Anyone who follows this site knows I am a huge fan of romantic comedies. I review Hallmark movies for a living after all! Therefore, it should be no surprise I am kinder on the genre than many other critics. A film can be full of the tropes of the genre and I’m fine with that because I like the genre and I like those tropes.
Such is the case with the new film Finding You. Some will say it’s predictable and cheesy and they would be right, but it is exactly those elements that won me over to the film. Finding You is one of those movies if you watch the trailer and it looks sweet and enjoyable than you will like it. If you watch it and think ‘oh no another romantic comedy’ than you will hate it.
Not that I just give a blank check to romantic comedies. They have to be done well and for the most part Finding You is. The biggest strength it has is Rose Reid in the lead. She is warm, charming and easy to root for. I especially loved her interactions with screen legend Vanessa Redgrave. That dynamic seriously elevated the film.
Jedidiah Goodacre was serviceable but felt a bit miscast as the hunky fantasy movie-star Beckett Rush, whom Reid’s Taylor meets while studying abroad in Ireland. Most of the dragons movie elements have to be taken with a grain of salt as you don’t even see a green screen anywhere- the visual effects are amazingly present on days of shooting. LOL
Tom Everett Scott does a good job as Beckett’s father. The whole film has a better cast than the script probably warrants but it makes it entertaining to watch.
There is also a degree of escapism in trotting all around Ireland as we are all anxious to get traveling again. Fans of the genre will be swept away in a sweet romance at the cinema!
At nearly 2 hours Finding You could have used a trim and the chemistry wasn’t as great as I wanted it to be. However, if you like rom-coms than you will enjoy the film. It’s nothing new but I still had a fun time watching it.
I had always heard of Born Yesterday not because of it being a great movie but because of its impact on the Oscars. One of my favorite movies of all time is All About Eve and the actresses Bette Davis and Anne Baxter were both nominated for Oscars for Best Actress. Both of their performances are some of the best in the history of movies, so imagine my shock that neither of them won the big prize! No, Judy Holliday for Born Yesterday won!
It is for this reason I have long wanted to check out Born Yesterday and see if Holliday deserved the win or if it was a case of 2 actresses from the same movie cancelling themselves out. Now for Blind Spot I finally got to check this romcom off my list!
In Born Yesterday Holliday plays a woman named Billie who is a ditzy mistress for a mob-like millionaire named Harry Brock (Broderick Crawford). At first I was struggling with her character. Her squeaky voice was irritating and the way she is walked all over is uncomfortable to a modern viewer. However, as she began to learn more from William Holden’s Paul Verrall I started to warm up to her.
Holden and Holliday have such an authentic chemistry that I found myself rooting for them as a pair more than either character by themselves. They both teach each other and become better people based on the discussions they have. It’s not just the suave man teaching the silly woman how to be more genteel but a woman coming to understand her fundamental value as a human and a man realizing some principles and people are worth fighting for.
It’s easy to be cynical these days, and I know that’s why many don’t enjoy romantic comedies. However, Born Yesterday is kind of a cynical movie. The world surrounding our 2 leads is decidedly broken and there’s no sign of any of it changing outside of the cocoon of their discussions. I got the feeling if Frank Capra had made this film there would be grand speeches and big moments of gravitas but that is not the case here. It’s just about 2 people who make it out of the cynicism kicking and screaming.
I watched the 1993 remake of Born Yesterday and boy was that a dud. It has most of the same ingredients but without the sense of personal connection and growth we see with Holliday and Holden. There’s nobody to root for and no depth to any of the performances so it all feels quite lazy and mean-spirited. Definitely skip it!!
Now do I think Judy Holliday is better in Born Yesterday than Bette Davis and Anne Baxter in All About Eve? No I do not but it’s a good performance so I’m not angry about it. She brings a humanity to a character that is easy to dismiss and has fantastic chemistry with her costar so she’s a worthy winner even if she’d still get 3rd place in my book. Also if you have never seen Judy in Bells Are Ringing it’s a very underrated musical that I highly recommend.
Contrary to what some may believe I don’t automatically love every romantic comedy that is released. In some ways I think I am a bit pickier than most because I love the genre so much, and I want the movies to be great.
Knowing this it might or might not surprise people I wasn’t as in love with the 2018 Netflix romcom based on the YA novel To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before as most people seemed to be. I didn’t hate it but I had some issues I will get into. Now we have the sequel To All the Boys: PS I Still Love You, which is also based on a novel by Jenny Han. I haven’t read this novel (I had read the original) but I think I actually prefer this sequel over the original film.
My main problem with the original film is I felt Peter, while played with huge charm by Noah Centineo (who I think is going to be a big star), was a pretty bland character. There was no spunk to him. He basically did whatever he was told and agreed to whatever plan was presented to him. One might think of him as a manic pixie dream guy that is only there to help our heroine get out of her shell and nothing more. I like my leading man to have opinions and stand up for himself. It doesn’t always have to be the enemies to friends romantic trope but a little personality is important.
That said I do love a fake relationship plot and the leads were very charming with great chemistry, so I gave the original film a mild recommendation. Now we have the sequel where Peter and Lara Jean are actually dating and in a real relationship. I’m not sure why we needed to interject a love triangle with the also charming John Ambrose played by Jordan Fisher, but Peter got more to do this time around and showed more personality. He wasn’t always the perfect boyfriend, which made him more appealing and swoon-worthy.
We also got some nice moments between Lara Jean and her family. Lana Condor does a nice job in the lead role and Anna Cathcart and John Corbett are lovely as her sister and father respectively. It’s certainly nice to see some diversity in teen movies and the family dynamics will be easy to relate with for adults and teens alike.
On the Hallmarkies Podcast I talk a lot about the value of romantic escapism for women. This isn’t just for old fogies like myself but teenage girls as well. To All the Boys: PS I Still Love You does a good job of fostering this kind of escapism. I used to have movies I called ‘sleepover movies’, which were usually silly romantic films I would watch with my friends at sleepovers (or should it be sleepunders as we didn’t sleep much?). Some of my favorites were films like Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Princess Bride, Ever After, The Cutting Edge, Some Kind of Wonderful, Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken and Dirty Dancing, .
With this sequel, the To All the Boys series definitely cements itself as the sleepover movies of this decade for teens. They are charming, escapist romantic stories, and this sequel makes me like the original even more. So go get your friends together, have a sleepover and watch a fun movie!
Hello my fine movie-loving friends! Today marks an exciting day. Believe it or not I have officially seen every movie of any interest to me in both regular and art-house cinema! That almost never happens to me but with a lot of horror movies coming out there hasn’t been as much that interests me when compared with a typical July.
With so many movies seen this means it is time for one of my much celebrated ‘Current Mini Reviews’ posts! These occur when I don’t have time to write an entire post on a film but want to log my response to help all of you know what’s out there to see. So here goes!
First up is the romantic comedy Plus One starring Maya Erskine and Jack Quaid in the lead roles. This film is available in theaters and on demand and while it is definitely R rated, it is also a pretty charming romcom.
Quaid (who is very charismatic) and Erskine play 2 friends who make a deal to be each-other’s plus one for 10 weddings they have been invited to in one year (I would die going to so many weddings!). As romcoms go, naturally their friendship blossoms into something more, and all kinds of shenanigans unfold. Plus One definitely follows an expected formula but the leads have enough chemistry and it was funny enough to entertain me. If you can handle an R rated movie than I recommend it.
7 out of 10
Directed by Ron Howard this documentary on the legendary opera singer Luciano Pavarotti doesn’t break the mold of a standard celebrity biographical documentary but I still enjoyed it because of the stunning music. Howard allows the performances to go on for long stretches so you can get a feel for the experience the audience had listening to such a master tenor. The interviews are interesting but again quite standard for this kind of film. Go see it for the music!
7 out of 10
SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME-
I know it is kind of sneaky to put only a mini-review for such a big film in here but my friend Patrick already reviewed this film for the site and I have no desire to compete with his review. Unfortunately I was not as in love with this movie as Patrick or the masses seem to be. It has its pluses but some real problems as well.
First the aspects I enjoyed is Tom Holland as Spider-Man. He’s sweet, vulnerable and completely likable as our teen web slinger. I also liked Zendaya as MJ and pretty much all the ‘teenagers go to Europe’ stuff I liked.
Unfortunately I did not like the villain plot. Without spoilers I found it convoluted, predictable and dull. Similar to Zemo, in Civil War, the amount of steps that needed to make the plan work is ridiculous and it required actions by Tony Stark in previous films that don’t make sense. Also some of the more creative moments felt like too much of a video game for my taste. Even something psychedelic like Doctor Strange still felt more grounded and therefore more engrossing with more stakes than the illusions here. Just not my cup of tea visually I guess.
It’s weird because everyone online seems to love this film but myself, my friend Jen and my two nieces all left disappointed so who knows? It’s not awful but definitely lower tier Marvel (and I’ve seen it twice to verify).
Also do the humans in this world even try any more to fight against the bad guys or just the Avengers because that’s what it felt like? I also don’t understand why Spider-man needs anonymity in this universe. Liberally none of the MCU is secret so why him? I dont get the big deal?
4 out of 10
For some reason when the trailer to Yesterday came out there was a big backlash against it. I don’t know if it is just the popularity of The Beatles people wanted untouched or they sensed a dud but many were up in arms about it. I, on the other hand, thought it looked quite charming and was excited to see it.
Unfortunately the doubters proved to be correct, and I was disappointed in Yesterday. A world without The Beatles is an interesting concept and Danny Boyle infuses the film with his trademark optimism but he is unable to overcome a lead character (Himesh Patel) that’s hard to root for and a romance with Lily James that has no chemistry. I was also surprised how sloppily made the film was with some poor editing and some ADR issues with the singing.
In the end, it’s just a bunch of The Beatles karaoke so I’d skip it. (Also the world would be way worse without The Beatles than not having Coke!).
4 out of 10
ECHO IN THE CANYON
The documentary Echo in the Canyon profiles the music scene of the 1960s that developed in LA’s Laurel Canyon area. This includes interviews with bandmembers from The Mamas and the Papas, The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield and more. Jakob Dylan becomes are narrator as we learn about the epic recording sessions that mostly occurred in small studios or in the musician’s homes.
Any music fan will love interviews with Tom Petty, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Stephen Stills, David Crosby and more. It was great. Unfortunately I was less enthused with the long sections of the tribute concert put on by Dylan, Regina Spektor, Beck and more. These are very talented singers but it was distracting from the musical story of the classic bands and the time and place the documentary is profiling.
Still, I enjoyed it well enough to recommend to any music fan!
6 out of 10
An interesting trend I have noticed lately in film is the exploration of male friendship- particularly unlikely male friendship. We even recently had our Oscar winner focus on this subject in Green Book. Another example is this sweet little film called Papi Chulo.
Matt Bomer plays Sean, a weatherman who has lost his husband and is finding the transition process very difficult. He is lonely and doesn’t seem to have any real friends (he goes to a party but he seems to be more worried about impressing them than any kind of real kinship). One day he befriends a house painter he hires named Ernesto played by Alejandro Patiño. The fact Ernesto doesn’t speak English is actually a plus as Sean just needs someone to listen and not respond.
Papi Chulo is a bit too casual in its treatment of moments of serious mental health crisis in Sean’s life but it has a huge heart I couldn’t resist. It is rated R for a little bit of language, alcohol use and background sensuality but it’s overall pretty tame and very sweet.
Believe it or not there are other movies out in theaters besides Avengers: Endgame. I have already reviewed Missing Link and Breakthroughon this blog but I thought I would give you my quick reviews of 5 other films that might be worth your time to check out:
First up the anime film Penguin Highway. Directed by Hiroyasu Ishida this creative and original science fiction mystery will delight audiences of all ages and shouldn’t be missed. It reminded me a lot of the Netflix show Stranger Things with a young boy investigating the strange appearance of penguins in his town.
The relationship between the boy and a woman who comes along with the penguins is a little strange but if you like unpredictable, fresh storytelling you’ll love this film
8 out of 10
I will eventually do a full review of Disneynature’s latest film Penguins for my Disneynature series on this blog but until then you should definitely check it out. The penguins are so cute especially our lead penguin Steve who is perpetually behind all the other penguins. It’s so cute!
Ed Helms does a good job as the narrator and kids will love seeing this little penguin romance. Some of the music cues were a little much for me but that’s a minor flaw in a very adorable nature film.
7 out of 10
The Perfect Date
Netflix continues in its attempt to take over the romantic comedy world particularly for teenagers with The Perfect Date. Noah Centineo is super charming, and I’d be in love with him if I was 16. That’s really who this movie is made for, teenagers who want to swoon over Noah Centineo. There’s nothing wrong with that but the script needed work.
He’s charming but the story is so strained and there is no chemistry between him and either of the leading ladies. It also feels like a cheap copy of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off without any of that movies emotional heft. If you’re not a 16 year old I’d say pass.
4 out of 10
Penguin Highway isn’t the only new anime we’ve gotten this month. We’ve also gotten the sweet ghost story Okko’s Inn. Based on a series of mangas, Okko’s Inn tells the story of a little girl who goes to live with her Grandma at an Inn after her parents die. She soon learns the Inn is inhabited by a series of mischievous ghosts who want to get her into trouble.
Okko’s Inn feels very episodic and is definitely made for very small children. Adults may find it a little cloying but its heart was in the right place so I enjoyed it. If you want to talk to your kids about grief and how to set goals (Okko decides to become a junior Innkeeper) than this would be a fun one to show them.
6 out of 10
About 30 minutes into the new romantic comedy Long Shot I was groaning pretty loudly inside. The characters were annoying me and it seemed like the most tired of tropes to have the gorgeous blonde bombshell fall for the schlep who can’t seem to understand you don’t wear a hideous windbreaker to a swanky party. Ugh.
BUT…then something happened and it started to win me over. I think the key point is when they actually start a relationship is where it begins to work. The build up I was irritated but the actual balance of a liberal writer dating the secretary of state started to entertain me. Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron have decent enough chemistry but it’s the script that makes it all work. The commentary on feminism, work, politics and dating feels believable and is very funny. I particularly thought the ending in all its romcom glory is earned.
O’Shea Jackson as Rogen’s best friend stole the show. Hilarious.
This is an R rated film with lots of language and some sexuality so be forewarned.
I must admit I was a little unsure what I was getting myself into when I put Desk Set on my 2018 Blind Spot list. I needed a Christmas movie I had yet to see (a tough task when you are dealing with me, the Queen of Christmas movies), but I didn’t enjoy the much heralded Hepburn/Tracy film Adam’s Rib. Despite their chemistry, it just didn’t work for me (been a while since I’ve seen it but that was my experience at the time). Fortunately my experience with Desk Set, was much better, and I thoroughly enjoyed this bubbly Christmas romcom.
Desk Set was the 8th of 9 pairings between Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy and it was directed by the great Walter Lang and written by Phoebe and Henry Ephron (parents of my literary hero Nora Ephron!). They built the lead roles with Hepburn and Tracy in mind and you can tell- especially for Hepburn the lines feel like they are almost improv it is so natural.
Heburn plays a woman named Bunny Watson who works as a researcher that answers questions for reporters. She is a very modern woman who has been dating her boyfriend Mike for 7 years and leads an office of 3 other women (Joan Blondell, Dina Merrill and Sue Randell). These women are strong, yet feminine and can definitely hold their liquor. If you made a version of Desk Set today you wouldn’t have to change much of the behavior of the women, which considering this was made in 1957, that is saying something.
Unfortunately, the perfect office is disturbed when Spencer Tracy’s Richard Sumner comes in and announces they are replacing the researchers with 2 EMERAC computers. Richard then works with the women to make the transition to the computers as seamless as possible. Of course, it is fascinating to see the effects of automation and computers on a 1957 workplace when the same issues and workplace dynamics exist today. We just call it google instead of the EMERAC!
Desk Set is not a movie that is going to have you in stitches laughing. It’s more a pleasant workplace comedy starring two Hollywood greats with terrific chemistry. Hepburn’s Bunny can be quite sarcastic and snarky with Tracy’s Richard, especially when she is drunk. She even laughs so hard in one scene she snorts, which I’m sure was unplanned!
It did take me a bit to get into Desk Set (the first act is pretty slow) but once the computer arrives and they have their Christmas party it gets cracking! If you like romantic or workplace comedies you will enjoy it. It doesn’t have the emotional heft of something like The Apartment but it’s a delightful little comedy with a hint of Christmas in it for the holidays.
If you’ve seen Desk Set what did you think? Do you like it better than Adam’s Rib or is there another Hepburn/Tracy pairing you prefer over both of them?
Thanks for joining me in this 3rd year of Blind Spots! I am excited to start a new series for 2019 and if you have any suggestions please let me know! Merry Christmas!
3 years ago I did a youtube video entitled ‘Is the Romantic Comedy Dead?’ and it is still one of the best videos I’ve ever made. It’s basically a video essay where I talk about why the romantic comedy matters and how so many of them get the genre wrong. Well, after 3 years of little else but Hallmark in the genre (which is amazing and I podcast about each week) we finally get a successful romantic comedy in Crazy Rich Asians, and I am thrilled about it! Naturally most people are cheering on the underrepresented Asian community that is featured in the film (and rightfully so!), but I want to take a second and cheer it on for being a great romantic comedy!
Crazy Rich Asians is based on the very funny novel by Kevin Kwan about a girl named Rachel who goes to meet her boyfriend’s family in Singapore. When she arrives she discovers they are super rich and judgmental. This premise doesn’t reinvent the wheel but as I’ve said many times movies don’t need to be original to work. They just need to be executed well and this is. It is funny, romantic and has a nice heart to it. Also the Mother who is the ‘villain’ of the film has motivations that make sense when looked at from her life experience.
A lot of people will tell you romantic comedies like Crazy Rich Asians are too ‘cheesy’ or ‘unrealistic’ and therefore they shouldn’t be taken seriously. I would counter that nearly all film outside of documentaries (and even them sometimes) exist in a heightened reality. Very few films are truly realistic and when they are, with films like Boyhood, they are often decried for their lack of story.
I would contend that romantic comedies in their own unique way can actually be very realistic. Think about the couples in your life? Think about when you’ve heard their love stories? Is it not usually some variation on a meet-cute and then they fall in love and get married? Most human beings fall in love and have their own version of a cheesy love story. At least that is the hope…
And there’s the magic word- hope. Hope is something special romantic comedies (and dramas) can give us. If they are done well, they can give us hope that love is out there. That maybe someday we can find someone who will love us for who we are and despite whatever shenanigans happen he or she will make it work with us. There is a hope that love is real and that good things can happen to good people.
Then why you ask are so many romantic comedies lame? Well, I do think that male critics are often more likely to criticize films with a feminine energy as lacking in value. But the greater problem is when the films themselves loose that sense of positivity and hope. In an attempt to play into opposites attract the bad romantic comedies will often make the characters too mean spirited so we don’t really want them to fall in love or have a happy ending.
The other mistake they make is relying too much on a gimmick and forgetting about writing interesting characters. Going all the way back to The Taming of the Shrew, many romantic comedies have been built around a gimmick such as a bet, contest, or article that must be done etc. This type of premise is very difficult to pull off and requires great writing and engaging characters.
Crazy Rich Asians at its core is a simple movie of a boy introducing his girl to his judgmental family. The reason it works is because it is well written and the characters are likable. It’s not too different from other great romantic comedies like Notting Hill or My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
I hope that Hollywood takes the right lessons from Crazy Rich Asians and in its eventual copycats remembers to give us romantic comedies that are as well done. I’m sure there will be clunkers, but I’m just excited to have a jolt in the romantic comedy genre because I’ve missed it!!
Welcome back romcoms!!! Let’s have some hopeful, romantic, enjoyable movies! Yay!!
(And we won’t have to wait long! I’m so excited for Destination Wedding which comes out in just a few days!)
Also I did this post on my other blog on recent romcoms you might have missed that are worth checking out
Last night I had the chance to see the latest Amy Schumer comedy I Feel Pretty. I walked into the theater having only heard negative reviews but trying to have an open mind as usual. I also had no bias against Amy Schumer as this is the first movie or TV show I’ve seen her in. What was my response? Well, I am happy to say I really enjoyed I Feel Pretty. It is a sweet and consistently funny romantic comedy film that I think critics are being way to harsh on.
The conceit of I Feel Pretty reminded me of a Penny Marshall film from the 90s. In fact, they even show a clip of Marshall’s film BIG, which inspires some of the magic that takes place.
Amy Schumer plays a 30-something woman named Renee who is happy enough with a boring but decent job and a nice group of friends; however, she has settled on not trying for the great life she wants because of massive insecurities she feels about her appearance.
Some have criticized I Feel Pretty and claimed it is ‘fat shaming’ given Amy Schumer is only overweight by Hollywood standards. However, I disagree. The film is not saying that Schumer is fat. They are saying that Renee feels insecure about her entire body. She feels insecure about her skin, hair, clothes, weight everything. In contrast, I Feel Pretty also shows women who are bigger than Schumer who do not struggle as much with body imaging and women slimmer that have their own insecurities, so I found it to be quite accurate to the struggles most women have.
I loved Aidy Bryant (who was also great in The Big Sick) and Busy Phillips as her best friends. They were not as insecure as Renee but still had their own struggles. I also like that they told her the truth when she is too much of a diva on them. They in many ways were the most confident characters of the movie.
There have been many body-switching comedies over the years (a favorite genre of mine) but one thing I liked that I Feel Pretty does differently than most is they never actually body swap. We never see the beautiful woman that Renee is seeing in the mirror. This is an improvement upon films like Shallow Hal where we see Gwyneth Paltrow in the fat suit and then her beautiful self. Seeing Renee feeling confident, empowered and beautiful as just Renee helped convey the message that she was the best version of herself all along.
There are a couple of scenes where Renee is shown as too fat to ride a bike at a gym that are a little over-the-top, but I didn’t care as they worked into the plot quite nicely.
I really liked Rory Scovel as Ethan, the new boyfriend Renee gets because of her confidence. She assumes she is way above him and that’s impresses him. He’s the one who is shy and insecure and a confident Renee teaches him to loosen up. I thought they had pretty good chemistry and were sweet together.
Michelle Williams is practically unrecognizable as a cosmetic heiress who is insecure about her voice and who envies Renee’s speaking abilities and innovative ideas. I’m so used to seeing her as an indie darling that it was fun to see her flex her comedic chops again.
My only criticisms are minor. I kind of wish they hadn’t set the movie in the fashion world because it created a strange dynamic. Renee is confident because she believes she is beautiful but at the same time the very industry she is working for is partly responsible for her lack of confidence in the first place. At the end there is a rousing speech but it would have been more inspiring if it wasn’t also a product pitch for makeup. It’s an odd juxtaposition.
But overall, I thought I Feel Pretty was charming. It made me laugh a lot and the message was very sweet.If I had a teenage daughter I would take her to see this film, and I think we would have a lot of laughs. We would also talk about the importance of confidence and how no matter what we look like we have value to God and this world. It worked for me! I guess you could say I feel pretty 🙂
There is some nudity and sensuality and a little language. PG-13 film.
Anyone who follows this blog knows one of my all time favorite movies is the 1998 film You’ve Got Mail. I love pretty much everything about it especially Nora Ephron’s witty dialogue. It is perhaps my favorite remake ever and one of the best romantic comedies ever made. Recently my friend Christine sat down with me to talk about the film and why we love it and what it has to say about work, life, love and the human experience. It’s a really fun podcast that I think you will all enjoy. Give it a listen 🙂 You can also listen on itunes here.