Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Former Employee Anthony Rhodes Shares Some Colony Theater Stories

Earlier this month I posted about The Colony Theater’s closing and asked for folks to send in their stories about their experiences at the venue. I’ve only posted one so far – Brian Hill’s amusing story about seeing PULP FICTION at the Colony back in ’94 – but for this installment I’ve got several that were sent in by Anthony Rhodes, a friend who I used to work with at the theater several years ago.

Anthony, who is the front man for the Raleigh band Army of Dog (pictured above), worked at the Colony from December 2006 - March 2011. 

First up, Anthony recalls how he got his job at the theater:

“I’m a musician. I used to be an aspiring writer. I never got anything published. I wasn't terribly good at writing. I'm better at music, I guess - I've had some marginal success in that world, at least. But some friends and I put out a literary journal back in 2006. It was mostly local writers, and we were proud of it. We even managed to get Quail Ridge Books to put our journal on their shelves.

Shortly after that, we created a MySpace page. And the very first friend request we got from from The Colony Theater. We of course accepted it.

A couple weeks before that, I'd fallen on hard times and I was looking for a second job. And because of that MySpace request, I messaged the theater through the literary journal page on MySpace. I asked if they had any openings.

The Colony Theater MySpace account messaged me back, and offered me a job. It was from the general manager - he was the one who'd bought our literary journal, and he’d liked it enough to send us a friend request. And that's how I came to work at The Colony.”

This story Anthony calls “I Guess You Didn’t Realize”:

“The register wasn't a register - it was a cash drawer, and we all had to do the math in our heads. Us employees - we had just about every price of every possible combination of everything, and the resulting change you were owed, memorized in our heads.

Unless you paid with a $50 dollar bill. Because nobody ever did that. But sometimes, people did.

People are used to handing you money and immediately getting their tickets or concessions, without pause. If as a patron, you hand us a $50 dollar bill, we didn't have that memorized, and we had to think for a moment.

One night, such a patron handed me a $50 dollar bill when his total was going to be $16. So I took a moment to think about what his change would be, instead of immediately knowing it, had he handed me a $20 dollar bill.

He became impatient, very quickly. And he started yelling numbers at me - a counterproductive thing to do when someone is doing math in their head.

And he totally messed up my internal math, and I got it wrong. He yelled at me for it, but I quickly corrected the error, and I gave him correct change. He told me I was a fucking moron, and gave me the finger.

Now the thing about working at The Colony was, at one moment you might be at the ticket window, and the next, you might be selling concessions. Your duties ebbed and flowed with the crowd and the line (or lack thereof at the ticket window).

And so as he came inside, I found myself also taking his concession order. He seemed surprised.

‘Yeah, you didn't know I'd be making your food too, did you?’ I said.

He looked a bit sheepish and ordered his concessions. He later came out of the movie and apologized to me, got a refill on his popcorn, and left a generous $5 in the tip jar.”

Anthony’s next recollection concerns when Godfrey Cheshire’s MOVING MIDWAY premiered at the Colony in 2007:

“In 2007 the theater hosted the premiere of the award winning documentary, MOVING MIDWAY.

The cinematographer/co-producer was present, and he was a very nice guy. We’re used to premieres like this, and often, the people behind the movie acted very entitled and aloof and treated us employees like shit. Not this guy.

He told us about his movie and answered our questions, and we talked about other movies, and other things in general.

A few months later, my Uncle Charlie died. At the graveside service, I stood a ways back, just taking it all in. A man walked up to me. He said ‘you look familiar.’ I told him he did too. I asked him his name. He said ‘I’m Jay Spain.’

I told him it didn't ring a bell. He said he was in movies, and I asked him to name a couple as I worked at a theater - maybe our paths had crossed.

He said he produced MOVING MIDWAY. But he didn't want to make that a thing. He was just there to pay his respects to his Uncle Charlie. My Uncle Charlie.

Jay Spain and I are cousins, and we're still in touch now all these years later. Because of The Colony Theater and our Uncle Charlie.”

Finally, Anthony has a anecdote that he dubbs “My Dark Passenger”:

“For my five year run at the Colony, my shifts were Wednesday nights, Friday nights and Sunday afternoon. I loved working there, and I never took a shift off.

But one Christmas, after I'd been there about three years, my wife wanted to visit her family in Georgia, so I asked for the weekend off, and I was granted that.

My wife and I ended up coming back a day early, and I could have worked my normal Sunday shift. But I'd already gotten it off, and it was already covered, and not only that, I'd bought her the first season of Dexter for Christmas, so we decided I'd just stay home, and we'd watch that, instead.

Meanwhile at the theater, the first day I'd ever taken off, Michael C. Hall and his wife at the time (his sister Deborah on the show) - they came to the theater. While I was two minutes away at my house, watching the first season at home with my wife.

Son of a bitch.”

Be like Anthony! Send in your stories about the Colony to boopbloop7@gmail.com or message them to me on Facebook.

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Friday, October 23, 2015

STEVE JOBS: An Intensely Talky Character Study In 3 Acts

Now playing at a multiplex near you:

STEVE JOBS (Dir. Danny Boyle, 2015)

s screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, and director Danny Boyle have stressed repeatedly, this highly anticipated portrait of the late Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs isn’t a biopic - it’s an intensely talky character study told in three acts, each set backstage at crucial product launches in Jobs’ career.

The first third is set in 1984, at the launch for the original Macintosh at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts in Cupertino, California. We meet Jobs (Michael Fassbender in his sharpest performance yet and with a flawless American accent to boot) fretting over making the computer say “hello” to introduce itself when turned on for the presentation.

In snappy, witty dialogue largely delivered within walks and talks – a very familiar Sorkin device – Jobs argues with key Mac engineer Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg), and his trusted marketing chief Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) over the issue.

Hertzfeld protests: ““We're not a pit-crew at Daytona, this can’t be fixed in seconds.”

“You don’t have seconds – you had three weeks. The universe was created in a third of that time,” Jobs responds.

“Well, someday, you’ll have to tell us how you did it,” Hertzfeld replies through a smirk.

Yep, there’s that Sorkin snap!

Floating in and out of Jobs’ orbit are Jeff Daniels as Apple CEO John Sculley, who needles Jobs about how they used real skin-heads in the famous “1984” Apple television commercial; Seth Rogen as Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak, who wants Jobs to give credit to the Apple II computer team in his speech; and most importantly Katherine Waterson as Jobs’ ex-girlfriend Chrisann Brennan, and her five-year-old daughter Lisa (Makenzie Moss), whose paternity Jobs denies.

These interactions take us up until Jobs is introduced onstage, then the film transitions to the man and his team preparing for the launch of the NeXT computer system at the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco. This time our genius is worried that the dimensions are off on what’s supposed to be a perfect cube of a computer.

As he makes the rounds through the facility, Jobs argues with the same folks - Sculley, Woz, Brennan - but he’s beginning to bond with his daughter, played at age 9 by Ripley Sobo, so there’s some significant development there.

The concluding third of the film concerns the launch event for the iMac in 1998 at the same venue as the ’84 Macintosh, and yet again we see Jobs go through the tangled motions with his minions (no, not those Minions!). Perla Haney-Jardine fills the shoes of his daughter at 19, who, of course, gets to finally connect with her father.

There’s some patented Sorkin character cutesiness present in such moments as Jobs telling his Walkman carrying daughter that he’s going to put “a thousand songs in your pocket” (the iPod, duh!), and when Wozniak and Jobs bicker over a Beatles analogy (“I’m tired of being Ringo when I know I was John,” Woz complains), but overall it’s a meticulously sculpted screenplay that’s a shoo-in for a Oscar nomination. I prefer Sorkin's script for THE SOCIAL NETWORK, but this is in the same lofty class.

As some scenes are strained and some beats are repetitive, STEVE JOBS falls just short of greatness, much like the man himself as these three spotlighted products were financial failures, but its strengths which lie in the delightfully punchy performances by Fassbender and everyone in the cast (seriously, there is no weak link in this ensemble), the volumes of perfectly on point one-liners, and Boyle’s inspired stylistic choices like using different film formats for each era (’84 in 16mm, ’88 in 35mm, and ’98 in digital) elevate it into a series of speculated conversations well worth cinematically eavesdropping on.

Jobs was a visionary, but, yeah, he could also be bit of a dick. Boyle, Sorkin, and Fassbender’s take on the man is that he was well aware of that, but it couldn’t be helped because “there is no off position on the genius switch,” as David Letterman would say.

More later...

Monday, October 19, 2015

BRIDGE OF SPIES: Spielberg & Hanks Serve Up Splendid Cold War Spy Stuff

Now playing at a multiplex near you:

BRIDGE OF SPIES (Dir. Steven Spielberg, 2015)

You know we’re really getting into the season of Oscar-baiting when a prestige picture with such pedigree as this one comes along. I mean, it’s a Steven Spielberg film, starring Tom Hanks, concerning historical events, with a screenplay co-written by the Coen brothers – can you get any more Oscar baity than that?

But BRIDGE OF SPIES, the 29th movie by the most famous and successful filmmaker of our times, is a worthy, noble piece of entertainment that ranks with Spielberg’s best work, and it’s my favorite of his four collaborations with Hanks, of course, one of the most famous and successful leading men ever.

Set in 1957 at the height of the Cold War, the film posits Hanks as James Donovan, a Brooklyn-based insurance lawyer who was recruited by the CIA to his initial chagrin to defend an accused Soviet spy.

The assignment makes Hanks’ Donovan very unpopular with the public – he gets nasty looks from folks on the subway looking up from their newspapers – and draws ire from his wife, played by Amy Ryan, elevating the role of the typical concerned wife-on-the-side, who asks: “Do you know how people will look at us, the family of the man trying to free a traitor?” (sure, it’s an easy, obvious role for Ryan, but if you have to have that part played - who better?).

Donovan consults with his client, Rudolf Abel (played with nonchalance by Mark Rylance) and explains that if convicted he could be facing the death penalty. “You don’t seem alarmed,” Donovan observes to which Abel says “would it help?” This line becomes a running joke of sorts.

As expected, Donavan loses the case but argues that Abel should be kept alive in case the situation arises in which the Soviets have captured an American then a trade could possibly be arranged.

Meanwhile, we are introduced to a group of U.S. fighter pilots who are sent on a secret intelligence gathering mission involving the Airforce’s new fangled high altitude, camera-equipped U-2 spy planes. One of the pilots, Gary Powers (Austin Stowell) is shot down and captured by the Russians.

Representing the CIA, Donovan travels to East Berlin to negotiate the trade of Abel for Powers, and another American, a Yale student named Frederic L. Pryor (Will Rogers), who was arrested and is being held without charge by the East German police.

Maneuvering through the negotiation process between East Germany and the U.S.S.R. is tricky for Donovan as has to work out the conditions of the deal with such prickly bureaucrats as Wolfgang Vogel (Sebastian Koch), a German lawyer; and German Stasi agent Harald Ott (Burghart Klaußner).

Between meetings on the street of Berlin, Donovan is accosted by a group of young German toughs, who steal his overcoat. Afterwards, one of his colleagues asks “How did you lose your coat?” Hanks shrugs and replies: “You know, spy stuff.”

Spielberg and Hanks serve up splendid, you know, spy stuff here in this sturdy, grey-toned drama that beautifully builds to the tense prisoner exchange climax at Glienicke Bridge between East and West Berlin, where Powers’ fighter pilot friend Joe Murphy (Jesse Plemons) is brought over to confirm his identity.

This stand-out sequence is where Spielberg’s longtime cinematographer Janusz Kamiński captures the film’s most stunning imagery with the glare of lights on the snowbound bridge juxtaposed with the pitch black of the night effectively surrounding these little men just doing their jobs, as one character puts it.

The film’s post script shines with Spielberg’s brand of sentimentality which many may find to be cheesy – i.e. such shots as a woman on the subway looks up from her paper to give our modest hero Hanks a smile of approval in obvious contrast to that earlier aforementioned scene - but it felt earned to me.

Hanks and Spielberg are among the only ones these days who can really sell such a Capra-esque vision of an all-American family man – an honest lawyer, mind you – who works to do the right thing to make the world a better place. Donovan’s role in the trial and the trade deserves such a treatise, enhanced by the timely commentary on how the Cold War of yesteryear echoes through the War on Terror of today.

It’s also a pleasure to have Hanks handling the sharply scripted dialogue by Joel and Ethan Coen, who co-wrote with Mark Charman, that’s so much better than what the Coen brothers gave him in one their rare misfires, 2004’s THE LADYKILLERS. Still, Hanks, as solid and dependable as his performance is, will doubtfully get any Oscar action for this (the Academy has been there done that), but I’m betting that Rylance, who quietly steals the movie as the amusingly jaded Abel, will get a nomination.

BRIDGE OF SPIES may be another case of the “Greatest Generation” saluting itself again, but it’s grand, old fashioned entertainment made by one of our most trusted storytellers, and one of our most trusted actors that does stately justice to its subject. So go ahead and label it Oscar bait, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth swallowing hook, line, and sinker.

More later...

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Recollections Of The Colony Theater Series Begins

As The Colony Theater in Raleigh is going to close in December, I've been collecting stories from local folks about their memorable experiences there at the over 40-year old art house.

Our first recollection comes from Brian Hill, a Facebook friend who I've seen at many of the theater's revival screenings such as Cinema Overdrive. Brian writes that this is his favorite story of seeing a movie at The Colony:

“Back in 1994 while I was at NC State for college, my friend and I decided to go see PULP FICTION, which was only playing at the colony. I picked her up at her dorm and we rolled over to the theatre to check out the film. On the way there, I noticed that she was acting a little weird, but not completely out of the ordinary.

We had had a beer before leaving and she was a fairly small girl so I chalked it up to that. Upon arriving at the theatre, we hit the concessions and grab a big thing of popcorn which she immediately starts woofing down like is mana from heaven. Again, odd, but not overly odd. Getting into the theatre she notices the carpeted walls and becomes mildly entranced, to the point that she walked over and petted them for a minute or two before we finally took our seats in the front row (house was packed!) This was sorta weird but I just let it go because I didn't really know what to say about it. Finally the movie started and I figured everything was cool.

Cut to the scene of Travolta and Thurman pulling up in front of Jack Rabbit Slims. Mia looks at Vince and tells him to ‘not be a square daddy-o’ and draws the square in the air. This is depicted on screen with the dots drawing out the square. About a minute after that scene, I feel my friends hand roughly grab my arm and I look over and she is completely wide-eyed and looking mildly freaked out.

I leaned over and whispered at her to see if she was ok to which she replied, in a VERY nervous sounding tone: ‘Did you just see Uma Thurman draw a square?’ And I was, ‘yeah?’ She immediately whipped her head around and was like ‘You did????’ in a very happy/excited tone. After that, she sat back and watched the flick with no more issues and the night ended.

The next day I asked her what the deal was and she told me that before I had picked her up one of the people in her dorm had given her some mushrooms and she was tripping the whole time. And when she saw the lines on the screen she thought it was the trip and was about to freak the hell out. After she realized it was part of the movie she calmed down. To this day I think about that every time I go to the Colony (and every time I watch PULP FICTION).”

Editor’s notes: The picture at the top of the post isn't from when PULP FICTION originally played at The Colony in ‘94 - its from a more recent Cool Classics screening of the film a few years back. Also, it always bugged me that the square that Uma draws looks more like a rectangle.

Have a story about The Colony Theater to share? Please send them to: boopbloop7@gmail.com. And thanks to Zack Smith and the Indie for their shout-out in this post about the theater's closing.

More later... 

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

A Call Out For Recollections Of The Colony Theater

Sadly, I just learned that The Colony Theater in North Raleigh is closing this December. This personally affects me as I have worked there since 2009, and have enjoyed many, many movies there over the years starting  with seeing THROW MOMMA FROM THE TRAIN on a date back in 1988.

At one point I had read that The Colony opened in 1969 as a Jerry Lewis Theatre (the comic actor owned a chain of theatre franchises in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s) but while some say it was owned by that company, it actually began life on December 29, 1972 as the one screen Six Forks Cinema.

In the mid ‘70s a restaurant was converted into a second theater and it was re-opened as The Terrace Twin by Bill Rawls Theatres in 1977. After performing as a second run house, owned by Martin Theaters, in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, it was restored and turned into a art-house cinema named the Colony Theaters 1 & 2 by Bill Peebles under his company Ambassador Entertainment.

This information is according to commenters on the theater website cinematreasures.org, particularly one who goes by the handle rayyson, who the my few paragraphs comes close to plagiarizing I must confess.

I’m sure that many of my local readers have good memories of attending films at the Colony, whether it was a screening at one of their great series like Cool Classics, or seeing a first run independent film in limited release, or hearing one of the countless times that somebody dropped a bottle and it noisily rolled down the floor of the theater, so I wanted to ask folks to share them with Film Babble Blog.

Email your Colony memories to boopbloop7@gmail.com. They don’t have to be very long or detailed, but if the story calls for that – do it up! I’ll be sharing some of my memories 
in a series of tribute posts. as well over the next few months leading to the theater’s final days. 

I have been through a theater closing before with the Varsity Theater in Chapel Hill, where I worked from 2004-2009. Happily the Varsity re-opened at the end of that end year after an extensive remodeling by its new owners.

In the N & O piece linked to above, David Bracken wrote that “Hobby Properties, the owner of the center, is hoping that a new owner will lease the space and continue operating it as an independent theater, said Boss Poe, Hobby’s director of leasing and sales.” 

That would sure be great if it could remain a theater space, but for now let’s pay tribute to the grand old twin cinema with some favorite recollections. Here’s hoping to hear from you.

Oh, and in the meantime - patronize the Colony! Here's their website with their schedule. Now playing there are a couple of fine films: SLEEPING WITH OTHER PEOPLE and PAWN SACRIFICE

Great stuff is coming up like Cinema Overdrive's presentation of THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE on Oct 14th, Cool Classics October selection THE SHINING on Oct 21st, and the final HARRY POTTER movie, HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART 2 on Oct 25th.

More later...

Monday, October 05, 2015

SICARIO: A Superbly Dark Cartel Counterinsurgency Thriller

Now playing at multiplexes from here to the borderline:

SICARIO (Dir. Denis Villeneuve, 2015)

Emily Blunt proves her action star turn in last year’s terrific Tom Cruise vehicle EDGE OF TOMORROW was no fluke in this superbly dark cartel counterinsurgency thriller in which she plays a tough as nails F.B.I. agent named Kate Macer.

After a gripping opening that has she and her partner Reggie Wayne (Daniel Kaluyya) storming a Mexican drug lord's safe house in Arizona, Kate gets recruited by Department of Defense advisers Matt Graver (a typically brash Josh Brolin) and Alejandro Gillick (Benicio Del Toro) for a high-risk CIA-led drug operation across the U.S.-Mexico border.

Kate increasingly senses that the system behind the mission is incredibly corrupt, partly because she can’t figure out who the task force actually works for (particularly De Toro’s ultra shady Alejandro), and if their tactics are doing more harm than good, especially in the chaos of a traffic jam shootout on the outside of Juarez, Mexico.

The team is following a bloody trail that leads to drug kingpin Fausto Alarcon (Julio Cedillo), who it is revealed brutally murdered Alejandro’s wife and daughter. Kate learns this following a raid of the cartel's secret cocaine-smuggling tunnel that runs beneath the border - one of several stunning, standout set pieces on hand.

SICARIO, which is Spanish for “hitman,” is Villeneuve’s most fully realized work. The director’s previous films, including INCENDIES, PRISONERS, and ENEMY were intriguing and fairly solid, but this intensely driven treatise has really seared itself into my psyche in a much more profound way.

Working from a well crafted screenplay by Taylor Sheridan (Sons of Anarchy), Villeneuve keeps us up close with the characters, but knows when to give us distance via striking long shots impeccably filmed by legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins. Incidentally, Villeneuve and Deakins have been both tapped to do the long awaited sequel to BLADE RUNNER. Their riveting work here makes me think they could seriously do that project justice.

Justice is what Blunt’s Kate desperately wants here in the murky, immoral terrain that makes up SICARIO, and the actress puts forth a lot of power in both the pulse pounding action moments, and in the edgy confrontations with those she doesn’t trust. People who don’t know the British actress (her American accent here is spot on) by now are really missing out – the woman has mad range.

However, as good as Blunt is, Del Toro steals every scene he’s in, and he does it by barely speaking. His cold yet fascinating presence has us questioning his motives as much as Blunt does, and when he does speak – every word has disturbing weight.

SICARIO may stir memories of such like-minded thrillers such as Steven Soderbergh’s TRAFFIC and Kathryn Bigelow’s ZERO DARK THIRTY, but it has something those otherwise fine films were strongly lacking: a real conscience.

More later...

Friday, October 02, 2015

Don’t Diss On Matt Damon And Miss THE MARTIAN

Now playing at multiplexes from here to Acidalia Planitia:

THE MARTIAN (Dir. Ridley Scott, 2015)

Two years ago around this time we had Alfonso Cuarón’s GRAVITY, last year there was Christopher Nolan’s INTERSTELLAR, and now there’s this year’s cerebral sci-fi fall release about astronauts struggling for survival in space, Ridley Scott’s THE MARTIAN, an adaptation of the 2011 bestseller by Andrew Weir that I never got around to reading. And with the news that they just found water on Mars, it couldn't be more timely.

Set in the near future, the film stars Matt Damon as Mark Watney, a NASA Astronaut who is left behind by mistake on Mars when the crew of the Ares 3 mission are forced to evacuate during a dangerous dust storm. In the chaos, Damon’s Watney is impaled by flying debris and sent flying off into the distance, leaving his team members to believe that he’s dead.

After Watney regains consciousness and gets back to his house base module in the middle of a large northern basin on Mars called Acidalia Planitia (a real area on the planet) he sizes up the situation via a direct-to-camera video log: “I have no way to contact NASA or my crewmates, but even if I could, it would take four years for another manned mission to reach me, and I’m in a hab designed to last 31 days.”

Our hero figures in order to make water (I guess this aspect is now retro-dated) and grow food on a planet where nothing grows, re-establish contact with NASA, and make the months long journey on the Mars rover cross-planet to the landing site of the next mission he’s “going to have to science the shit out of this!”

Meanwhile back on earth, NASA scientists and officials, including Chiwetel Ejiofor as Director of Mars Mission, Jeff Daniels as the head of NASA, Kristen Wiig as NASA’s head of public relations, and Sean Bean as the flight director, find out that Watney is still alive and they attempt to do the math, with the help of Donald Glover as a awkward scruffy astrodynamicist, and unravel the red tape needed to get him back.

Oh, and the NASA brain trust struggles with whether or not to tell the returning crew headed by Jessica Chastain, who, guilt-stricken at leaving behind her fellow colleague, would surely go against orders to turn her ship around to go back and try to save him if she knew. Also on board with Chastain are Kate Mara, Michael Peña, Sebastian Stan, and Aksel Hennie, who each have their moments and add to the film’s driving force of humanity.

Damon’s performance as the can-do optimist Watney is so solid that you’ll forget about the controversial crap he’s said that’s had him raked over the coals by the press lately. Here he’s a guy you are really rooting for as he successfully grows a crop of potatoes and laughing with as he bitches about the only music he has to listen to – Commander Chastain’s disco collection on her computer: “I will not turn the beat around!”

Despite the stakes, which do carry considerable weight, this is one of Scott’s sunniest and most fun films. Especially when compared to his last space epic, the ALIEN prequel PROMETHEUS, which I found more grueling than a good time.

Sure, there shades of many movies in play here from APOLLO 13 to CASTAWAY; from the aforementioned GRAVITY to 127 HOURS and so on, but THE MARTIAN never feels derivative. Drew Goddard’s tightly scripted structure smoothes out the tropes into a thoroughly engaging, and consistently gripping narrative. It’s also the second film I’ve seen this week that well utilized the 3D format – THE WALK was the other.

THE MARTIAN and THE WALK, which both open this week, are also alike in that they are inspirational epics that were immaculately shot by the same cinematographer, Dariusz Wolski. I’ll be shocked if Wolski doesn’t take home an Oscar next year for one of these visual feasts.

It’s so nice to be back in the ‘movies are getting good again’ season, with such a marvelously gripping movie as THE MARTIAN heading the herd. Just don’t be dissing on Damon so hard that you miss it.

More later...

SLEEPING WITH OTHER PEOPLE: A Warm, Fuzzy, & Very Profane Sex Comedy

Now playing at an indie art house near me:


(Dir. Leslye Headland, 2015)

I don’t think it would be accurate to label this an anti-rom com, because it really doesn’t subvert or satirize the formula, but I would say that it’s probably the among the most profane romantic comedies I’ve ever seen. Which makes sense since it was co-produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay.

From its opening in which boy (Jason Sudekis), meets girl (Alison Brie) while at college, to its premise that over a decade later the couple attempts a platonic friendship, writer/director Headland’s follow-up to her 2012 debut BACHELORETTE often resembles a foul-mouthed, raunchy remake of WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, but that’s so not a bad thing.

You see, since Sudekis’ Jake and Brie’s Lainey lost their virginity to each other on the roof of his dorm back in 2002, they’ve both had scores of failed relationships.

Jake and Lainey run into each other at a sex addict support meeting in the present day and start hanging out, but with the understanding that because they screw up every sexual relationship they’ve had, they should just be friends. They even come up with a safe word should the sexual tension ever gets to be too much: “mousetrap,” abbreviated from “dick in a mousetrap.”

Lainey, who is a kindergarten teacher, is still pining for another guy from her college days that she’s been seeing on and off, Adam Scott as the mustached OB-GYN Matthew Sovochek, who Jake considers one of the most boring people ever. It’s a constant hang-up for Lainey that Matthew is going to marry somebody else.

Jake, who with his business partner (Jason Mantzoukas) is about to get rich from selling a tech patent to a major company, has his eyes on his boss (Amanda Peet), but from the get go we know he’s really in love with Lainey.

Of course, that and the whole path here, with our leads going through the motions with others (Marc Blucas for Brie; Peet for Sudekis) while falling for each other, is as predictable as they come but the conversations that they have along the way riffing on masturbation (Jake teaches Lainey how to do it properly with the help of an empty green-tea bottle), sexual positions, and other deep topics are amusingly relatable and keep the project humming along.

There’s also the hilarious highlight of a scene halfway through in which Jake and Lainey attend a children’s pary at Mantzoukas and his wife (Andrea Savage) while tripping on ecstasy and we get a bikini-topped, cut off wearing Brie teaching the kids to dance to David Bowie’s “Modern Love.” “Why don’t we do drugs?” Savage asks Mantzoukas longingly while watching.

With the amusingly self deprecating Brie building likable layers on top of her work on Mad Men and Community, and Sudekis putting in a less smarmy, and far wittier turn than his HORRIBLE BOSSES persona (or his SNL characters for that matter), there’s a lot of genuine warmth in the humor and in the tender touches of drama here.

It may be very dirty-minded, in that even the indie rock songs on the soundtrack drop the f-bomb (I’m looking at you, The Echo Friendly!), with plenty of plot points that you can see coming from the theater parking lot, but SLEEPING WITH OTHER PEOPLE is pleasing time spent with people who you want to get together. It’s a warm and fuzzy film about wanting to f*** your best friend. That's the best way I can put it.

More later...