Coverage of the Tribeca Film Festival continues with abstew's thoughts on 'Lucky Them' and 'Bright Days Ahead'
Film is packed with male anti-heroes, men with arrested development, or the classic older man / younger woman love affair that at this point you'd have to do something completely out of the box for it to feel different or unique. While those storylines more often than not seem to carry a male sensibility about them, that hasn't stopped a couple of new films attempting to take those tried and true scenarios and mix them up with a feminine point of view. The latest films to do so (Lucky Them and Bright Days Ahead) have a couple of female directors (Megan Griffiths and Marion Vernoux) giving their leading ladies (Toni Collette and Fanny Ardant) a chance to indulge in their inner (wo)man-child. Unfortunately, in both cases, the gender swap doesn't bring any new insight.
As a music journalist for a faltering Seattle-based, Rolling Stone-esque magazine (for an industry that is supposedly dying, magazines seem to still employ an awful lot of movie characters), Ellie Klug (Collette) lives a lifestyle as rock and roll as the musicians she writes about. Hard drinking (whiskey neat), one night stands with men half her age, and a tendency to blow off her actual job (seriously, no wonder the magazine is going under when she just ignores deadlines altogether), her wild ways may be starting to catch up with her. She gets a chance to redeem herself, and confront a decade's long issue, when her editor (a pot-smoking Oliver Platt) tasks her with an assignment to get to the bottom of what really happened to rock god Matthew Smith 10 years after his disappearance. Teaming up with a music-loathing ex (well, they went on one date) that just happens to be a millionaire wanting to film a documentary about the experience (and played by Thomas Haden Church, who is no stranger to oddball eccentrics), the two set out to track down Smith. Oh, did I mention that Ellie and Smith were lovers back in the day, but you had probably already guessed that.
If you've ever seen an indie comedy, you know what you're in for. Quirky characters and kooky situations arise (Church's millionaire becomes engaged to an escort at some point), although the intended hilarity never ensues. The film keeps piling on new distractions and oddities (a dead exotic animal is given as a wedding present because nothing is as funny as dead animals!), all in an attempt to avert us from the fact that none of it really makes sense. Nor does the film seem to know what it's about anyway. As the plot develops, it begins to feel like a wacky roadtrip film, but then turns into an unsolved mystery. Or are we supposed to care about Ellie who seems to be spiraling out of control and sabotaging her relationships in a different, darker movie altogether? The film is like a child with ADD playing with its toys, briefly picking up and quickly abandoning each as something new comes along to distract. By the time a huge Oscar nominated movie star makes a cameo (why not?), you've already given up attempting to find reason from the absurdity of it all. C-
Bright Days Ahead
At the age of 60, retired dentist Caroline (acclaimed French actress Fanny Ardant) is having a late-in-life crisis. To get her out of the house (and out of her funk), her grown daughters sign her up for classes at a community center for seniors. Amid the pottery, acting, and wine tastings, she catches the eye of her much younger computer teacher (Laurent Lafitte) and the married Caroline begins an affair with the hunky stud. Suddenly, there is joy in her life again. She goes outside in her nightgown to swing on swing sets! She takes contemplative walks on the beach looking on other young lovers with a knowing smile. She smokes pot and eats cookies in bed after the many love-making sessions with her lovah. But for as many sex scenes there are in the film and how much she is supposedly changed by the experience, the love affair seems rather passionless and polite. Coming across as mere plot point rather than life-altering romance.
Ardant, beautiful and youthful still in her 60s, savors playing such a free-spirit, but her innate elegance and intelligence make it hard to believe that Caroline would be so foolish as to jeopardize her family and life for a man clearly not in it for the long-run. There's also something vaguely insulting and anti-feminist to think that this strong, professional woman would get so airheaded, implying that suddenly having sex with a younger man has the power to save and heal. Girl, you don't need him to get your groove back! Although as a fellow woman at the community center that was left by her husband for a younger woman says, at least it's us (women) and not them (men) for a change. C