by Phil Mann
Let’s start with BERNIE. What do you think about Jack Black as a smooth talking undertaker, but all-around nice guy, hitting on Shirley Maclaine as a bitchy, but rich, widow? Funny thing is that it’s based on the true story of Bernhardt “Bernie” Tiede in rural Carthage, Texas. And it goes to a sunlit dark place you can hardly imagine. Yeah, I know “sunlit dark place” is an oxymoron, but see the movie before you get down on me.
Bernie is from the fertile mind of writer/director Richard Linklater, who has brought us films ranging from Me and Orson Welles to School of Rock to Bad News Bears. In this case, he found an article about the strange adventure of Bernie, and ran with it. You’ll enjoy joining him in the jog. It’s “a one-of-a-kind movie that establishes its own tone, walking a thin line between seriousness and absurdity…. one of the best films so far this year.” (Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle) A “gaudily vibrant, at times morbidly funny true-crime story.” (Manohla Dargis, New York Times)
IN THE FAMILY is one of those fabulous movies that slips through the cracks, like Natural Selection last month. It’s got no movie stars or a director with any cachet. All it’s got is great acting, a moving story, and deep human interest. This is a first film for writer-director Patrick Wang, who also stars, and he has gathered accolades from all quarters, including an Indie Spirit nomination for Best First Feature.
Joey Williams (Wang) is in a relationship with Cody Hines (Trevor St. John) and helping to raise Cody’s six-year-old son Chip (Sebastian Brodziak). But when Cody is killed in an accident, his sister turns up with a will leaving all his property, and custody of his son, to her. The setting is rural Tennessee. Joey is gay; he’s Asian; and he doesn’t have any legal standing. But he and Chip have a bond worth fighting for. And they do.
“I was completely absorbed from beginning to end. What a courageous first feature this is, a film that sidesteps shopworn stereotypes and tells a quiet, firm, deeply humanist story about doing the right thing.” (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times) “Mr. Wang’s slow-reveal psychological drama isn’t just a showcase for his excellent ensemble cast. Beautifully modulated and stylistically sui generis, In the Family is also one of the most accomplished and undersold directorial debuts this year.” (Paul Brunick, New York Times)
WISH ME AWAY is the true story of country singer Chely Wright. A star of the country scene, celebrated in a Country Music TV 2004 special as one of 20 Sexiest Women, her career nosedived when she came out as a lesbian. “The film makes effective use of Wright’s music to illuminate her inner turmoil…. Wright emerges as a no-nonsense, remarkably straightforward woman.” (Stephen Farber, Hollywood Reporter)
THE FIVE YEAR ENGAGEMENT. The title tells you all you need to know. Emily Blunt (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen) and Jason Segel (Jeff, Who Lives at Home; Forgetting Sarah Marshall) are the cute engaged couple navigating the shoals of yarmulkes and communions, while planning their inter-faith marriage, when fate intervenes… again and again. From the stable of producer Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, The 40 Year Old Virgin) you know you’re in for laugh-aloud rom-com humor, and you won’t be disappointed. “As in last year's Bridesmaids, an authentic, dimensional human element animates the jokes and the characters with whom we spend a couple of highly satisfying hours.”(Jeff Phillips, Chicago Tribune)
Held over are BULLY and THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL. You haven’t seen Marigold Hotel yet? Get off your couch and come down for some fun!
Rounding out the week is the opening film in the June Classic Series: Loveable Losers. It’s the inimitable Coen Brothers/Jeff Bridges/John Goodman show THE BIG LEBOWSKI, one of the great mistaken identity movies of all time.
Next Wednesday brings the Gay Pride Fest to town, and, as usual, they’re offering a set of free films at the Tropic. The movies, which include THE COCKETTES, THE ADONIS FACTOR and FAGBUG run on Wednesday-Friday, while the full festival continues through the weekend. Full details on these and other festival events at http://www.keywestpride.org/events.
Full schedules and movie info at TropicCinema.com or TCKW.info.