Away We Go (2009) John Krasinkski and Maya Rudolph are great together as an expectant couple traveling the country to find the perfect place to start their family. These two have a genuine warmth and chemistry that roots the film, surrounded by a solid supporting cast of characters, including Allison Janney, Jim Gaffigan, Catherine O’Hara and Maggie Gyllenhaal. A sweet, wonderful film.
Whip It (2009) Fun, light, not quite run of the mill, entertainment. Ellen Page stars as a Bliss Cavendar, a teenager forced into the pageant circuit by her mother (Marcia Gay Harden) when by chance she discovers her true passion, roller derby. Sneaking off to try out and then practice with the team (Drew Barrymore, Kristin Wiig), this misfit comes into her own as a star player. Even if you know where it’s going, the ride is fun, humorous, with exciting action shots on the derby rink and the perfect bad girl nemesis in Juliet Lewis as Iron Maven. It’s also nice to see Alia Shawkat (from Arrested Development) in a featured role as Bliss’ best friend.
The Young Victoria (2009) Emily Blunt is very fine in the title role, portraying the young Queen Victoria. It’s a beautiful production with gorgeous sets and costumes but nothing about this film really grabbed me. Pretty as a Masterpiece Theatre episode but without a tremendous amount of depth. For drama based on the life of Victoria, I much prefer Mrs. Brown, with knock-out performances by Judi Dench and Billy Connolly and a narrative of greater emotional depth.
Julie and Julia (2009) I really didn’t care for this film. Actually, that’s not true. I did enjoy the half of the film that focused on Julia Child. No surprise that Meryl Streep was fantastic as the culinary queen and it’s too bad director/writer Nora Ephron didn’t just stick with Julia as her subject. Instead, Julia’s struggle to master French cooking and bring it to the masses is interspersed with the harried life of Julie Powell (Amy Adams), a woman who challenged herself to cook every recipe in Child’s masterwork in a year and blogged about along the way. As portrayed here, Julie is an annoying whiner and I couldn’t stand spending any time in her kitchen. This character actually caused me to dislike Amy Adams, something I wouldn’t have thought possible before sitting through this film.
Dan in Real Life (2007) This movie had its heart in the right place but it repeatedly kept missing the mark. More of an Indie drama than a romantic comedy, Steve Carell gives a strong performance as a self-help columnist whose personal life could use a little self help of its own. A widower raising three teenage daughters, he has the happy fortune of meeting his soul mate (Juliette Binoche) in a bookstore during a visit to the family home in Rhode Island. Unfortunately, he soon learns this mystery woman is his brother’s new girlfriend. The remainder of the movie is spent throwing these two together and keeping them apart during a long weekend with the entire family staying under one roof. Too many times, the story resorts to cliché Hollywood moments that come off as ridiculous and out of character with the rest of the film. Too bad.