Review: “My Own Love Song” takes so many wrong turns it’s almost all right.

Review: “My Own Love Song” takes so many wrong turns it’s almost all right. (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival.

One of my fondest memories of the Tribeca Film Festival involves the time I went to see “Tennessee,” the road trip drama in which Mariah Carey found her voice, literally and figuratively, and helped two lost souls find their way as well. It was an awful movie, but not in the fun way that the trio of friends sitting next to me had hoped, sneaking in a flask under one of their coats and making all sorts of snide comments about Carey before the film started. Unfortunately, the alcohol was more likely to put them to sleep rather than enhance their enjoyment of the film, which was a total bore.

It saddened me to think those guys probably weren’t at the premiere of “My Own Love Song,” which took essentially the exact same story and threw in scenes of animated flamingos and kingfishers, a batshit Forest Whitaker and Elias Koteas, and Nick Nolte serving up slices of a psychedelic chocolate cake. Sadly, these things overshadow Renee Zellweger’s first genuine performance in years as a wheelchair-bound singer who reluctantly travels down south to New Orleans when her mentally unstable pal (Whitaker) stumbles upon a letter from her son who she gave up for adoption.

The rosy glow that Zellweger once exuded has seemed to return, albeit under a thicket of brown hair and little makeup. It’s one of the rare examples of subtlety on the part of director Olivier Dahan (“Ma Vie En Rose”), who, like Wong Kar-wai and so many other foreign filmmakers, decided to make his English-language debut on a de Tocqueville-esque travelogue.

04232010_ZellwegerMyOwnLoveSong3.jpgIn some sense, it wouldn’t matter where “My Own Love Song” takes place, as Dahan explained during the post-screening Q & A how “it’s not a real realistic movie, it’s more about dreams,” but, like an early scene at the start of the film where Whitaker carries Zellweger into an ice cold lake during a day of fun in the sun, Dahan doesn’t ease us into the water.

We first meet Zellweger’s Jane Wyatt at a bar where she feigns interest in a farm machinery insurance agent who won’t take no for an answer — until she reveals her paralysis from behind a table. The first shot of Whitaker’s Joey has him laying flat in a parking lot as a galaxy of stars turns to asphalt. The pair are bonded by their shared trauma and add a third when a young married woman named Billie (Madeline Zima) shares a bus ride with them and explains how her husband has disappeared.

All three are looking for something, but in setting up tangible goals for each of the characters, Dahan makes a film that’s utterly adrift when it comes to a coherent narrative. For instance, don’t ask for the specifics when the trio is lured into Nolte’s cabin in the woods of Cairo, Mississippi by a guitar riff and then listen patiently as he recounts how Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil in Clarksdale to play the blues, complete with a reenactment. Also, it’s best not to wonder why Zellweger is suddenly able to sing a stirring rendition of “This Land is Your Land” after years of refusing such requests (though the moment gives an idea of what she might’ve done had she played Janis Joplin, as was once planned).

04232010_WhitakerMyOwnLoveSong.jpgTo be fair, “My Own Love Song” couldn’t be anywhere near as bad as it is without being as ambitious as it is. The film features original music from Bob Dylan (I counted four of a reported 16 new songs composed specifically for the film), and frequent Spike Lee and Darren Aronofsky cinematographer Matthew Libatique rarely stops using a steadicam — there’s a car chase in the film that is almost breathtaking between its constant movement and Dahan’s use of split-screens, until it gets confusing and ultimately frustrating.

You could also use those adjectives to describe Whitaker’s performance of the schizophrenic Joey; like Nicolas Cage, you can always count on Whitaker’s commitment to character, but you never know when you’re going to get “The Last King of Scotland” or something like this, which borders on parody with all of Joey’s strange tics and a half-baked romance that develops between he and Billie.

After the film’s international premiere at Tribeca, Dahan was warmly received by the minority of the audience that stayed, with those using their questions to praise the director for the dreamlike quality he brought to the film, which is why Zellweger’s Sarah may sum up the film’s appeal best when she asks during her wistful narration, “Should I believe or should I disappear?” The answer may be the former for some, but as the festival walkouts testified, the latter for most.

“My Own Love Song” is currently without U.S. distribution.

[Photos: “My Own Love Song,” Légende Films, 2010]

Home for the Holidays

Pass the Dysfunction

10 Thanksgiving Movies to Be Thankful For

Gorge on IFC's four-day Sweatsgiving Marathon this Thanksgiving Day Weekend.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

There’s a movie for every holiday (well, maybe not Arbor Day), but Thanksgiving has more than its share. There’s something about a family coming together around an overloaded table that makes for gripping drama and hilarious comedy. Before you tuck into IFC’s Sweatsgiving marathon weekend, take a look at our picks for the best Turkey Day movies of all time. They’re far tastier than Aunt Bertha’s leftover three-bean casserole.

10. ThanksKilling

This ultra low-budget horror comedy about a killer Turkey is the perfect NSFW antidote to heartwarming holiday treacle. Fans of the film’s so-bad-its-good charms helped Kickstart a sequel, ThanksKilling 3. What happened to ThanksKilling 2? Guess the killer turkey ate the print.

9. The Ice Storm

Key parties, family secrets and Nixon masks all converge in one particularly eventful Thanksgiving weekend in Ang Lee’s searing look at dysfunctional families in the turbulent days of the early ’70s. And you thought your post-dinner family games of Trivial Pursuit were tense.

8. Pieces of April

Katie Holmes broke free from her teen drama roots with this indie flick about a young urban misfit who invites her straight-laced suburban family to a big city Thanksgiving dinner. An underrated comedy about the importance of families (be they urban or biological) that also answers the age-old holiday question: canned or fresh cranberry sauce?

7. Tadpole

What is it with Thanksgiving and quasi-incest comedies? 2002’s Tadpole tells the tale of Oscar Grubman, a hyper-intelligent high school boy who has a crippling crush on his stepmother. When he goes home for Thanksgiving, this Oedipal nightmare gets transferred onto a horny cougar chiropractor, and things rapidly spin out of control. A general rule of thumb for the holidays: keep it in your pants, particularly when family is involved.

6. Scent Of A Woman

Al Pacino comes dangerously close to the edge of self-parody in his iconic role as blind ex-Army Ranger Frank Slade, but also scored a Best Actor win in the process. Chris O’Donnell plays the college student who is hired to take care of Slade over Thanksgiving break and finds himself dragged along on an adventure that includes a stop by his brother’s house for a Turkey Day dinner that goes wildly out of control. Hoo-hah! Pass the gravy.

5. The House Of Yes

This psychologically twisted 1997 black comedy helped make Parker Posey a star. She plays “Jackie-O” Pascal, a mentally disturbed young woman who joins her family at their ritzy Virginia estate for Thanksgiving. As a hurricane bears down on the area, Jackie proceeds to go further and further off the rails, capped off by an incestuous encounter with her own brother while they role-play the JFK assassination. With a strong cast and a wickedly sharp script, The House of Yes goes down like a slice of pumpkin pie with a whiskey chaser.

4. The War At Home

This underrated 1996 drama tackled some pretty tough subjects. Jeremy Collier (played by Emilio Estevez, who also directed) is a Vietnam vet back home and dealing with PTSD. Martin Sheen plays his dad, who doesn’t understand that his son came back a little changed. It all comes to a head at the family’s Thanksgiving dinner, where Jeremy pulls a gun on his dad because he wouldn’t loan him the cash he needed to flee the draft. The fact that Estevez and Sheen are father and son in real life only adds to the film’s dramatic tension.

3. Home for the Holidays

Few films capture the mix of dysfunction and warmth that comes with Thanksgiving better than Jodie Foster’s 1995 comedy. Holly Hunter and Robert Downey, Jr. are perfectly cast as a brother and sister weathering uptight siblings, kooky aunts and other family drama with sharp humor and lump-in-your throat tearful moments. We’re not crying. Mom must be cooking her famous onion soup.

2. Hannah and Her Sisters

Widely considered one of the best films in Woody Allen’s vast filmography, Hannah and Her Sisters charts the lives of three very different sisters over the course of three separate Thanksgivings. The holiday serves as a backdrop that reminds us of the ties that bind and also tear us down.

1. Planes, Trains And Automobiles

No movie captures the ups and downs of Thanksgiving quite like this John Hughes classic. Steve Martin plays Neal Page, a high-strung marketing suit who gets paired with John Candy’s slobby salesman Del Griffith as they both try to get back to Chicago in time for the holiday. Hughes was a master of tapping into some very American emotions, and the movie’s climax — where (spoiler alert!) Neal realizes Del has nowhere to go and invites him to come to dinner with his family — is a touching moment that in lesser hands would come off as maudlin.

Documentary Now Dronez

Fred Roasts Vice

Fred Armisen Roasted Vice CEO as His ‘Dronez’ Character From Documentary Now!

Documentary Now! returns in 2016.

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Normally, receiving a prestigious award and praise from your peers would be a validating affair, but it’s a decidedly different experience when every facet of your personal and professional life is ruthlessly mocked by a dais of roasters. Such was the case for Vice CEO and gonzo journalist Shane Smith who got both barrels from comics and associates in honor of his Frank Stanton Award win for Excellence in Communication.

Along with Johnny Knoxville, HBO CEO Richard Plepler (who referenced Smith’s recent collaboration with President Obama by joking, “The President called Shane to thank him for the interview and the delightful contact high…”), and other media elites, Fred Armisen took Smith to the mat while dressed as Jeremiah, one of the many gonzo journalists who can be seen getting in over their heads in the Documentary Now! episode “Dronez: The Hunt for El Chingon.”

Fred Armisen Dronez

And in case you missed Fred and Bill Hader as the Vice-like reporters of “Dronez,” you can stream the entire episode of Documentary Now! for free right now.


Cosplayers Gonna Play

7 Basic Tips for Talking to Cosplayers

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Since Todd Margaret was at New York Comic Con, we hit the show floor to ask costumed fans for some tips on how best to interact with cosplayers. Check out what we discovered below.

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Want more fun from New York Comic Con? Read the letter David Cross wrote to Todd Margaret fans.

Jon Benjamin

Jon's Erotic Tales

Jon Benjamin Developing ‘Erotic’ Anthology Series for IFC

Jon Benjamin is getting racy for IFC.

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Photo Credit: Derek Storm/Everett Collection

Get ready to get hot and heavy with Jon Benjamin.

IFC has teamed up with Benjamin and Leo Allen (Jon Benjamin Has a Van, Review) to develop Jon Benjamin’s 100 Erotic Nights, a show filled with personal, passionate tales perfect for awkwardly watching with your family. “I always wanted to make a show that my kid could watch and I’m thrilled that IFC has given me this opportunity,” said Jon Benjamin.

The scripted comedy anthology series (currently in the pilot presentation stage) finds the man behind Sterling Archer and Bob Belcher starring in and narrating a series of lurid tales of secret passion, burning desire and ruthless betrayal sure to raise a few eyebrows. As the tales unfold, Benjamin’s narrator is overcome with confessions of love, lust, romance and sex, from the local waitress to a church nun, to a lover who’s revealed to be a robot.

“IFC is excited to dive into deadpan erotic humor, a new and untapped genre of scripted comedy for us,” said Christine Lubrano, IFC’s SVP of original programming. “As a send up of Red Shoe Diaries, these steamy and seductive tales represent a hilarious departure from familiar erotica. As our narrator and guide, Jon Benjamin’s irreverent and revealing journey will leave viewers gasping for more.”

Be sure to check back here for more updates about Jon Benjamin’s sure to be salacious series.

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