The Past (2013) is a French drama/romance/mystery involving an Iranian man returning after four years to his French wife to finalize their divorce. The divorce is complicated because the wife is living with a boyfriend and his boy, plus her two daughters from an earlier marriage. The mystery surrounds the older daughter, who is depressed and rebellious, ostensibly because she loves her Iranian step-dad and hates the boyfriend. The Rotten Tomato critics score it at 94% and the audience is almost as pleased at 85%. I agree with both and give it three and a half stars out of four. Each of the actors is wonderful and the story is engrossing.
American Splendor (2003) is a biographic comedy about an eccentric government file clerk, Harvey Pekar, who in his spare time writes comic books about his cynical, boring life of a loser. The books are facetiously called “American Splendor. Pekar is reminiscent of the corporate-cubicle guy who created Dilbert, Scott Adams, but Dilbert et al. are trying to win (with modified rules and objectives) while Pekar has given up. Pekar, played by Paul Giamatti, is based in Cleveland, which is a perfect setting for a loser guy. The Rotten Tomato critics love the movie at 94% and the audience is almost are favorable at 87%. Although the movie is well-done and the story is interesting (compared to Woody Allen movies), I don’t enjoy watching losers, especially those who deserve to lose, so I give the movie only two and a half stars out of four.
Never Forever (2007) is an award-winning, critically-acclaimed drama about a high-brow Anglo woman in Manhattan who, because she is unable to conceive with her fantastically successful Korean husband, hooks up with an anonymous loser to get knocked up. The Rotten Tomato critics like the flick at 80% and the audience is at 73%. My initial reaction to the movie was that the acting and script were the worst I had seen in years outside of pornography. But then I noticed that Rotten Tomatoes characterizes the movie as an erotic drama, and in that sense it succeeds. I give it three stars out of four.
50/50 (2011) is a comedy-drama that revolves around a young man dealing with a diagnosis of cancer. It stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt (500 Days of Summer and Don Jon) stars as the sympathetic victim and a winsome, funny Seth Rogan (Knocked Up) as his best friend. His other significant relationships are with Anjelica Huston (Lonesome Dove) as his smothering mother, Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air) as his inexperienced, caring therapist, and Bryce Dallas Howard (Ron Howard’s daughter) as his cheating girlfriend. These relationships are what make the movie succeed, but I was disappointed by the scope of the movie because the Netflix jacket incorrectly indicated that it took on the meaning of life – “But what’s the meaning of life when you’re not sure how long yours will last?” None of the characters considered that issue. The Rotten Tomato critics loved the movie at 93%, and the audience was almost as favorable at 88%. That’s a bit of a stretch because none of the characters have much depth, but I would give it three stars out of four.