Mountain Men (2014)
Dir. Cameron Labine
Mountain Men is a film centered on estranged family dynamics. Cooper (Chace Crawford) returns to a small mountain community for the weekend to attend his mother’s wedding. Cooper’s brother Toph (Tyler Labine) has other plans, he wants to bond with his estranged brother and talk over quality time spent at the family cabin. Toph convinces Cooper to investigate a reported squatter at the remote family cabin. The two discover an empty cabin and decide to spend the night. Due to a miscalculated (and hysterical) accident, the two get stranded on the mountain without transportation and without shelter.
Crawford and Labine play off each other wonderfully. Cooper is closed off, hiding a secret or two and has a chip on his shoulder. Toph is hilarious, deals weed and also carries a secret or two. Cameron Labine (Director) delivers a personal story of brotherhood – it helps that his brother Tyler is the co-star. Tyler Labine is better known for his comedic roles and does a terrific job here of displaying his range, proving he’s more than a loud mouth comedic actor.
This film delves into comedy, delivers heartfelt human moments and turns into a tale of survival. The elements involved are delicate. Tonal shifts in a film are a tricky business and all involved are up to the task. There is a fine balance in this film. There is much to enjoy in Mountain Men – if you dig the premise and the trailer, give it a shot.
The New Girlfriend (2014)
Dir. François Ozon
Having only seen Francois Ozon’s three latest films (In The House, Young & Beautiful and The New Girlfriend), it appears he enjoys placing the audience in an uncomfortable place and daring the audience to join him for the ride. The New Girlfriend opens with a story of two best friends, Laura and Claire. We learn the ups and downs of friendship, childhood and growing up. The montage beautifully illustrates how quickly life can pass by and begs the audience to stop and reflect on life every now and again. Laura passes away at an early age and her best friend Claire agrees to watch over Laura’s husband, David and their newborn child.
The film shifts from melodrama to comedy in a “laughter is the best medicine” kind of way. To reveal the secret within the framework of the film may rob the reader of a discovery, just know that you may shift in your seat. This isn’t your standard North American indie. David’s secret offers the groundwork for a lot of quiet human moments and wickedly funny moments.
For the first two acts the audience feels like they’re in on the fun; much like In The House. It’s a film equivalent to a page-turner. If you go in with an open mind there is much to take away from this film. If you squirm easily you may want to pass on this one. Both lead actors (Romain Duris and Anais Demoustier) do a fantastic job of finding wonderful chemistry that makes it easier to buy into their friendship in the film. The two actors shine together on-screen.
The film’s final act results in a front-heavy film that is thoroughly enjoyable but fizzles toward the end. The film spirals out of control toward the end. The flow of the first two acts slightly fizzles with a final act that doesn’t quite match the opening. This is a soft recommendation, especially if you have enjoyed previous Ozon films.
Dir. Deanne Foley
Talk about a swing and a miss! Relative Happiness is about a thirty-something woman named Lexie (Melissa Bergland) who’s struggling to find love while running a Bed and Breakfast in a small town in Nova Scotia. Lexie’s sister Gabby (Molly Dunsworth) has a wedding in two weeks so it’s vital for Lexie to find a date for the wedding – because I’m sure she would be the first person to ever show up at a wedding on her own. Did I mention that Lexie is overweight? The entire film exists because she’s overweight and her weight plays the butt-end of most of the jokes in the film. Some larger actors/comedians use their weight as one of the many tools in their repertoire; this is the ONLY tool in this film’s repertoire for comedy.
We’ll submit one example to show you the thoughtless, ridiculous “comedy” in this film: Lexie is doing yoga because surely she can lose weight in two weeks so she can fit in the bridesmaids dress that is 3 or 4 sizes too small for her – by the way, the film opens with her trying to fit into said dress (it’s not funny). While doing yoga she falls over, reaches off camera, rolls over and starts eating a chocolate bar. The only thing missing is Ken Jeong (The Hangover) showing up and shouting, “It’s funny because she’s fat!”
“Comedy” aside, this film tries to deal with melodrama. Unfortunately none of the actors are up to the task. Bergland is embarrassingly miscast because she’s not funny and when she cries it’s so dreadful that it cannot pass for serviceable acting. Molly Dunsworth has displayed acting chops with previous efforts like Hobo With a Shotgun and Septic Man. Perhaps the actors are not the issue here.
It’s shocking that Deanne Foley directs this film because it sets women back thirty years. Sure women can have fun in movies, even make a mockery of them but not at the cost of poor writing, directing and zero on-screen chemistry. Did Foley bully girls in her childhood? Is she getting a kick out of fat shaming this character? It’s difficult to understand what Foley was going for in this film.
Relative Happiness is among the worst films of the year. Every joke falls flat and melodrama is mishandled every step of the way. If there is one shining star in this film it’s the supporting actor, Aaron Poole. He is the only actor properly cast in this film. He brings a certain charm, charisma and comedy to his role. I urge you to avoid this film. It’s aggressively bad.