Film Studies: This Week at the Movies

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In Focus: Wanderlust

In our flailing economy, it’s easy to want to give it all up, move out into the woods, and live off the fat of the land, free of societal constraints like mortgages, taxes, and of course, clothes. Or so is the premise of Wanderlust, the uproarious— albeit endearingly cliche—comedy from Wet Hot American Summer and Role Models writer/director David Wain.

Produced by comedy juggernaut Judd Apatow and written by Wain and co-star Ken Marino, Wanderlust finds frequent Apatow/ Wain collaborator Paul Rudd paired up with frequent tabloid headliner Jennifer Aniston as George and Linda— an yuppie New York couple desperate to be permanent residents of the upscale Manhattan lifestyle. Soon after purchasing a ridiculously overpriced “micro-loft” (read: studio apartment), George loses his corporate job. To make matters worse, Linda—a wannabe documentary filmmaker—also finds herself out of work when HBO neglects to pick up her documentary about penguins with testicular cancer (“it’s An Inconvenient Truth meets March of the Penguins,” as she describes it). Thus, they are forced to give up their pseudo-posh New York lifestyle and retreat to George’s arrogant, prick-of-a-brother’s house in Atlanta to hole up and find new work.

As the pair road trip down the East Coast, they find themselves looking for a place spend the night and end up at Elysium—a unsuspecting bed and breakfast that turns out to be a hippie commune. After a stress-free and liberating night of cannabis, drum circles, and star-gazing, George and Linda admit to the draws of the alternative lifestyle, but continue their journey to Atlanta.

After a week with George’s insufferable brother and his plastic wife, they take a leap of faith and retreat back to Elysium and dive tie-dye-first into the hippie lifestyle. At first, Linda is reluctant, but frustrated beyond the point of rationality, George convinces her to give it two weeks and, if by then she’s not convinced, they’ll leave. Led by the charismatic and seductive Seth (Justin Theroux), George and Linda find themselves interacting with a host of characters, played by a cast that includes Malin Akerman, Alan Alda, Lauren Ambrose, Kerry Kenney-Silver, and Joe Lo Truglio in all his naked glory.

For most of the film, the humor and high jinx rely on Rudd and Aniston’s fish-out-of-water circumstances, and given the comedic talents of the supporting cast, it mostly works. Wain spares no expense at making the most of hippie stereotypes such as nudism, free love, and hallucinogenics, and given Rudd’s remarkable comedic talents as the straight man, it produces hysterical results (one particular scene involving Rudd hyping himself up before a sexual encounter nearly had me choking from laughter).

At its core, Wanderlust attempts to be a scathing satire of the counter-culture, but its subversiveness is lost in its juvenile humor, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Is it especially clever? No, but it’s still hilarious.


Also Opening:

Act of Valor: Actual active duty Navy SEALs star in this epic war movie because… America! If you don’t see this movie this weekend, you’re basically a terrorist. And that’s a fact (of valor).

Recommended for: AMERICANS, ‘MERICANS, ‘MURRICANS!


GoneAmanda Seyfried is once again out to prove that she’s a serious actress and demands be taken seriously and stuff. Of course, the fact that this movie didn’t screen for critics probably doesn’t help. Maybe she just needs the money? Yeah, let’s go with that one.

Recommended for: Amanda Seyfried’s career, Gretchen Wieners.


Rampart“You’re a loose cannon Harrelson! But damnit you get the job done”, isn’t actually a line from the Woody Harrelson’s police procedural about a dirty cop in LA, but damnit I wish it were. Instead, the trailers promise an intense character study of a crooked cop in the vain of the Nicolas Cage vehicle Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Though the early buzz on Rampart is mostly positive, let’s be honest, no one does crazy quite like Cage.

Recommended for: Crooked cops, crooked politicians, and Marion Barry


Tyler Perry’s Good DeedsActor Tyler Perry stars in visionary director Tyler Perry’s romantic drama written by poetic playwright Tyler Perry, and produced by deity Tyler Perry. Whether or not I tell you to see this movie is futile as Tyler Perry will have already made $3 million dollars by the time you finish reading this sentence. I, for one, welcome our new Tyler Perry overlord. Tyler Perry 2012.

Recommended for: Tyler Perry, Tyler Perry, and Tyler Perry.


In DarknessFrom celebrated Polish director Agnieszka Holland, this film about Jews struggling for survival in Nazi Germany is being heralded by many critics and is even a front-runner for Best Foreign Picture at the Oscars. But then again, it is about Nazis, the Holocaust, and death and stuff, so be prepared to be fully bummed out for the rest of the weekend if you see it.

Recommended for: Holocaust museum employees, fans of foreign films, those who like to be bummed out and stuff.


Local Pick of the Week: Bullhead

Another Best Foreign Picture nominee opens at West End Cinema this weekend. One of the year’s most stunning films and featuring a breathtaking performance from breakout star Mattius Schoenaerts, Brightest Young Thing’s Alan Zilberman says his “captivating performance is the strongest reason to see Bullhead”.

Click here for show times and ticket info.