Bromance vs Romance. Movies Reviewed: The November Man, Are You Here, Señoritas

Posted in Uncategorized by CulturalMining.com on August 23, 2014

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.

Can bromance ever trump romance? Do BFFs really last forever? Can friendship follow courtship or loveship? This week I’m looking at three movies that explore these themes. A thriller set in Belgrade has a former spyteam turned into enemies, an art house flick about a young woman in Bogota and her friends and lovers; and an American dramedy about best buds facing big changes.

VVS_TheNovemberMan_Poster.inddThe November Man
Dir: Roger Donaldson

Devereaux and Mason (Pierce Brosnan and Australian actor Luke Bracey) are a kill team team – mentor and mentee – working at the CIA. Devereaux chooses the spots, Mason takes the shots. But something goes wrong, they have a falling out, and Devereaux retires to Switzerland. Years later, he is brought back to rescue a female operative who works for a top Moscow politician. She carries crucial information: a name. Devereaux is known for his cold and calculated mentality. He’ll kill anyone who gets in his way. But this woman is somehow different. In a tense car chase, the woman is shot, and Devereaux escapes. Turns out, she was his longtime lover. Also turns out the shooter is Mason! Now the former allies are arch-enemies, both based in Belgrade, with Mason out to kill Devereaux for the US Government. But that’s not all.

The name refers to a woman who holds secret information that could bring the Russian politician down. Only she knows all about his shady past. But the only one who knows how to find her is the secretive but beautiful Alice Fournier (Olga Kurylenko). She’s a French NGO worker, based in Serbia, who rescues victims of human trafficking. Devereaux has to find and hide her before a Russian assassin gets to her. He also has to deal with US congressmen and intelligence bosses, some of whom may be corrupt. And avoid Mason, the killer he once personally trained and who knows all his tricks.

Generally, The November Man is a good (if shallow) spy action/thriller. Pierce Brosnan is another cool-as-a- cucumber James Bond-type, but without the special gadgets. But there were some odd parts: for a movie supposedly dealing with female trafficking it sure shows a lot of stripper scenes, purely for audience tittilation. And I gotta say, Russia vs America spy movies just don’t have the same punch anymore. They just feel old.

VVS_AYH_theatricalPoster1Are You Here
Dir: Matthew Weiner

Steve and Ben (Owen Wilson and Zach Galifianakis) are best buds from schooldays. Lovers may come and go, but these two faithful friends stick with it. Steve works as a TV weatherman by day, and as a singles bar Lothario by night. In between, he’s usually with Ben in a rundown shack, smoking pot.

Ben is in a rut, still not progressing in his academic writing, and supported financially by Steve. He’s also unpredictable and unstable, prone to showing up at Steve’s TV studio looking like crazy, homeless person (which he basically is.)

But then the two of them return to their hometown in Lancaster County — Pennsylvania Dutch country — for Ben’s father’s funeral. There they have to deal with Terri, Ben’s bitter older sister (Amy Poehler.) She hates them both. Then there’s Angela (Laura Ramsey) the widow, a beautiful, young hippy in her early twenties, who lived happily with the octogenarian for five years before he kicked off. And he has a house, a store, and hundreds of acres of farmland to pass on to the next generation. Who will inherit what?

Steve has the hots for Angela… can this be love? Ben decides to move into the house and straighten himself up. He plans to confront his inner demons. But who will take care of him if Steve‘s not around? Can their bromance survive? And sister Terri thinks everyone’s plotting against her. She wants her slice of the pie – or the whole pie if she can get it.

The movie is directed by the creator of the TV show Madmen, but if you’re expecting slickness and high fashion, you’re looking at the wrong movie. It’s a bit of a mess. It’s not terrible, but it plods along as more of a social drama than the comedy it seems to be at first. Because it’s not actually funny. I think it tries to be deep and profound: Should we trade away our dreams for stability? Get rid of creativity to fit in to society? It’s trying to solve these big dilemmas… but it’s actually just a mush of meandering unfinished storylines.

UK0yMhyfKC3Ix9n282zlvFMDR9m7t8gf2qSLBlO6o8wSenoritas
Wri/Dir: Lina Rodriguez

Alejandra (María Serrano) is a Senorita, a single woman in her twenties. She lives with her mom in Bogota, Colombia. (She’s an Amy Millam lookalike) seems to spend most of her time just hanging with friends, going to nightclubs, listening to music, and making out with guys she likes. She calls them all dudes. Sometimes she goes out shopping, or makes out in the front seat of a parked car. She floats in swimming pools, walks down long, long country lanes, and chats with her friends in a particular local dialect. And at a game of truth or dare, her friends and erstwhile lovers reveal some true feelings.

So, you might ask, where’s the plot? Well it ain’t in this movie. It’s more of an introspective look at one woman’s life. For example, one ten-minute scene has her walking down a deserted path. The camera follows her from behind. But when we hear a wolf-whistle off camera, her pace increases. We learn that despite her seemingly casual ways, she sometimes is insecure. And as a woman is never completely safe.

Take it as an introspective art house film and you won’t find it boring. It keeps my attention. There are a lot f sex scenes, dance scenes, party scenes, music scenes. But the scenes are very long, almost always in extreme close-ups. It takes place in Colombia, but it’s not full of panoramic city views, or natural vistas, that’s for sure. Just lots of close-ups… often with their backs to the camera.

November Man and I Am Here are now opening on the big screen or play-on-demand, and Senoritas starts today at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Check your local listings.

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

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: