Comedy Dramas galore!

Whether it’s 50/50 or The Descendants, this is a sign that comedy dramas have become the winning stake for independent and art house cinema. Read on…

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen in 50/50.

50/50

Rating: ****

As a slowly building male tearjerker, 50/50 connects to the viewers only because of its first-person narrative. And our first person here is a simpleton like the rest of us with a normal job and a stale relationship with his girlfriend and mother. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is as enthralling as he could be. I remember mentioning in my reviews of (500) Days of Summer and Inception that Gordon-Levitt has the charm to carry any role and 50/50 is just another feather in his cap. But, what makes 50/50 so special is that, the protagonist Adam appears undervalued to an extent that when he learns that he’s suffering from cancer, he manages to hold a mental breakdown until the last-minute.

Seth Rogen appears as his usual self, spitting four-letter profanities and providing marijuana. He tries to exhibit his acting skills in a movie that demands more than his usual crankiness. But, his failure in making a commendable supporting actor is covered by Will Reiser’s screenplay that moves rapidly like a comedy, and then freezes like a drama. Hence, 50/50 is a perfectly scripted comedy-drama. Anjelica Huston, Anna Kendrick and Bryce Dallas Howard co-star in the film and they use the limited space given to them. Huston as Adam’s mother succeeds with her exceptional use of deadpan humor, last noticed in The Addams Family.

A coming-of-age tale that circles on the rediscovery of a cancer-stricken youngster, 50/50 is accompanied by witty humor. The strength of the film lies in Gordon-Levitt’s charismatic performance.

George Clooney and Shailene Woodley in The Descendants.

The Descendants

Rating: ****

Clooney is no stranger to comedies or comedy-dramas. His career is spotlit by many films such as O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Intolerable Cruelty, Burn After Reading, and most notably Up in The Air (a personal favorite). The Descendants explains why a filmmaker can entrust a dangerously treading role to Clooney. The scene in which he confronts his comatose wife about her affair with an unknown man tops the list of reasons on why The Descendants is a nod to a possible Oscar win.

Shailene Woodley stars as the out-of-control teenage daughter who comes second in terms of acting skills. Shailene’s strength lies in her ability to speak dialogues with frustration. The father-daughter bonding is generally a go-to sign in chick flicks. But, this comedy-drama dwells in that issue and the outcome is a success story for filmmaker Alexander Payne, who is well-known for his films Election and Sideways.

This really is one of the finest films of the year. Clooney deserves the accolades and as far as the movie goes, death shatters the family, but it brings them closer.

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Review: Up in the Air

2009’s Best Urban Film

Up in the Air (R)

Director: Jason Reitman

Cast: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick and Jason Bateman

Genre: Comedy-Drama

Rating: *****

And finally, I have watched one of the best films of 2009. An urban film, much corporate and passive, Up in the Air lives up to its expectations. The film is based on the novel by Walter Kim and it is the screenplay that makes magic in progress. The film stars George Clooney who plays yet another charming performance. Vera Farmiga’s role of a frequent flyer packs a punch, especially in those conversations where they reveal their mischief aboard the aircraft. Gone are the days where the lead pair met and bonded in an orchid or a lake. Here we are, meeting in the Frequent Flyers Club.

So, Ryan Bingham is a corporate downsizer who spends his time in the airport and on airplanes, flying to different cities and firing people. Isn’t that too ironic! His boss, Craig Gregory finds the internet video call idea of his trainee, Natalie Keener to be interesting as it would put his men “off the road” and he can save a lot of greens. But, Ryan disapproves the idea and also lets Craig to witness Natalie’s lacklustre efforts. Hence, Craig sends Natalie along with Ryan to learn first-hand. Amidst this clutter is the frequent appearance of Alex Goran, the woman with whom Ryan plays it casual. The characterization of the two women can be compared to Yin and Yang. Natalie is young and inexperienced, Alex is aging and highly experienced. Natalie likes to make arguments loud, Alex plays it silent. So, how does Ryan juggle between Yin and Yang? Watch Up in the Air.

The film has got me into its creative holds. The slick editing, the stylish camera angles, the sensuous sounds, all of them are a big plus. If The International was a recession-era thriller and Public Enemies, a Great Depression-era story, Up in the Air proves to be a light-hearted recession-era drama.

Indie actress, Anna Kendrick makes her much wanted breakthrough as the young  downsizer. Craig Gregory, the boss is quintessentially portrayed by Jason Bateman who with his charming looks makes the role look easy. But, Clooney offers the real punch with his surprisingly tireless appearance and monotonous voice. After Thank You For Smoking and Juno, Jason Reitman has directed another marvel.

Up in the Air is a delight to watch. Those 110 minutes would be worth your money and you’d want to watch it again. The film is routed win the Oscar for Adapted Screenplay.