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66- Bridesmaids [4.5]

Annie’s life is a mess. But when she finds out her lifetime best friend is engaged, she simply must serve as Lillian’s maid of honor. Though lovelorn and broke, Annie bluffs her way through the expensive and bizarre rituals. With one chance to get it perfect, she’ll show Lillian and her bridesmaids just how far you’ll go for someone you love.

I guess I’m really in the minority on Bridesmaids. Running about twenty minutes too long, lacking storyline coherency and believable characters are just some of the many issues this film suffers. The male characters are so vastly underdeveloped that Bridesmaids falls into the lump of gender-specific comedies that write the opposite sex as simpletons with no depth. Chris O’Dowd’s lead turn as a cop is not only one of the more uncharismatic performances I’ve seen in a while, but his character is written increasingly unrealistic and makes nonsensical choices all the way up to the easily telegraphed ending.

And that is perhaps my biggest problem with Bridesmaids— the film squanders so many talents. Director Kevin Feig of Freaks and Geeks fame gets a decent enough performance from Kristen Wiig, and yet she still goes into her SNL-esque character moments. Ellie Kemper is either typecast as the mousy, socially inept girl, or lacks range to do anything substantial with her roles. Maya Rudolph plays it pretty well in a largely straight role, but is one of the many characters who has to clumsily deliver awkward exposition.

The best thing to come from Bridesmaids doesn’t actually take place in the film– it’s the financial success of the movie that will lead to more R-rated female comedies, a sub-genre that’s practically nonexistent. Hopefully next time around they do more with a talented cast.

65- Drive [9.5]

A Los Angeles wheelman for hire, stunt driving for movie productions by day and steering getaway vehicles for armed heists by night. Though a loner by nature, Driver can’t help falling in love with his beautiful neighbor Irene, a vulnerable young mother dragged into a dangerous underworld by the return of her ex-convict husband Standard.

After viewing Nicolas Winding Refn’s outstanding last film Bronson, I was anxious to see more of the director’s work. His visual style, often heightened by his excellent soundtrack, choices make Refn a filmmaker to watch out for. I’m happy to say that Drive is another example of why he may be one of the more unique directors working today.

Drive says a lot despite the sparse amounts of dialogue, largely anchored by the standout performances of leads Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan. The saying goes “eyes are the window to the soul”, and be it Gosling as Driver looking through his rear view mirror or Mulligan viewing unspeakable horror, both actors do so much with just their eyes. Oscar Isaac is worth a mention as well. His scene in the hallway with Gosling is surprisingly one of the more memorable for me.

Refn seems aware of the cliches of the genre, but what makes Drive standout is the execution of the directing, editing and acting. No matter how many times a story is told, it’s the manner in which it is told that will determine whether the film will stand the test of time. In that regard, Refn’s visual flourishes matched by the largely electronic soundtrack make for one of the more compelling films I’ve seen this year. Though Drive almost proceeds at a languid pace, it felt as if it was over in no time.

There were some elements I wish were further explored. Christina Hendrick’s role was largely underwritten, and her acting took me out of her scenes. Also, the storyline involving Bryan Cranston’s character from the first act gets largely ignored until a brief mention towards the end. Regardless, Drive is a film I’m very much looking forward to seeing again. It also makes me wish I was a badass driver.