Archives for posts with tag: Kaitlyn Dever

booksmart

Booksmart is, on the one hand, an involving study of two brainy teenage girls’ unique friendship, and, on the other, a comedy death-fart that did not make me laugh even once. Directed by Olivia Wilde and penned by Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, and Katie Silberman – it apparently takes the combined creative resources of four women to put together a screenplay this unfunny – Booksmart is nothing if not a hoarse and harrowing howl of girl-power intransigence into the maelstrom of Trumpian apocalypse. Unsmiling lesbian Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and smug, RBG-venerating Jewish fatty Molly (Beanie Feldstein) are academic all-stars who reach the end of their senior year with a sudden sense of regret at not having done any partying like their cooler peers during their time in high school. With one last night in which to revel before their graduation, Amy and Molly determine to cut loose and go buck wild whatever the cost. No one can fault the ensemble cast for the energetic, fully invested maniac performances on display; one only wishes the script had given the actors something a little more dignified to do with their talents. Booksmart is fast-paced and never exactly boring, but the accidental-finger-up-the-butt hijinks, microphone fellation, and scoldings about the difference between sexual orientation and “gender performance”, etc., failed to turn the engine in my inner gay pride parade float. This is a movie that does not so much attempt to tickle audiences’ funny bone as thrust its hand down its pants Don Lemon style before rubbing its malodorous fingers under the viewer’s nose in a botched, mentally ill attempt at seduction.

3 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Booksmart is:

Multicultural and pro-miscegenation. The almost uniformly brilliant student body of the girls’ Los Angeles high school seems to be comprised entirely of homosexuals and diversity. Molly’s secret crush, as it turns out, is mystery meat jock Nick (Mason Gooding). Hip black teacher Miss Fine (Jessica Williams), meanwhile, has an end-of-year fling with a Mexican student.

Anti-white. “Straight white man, your time is [over],” proclaims a graduation speaker. In one of the more grotesque expressions of the dumb blonde archetype ever to hit the screen, an athletic but spastic girl named Ryan (Victoria Ruesga) appears to be borderline retarded.

Anti-Trump. The girls’ car displays “Resist” and “Warren 2020” stickers. So brave!

Pro-drug. A dose of psychedelic strawberries has the girls hallucinating and finding themselves in the bodies of Barbie-like dolls, precipitating the obligatory exploration of the objectification of women. Talk to the hand, W.C. Fields. This feminist comedy steamroller can’t be stopped!

Gay. “Amy, do you know how many girls are gonna be up your vagina at Columbia next year? Are you aware of it? ‘Cause I’m aware of it,” the heterosexual Molly assures her best friend. “Every time I come to visit you, you’re just gonna be scissoring a different girl.” Putting in what I suppose is intended as an endorsement of gender-neutral bathrooms, male and female students converge on the same facilities where they gossip, draw dicks, and write obscene messages on the walls. In addition, Booksmart truly puts the Globo in Globohomo by giving a shout-out to increasingly gay-friendly Botswana even as Amy laments the fact that she would be murdered in heterofascist Uganda.

Feminist. Molly aspires to be the next Ruth Bader Ginsberg, while Amy rejects male value altogether. “My Body My Choice,” booms a poster on her wall. “Honestly, ‘pushy’ is a compliment,” Molly observes. “You know who else was pushy? Diane Sawyer. Joan of Arc. Queen Noor of Jordan.” Tediously, one of the movie’s running gags is that Molly and Amy will periodically pause to give each other sassy pep talks and tell each other how hot, fabulous, and empowered they are – almost as if neither one is convinced.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

 

Men Women and Children

This ensemble film follows the interrelated lives of a set of high school students and their parents in the context of twenty-first century connectedness that paradoxically has resulted in a profound disconnect for them all. Jennifer Garner plays a paranoid mother obsessed with controlling and filtering her daughter’s online activities. The daughter, Kaitlyn Dever, strikes up a friendship-cum-romance with Ansel Elgort, a sensitive, gloomy boy who quits the school football team after realizing that sports are meaningless. Meanwhile Elgort’s gruff football enthusiast father, played by Breaking Bad’s Dean Norris, attempts to cope with his wife’s abandonment of the family. Norris thinks he may have found a new love with Judy Greer, whose trampy daughter, played by Olivia Crocicchia, aspires to become an actress and promotes herself online with risqué photographs. Adam Sandler, meanwhile, adds another “serious” role to his résumé as a dull accountant whose marriage to Rosemarie DeWitt has lost its magic, with both seeking sexual satisfaction on an extramarital basis.

On the whole, Men, Women and Children makes for an engrossing and mildly artsy Hollywood social commentary, but some threads of the story are definitely more rewarding than others. The insights about the debilitating effects of online pornography are welcome, and the portions of the film concerning young lovers Dever and Elgort are touching and nicely played; but the story about the straying spouses takes Men, Women and Children into regions of moral repugnancy too extreme to qualify as entertainment – a circumstance that militates against what otherwise might have been this critic’s unmitigated recommendation. The film does, however, have much to say about the consequences of living in a deracinated, nihilistic, high-tech society centered on empty civic nationalism and in which “football served as a common language for which they [i.e., father and son] had no substitute.”

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Men, Women and Children is:

6. Anti-Christian. The actions of Jesus Christ mean “absolutely nothing”.

5. State-skeptical. Garner’s surveillance of her daughter’s devices, while attacking the “helicopter parent” phenomenon as a sort of irrational paranoia, also serves as an allegory about the post-9/11 regime of domestic spying as the norm. The flaw in the analogy, of course, is that it suggests domestic surveillance is motivated by a misguided maternal devotion rather than a hostile mania for control.

4. Anti-porn. Sandler’s imagination has been vitiated by the instant gratification of online pornography. His computer, as a result, is also riddled with malware. His son, played by Travis Tope, has been rendered sexually dysfunctional by his own pornography habit. “By age 15,” narrator Emma Thompson informs the viewer, “Chris found it difficult to achieve an erection without viewing a level of deviance that fell well outside societal norms.” Now only the idea of female sexual domination arouses him, and he is incapable of performing with an actual girl. One wonders if Hollywood’s anti-porn stance as articulated in this film and in Don Jon (2013) is motivated by genuine concern for the public health or by worry about online pornography’s competing share of its target audience’s disposable time and income.

3. Slut-ambivalent. Elena Kampouris plays a girl who gets pregnant and has a miscarriage after losing her virginity in a sordid episode in the home of a friend. The audience is invited to hold blonde “bitch” Crocicchia in contempt when she says, “It’s a new era for women, okay? Just because I’m comfortable with my body and enjoy hooking up doesn’t make me a slut.” The film’s anti-slut credentials are, however, undermined by its comparatively casual treatment of marital infidelity.

2. Anti-marriage, pro-miscegenation, and anti-white. Sleazebag Sandler seeks and finds sexual gratification with a prostitute while his shiksa wife, Rosemarie DeWitt, signs up for an account with the Jewish homewrecking site AshleyMadison.com and takes the Allstate congoid, Dennis Haysbert, for her lover. DeWitt is eventually embarrassed to be found out by Sandler when he catches the witch in a bar with still another man, so that the film ostensibly shows that cheating carries risks; but Sandler’s response is tolerance, and his wife evinces embarrassment rather than actual regret. She clearly enjoys what she is doing, and Men, Women and Children makes a great to-do of eroticizing her first encounter with Haysbert. “I’m excited,” she says as she straddles the hulking, gorilla-faced lothario. “I want it […] in my mouth. I want that big penis of yours. I want it. I want your dick. I want you to destroy me with your big fucking cock.” The film, furthermore, could be argued to constitute de facto product placement for AshleyMadison.com’s AIDS-procurement service, suggesting as it does that women of Rosemarie DeWitt’s level of physical attractiveness can actually be met through the site. The viewer is left to assume, too, that, had Sandler’s wife not been caught in her infidelities, she blithely would have continued enjoying her shameless escapades.

1. Luddite. Technology has profoundly complicated the human condition, disrupting male-female relations and isolating individuals in a lonely cacophony. Like the Voyager outer space probe featured more than once in the movie, humanity has now entered treacherous “uncharted territories” thanks to technology.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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