Who is the luckiest man in Hollywood? My vote goes to Ryan Gosling. First he’s the onscreen lover of Rachel McAdams in The Notebook (2004, which still brings tears to my eyes all these years later). Now he gets Emma Stone. He’s two-thirds of the way to a trifecta. Only Amy Adams remains.
This is a film that restores my faith in romantic comedies. What makes it tick is the exceptional acting. What sets it above the norm is Emma Stone. It’s a good, entertaining film for the first hour, but then when Emma takes center stage, it is drop dead funny. Gosling’s reactions to her antics make the scenes well-nigh perfect. Her crazed but believable performance is deserving of an Oscar®, but this is a comedy and Oscars rarely recognize comedies.
It’s got a terrific, complex script (Dan Fogelman) that interweaves relationships between and among all the participants in a deliciously labyrinthine plot. The fact that there is only one credit shows that there weren’t any problems in putting it together. While Steve Carell, Julianne Moore and Gosling give fine performances, the other actor who makes this something special is Jonah Bobo, who plays Robbie, the son of Carell and Moore. His deadpan playing is spot on.
If there were an Oscar® for ensemble cast, this would be at the top of the nominee list because there isn’t a weak performance in the bunch, including Analeigh Tipton as the “older woman” at 17, object of 13-year old Robbie’s affections, Oscar®-winner Marisa Tomei as a woman-scorned teacher with whom Carell gets involved, and Kevin Bacon, who is after Moore when it looks as if she is dumping her husband, Carell. Crooner Josh Groban even has a cameo and acquits himself admirably among such blazing talent.
On the negative side, it’s too long at just a shade under two hours, and the maudlin ending segued the film from a fine comedy into something different, breaking the fine comedic pace of the movie up until then. If directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa could have stifled the urge to end a good comedy with a message (albeit a good one) and terminated the film 20 minutes earlier, it would have left a much better taste in my mouth. Ficarra and Requa should have taken heed of Samuel Goldwyn’s advice that if a filmmaker wants to send a message, he should use Western Union. Today he’d probably say Twitter since WU doesn’t send telegrams any more.
Dominic Cooper, in his first starring role, dominates this compelling biopic in a double role as lunatic Uday Hussein, Saddam’s son, and his sensitive, enslaved doppelganger, Latif Yahia, based on Latif’s autobiography. The film has some excruciating scenes of torture and sadistic treatment of women, all the more disturbing because the truth was much worse than what’s shown. Lovely Ludivine Sagnier deftly plays Uday’s inscrutable psychologically tortured mistress and Latif’s forbidden lover.
Brendan Gleeson’s bravura performance highlights writer/director John Michael McDonagh’s talkative, comedic look at police corruption, murder and drug trafficking in County Galway, Ireland. David Wilmot contributes a sparkling performance as a sociopathic killer. The closing credits are played under the music, “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” but instead of being sung by Peter Paul & Mary, who had the hit in 1967, it’s beautifully sung by John Denver, who, unbeknownst to a lot of people, wrote it in 1966 at the beginning of his career, before the masses had ever heard of John Denver. Included on his first solo album in 1969, it’s a good reason to stay until the credits end.