Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Rapid Reviews: It Follows and While We're Young

I had the distinct pleasure of catching David Robert Mitchell's new lavishly praised horror film, It Follows, at the Philadelphia Film Festival in October. But for anyone who knows what the daily film festival grind is like, It Follows was my third film that day and it played around 10pm which can feel late for an aging man like myself. Therefore, I wanted to shake off my initial gut reaction from the viewing and give Mitchell's clever suspense film a clean slate, so I ventured to my local theatre for a second go-around.

Maika Monroe stars as Jay, a young woman who meets a boy she really likes and, after a few dates together, decides she wants to sleep with him. After an intimate evening together, he breaks some terrifying news to Jay. He tells her that by having sex together he's passed on a curse to her that appears in the form of an apparition that constantly heads straight for her in a slow creepy walk. But if the entity, which is invisible to anyone who hasn't been cursed, actually reaches her, she's dead.

David Robert Mitchell's brand new horror entry deserves to be lauded for its originality and uniqueness. However, It Follows suffers from a typical fate of never truly developing into much. The film's 100 minute running time plays more like a marathon as the scares are too infrequently scattered and the plot hits a wall. It Follows boasts an indeniably brilliant premise that fails to take the next step. Genre fans will find a few shining aspects surrounding this STD thriller, but the fact remains that there's very little substance here.

Stars: 2 stars out of 4

Grade: C+

Acclaimed U.S. filmmaker Noah Baumbach and I have never really seen eye-to-eye. Over the course of his two decade-long career, I've never encountered a film of his that I truly enjoyed. However, the first-look trailer for his latest comedy, While We're Young, really caught my attention. With Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts at the center of this intriguing cross-generational tale, I was more than convinced to give Baumbach another shot.

When a 40-something couple (Stiller and Watts) finds themselves lost in an evolving world of friends having children and embarking on the next journey in life, they meet a hip young couple (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried) that re-energizes their relationship. It doesn't sound like much, but Baumbach's story actually evolves quite nicely and takes a few unsuspected turns in this charming and enjoyable comedy.

With the polarizing Ben Stiller at the film's center, While We're Young rests almost entirely on his shoulders. Yet, the veteran actor welcomes the challenge and gives a praiseworthy performance. Co-stars Adam Driver (HBO's Girls) and Namoi Watts are quite impressive in their roles as well, but it's the unexpected musician, the Beastie Boys' Adam Horovitz (Ad Rock), who will have you asking, "who was that guy". While We're Young gives and earnest examination of life and relationships all while keeping you laughing with a finely executed screenplay which was also carefully handled by the director.

Stars: 2 and a half stars out of 4

Grade: B-

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