The Hippo


Mar 25, 2019








 Overboard (PG-13)

The lighthearted 1987 movie about a man who kidnaps a woman with amnesia and forces her to be his maid gets an update in Overboard, a movie that really shouldn’t be or work but is and sort of does.
How in 2018 does a movie get away with some of the messy things it’s doing with consent and ethnicity? Viva la telenovela! Crazy stuff happens on telenovelas all the time — as this movie itself points out. On a telenovela, there are mustache-twirling villains and secret heirs and people in Spanish colonial dress. Look at the movie through this lens, as the movie very directly tells you to do, and this movie is the kind of paperback novel-ish fairy tale where actual societal rules don’t apply. 
As if to drive the point home, the most villainous character actually looks and dresses like a cartoon villain and hatches a scheme of Jane the Virgin-level bonkersness, telenovelas are on background televisions fairly constantly and everybody in this small town of Elk Cove, Oregon, appears to be bilingual.
Kate (Anna Faris) is working two jobs — contract-worker carpet cleaner and pizza delivery — in an attempt to pay for her schooling for a potential third: nursing. She loses the carpet cleaning gig — and the expensive equipment she will now have to pay for — after a service call at a yacht goes bad. Leonardo (Eugenio Derbez), the Mexican playboy who owns the boat, tosses her and her carpet cleaner into the cove after she refuses to be treated shabbily by him. She does, however, stick around the boat long enough to hear Leonardo talking to his sister Magdalena (Cecilia Suárez), who is angry that Leonardo is about to be gifted the family business by their dying patriarchal father (Fernando Luján). 
As in the original movie, that night the choppy waters off Elk Cove cause Leonardo to fall off his boat without anyone hearing his calls for help. In the morning, he washes to shore and Kate sees the news report where she learns that he has amnesia and that Magdalena, seeing her opening for taking the CEO spot, has claimed not to know him and left him at the hospital. (Later, she tells her family that he has died in a shark attack and presents them with an urn full of barbecue ashes, just so you know the level of the room.)
Kate’s friend/employer at the pizza place, Theresa (Eva Longoria), makes a wacky telenovela suggestion — why not get Leonardo to pay her back for her carpet cleaning equipment by telling him he’s Kate’s husband? He can work construction for Theresa’s husband, Bobby (Mel Rodriguez), to earn cash and he can do housework to give Kate time to study for her nursing exam.
This is of course a terrible and illegal idea, especially since Kate, a widow, has three young daughters, but I once watched a telenovela where a pregnant woman sucked the snake venom out of a snake bite purposely inflicted on her boyfriend I think as a means of stopping him from investigating a crime family so, you know, contextually I guess this makes sense.
Picky Leonardo is pretty sure he’s not supposed to live a poor-person life but Kate convinces him that their blonde daughters are the result of pregnancy via sperm donor, that he always makes the family’s dinner and that his amnesia is the result of an alcohol-fueled bender and his fall off the wagon requires him to sleep in the shed. Because she doesn’t trust him, she locks the door at night and makes oldest daughter Emily (Hannah Nordberg) babysit the younger girls when just “dad” is home. As with the original movie, the girls and Kate start to like having a second parent around again and the shallow Leonardo finds some emotional depths.
A movie about a Mexican man tricked into doing construction work and a bunch of housework for a blonde lady shouldn’t be OK but Overboard is, I think, basically OK because it plants its story in the land of telenovela fantasy. The swapped genders from the original and the fact that Leonardo is not just a rich dude (rather than rich lady) but one who is just floating into a position of power while his smarter, hard-working sisters are overlooked make him the kind of character for whom a comeuppance is due, even if this particular kind of comeuppance can, on paper, seem icky. In one scene, he carries a bag of cement with what he doesn’t know is his family’s name and logo on it, cursing the jerk businessman who won’t make the bags smaller and easier on the backs of workers just to save a few cents on packaging. 
Not that this is some fount of smart social commentary. I think I like this Overboard more than the original, which I watched regularly when, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, it seemed to always be on some basic cable channel somewhere (it is, for me, the ultimate example of the mediocre movie you watch for no reason other than it’s on and you don’t have the energy to flip channels any more; kids, ask your parents about “channels” and “flipping”). It’s easy comedy (one might even say at times lazy comedy) but it has chuckle-worthy moments and Faris is actually quite good at the style of broad comedy required here. The movie is also sunny — both visually and in its outlook. (And some of the styling of Faris’ character seems to be intentionally modeled to recall Hawn, which feels like a nice touch.)
And, yes, large chunks of this movie are in Spanish with English subtitles. This movie isn’t as smart or pointed as the CW telenovela Jane the Virgin often has been about ethnicity, but there’s something enjoyable about the casual way Overboard mixes Latino culture into this story of a striver in a small American town and her highly improbable romance. (Because, of course it’s a romance. The man cooks her dinner.)
Overboard isn’t some subversive reworking of the original but it does feel like a fan’s way of using the original as a writing prompt to tell a feather-light story with the occasional clever moment. C+
Rated PG-13 for suggestive material, partial nudity and some language. Directed by Rob Greenberg with a screenplay by Bob Fisher and Rob Greenberg, Overboard is an hour and 52 minutes long and distributed by Pantelion Films.
Bad Samaritan (R)
A burglar accidentally uncovers a serial killer in Bad Samaritan, a meh-shrug horror movie with moments of probably unintended levity.
Sean Falco (Robert Sheehan) is a parking attendant/would-be photographer. Scoffing at his stepfather’s offer of getting him corporate photography work, Sean decides to make his own way, man, though he should probably be less smug about corporate work seeing as he has to steal to make ends meet. Sean and buddy Derek (Carlito Olivero) work the valet stand together and work a scam wherein they use the customers’ cars (and GPS and garage door openers) to go back to their homes and look for medium-level valuables to steal. They don’t take flat-screen TVs or other items whose absence would be immediately obvious. They go for jewelry, cameras and gift and credit cards, which they can steal without even removing from the house by taking a photo of the numbers and codes. 
After one particularly jerky-seeming guy, Cale Erendreich (David Tennant), rolls up to the restaurant in a fancy car, Sean and Derek think they’ve hit the jackpot. Sean goes to the man’s home and finds a brand spanking new credit card; iPhones all around!, he thinks. Before he leaves, however, he uses Cale’s keys to open a door with an impressive lock. Initially he thinks he’s just found Cale’s office and starts searching around on his computer for his password file. But then a flash of light from his camera shows him that he’s not alone; a twentysomething-ish girl we eventually learn is named Katie (Kerry Condon) is tied up and gagged in a chair in the corner of the room.
Sean is a thief, sure, but he’s a good guy. He tries to unlock Katie and when that doesn’t work he goes to get some tools to cut through the chains. But when he goes back he sees that the remote-controlled camera Cale has trained on her has turned on. Sean says he’s sorry and will send someone to help her and runs off. 
Sean does try to get help. He anonymously calls the police, who pay an uneventful visit to Cale’s house. Sean and Derek then try to break in to the house once Cale leaves, but the room has been stripped of its psycho-killer furnishings and Katie is gone.
Unable to live with the guilt of leaving the girl behind, Sean goes to the police, telling Derek that he’ll take all the heat for the break-in. The police, however, let him off in part because Cale doesn’t press charges or acknowledge any signs of a break-in. You are not in their prison, Cale tells Sean when he calls him, because you are in mine. Thus does Cale starts to ruin Sean’s life and imperil his loved ones while his bizarre torture and imprisonment of Katie continues.
I’m not a Dr. Who person and I’m not really familiar with Tennant’s other work. Maybe he always makes the scenery into a big ham sandwich and chews with abandon; maybe this movie is special for the way he leans into the “always be nutballs” character note that must have been his direction for Cale. Either way, his performance is frequently laugh-out-loud over-the-top. 
Sheehan gives off more of a “supporting player on a basic cable TV show” acting vibe. He’s fine, maybe still figuring out what to do with his face at times, but fine. But the contrast makes Tennant look even weirder and wilder, as does whatever his accent is supposed to be (it’s, I guess, American? I feel like his own accent would have been just fine here). And for all that Sheehan could be wearing a “please be patient during training” button, everything else about this movie has a bit of the semi-pro feel to it too.  
Bad Samaritan isn’t a good movie or particularly inventive horror but it does feel aware of its limitations in a way that is, at least, interesting. Though parts of the movie are funny in an unintentional way (unless, is the David Tennant stuff supposed to be funny?; it would be an odd choice but I guess you can’t rule it out), there are some on-purpose moments of levity, including a nice (and well-delivered) post-villain-smack quip. I wouldn’t recommend seeking this movie out, but if somehow you’re stuck watching it, I suppose it won’t physically hurt you. C-
Rated R for violence, language throughout, some drug use and brief nudity, according to the MPAA. Directed by Dean Devlin with a screenplay by Brandon Boyce, Bad Samaritan is an hour and 50 minutes long and distributed by Electric Distribution.  

Tully (R)
Film reviews by Amy Diaz


 A mother of three, including a newborn, gets some relief when she is gifted a night nanny in Tully, a funny but honest look at a slice of motherhood.

When we first meet Marlo (Charlize Theron), she is near the end of her pregnancy with her third child and already exhausted. Her son Jonah (Asher Miles Fallica) is, as is often repeated, a “great kid” but “quirky” — the actual meaning of which clearly worries Marlo. He is having a tough time in kindergarten and may need an expensive personal aide or another school all together. Her oldest, daughter Sarah (Lia Frankland), seems to be a little lost in the shuffle and is, as Marlo later explains, starting to be hard on herself with regard to school work.
Marlo’s husband Drew (Ron Livingston) seems to be equally exhausted and while willing to help Marlo, he’s also clearly not sure how to help. He retreats each night into a video game, pulling on earphones that seem to shut him off.
We get hints that Marlo had a difficult post-maternity period with Jonah. Hoping to help her keep her bearings during her difficult newborn time, Marlo’s brother Craig (Mark Duplass) offers her a present: a night nanny. The night nanny, for those who have never spent hours fantasizing about such a creature, is a person who comes to your house to watch your newborn baby while you sleep. This person changes diapers, burps the baby and puts the baby back to bed and either feeds him or brings him to the exhausted mom to nurse and then whisks the baby away, to leave the mother to fall asleep immediately after feeding. Marlo’s reaction to the idea is initially dismissive (a stranger in your house? bonding with your baby? coming in to your bedroom?) but after Mia is born and Marlo essentially has a meltdown in the principal’s office of her kids’ school, she decides to call her. 
And thus Tully (Mackenzie Davis) arrives.
Tully is not a traditional nanny; she’s there for the night, so she shows up late (probably 10 p.m. or so) and leaves early (probably 6 a.m.), when the kids and often Drew are in bed. Marlo might have her reservations about leaving such a person, particularly the chipper hippie that is Tully, with Mia but perhaps exhaustion wins out and so she goes to bed. When she wakes up the in morning, she is shocked to find a clean house and feel well-rested enough that “it’s like I can see color again,” as she tells Drew. After subsequent nights she awakens to find freshly made nut-free cupcakes and flowers in vases.
Because a good-night’s sleep and a clean house is a glorious fantasy but not all that exciting, narratively speaking, for a movie, I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that as the story unfolds we will find out exactly what Tully’s deal is, indeed that there will need to be a deal with Tully for this story to be something. Is she, as Marlo once feared, the villain in a Lifetime movie? Is she a Mary Poppins/Nanny McPhee-like bringer of order and life balance? The way the movie unfolds what her deal is works pretty well, I think. It lends itself to a good character arc and an examination of this particular slice of life (young children plus newborn) for a woman and her family.
Theron’s character is the focus of the story and to some degree the viewfinder through which we see this world. At some point after the comment about color, I started to wonder if the movie was in fact playing a bit with how we saw colors and details to kind of highlight Theron’s moods and energy level. If so, it’s subtle and a nice touch in a movie that is overall very good at letting us see what this life is like for Marlo while still giving us a sense of what the situation looks like from the outside.
Though Livingston and Davis do good work throughout, it’s really Theron on whom the movie rests and she seems to have dug into this part with gusto. I say this as a compliment: she looks terrible — wonderfully, gloriously, realistically terrible. It perfectly captures the feel of this particular phase of motherhood — sweaty, always somewhat milk-covered and exhaustion so thorough that no amount of eye make-up is going to make you look awake. It’s perfect! 
She also perfectly calibrates Marlo’s mix of emotions — all the fierce and loving mother stuff with the scared and anxious mother stuff along with all the stuff about your confusion about your own identity. I feel like a movie released in the trough of May is almost definitely going to be forgotten by awards season but if ever anybody was doing smart, emotion-rich acting that offered a window into a slice of life seldom taken seriously in mainstream movies, this is it. In other words, Theron, Oscar, now.
Tully gets so much right about parenthood, marriage and the fraught time when a family has a newborn. It’s sharply funny, detail-rich and just the right amount of gut-punchingly emotional.  A
Rated R for language and some sexuality/nudity, according to the MPAA. Directed by Jason Reitman with a screenplay by Diablo Cody, Tully is an hour and 34 minutes long and distributed by Focus Features. 

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