There was a scene in “Knocked Up” that for better or for worse has kind of stuck with me over the years. In that particular scene, Katherine Heigl’s Alison is in bed with her sister Debbie, played by Leslie Mann, recapping a proposal that Seth Rogen made to her with an empty wedding box that he promised to fill with an actual wedding band once he got a job. The pair chuckle about the gesture over some ice cream together and then Leslie Mann quite seriously goes off into a side note about Alison needing to “train” her future husband. “Oprah said that when two people meet, they are forced to point out each other’s differences and flaws. You criticize them a lot, and then they get so down on themselves that they’re forced to change. And then in the end, they thank you for it.”
Mann then follows up this sound piece of talk show logic by bashing Seth Rogen with a final dig, “You can’t make a commitment to him. You don’t even know him. I don’t even know Pete after 10 years.”
Fast forward five years later to “This is 40” in which Debbie (Mann) is still married to husband Pete (Paul Rudd) even though it’s fairly obvious that the marriage is not a smooth one. They have two daughters, live in a nice home in Brentwood, have two cars, and own two businesses. And as is par for the course for iPad lovin’, all natural food embracing, expensive side hobby tackling yuppies, neither is happy and most of their problems are so glossed over and unreal that actual families with 4+ children on fixed incomes would shoot and kill the family in a heartbeat if it meant they got to spend 24 hours in their shoes.
I guess I should go back to “Knocked Up” first and the above quotes. Those quotes pissed me off so badly when I first saw that movie. Really? Do women seriously take to heart the relationship advice of Oprah? (Judging by how many books she slaps a book club sticker on, I suppose it’s safe to say a fair amount chew her cud.) And what awful advice it is. Yes, when you meet another person you’ll notice what they do differently from you. Maybe you don’t like it. If it’s a particularly harmful or self-destructive habit, you’ll move to help them stop it. But my god, you don’t criticize them until they’re forced to change. How is that helpful to the growth of the relationship? To the evolution of yourself? To forming a partnership period? It reminds me of how those YA “teens with problems” books started off in middle school. Girl dates a guy. Guy tells girl to cut her hair so she looks “sexier.” Girl listens because she wants to please guy. This escalates into doing and saying and behaving in every manner to please guy with girl agreeing out of what she believes is love even though guy is actually a sack of shit. Of course the vast majority of these books were ghostwritten by some crappy therapist to scare suburban school girls senseless, but still. You never saw a book where the girl tells the guy, “fuck off, my hair is hot the way it is” or a rational discussion over said haircut (which really isn’t the guy’s choice in the first place but I digress.) Nobody thanks you for treating them like shit repeatedly. When in doubt, shove yourself into the other person’s shoes and try to see things from their point of view instead of jumping to hateful bickering and fighting and unnecessary upset.
In the shoes of Pete and Debbie, trouble seems to be on every horizon. Pete owns his own record label which is flopping horribly because he keeps signing on artists who can’t sell because they are so old and obscure. (Sorry, Graham Parker.) Debbie has a clothing boutique that’s missing 12 grand that employee Jodi (Charlyne Yi) accuses the resident hottie Desi (Megan Fox) of stealing since she has a brand new car and where else could she get that much cheddar to buy that car with hmmm? The only way to break even in the financial mess is for Pete and Debbie to sell the house, but Pete continues to keep loaning his father (Albert Brooks) money, to the tune of 80 grand over the last couple of years. And the daughters are their own story, with Sadie (Maude Apatow) growing up Apple and in the gripes of puberty (not gonna lie, it was about the same for me when I was her age) and younger sister Charlotte (Iris Apatow) wanting her big sister to hang out with her when she won’t.
The movie just keeps snowballing out fight after fight, from personal home only arguments to full-fledged screaming matches at joint birthday parties in public. And while a few were funny (the school scene with Melissa McCarthy and the BJ home based episode), overall I felt so completely drained watching it that it got to the point where I briefly wondered to myself, "Is this really 40? Is this what I’ll be like in the future? Upset and ungrateful and unhappy about every little thing?"
In the 2 hour and 20 something minutes I sat in the theater (yes, it’s that long) trying to watch this movie and feel something for the characters, anything, even a small shred of sympathy, I came up with nothing. In a quiet way, I kept reflecting to the Newtown shootings. That’s not the ideal reflection to have during a Apatow film, but it kept popping in. It made me frustrated with the entire concept of arguing with someone, anyone. Why do we do it? Why? When life is so short and uncertain? Why don’t we spend every single moment of every day cherishing what we do have? Why aren’t we ever content? Why isn’t the ability to breathe and walk and see properly and laugh and love something we celebrate in commercials on TV instead of focusing on the material need for stuff and measuring our worth in Christmas presents? I suppose it’s all just a case of misery loving company and I know conflict is inevitable in this life. Upset happens and often it happens to the best people, the ones who don’t deserve it. But this is where I truly do believe that out of sadness rises the ability to grow and become stronger in your love, whether it’s with your partner or family or friends. Stronger in your love because it holds you all together and makes you one, even if you own a separate business, a separate car, a separate world from the ones you love.
What made me sad about “This is 40” is that if you count in the time that Debbie cited in “Knocked Up” Pete and Debbie have been married for about 15 years and what she said then rang true to the now. She doesn’t know her husband beyond the fact that he likes to sneak in cupcakes. Pete doesn’t know her either. And neither one is making the effort, beyond a brief weekend vacation out together, to truly work on getting back the spark in their marriage and building one another up together. I can’t imagine being married for that long with someone who didn’t know me or wanted to grow and keep on learning with me in all possible aspects. At that point, every sign in the book would point to divorce. Which I know is a hard pill for anyone to swallow, but sometimes it’s a necessary one. And for Pete and Debbie, I do believe it would have made a world of difference.
Because often what has been criticized and broken down and ruined for so long cannot build itself back up with that particular person.
Testing out a new holiday eye shadow palette courtesy of Stila Cosmetics today!
It’s the million dollar question… were the odds ever in my favor last night at the midnight showing of “The Hunger Games?”
Million dollar answer says yes. Yes they were.
Instead of review this movie the old fashioned way by discussing plot points and missing scenes from the book and in general spoiling the crap out of it for you, I’m reviewing by character. A starring system for each character represented. Though if I wanted to be truly in the spirit of the Games, I’d do it by number but alas, for I am sleep-deprived and currently working from home for the day and have yet to watch this movie an unprecedented number of times to come.
Let’s get started, shall we?
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence)
From the very beginning, I had had my doubts about Jennifer playing Katniss. Even before the trailer, I worried excessively. My worry was based on so much. I expected Katniss to be gaunt, undernourished, and woefully lacking on the social graces and charms of the average girl her age. And then I see Jennifer who is clearly not undernourished and blonde with a sunny attitude and a good set of boobs (IT HAS TO BE SAID, YOU’RE ALL THINKING IT). Hate on this comment all you want but this is the first and last time that looking like Kristen Stewart would have actually been ideal for a District 12 citizen. Look, not act though. That’s key.
Lawrence pleasantly surprised me. She was tough. Most of the scenes from the book that I had seen in my head played out on par, particularly the ones in the arena. She wasn’t at her most charming during her interview with Caesar (that one in particular I kept waiting for it to become a better scene but ultimately it fell flatter than I expected) but overall she was a badass, a friend, a devoted family member, and a crush for a couple of boys and it was nice to see all that and more represented with actual emotions and no wooden acting skills.
Her "girl on fire" costume was a huge disappointment though. People please, put down the CGI effects. ***and a half stars.
Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson)
Again, another casting choice I was doubtful about because Peeta, while not necessarily a dreamboat to begin with, is just one of those guys with a good heart that you fall for over the course of the first book and subsequent follow-ups. Not to say that Hutcherson couldn’t pull it off but I worried he’d be one of the weaker links in the romantic triangle and was particularly keen to see just how charismatic he could be during his interviewing process. The boy did good. Good not great which is why it hurts me to some degree to give him the star I do. But only if because with Peeta, at this point it’s hard to look at him beyond the friend zone or “you’re more of a big sister, Milhouse” kinda way. I anticipate to see how he’ll change that in the rest of the series. *** stars.
Haymitch (Woody Harrelson)
Oh Haymitch, the loveable District 12 victor who wears his flask on his sleeve. Why didn’t we get to see more of you? Where was that bathing scene? (Gross as it may be, it’s still a great and humanizing bit.) Somebody needs to explain what the deal with your hair was big time. Until then, I look forward to seeing you stumble around the victor house in the next movie. *** stars.
Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks)
Yet another casting choice I was reluctant about because I feel like Banks gets cast in far too many projects that don’t necessarily need her touch. But it’s kind of amazing what makeup and day-glo ensembles can do for a person along with a sunny and overly cheery disposition. Effie is trying you guys, really she is. During the Reaping, all she wants is for you to get that throwing 24 random kids she doesn’t know into an arena to kill each other truly is for the greater good. You can almost hear her breathe a sigh of relief once the train pulls into the Capitol’s station. *** stars.
Gale (Liam Hemsworth)
I was missing some of that good old fashioned Gale jealousy and hormonal dude outbursts at the government that are really just in desperate need of sexytime cover-ups but there’s plenty more where that came from to come. Gale did his role of strapping forest lad for what it was and that was that people. No Taylor Lautner shirt popping to see here. Yet. *** stars.
Cinna (Lenny Kravitz)
You know who popped into my head the first time I read Cinna’s dialogue? Cillian Murphy. Hot. Damn. People. You know who did not pop into my head any of times I’ve read Cinna’s dialogue or basically since the early 2000’s? Lenny Kravitz. But my goodness did he deliver. He made Cinna just how you read him- fashionable and insightful with just a touch of “imma fuck with the Capitol” up his sleeve. ***and a half stars.
Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci)
Just give this man all of the awards because he owned this part and was wonderfully gleeful about it from beginning to end. If Caesar Flickerman was an actual person with an actual talk show, I’d watch it religiously. **** stars.
Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley)
First off, may I just say how awesome it is to see the creepy camera guy from American Beauty back on the silver screen embracing some crop-circle esque facial hair? ALL THE EARLY 2000’S PEOPLES BE ALL UP IN THIS MOVIE. In the book I was more or less ambivalent about Crane because his involvement with the Games was never all that clear. What the film version of The Hunger Games did that the book did not was take us behind the scenes at the Games at the technology that went into manipulating the arena. Not only was it fascinating to watch, if the audience was ever going to be confused during about why the hell burning trees were falling down one minute and then it was clouding over at noon, this answered all of their questions and more. You could tell Crane is usually used to being at the top of his game during the well, Games, but around Snow & Co. he’s all talk and no action, with much of that talk being nervous anyhow. *** stars.
President Snow (Donald Sutherland)
By far the weakest link in the bunch, President Snow disappointed me in his lack of being sufficiently creepy enough. There were moments though, particularly during his little speech on hope and fear and with the mucus hankie where I could feel a future, more malicious version of Snow coming on but we’ll have to see where that takes it in the next movie. I was impressed at how Lawrence was able to hold her own with him. But then again, when the thoughts of “Grandpa” and “Father Christmas” are floating through your head when you look at the dude, you know it’s time to step up that terror factor. *** stars.
As a collective group (because who actually has time to dissect each one’s performance?) they could kick ass and take names as well as lives. Individually, they were pretty average. Your ordinary teenager pulled into the arena who adapts to group think at a freakishly fast speed with a damn near ridiculous sudden bloodlust. I think I was supposed to be entranced by Glimmer more? Which one was Foxface again? Rue. Rue was cute. I don’t know. My emotional attachments to these people failed on too many levels and the only one of the group who really, really pulled her weight was Clove but that’s only because Isabelle Fuhrman played her and she was freaky as shit in that movie Orphan. United the Tributes would have killed each other and divided so they did. **and a half stars.
Prim (Willow Shields)
Prim is clearly Katniss’ heart and the unfortunate thing is that Prim is such a soft touch that the slightest nudge and she’s down and out. Your sister can’t fight all of your battles for ya, little duck. **and a half stars.
The Avox Girl
Hello? Do I not get to see some infamous tongue chopping Capitol action up in here? Apparently not. And I guess opening this with “hello” is a bit on the insensitive side anyway. WELP, time for me to be hitting the dusty old trail… * star.
Happy Post Hunger Games!