Movies of the Week #45-46 (2022)

Take Out (2004): One of Sean Baker’s early works (co-created with Shih-Ching Tsou), Take Out has many of the features we’ve grown to associate with the director – the amateur actors, the contained stories, the skepticism of the American dream. It’s a “simple” tale of a Chinese immigrant in the pre-digital delivery services era, shuffling back and forth to make ends meet and pay the loan shark who ensured his arrival in the US. This might not prove exciting enough for some, but there’s a lot of richness in the (micro)observations caught on film, tinged with the melancholy/nostalgic feeling of the not so distant past. As usual, Baker finds hope in despair, which is a pretty amazing thing. 8

Circus of Books (2019): Watching the first part of Circus of Books, I wondered what this documentary would have to offer beyond a Hallmark story about a couple who kind of inadvertently become an integral part of the gay community in California during the 80s. Well, it proved to be an insightful family portrait, with nuance and layers, sensitively directed by their daughter, Rachel Mason. While the end of the bookstore takes predictable turns, the contrasts that arise within the family dynamic are captivating to explore and rewarding to see to their conclusion. 7

Bros (2022): Director Nicholas Stoller is closer to his best in this trademark romcom about two guys struggling to commit to relationships. In many ways, it’s a very traditional love story, even if the metacommentary it so openly provides tries to place it in a grey zone that LGBTQ+ love occupies – one that’s historically been met with struggles that didn’t let “love be love”. While Billy Eichner, who stars and co-wrote, inhabits a character that’s not so easy to like, his counterpart played by Luke Macfarlane is a more generous presence on screen. They do make for a good couple, but what really helps the movie stand out are its witty writing and the willingness shown of its characters to overcome in-built relationship anxieties. So yeah, a rock solid entry in the romcom pantheon. 7

Vengeance (2022): BJ Novak does the hattrick (director-writer-lead) in this very ambitious movie about modern day America. Lured to Texas after one of his one-night-stands dies, he finds an angle to a mystery story that makes for good entertainment and a solid podcast – only to question his own perception of life along the way. It’s all too on the nose for me, but that doesn’t make it bad – many of its observations are painfully pertinent and there were some good quotes along the way. The finale lacks the punch to really elevate Vengeance, but it does provide resolution in the…promised manner, so I reckon that’s just about right. 7

Weird: The Al Yankovic Story (2022): I was only peripherally aware of Yankovic’s existence, but did check out some of his tunes after the movie trailer was released – amusing. This is not your traditional biopic though, as it builds on the musician’s brand and creates a biopic parody. While never laugh out laud funny, it proved clever enough to keep me entertained and if spotting cameos won’t do it for you, then at least Daniel Radcliffe’s performance should. 7