brothers be successful in their underground business and happy in love, or will the corrupt city slickers kill them all and ruin everything?

Lawless is beautiful to look at and listen to. The green hills are covered with irish moss, and the virginal Bertha appears holding a real live bambi in her hands. And in the background there’s classical country, folk and rockabilly. But the beautiful scenery is alternated with extreme violence, rape, and slit throats. This is mentally jarring, and gives the whole movie an unusual dynamic – violent gangsterism set within an authentic historical setting. It’s similar to director Hillcoat’s and writer Nick Cave’s earlier try, The Proposition, also a violent historical movie about three brothers – but Lawless works where The Proposition failed.

Lawless and For a Good Time, Call… are both opening in Toronto next week. Also, coming out soon on DVD (it never made it to the big screen here) is one of the best movies about the Iraq war, Ken Loach’s brilliant dramatic thriller Route Irish, about a British mercenary trying to find out what really happened to his best friend. And TIFF, the Toronto International Film Festival is gearing up with some amazing movies to see. I’ll be talking about some of those starting next week.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website, culturalmining.com .

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. bollywoodpage3 said, on August 25, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    Reblogged this on Romeo Sank.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: