LAFF 2014 Reviews: ‘They Came Together’ and ‘Echo Park’
Another year at the Los Angeles Film Festival and another year of great films. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see as many as I wanted to, but let’s start with a couple reviews for the first two movies I saw. Very different from one another, but both on the connection between two people.
They Came Together could have been another romantic comedy movie, but instead it turns it on its head and makes fun of all the cliches we’ve seen a million times. To be fair, I do personally enjoy those cliches most of the time, but it was refreshing to see them used in a different and witty way.
Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler star as Joel and Molly, a Manhattan couple who meet at a Halloween party, both dressed in the same costume of course, Ben Franklin. First they hate each other, but then fall in love. But of course complications arise in the form of Joel’s ex-girlfriend and a big corporation threatening to close down Molly’s shop, for whom Joel works (of course). But as with every romantic comedy it ends just like it’s supposed to… or does it?
Rudd and Poehler are the perfect cliche couple for They Came Together. Both of them exude the likeability needed to bring the movie to life without it feeling forced. It’s almost to the point that you hope these two characters really end up together in a “real” romantic comedy movie.
My favorite part of the movie was the scene that starts it all. Joel and Molly are having dinner with their couple friends Kyle (Bill Hader) and Karen (Ellie Kemper) and begin telling them the story of how they met. We go back to that dinner throughout the movie as the story unfolds. What’s so great about it is that Kyle and Karen are probably the saner people of the entire movie and point out some of the ridiculousness of it all (in that sense they represent a bit of the audience), which leads to some of the funniest moments.
However, as can be the case with parodies, sometimes the jokes go on a bit too long. And while They Came Together started off great, it did go on for a little too long and even pushed a bit too much towards the end.
That said, They Came Together was a fun time and a way to enjoy a different kind of romantic comedy. I definitely had a good time.
The movie will be released to theaters on June 27th.
Ratings: 7 out of 10 stars
You can watch the trailer for They Came Together below.
Echo Park takes a look at how life changing decisions impact two characters, Sophie (Mamie Gummer) and Alex (Anthony Okungbowa) during a summer. Sophie seemingly had the perfect life and was ready to get married, when she decides to leave Beverly Hills and move to Echo Park to escape some of the unhappiness she feels. There she meets a neighbor, Alex, a British expat who has given up on his dream and is selling his home in order to move back to London. The two of them form a bond and an unlikely romance blooms as they forge their new paths.
I tend to enjoy the slice of life type of movie and Echo Park finds a way to immerse us in the lives of these people at a crossroad point. It’s no fairytale, but it’s no depressing drama either, it is simply life and that is what’s beautiful about it. Alex and Sophie are regular people with their qualities and faults and the movie doesn’t try to defend or condemn them either, it simply exposes conflicts in life that a lot of people experience. Should I stay? Should I go? What do I want? These are questions explored through their eyes, but it’s also clear that there is no right or wrong answer, just choices we make as people.
While I do think the film dragged on a bit, the performances saved it from being boring. Mamie Gummer is fantastic as Sophie and Anthony Okungbowa’s Alex is a great counterpart for her. I also must mention Helen Slater who plays Sophie’s mother. Despite only having a couple of scenes (I wish she had had more!), she was my favorite.
Overall, a good character development film that explores choices we are faced with.
Ratings: 7 out of 10 stars