I wish I were one of those people who rush to see every new movie (or at least the ones who appeal to them) as soon as they hit the theater, or like those who check out every new show that looks promising. Binge-watching has spoiled me when it comes to TV, so aside from the few shows I follow regularly, lately I find myself preferring to just wait and binge on slightly older shows or just focus my attention on mini-series I can watch start-to-finish over a weekend.
As far as movies are concerned, I go through phases. Some weeks I don’t even have the attention span to sit through a whole movie; others I refuse to invest the time unless it’s a must-see. Over the past few months, the only “new” movie I saw was Nocturnal Animals (loved it).
Then there are times when I try to dig up a handful of movies of a certain genre and watch them back-to-back. So, given my recent disappointment in 13 Reasons Why, I figured I should get my teen drama/rom-com fix wherever I could get it, so I picked a few films off of random recommendations:
The Edge of Seventeen
Sigh. What is it with self-absorbed, woe-is-me heroines lately? Having just suffered through the awfulness that was Hannah, I found too many similarities with the female protagonist to really enjoy the movie, although I have to admit this was probably the best of the bunch.
It’s a sweet story, Woody Harrelson is great and Blake Jenner is so cute that I. Can’t. Even. I shouldn’t be bashing this movie just because 13 Reasons Why left a sour taste in my mouth, but the selfish, angsty antics of Hailee Steinfeld’s Nadine were ultimately too annoying to let me enjoy the film.
The To-Do List
As ‘raunchy’ teen comedies go, this wasn’t the worst; the R rating allows it to drop F-bombs and handle sexual themes with more freedom than most teen flicks, and Aubrey Plaza’s performance is hilariously over-the-top.
The premise is quite simple: a recent high school graduate decides to cram some sexual education into her summer before going to college, which inevitably complicates her friendships. Luckily the movie strays from the classic Cinderella/makeover story and the heroine remains quite awkward throughout, but the part that is actually refreshing is how matter-of-factly the virginal protagonist approaches the various sex acts she engages in.
The To-Do List definitely won’t stand out as a film that defines a generation, but it was a fun couple of hours nonetheless.
Take Me Home Tonight
The movie is set in the 80’s, adding a fun vibe for all of us who were alive to experience it (or anyone who’s watched classic movies of the era). It manages to encompass every cliche imaginable – from the banker aspirations of most young people at the time, bouffant hairdos and copious amounts of cocaine, down to the whole finally-sleeping-with-my-teenage-crush classic plot device that drives the majority of teen movies.
Topher Grace is likable enough, but the best part is cute couple Anna Faris and Chris Pratt (before he became the media darling he is now).
Everybody Wants Some!!
Okay, first of all, nothing about this movie merits TWO exclamation points in the title. Among the most recent and highly rated out of all the movies I watched, this one has me scratching my head as to why. I never really bought into the Linklater adoration – the Before trilogy was boring to me, and while I can appreciate the huge undertaking that was Boyhood, it still didn’t excite me all that much. Maybe it’s my dislike of Ethan Hawke, but even without him in the lead role, it just fell flat.
Not even Blake Jenner in all his hotness was enough to make this story interesting for me, because there really isn’t much story to it: we follow a group of college baseball player roommates as they pick up girls, get drunk at parties, smoke pot, go to practice and generally don’t care about school. The end.
The fact that it was marketed as the sequel to Dazed and Confused didn’t do it any favors, either – that movie is on a whole other level, as far as I’m concerned. The romance subplot is pretty meh, and I’m having the hardest time accepting TWD’s Austin Amelio as a college-aged kid. I have to admit the early 80’s vibe is done well, and the soundtrack is amazing, but that’s not nearly enough to make this movie a stand-out for me.
This one is, again, before Chris Pratt got ripped and catapulted into the superstar he is today – even before Channing Tatum caused middle-aged women the world over to swoon over his Magic Mike dance moves – but the largest part of the movie feels a lot like Everybody Wants Some!! in terms of storytelling: we see a day in the life of group of old friends coming together for their 10th high school reunion.
Nothing spectacular happens for the most part, and it’s not until the final half hour or so that we finally become emotionally engaged and their stories start to become interesting. The cast is pretty impressive and most of the performances feel realistic, but the only actual character development is reserved for the two characters we don’t really care about, and ultimately nothing about this movie stands out as particularly great.
One of the two stand-outs of this handful of movies, and quite reminiscent of The Big Chill. A group of college friends reunite after one of them attempts suicide. What follows is a weekend of awkward conversations, unexpected confessions, a couple of joints, some stellar home cooking, and, of course, quite a bit of sex.
Wow, sounds pretty lame when you put it like that, but it’s actually a very sweet, human story that centers around relationships, (slight) mental illness and the merits of living in the present vs nostalgia. As with Take Me Home Tonight, the characters regress to their college selves, still hung up on what happened between them when they were 20, but it’s handled in a realistic way that walks the line between sappy and funny. Not a classic by any means, but at least it didn’t feel like a waste of two hours.