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Mini-Reviews: The Campaign, Killer Joe, Celeste and Jesse Forever

The Campaign:

I was actually surprised Will Ferrell, with his history of playing amusing blowhards, hadn’t played a politician yet. The pairing of him with Zach Galifianakis in The Campaign seems inspired, as does the timing of releasing a comedy about the foolishness surrounding political campaigns as the 2012 presidential election campaigns begin to ramp up their silliness into the territory of self-parody. However, unlike Ferrell’s frequent director (and The Campaign screenwriter) Adam McKay, Jay Roach feels insistent on giving the film a strict plot it must adhere to. As a result, too many unfunny scenes remain in the final cut, too many supporting characters have nothing to do (Brian Cox in particular looks totally lost), and despite a good handful or two of hilarious scenes and one-liners, the back half of this 85 minute film crawls to its conclusion. It may be worth viewing for those few scenes… and Dylan McDermott’s hilarious deadpan performance. I campaign for him to appear in more comedies.

Killer Joe:

William Friedkin’s second adaptation of a Tracy Letts play, Killer Joe, lives and dies on screen by the presence of the titular character, a detective/assassin played by Matthew McConaughey. The other performances are fine if stereotypical white trash… but every time McConaughey steps on screen, the film crackles with energy. Easily his best performance to date, I love McConaughey’s recent turn from wooden studio lead to compelling indie figure. Joe is that rare character that can make you laugh while scaring you to death, like he walked out of some top-drawer Coen Brothers film. Friedkin directs this adaptation of a play in a stagy fashion, so scenes feel like set-pieces– some hit, some don’t. Luckily, Friedkin/Letts/McConaughey save the best for the film’s ending, where the writing gets wicked, the direction relaxes, the more one-dimensional characters get some flesh on their bones, and McConaughey gets a tour de force fifteen minutes. Juno Temple and Gina Gershon both get to do some nice work in a film that doesn’t seem to like women that much– it might be a commentary on the culture the film is set in, but the lead character is so psychotically likable that his treatment of the women is rooted for and applauded by the audience, so it’s hard to glean anything past the typical “greed is bad” theme. Killer Joe has dark laughs, some fun suspense, and a hell of a leading man… just don’t expect any depth.

Celeste and Jesse Forever:

A few scenes in Celeste and Jesse Forever, the feature writing debut for co-star Rashida Jones, ache with truth. The film deals with the nebulous area between when a couple breaks up and when they move on– Celeste (Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) were best friends who got married, separated, but remained best friends. This brings up obvious problems: what happens when they slip back into an old habit? What happens if they drunkenly kiss? What happens when one of them begins dating again? What happens when that cord hasn’t been cut and it’s suddenly time to grow up and move on? The film handles these complications with humor, sadness, and grace. It tiptoes towards stereotypes (“the controlling woman” vs. “the lazy man”), but it never really gives into the conventions we expect. The typically indie handheld direction complete with wandering focus bothered me, as did a few scenes dealing with supporting characters that derail the plot at times from where we want to focus. Still, the main couple has fantastic chemistry– Samberg resists his usual temptation to ham, giving a nice mannered performance. The star of the show is Jones, who wrote herself a doozy of a role. She transitions from silly to heartbreaking with dexterity, back and forth throughout the script. Hopefully, this tale of moving on helps her move on to higher-profile projects. Postscript: the soundtrack is likely the best we’ll hear all year, with awesome music from beginning to end.

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~ by russellhainline on August 9, 2012.

2 Responses to “Mini-Reviews: The Campaign, Killer Joe, Celeste and Jesse Forever”

  1. I can’t wait to see The Campaign! 🙂 It looks hilarious and it is about time Will Ferrell plays a politician!

    Be sure to check out the collaboration lifestyle blog between my twin sister and I that features everything that inspires us from fashion to food!

    http://www.BKCsquared.com

    & follow us through our email subscription, via bloglovin’, or on your Google Reader feed (or get updates through our twitter @BKCsquared).

    xo, K

  2. […] SUPPORTING ACTRESS: 10. Gina Gershon, Killer Joe 9. Alicia Vikander, Anna Karenina 8. Kristen Stewart, On the Road 7. Samantha Barks, Les Miserables […]

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