Archive for the ‘Teen Comedy’ Category

The Way, Way Back

31 Jul

The Way, Way Back –– written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. Comedy/Drama. A fourteen year old boy on a ghastly/wonderful seaside vacation. 143 minutes Color 2013.


The perfect summer movie, because it encompasses like an ocean roller all the sun, salty air, sand, sadness, and silliness of the July days of youth. Sadness because one is no longer eleven but fourteen, and defiance is in order.

We have the cast of casts to bring it to us, at least as far as the adult actors go. First there is Steve Carell as the wicked stepfather-to-be, and he daringly offers the character not one redeeming feature. I do not own a television, I had never seen him before, and I understand he is a television entertainer. Well, he certainly entertains us here with this setting-your-teeth-on edge prick.

The can-do-no-wrong Toni Colette plays the lady considering marrying him, and she has wonderful moments in a part which is underwritten and under-examined by the writers, who take the part for granted.

However, present as the blabbermouth neighbor is The Great Allison Janney, one of the finest actors working today. She is a treat and a tonic necessary for one’s health and for one’s belief in the future of the race. There is a public edict out that any film she is opens in must be rushed to. Everything comes alive when she is on. And boy is she on! She is devastatingly funny and extravagantly generous with her gifts, as usual.

Finally, we are offered the madcap amusement park proprietor of Sam Rockwell, an actor who seems to have no limitations, or, at any rate, whose gifts are so pronounced that, watching him display them, one cannot imagine what they might be. He plays the zany owner of the vast Water Wizz aqua- park, where a good deal of the action transpires. The man is witty, quick, and desperate. Rockwell gets all of this: a man who exists for the thrill of summer has cheapened himself and knows it.

The focus of the story is on Toni Colette’s son, played by Lliam James. The writers write less well for him and directs him less well. In fact, an actor of his age needs to be directed exactly like an adult. The difficult is that he plays a mome. And the writers have left it at that and asked the actor to carry more than there exists for him to lift. One has to take the performance on faith, which is fine, since the story has its valleys and joys, as expected of a summer movie, and since its tropes are so familiar one sings right along with the little bouncing ball of it, the audience carrying the load for him, and happy, very happy indeed to do so.




A Little Romance

14 Apr

A Little Romance – Directed by George Roy Hill. Teen Romance. Two thirteen-year olds fall in love and take off for parts known. 110 minutes Color 1979.

* * * *

Diane Lane is 13 when she makes this, and the French boy is probably the same age, which is fun. Sally Kellerman plays her mother in a manner that is as obvious as the writing requires, and Arthur Hill plays her third husband, as subtlely as the writing requires. The only mystery is how he could have married such a rude, mean, shallow woman to begin with. David Dukes plays her oncoming boyfriend, a bad film director. The movie takes us to Paris, then to Verona in Italy and eventually to Venice. For me, the trouble with the film is that it is a Hollywoodization of a teenage elopement, and so the tone is all wrong. Sometimes the two children cut through the balderdash with their simple grace. And sometimes Laurence Olivier cuts through the slow pace with his virtuoso tricks, which are spellbinding, as always. He plays the children’s guardian devil, whose tedious charm and Fagan-like skills help propel them onto their adventure. Olivier was a master of Restoration farce, playing characters with names like Snipe, Wormwood, or Titter, and this is a performance perfectly suited to that genre, so it’s to be treasured as an example of his cold and cunning range and wit. Diane Lane is lovely in her role, and she also offers some reminiscences on the Special Features section about Olivier and the making of this film. It was her first film and it settled her fate, little did she know it at the time.



10 Things I Hate About You!

03 Apr

10 Things I Hate About You — directed by Gil Junger – Teen Comedy. “The Taming Of The Shrew” transposed to a Seattle High School.  97 minutes color 1999

* * * *

Some wild scenes with the great Allison Janney as the dirty-minded Guidance Counselor open this show, and I wish they had continued. What we do see and hear is a spritely-written piece played at a clip. What it is, of course, is an update of Shakespeare’s The Taming Of The Shrew. And the characters pleasantly keep the old names: Petruchio becomes Patrick, Kate and Bianca have the last name of Stratford, and Kate even has a recantation speech at the end, in the form of a parody Shakespearean sonnet. It’s quite sweet. We also have Heath Ledger as the lead, and one wonders why. He is an odd actor. Here as Petruchio he seems to have too much weight upon him, and I don’t mean physical weight. But he seems much older than the others. His face and his way are those of a mature male not of a high-school senior. And there is something heavy within him. I think it’s just a question of miscasting here, perhaps because he was an actor without wit. One thing that makes him sound older is that he had the most beautiful deep speaking voice one has ever heard, not always properly projected. He’s sexy and good looking in an unusual way. I know he was miscast in the Casanova picture, where wit and intelligence and flair are absolutely required, as are a very raffish and pro-active sexuality, which Ledger has not. Maybe he was just an interesting actor of limited means who was hard to cast. I don’t know. I wonder what he would have become had he lived. I wish he had. We see him no more, and in this film, just as in the original play, after the pre-scene, we see the naughty Allison Janney no more also. Alas!



Somers Town

10 Mar

Somers Town – Directed by Shane Meadows – Comedy. Two 15 year-old boys, one a runaway scamp from Scotland, the other a shy Polish photographer, fall in with one another and fall in love with the same pretty waitress. 71 minutes Black and White and Color 2008.

* * * * *

This highly acclaimed film brought the work of this director to the pleasure of my attention, and I can do nothing but say, Check it out. The style is old-fashioned kitchen-sink, and at first I found it, as I do a lot of kitchen-sink drama, tedious. It also seemed to be played by two kids whom the director had dragged in off the street – we don’t want any more Andy Warhol in our lives, do we? But as soon as Perry Benson showed up as a scallywag street vendor and as soon Ireneusz Czop showed up as the father of the Polish boy, I had to revise my attention of the boys, for both older men are experienced actors of the first class, which is to say they are accomplished improvisationalists and, from the background of their own characters, can respond fully to the situation and persons around them. Thomas Turgoose plays the runaway as a lad of shrugging indifference to any feelings about his lost state, and Piotr Jagiello as the Polish boy is too ingrown to have any feelings. But is what is really true is that neither young actor is operating on a ground of back-story. They are simply operating on a ground of present being, which is why they appear flat and dull and apathetic at the start – which is exactly what they are supposed to be. When they join up, it is not their acting but the strangeness of their relationship at all that keeps one watching. How can these two people have a single thing to say to one another? Yet they do. For the plot dictates that they must. Their doings and their truancies become quite droll. And I soon realize that I am in the hands of a director who has considerable skill in achieving his ends. Improvisational acting usually dooms actors to falling back on their shtick. That simply means that in the long run the performers are too hardened in their response-capacity for anything actually to happen to them; they are not really playing characters; they are not really playing themselves, either; they are playing something that, in real life, is merely socially useful. And without imagination acting is useless, crass, and dull. Art, as always, lies in the imagination. What the director Shane Meadows has imagined is an arena in which imagination can take place, and that freedom grants the film its charm, its humor, and a place in which the audience can meet up with what is going on and respond. Elisa Lasowski as their light o’ love, and  Jane Dickie as a kindly acquaintance complete a perfectly cast and realized short film. Somers Town is a London ‘hood.  This is a tiny, telling vision of it.




28 Jan

Election – directed by Alexander Payne – Teen Comedy. A peppy blond decides to run down all bodies in her way to Class President. 103 minutes color 1999.

* * * * *

Does anyone hate this movie?  How is it possible?  I certainly don’t. Our national Milktoast, Matthew Broderick, is just lovely as the Omaha high school history teacher trying to body-block the brilliant Reese Witherspoon uncanny as the most dreadful piece of teenage goods ever laid down on film. A rare performance. See it. Everyone else is super. I loved the direction and cutting. Amusing from beginning to end.


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