You’ve survived Black Friday and the post-Thanksgiving work week, but there’s more shopping to do and, because we live in America, we’re lucky that many malls contain this magical relaxation device called a “movie theater.” Sure, not every movie is relaxing, but the act of movie-going and the traditions that go along with it are comforting; the smell of popcorn, the pleather seat giving in to your weight, the first inhale of carbonated sugar water. This week, feel guilty for avoiding your parents over the holidays with “Everybody’s Fine,” feel shame for sleeping with your presumed dead husband’s brother with “Brothers,” or avoid relationships altogether with “Up In The Air.”
The Movie: “Everybody’s Fine”
The Trailer: A remake of the 1990 Italian film “Stanno Tutti Bene,” Robert De Niro stars as Frank, the patriarch whose children have vanished from his life now that his wife has died. In an effort to re-connect with his scattered progeny, the retired telephone factory worker hits the road to confront them for the holidays. Of course, the kids aren’t fine—they’re hovering in their own miserable existences. Kate Beckinsale is a workaholic ad exec in Chicago. Sam Rockwell is a whiny drummer in Denver. Drew Barrymore is an unlikely dancer in Las Vegas, and a fourth missing artist son is in New York. Presumably, a visit from their dad is going to fix them.
The Hitch: There’s nothing more heartbreaking to me than a father longing to connect with his children. It’s not like a mother who’s forced physically into the state of parenthood—there’s a vulnerability to a man who didn’t get the hours in to fully understand his offspring. So, watching De Niro in this role — puttering around like an old man, talking up his kids to strangers along the way, not understanding how his suitcase works — is heart-breaking but also a nice change in pace from all the momma drama present in most of the (Lifetime) movies I watch. Even though this appears to be on par with the disaster that was “Four Christmases” last year, like a sap, I’m probably going to have to see this one too.
The Movie: “Brothers”
The Trailer: Based on the 2004 Danish movie “Brodre,” this tells the story of a U.S. Marine (Tobey Maguire) who goes MIA after his helicopter is shot down in Afghanistan. While he’s presumed dead, his wife (Natalie Portman) mourns him and his brother (Jake Gyllenhaal) comes to help her and their two kids. Of course, they eventually find comfort in each other. Maguire comes back alive-ish after being a Taliban prisoner, and returns home to his life to find that nothing’s the same.
The Hitch: I wish that they had left out the last minute of trailer, because with the flirting and the tension, it was almost looking like an interesting movie … the addition of screaming and gunshots pushed it over the edge. I’m scared to watch “Brothers” because I can empathize with Natalie Portman’s character and can only imagine the shame involved in this situation. Entertainment Weekly sums it up: “It’s lumbering and heavy-handed, a film that piles on overwrought dramatic twists until it begins to creak under the weight of its presumed significance.” [EW]
The Movie: “Up In The Air”
The Trailer: Based on Walter Kirn’s 2001 novel, George Clooney stars as Ryan Bingham, a constantly traveling corporate downsizer who eschews human connections in favor of frequent-flier miles and VIP lounges. He falls for a similar bird (Vera Farmiga), who is equally excited by key cards and unfazed by the come-and-go nature of their relationship. When newcomer Natalie (Anna Kendrick) suggests they just do firings on the internet, Bingham is forced to show her why/if traveling and “humane” firings are necessary while she tries to convince him that there’s nothing about his existence that is particularly humane.
The Hitch: It’s an imaginable and tragic existence, a perfect role for perpetual Playboy George Clooney. You can’t be tied down if you’re always moving. Director Jason Reitman (“Juno”) seems expert at capturing the very real intersection of hilarious and painful to watch. I can’t wait to see this movie, if not just for the priceless moment where Clooney sees himself in a mirror as “old” for the first time.