(On Cable TV, July 2016) Absence does make the heart grow fonder. After spending much of the early 2010s getting gradually fed up with Michael Cera’s persona, I forgot about him for a while. Watching him being quite likable as his usual screen-self in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist reminded me that, overexposure aside, there is a reason why he was pigeonholed in that kind of role: it works well at what it’s meant to be, especially if you’re going to make an underdog romantic comedy. More or less tightly structured around a wild night in New York City’s streets chasing an indie band’s pop-up concert, this hipster teenage rom-com works largely due to the freshness of its script and the likability of its stars. While the story isn’t particularly innovative, there’s some wit in the dialogue and the small-scale moments of the film. Meanwhile, Kat Denning s earns good notices for her performance in the female lead role, with a decent supporting turn by Ari Graynor and Jay Baruchel popping up in an extended cameo. I’m not a fan of the specific kind of mewling indie “rock” favoured by the film and its character, but their love of music itself is infectiously charming. The NYC location shooting is a highlight at a time where most movies will have other cities play New York—this is the real deal, painstakingly captured night after night. Director Peter Sollett, adapting a young-adult novel, is warm and sympathetic toward its sometimes-misguided characters. Containing the entire story overnight works in the film’s distinctiveness, much like its positive outlook and sweet disposition. Worth a look, especially if you’re in the mood for a likable teen romantic comedy … even if you think you’ve grown used to Cera’s persona.
(On Cable TV, July 2013) Saying that a comedy doesn’t have a lot of laughs is usually a bad sign, but not always. Sometimes, a “comedy” only qualifies as such because it features sympathetic characters doing amusing things in ways that result for a happy ending for everyone. Such films don’t need to be constantly hilarious to be entertaining, and that’ s how we end up talking about For a Good Time, Call…, a gentle good-natured comedy in which two young women end up starting their own phone sex line in order to make ends meet. It’s a low-budget film that doesn’t entirely feel like one, due to a good script, competent direction and cameo appearances from well-known friends/family of writer/star Lauren Miller. (The cast list features Justin Long and Nia Vardalos, as well as cameos from Seth Rogen and Kevin “Welcome to New Jersey!” Smith… and a small but remarkable performance by Stephanie Beard) Still, this is truly Ari Graynor’s film, as she brings life to a tricky character and manages considerable chemistry with her co-star Miller, which becomes increasingly important as the two characters develop a platonic womance. The subject matter including phone sex, adult toys and straight-up sex, it goes without saying that film does contain a bit of raunch. Still, the film is far sweeter than crass (subject matter aside, there’s little here to warrant more than a PG-13 rating) and leaves viewers with a smile. Which is all it needed to do.