They Came Together

They Came Together (2014) is a spoof on the romantic comedy genre, directed by David Wain and co-written with Michael Showalter. Although constantly spoofing, the film is made with a deep-down love for the romantic comedy genre; it’s 83 minutes of laugh-after-laugh all in the spirit of good ‘ole fun.

They Came Together tells the story of Joel (Paul Rudd) and Molly (Amy Poehler) as they are sharing the story of how they met to their friends one night at dinner, Kyle (Bill Hader) and Karen (Ellie Kemper). Joel and Molly preface their love story as a really corny romantic comedy, and, boy, does it live up to that. It begins with a You’ve Got Mail foundation, with Rudd being the charming and charismatic leading man, oozing handsome smiles all over the place, who works in the evil candy empire that is threatening to bankrupt Molly’s small and community-friendly neighborhood candy shop (Poehler and Rudd working in candy companies screamed Leslie Knope, Bobby Newport, and Sweetum’s from Parks and Recreation). Molly is the classic strong and in-your-face type who’s clumsiness and compulsive qualities are endearing. Almost every romantic comedy trope and stereotype could be found in this film: overhead shots of Ney York City, holiday gatherings to introduce single friends to each other, incredibly passionate and rambunctious nights of love-making, meeting the parents, breaking up and getting back together over and over again, a mad dash to stop a wedding, getting back with an ex, montages of couples falling in love in the city, marriage proposals, hate-at-first-sight — they even managed to fit in a montage of the leading lady trying on various outfits to impress her man. Because the film is so fast-paced, all this and more is able to fit into a film that’s a little under 90 minutes long. Each trope and stereotype has Wain’s unique and hysterical twist on it, making for constant laughs.

The film hardly has a story — but it doesn’t need one; the point isn’t to have a story. The film is perpetuated by laughs and jokes. The pacing is very quick, joke after joke after joke, and while there are a few misses, most land perfectly. Laying out tons of the jokes, the leads — Rudd with his myriad of close-up smiles and Poehler with her clumsy yet likeable antics — are supported by an incredible cast. Jason Mantzoukas is the goofy and loyal best friend to the leading man; Cobie Smulders is the unfaithful and vapid ex-girlfriend of and constant temptress to Joel; Max Greenfield is the leading man’s little brother who offers up “jewels” of wisdom (with whom Joel has a tangential family crisis which is yet another romantic comedy antic); Teyonah Parris is the sassy co-worker (and possibly only other employee) at Molly’s small business; Ed Helms is the nice guy who is clearly wrong for Molly yet still manages to procure an unenthusiastic “yes” to his marriage proposal; Christopher Meloni is Joel’s boss, the token idiot turned up a few notches; and perhaps the most important supporting character: New York City.

This movie takes inspiration from great spoof and parody films such as Airplane! and Blazing Saddles. It’s 83 minutes of fun and laughs, if you’re open to not taking anything seriously. They Came Together has a solid and hysterical screenplay by Wain and Showalter and it’s brought to life by a crazy-strong comedic cast. Even though they’re making fun, you can’t help but root for Molly and Joel to get together. And even though Rudd is flashing a ton of fake, laugh-inducing smiles, you get a little weak in the knees each time.

I was fortunate enough to see They Came Together at the Music Box Theatre as part of the Chicago Film Critics Film Festival. David Wain was the special guest and introduced the film and let a Q&A afterwards, which was as hysterical as it was fascinating. They Came Together comes out to select theatres on June 27, 2014. It will be at the Music Box Theatre, so please check your local theatres and check out this film if it’s in your area!

Something Borrowed

Something Borrowed (2011) is a romantic-comedy adaptation of the novel of the same name by Emily Griffin. Directed by Luke Greenfield, this movie tells the story of Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin), a single and introverted lawyer, who finds herself caught up in a love triangle with Dex (Colin Eggelsfield), her friend from law school, and her best friend, Darcy (Kate Hudson).

The book is widely popular, an international bestseller, but the movie was a flop. What happened?

Well, the casting is its biggest weakness. Hudson is, as always, stunning and impeccably resonant with her characters. She plays Darcy, the toxic best friend to the too sweet Rachel. She’s sexy and sociable, the life of the party. Usually the protagonist, we see a little more acid in Hudson’s performance in Something Borrowed, as she constantly makes situations all about her — like when she toasts her best friend on her 30th birthday but really only talks about her upcoming wedding. As far as casting goes, she’s the ace in the hole; she steals the show as she always does with her big personality and talent. Goodwin is a beautiful woman, with a sweet smile, but Goodwin doesn’t really gel with Rachel. Rachel is a shy, introverted woman who does not really go for anything. She worked hard in law school, sure, but in her life outside academics and work, she’s a shadow in the corner. She fell in love with Dex in law school and they had undeniable chemistry, but she just let him go. Her best friend is toxic, always stealing the spotlight, and she just lets her do it. Goodwin doesn’t delve into that kind of self-conscious headspace for this role. If anything, she’s more empty-headed than she is struggling with her outgoing setbacks. A girl like Rachel has a lot going on in her mind, even if she doesn’t speak those thoughts, and many times it seemed like Goodwin’s Rachel was completely vacuous underneath her facial expressions. Hers, however, was not the weak link in the casting chain.

Eggelsfield is cast as the “perfect man”, the sweet and sensitive lawyer who you hope won’t wait too late to realize that Rachel is the one for him (since readers identify themselves with the ordinary Rachel). It’s always tough to rise up to the role of “perfect man”, and Eggelsfield unfortunately falls quite far. Phsyically, he’s an incredibly attractive man, who definitely looks the part of a suave and charming lawyer. That is as far as his embodiment of the character goes, though. As said with some friends over brunch, Eggelsfield is a beautiful shell, magnifying the problems already outlined with Goodwin’s performance. His is a character who is in love with Rachel, the sweet and caring friend of his past, who is also somewhat in love with Darcy, the exciting yet harmful woman he’s engaged with, who is the son of a sick mother who is basically staying alive just to see him married, and also the son of the father who seemingly would rather die than face any scandal in his upscale family. There are a lot of emotions going on with Dex, ranging from personal desires, past regrets, future anxieties, but none of that shows up in his face or acting. His acting and charisma are pretty much sitting in the middle of the emotional spectrum, blissfully unaware in the neutral mundanity of human emotion. This problem is exacerbated by John Krasinski’s performance of Rachel’s best friend, Ethan. Krasinski is nothing if not charming, and Ethan exudes charm. He’s the sharp-minded and ever-caring best friend who (unlike in the book) confesses his feelings for Rachel. How is an audience supposed to understand or relate to Rachel who stoically dismisses his feelings for the dispassionate Dex? In this case, the casting of Krasinski was negative because he was too charming and overshadowed the “perfect man”.

The main cast was supported by poorly written characters, Marcus and Claire, Steve Howey and Ashley Williams respectively. Their characters are extremely unappealing characters who irritate more than positively enhance. Besides the unsuccessful casting, the story is not particularly imaginative or original, leaving a film anticipating a sequel without any future.

Even with all these cons, I still enjoyed the film (mostly thanks to Kate Hudson). It’s a nice film to watch with a bestie during a movie/pizza night, precisely the way I watched it. So in that context, Something Borrowed works quite well!