Movie Review by Joan Ellis –


Boundaries is a family story shot through with smiles and a bucket of eccentricity. With lesser actors, this movie could have fallen flat. But the truly good cast makes it jump alive to the point that we roll between feeling sadness and affection.

Laura (Vera Farmiga) is the mother of Henry (Lewis McDougall). They live together in a house full of the dogs Mom acquires whenever she sees one who needs a home. Henry is an isolated student at school because he is an oddball artist who draws family and friends in their naked states and doesn’t mix with other students in any way.

Laura’s father, Jack (Christopher Plummer) has been kicked out of the old folks’ home and arrives to live with Laura and Henry. But Laura, with sore memories of her father, puts him, Jack, and a few favorite dogs in the car to drive south to Los Angeles to deposit him with her sister. The road trip is the gut of the movie and by the time it’s over, we know three generations of this family well.

Christopher Plummer unfolds his bizarre character quietly while using the road trip for his illegal drug deliveries. He enlists grandson Henry in his illegal doings. Oddly, that is perfectly credible because young Lewis McDougall creates Henry in such an original way that everything that unfolds makes perfect sense. He and his oddball grandfather convince us of their eccentricity (to put it politely).

When I asked myself why I was feeling a bit sad for Mom, I began to understand she loves both her father and her son even though she is no match for either of them. Add to that the fact that she cannot turn away from any dog who needs loving. She takes care of all of them.

Vera Farmiga does a fine job of thinking she is delivering her Dad to her sister and pulls us along with a smile as she, in her innocence doesn’t understand what her guys are up to. If any of us had five dogs in the car for that long trip, every one of us would start to come unglued. She creates a fine thoroughly rattled mother.

Christopher Plummer never overacts as the oddball grandfather. He simply creates a quiet, reserved, nut who reveals little of what goes on in his head. In spite of his character’s illegal ways, he makes Grandpa a criminal, but still a slightly lovable one.

It is Lewis McDougall’s Henry who is a genuine original. He lifts us into the world he inhabits as he draws his comic pictures, quietly helps his grandpa, and loves his mom. This is a young actor so right for his zany part that we wonder how on earth he can ever play another character.

Boundaries is an eccentric movie about a family of crazies. Some of you will love it. Others will dismiss it. I left the theater with a nagging curiosity about the personality of director Shana Festa.

Film Critic: Joan Ellis
Film Title: Boundaries
Word Count: 496
Running Time: 1:44
Rating: R
Date: June 17, 2018

This review was posted on June 17, 2018, in Comedy, Drama.

Life of the Party

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Life of the Party

Life of the Party wins a Gold Star in the race for being the worst movie of the year. It was released with a swish of pre-release publicity that promised Melissa McCarthy and her director husband Ben Falcone were coming up with a fine comedy. In a year that so far has given us relatively few standout movies along with a mountain of weak ones, this one goes to the bottom of the heap.

The sad part of this is that Melissa McCarthy is a talented comedienne who has drawn appreciation in the past, and here she is surrounded by a number of teenage girls who obviously have talent. But what they are asked to deliver reduces them to ashes. There’s no excuse for submerging talent in terrible material. Using the actors’ real names, let’s take a look.

Melissa McCarthy is married to Matt Walsh who announces during a car ride that he is filing for divorce and is marrying real estate agent Julie Bowen, who creates a neatly dressed blonde pole without a drop of personality. Molly Gordon does a fine job as Melissa’s daughter who is a college senior, loves her mother and offers emotional support. Mom announces that because she lost her senior year at college to pregnancy, she is returning to take her senior year alongside her daughter. Okay, you have the bare bones. Now look what the writers and director do.

Much to her daughter’s surprise, though not to that of the audience, Mom blends in immediately with her daughter’s group of friends and becomes not just one of them but the one they all want to help. This is as unlikely a premise as anyone could conjure.

You will endure the following: first, a perfectly terrible scene when Melissa McCarthy tells her own parents about the divorce while the scene dissolves into embarrassing silliness. Second, she moves out of the marital home in ridiculous scenes where she falls and trips repeatedly as she loads her belongings into her car.

Suddenly, mother and daughter are classmates as college seniors where Mom is involved in a long series of ludicrous situations that she tries to save by overacting as the comic target of all the jokes. Determined to save a bad script, McCarthy exaggerates both her lines and her dilemmas. Several ghastly parties unfold to make everything even worse. At one, she laces the chocolates unwittingly with a drug that puts everyone in outer space while they dance so embarrassingly that you may well close your eyes to avoid the sight.

Whether she is addressing the class incoherently about archaeology or announcing she has just had sex with the 22-year-old who has taken a shine to her, the talented Melissa McCarthy tries and fails absolutely to save this genuinely awful movie. The audience wants to like it but the premise, the script and the overacting make that an impossible task. It’s an insult to both the cast and the audience.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : Life of the Party
Word Count : 500
Running Time : 1:45
Rating : PG-13
Date : May 27, 2018

This review was posted on May 26, 2018, in Comedy.