by Tony Medley
Run time 92 minutes.
OK for children.
Despite the ads and display quotes from critics,
this is no comedy. If you’re going to it for laughs, you will be
Instead, it’s a heavy movie about a serious
subject. Directed and written by Jay & Mark Duplass, both John C.
O’Reilly and Jonah Hill take a sabbatical from comedy and venture into
serious drama. They are both the better for it.
John (O’Reilly) is a divorced, over-40 film
editor, a simple-minded guy whose former wife, Jamie (Catherine Keener)
left him seven years before, but is still on good terms with him. In
fact, she acts almost like a surrogate mother. She encourages him to go
to a party to meet some girls. He does, and he hooks up with Molly
(Marisa Tomei), a massage therapist who is charmed by John’s clumsy
attempts to pick up women at the party. When he meets her son, Cyrus
(Hill), a 21-year old new age musician, the competition begins. This is
a fascinating story of the interrelationships among John, Molly, and
Superbly directed, the film produces top notch
performances by O’Reilly, Hill, and Tomei. Although Keener has a much
smaller role, I’ve never seen her give a bad performance and still
The Duplasses shoot in what seems to be a
haphazard way that has come to be known as mumblecore, and this is no
exception. Director of Photography Jas Shelton shoots in a cinéma vérité
style with clumsy lens changes to close-ups and makes use of ECUs
(extreme close ups). Since I am not a fan of ECUs, I felt fortunate that
there weren’t that many.
This type of cinematography is necessary because
the film was shot with long takes, some as long as 15 minutes. Since
none of the scenes are blocked, the entire set is lit so the actors can
go wherever they want with the hand held cameras following them. The
actors would follow the script for awhile and then seque into
improvisation. To enhance the quality of the improv, the film was shot
chronologically so that the actors could develop their characters and
really get to know them. This enhances the quality of the improvised
The first 15-20 minutes of the film was
uncomfortable to watch as it focuses on John’s inability to deal with
people, especially single women. Further demoralizing was the depressing
lower-middle-class aura of John and Molly. Even if they hit it off it
didn’t seem like they had much of a future. But the movie picks up in
the second half, as serious issues are confronted seriously with
exceptional acting and directing.