Tagged: Amanda Seyfried

Review – While We’re Young (2015)

Director: Noah Baumbach

Starring: Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried, Charles Grodin

While We're YoungNew York auteur Noah Baumbach seems to make films about life stages. The Squid and the Whale, his 2005 calling card, was about a teenager dealing with the breakdown of his parents’ marriage. The critically acclaimed Frances Ha was about being in your twenties and trying to forge your identity. His newest film, While We’re Young, is about reaching middle age. It is about reaching that point where you no longer feel like a kid pretending to be an adult, about reaching that point when you realise that you no longer understand young people.

Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts) are a childless couple in their forties and have recently lost the last of their peers to babies. Cornelia is the producer daughter of celebrated documentarian Leslie Breitbart (Charles Grodin), while Josh is a documentary maker who, after initial acclaim, has spent the best part of the last decade working on an ambitious and intellectual film which in its current form is a six-and-a-half hour film that is seven hours too long. They meet a young, hipster couple, Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried). Continue reading

Review – Lovelace (2013)

Directors: Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman

Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Chris Noth, Bobby Cannavale, Sharon Stone, Robert Patrick, Hank Azaria, Adam Brody, Juno Temple, James Franco

LovelaceOne of the great peculiarities of film history occurred in 1972. In the same year that The Godfather was released and took the place of Gone With the Wind as the highest grossing film of all time, the second highest grossing film of the year was a hard-core pornographic film called Deep Throat. Deep Throat was a sensation, crossing over to become a mainstream hit. It was reviewed in the mainstream media and discussed on television by the likes of Johnny Carson and Bob Hope.  It is estimated that this film which cost a mere $24,000 to shoot has had a lifetime gross of $600m, making it surely the most profitable film of all time – though it has been suggested that its gross figures were slightly inflated by the mafia, who used their porno theatres to launder money. At the centre of the film’s success was a seemingly ordinary woman, Linda Boreman, who thanks to a very particular talent would become the world’s first pornography superstar, Linda Lovelace. Forty years later, her story has been brought to the screen in the biopic Lovelace.

Lovelace is the first feature film from the documentary team of Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman. In its early passages the film seems to tell the story of a self-conscious young woman, raised in a conservative Catholic household, who falls in love with a shady man and despite her shyness agrees to perform in low-budget pornographic film to help him get out of debt, all with the hope that it might lead to a career as a legitimate actress. However, at the halfway mark the story skips ahead six years to the film’s pivotal moment. When Linda Boreman went to write her autobiography, Ordeal, the material contained in it was so libellous the publishing company insisted that she take a lie detector test to verify her claims before they would publish it. This polygraph test provides the basis for the second half of the film to go back to the beginning and retell many of the events we have just witnessed from a different perspective. As a result, the Lovelace’s first and second half give us the contrast between the public perception of Linda’s rise to celebrity and the private, disturbing reality of it.

Lovelace is a biopic, its primary focus is on the person of Linda Boreman. As such, it is not really concerned with exploring some of the other interesting areas around the Deep Throat phenomenon, like answering questions of how Deep Throat became such an unlikely hit and what were the contributing factors to this strange moment of porno chic. If those are the areas that interest you, you would be better served seeking out Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey’s 2005 documentary Inside Deep Throat.

Lovelace features a strong ensemble cast including the likes of Peter Sarsgaard, Chris Noth, Bobby Canavale, Sharon Stone, Robert Patrick and James Franco, led by Amanda Seyfried in the title role. Over the last decade Seyfried has appeared in a number of high profile films – Les Miserables, Mamma Mia, Mean Girls – but it is fair to say that until now she has never been called upon to carry a film. In Lovelace it is all on her, the success or failure of the film was largely going to come down to her ability to connect us to this character and she gives really comes to the fore delivering the strongest performance of her career. But while Seyfried makes us feel for Linda, eliciting a great deal of empathy for this woman trapped in an abusive relationship with no one to turn to, we don’t necessarily come to understand her a great deal more. I don’t know that Lovelace’s screenplay gives us any more insight into the character of Linda Lovelace and the events that took place than was already common knowledge.

Most films about the world of pornography tend to take a pro or anti-porn stance, and the real life Linda Lovelace did become a strong anti-porn activist, but viewers looking for such a stance will find it difficult to identify in Lovelace. The film doesn’t seek to make broad statements about the porn industry because when it comes down to it Lovelace isn’t a film about pornography. It is a film about an abusive relationship. Likewise, anyone buying a ticket to Lovelace expecting to be titillated will be sorely disappointed. This is not that kind of movie. There is nothing sexy about it. It is a heartbreaking story about a woman, victim to an abuse with extremely public consequences.

Rating – ★★★☆

Review by Duncan McLean

Review – The Big Wedding (2013)

Director: Justin Zackham

Starring: Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, Katherine Heigl, Amanda Seyfried, Topher Grace, Ben Barnes, Robin Williams

Big WeddingThere was a time when a film starring Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon and Robin Williams would have raised a bit of interest. But with recent all-star comedies like Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve consistently underwhelming and proving to be considerably less than the sum of their parts, it is understandable that The Big Wedding is approached with a great deal of scepticism. While Justin Zackham’s remake of the 2006 French Film Mon frère se marie (My Brother is Getting Married) is more of a traditional farce than yet another multiple-plotline, Love Actually imitation, the scepticism is unfortunately warranted.

Long divorced couple Don and Ellie Griffin are forced to pretend to be happily married once again when their adopted son Alejandro announces that his ultra-conservative Catholic biological mother is unexpectedly flying in from Columbia for his wedding, and confesses that he never informed her of their separation for fear of offending her beliefs. Add in a step mother who is now forced to move out of her home to maintain the illusion, a sister who is experiencing relationship troubles of her own, a brother who finds himself rather attracted to Alejandro’s biological sister and a slightly racist soon-to-be mother-in-law who is unsure about the “beige babies” the union will result in and you have all the ingredients for an eventful wedding celebration.

If the combination of the scenario, the age of some of the principal cast, and the similarity in title to My Big Fat Greek Wedding lead you to expect a gentle comedy for the whole family you could be in for a bit of a shock. From the very first scene the filmmakers seem determined to try and tap into the recent success of more ‘adult’ comedies and as such The Big Wedding is surprisingly crude, having been slapped with an MA15+ rating for strong coarse language and sexual references. The result is part screwball comedy, part American Pie-style sex-romp except that rather than being sixteen our protagonists are in their sixties.

Crudeness aside, the screenplay is reasonably witty. There are some good comic moments and while none of the cast members really shine like we know they can, they each have their moments and no one is bad. Ultimately however, where you want a good farce to build to an absurd crescendo, this one seems to get overwhelmed as the layers of ridiculousness are piled on. A film like this needs a straight character in amongst all the chaos to act as the audience’s surrogate and point of view. In this case it is likely supposed to be the betrothed couple, played by Ben Barnes and Amanda Seyfried, but they aren’t featured prominently enough to perform the function, likely due to their incredible blandness.

Incredibly predictable but entertaining enough, this comedy about seniors behaving badly is the latest in a growing tradition of Hollywood remakes of French comedies that just seem to lose something once they’re Americanised.

Rating – ★★★

Review by Duncan McLean