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A Married Couple’s “Hall Pass” Review

A Married Couple’s “Hall Pass” Review (photo)

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True story: my wife Melissa’s first reaction to the trailer for the comedy “Hall Pass,” about two married men who are given a week off from fidelity by their wives, was to turn me and say “Before you even ask: yes, you can have a hall pass. But I get to chop off your balls first.”

She was kidding, of course (I think… I hope). But it didn’t matter. I don’t want a hall pass; hell, I didn’t even want to see “Hall Pass.” Until my wife made that joke, which gave me an idea: we should go see this movie together and review it together. After all, who better than a husband who writes about movies and a wife who knows way more about movies than her smarmy husband. It wasn’t easy to convince her, but a deal was struck. After the movie was over, we had a conversation which I recorded. And here it is:


Matt: First of all, thank you for going to see this with me, because I know you didn’t want to.

Melissa: No, I didn’t.

Matt: You saw it because I had this idea and guilted you into it.

Melissa: Correct.

Matt: And you’re not even getting paid to do this.

Melissa: Well, in a way I am.

Matt: Good point. Now you had a very strong negative reaction the first time you saw the trailer.

Melissa: It wasn’t that negative.  Simply a warning.


Matt: Right. I’m sure you had some expectations based on that trailer.  Did the movie surprise you in any way?

Melissa: No it was probably about as bad as I thought it would be.

Matt: Obviously you didn’t care for the premise. But we go see a lot of romantic comedies, and a lot of the recent guy-centric ones that feature a lot of really funny male characters and a lot of controlling, needy, not-that-funny female characters. Was this one any different?

Melissa: Even more than usual, I felt like the women in this movie weren’t even wives; they were mothers. Mothers to their kids and mothers to their husbands.

Matt: I’m really sort of fascinated, and honestly a bit confused, by the portrayals of men and women in this movie. What about the guys, Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis. Did you think their characters were fair or accurate representations of married guys?

Melissa: No men I know. But you’d probably know better. What do guys do when women aren’t around?



Matt: I don’t know if I can speak for all guys, but I mean I don’t stand around staring at women’s butts constantly the way they do.

Melissa: Or talk out of a giant vagina you made out of your hands?

Matt: No, I don’t do that either.

Melissa: Do you play poker and talk about how your wives aren’t hot?

Matt: That’s ridiculous. I don’t even play poker.

Melissa: Ha ha.  A lot of our guy friends are married though.  When you guys go and see a movie by yourselves do you check out women together?



Matt: No.  And I’m not just saying that because I’m going to publish this conversation later.  But I’m 30; these characters are a little older.  They’ve been married longer than we have.  One of them has a bunch of kids.  So they’ve got more reason to be bored, I suppose.

Melissa: But the movie makes it seem like they’ve been doing it for years.

Matt: True, it’s very ingrained behavior for them.

Melissa: And the movie also claimed that guys had no control over it, like every single guy has a uncontrollable, evolutionary, biological imperative to look at women’s asses.  There wasn’t a single person in the movie who was the voice of reason saying “I think this hall pass is an idiotic idea.”

Matt: I keep coming back to the question of who gets portrayed worse in the movie, men or women. The men are all scoundrels and horndogs, but eventually they’re revealed to be sweethearts, which is definitely a cliché of this kind of movie; the slobs always turn out to be sweeties.

Melissa: That one guy was not a sweetheart.

Matt: Well, I know why you’re saying that — I probably don’t want to spoil it in this piece, but let’s put it this way: when the chips are down, this particular character realizes he loves his wife.

Melissa: He realizes he loves his wife because he has no better options.

Matt: [laughs] Okay.

Melissa: He’s such a dork that he can’t get laid any other way. He talks a big game but the women he has a shot with aren’t anything special. His wife is clearly hotter than anyone he could hook up with.

Matt: Well that’s an excellent point.  But this is where I was going with that train of thought: the men are horny but inherently decent. The women are bloodless and kind of mean. Jenna Fischer doesn’t want to have sex with Owen Wilson so she pretends to be asleep when he tries to make a move.  And then later she tells Christina Applegate about this incident and Applegate’s character says something to the effect of “We’re women — we’re supposed to fake everything between the hours of 12 and 6 am.”

Melissa: That’s because she’s trapped in a loveless marriage and she doesn’t know what happiness means.

Matt: But isn’t that a horrible representation of women?  It’s supposed to be a funny line, I know, but —

Melissa: Well, the movie was written by guys, wasn’t it? Clearly a lot of this is a male fantasy, like the scene where Wilson and Sudeikis take their kids to the park and every woman there is 18, blond, and doing cartwheels in short shorts. 

Matt: Or what about that other scene where Sudeikis tries to convince Wilson to take the hall pass by telling him that his wife was living her dream life. Her dream was to be married and have kids and be a mom. Then Sudeikis claims this hall pass represents the equivalent gift.

Melissa: I keep telling you: those people should not be married.

Matt: Okay. Was Owen Wilson a better husband than Jason Sudeikis?

Melissa: Yeah but he was a better husband when the movie started.  Because — and maybe this was just a matter of better chemistry between the actors — he really seemed to love his wife.  There were mutual but solvable problems there: she felt unappreciated, he felt ignored. The other marriage, that’s just a broken relationship. They didn’t have any respect for one another. Any ending for that couple that doesn’t involve them realizing they’re terrible for each other and have nothing in common and should split up is not a happy ending.

Matt: I also thought it was strange how the women in “Hall Pass” only talk about their husbands. Literally every single conversation they have is about their men. Is that what you do when I’m not around?

Melissa: Oh, absolutely. But what about the guys — didn’t they mostly talk about their wives?

Matt: I don’t know, they did a lot of talking about weird sex stuff like whether they would rather kiss a man or receive oral sex from one.

Melissa: So really their only topic was sex.

Matt: Right.  And the women’s only topic was their husbands. 

Melissa: You may be right. They even talk about them with the guys they met.  Okay, so it is a little unfair. They didn’t talk about their kids once, either. Fischer and Applegate go to Cap Cod to give their husbands their hall pass, and then conveniently leave Fischer’s three kids with grandparents so they don’t need to be seen or heard from again. And they never even considered the possibility that Wilson or Sudeikis’ characters might like their hall passes so much they might want to end their marriages. It was either they wouldn’t get laid, realize how good they had it and come back, or get laid and go “What am I doing with my life?” and come back anyway. The possibility that they might hook up in a more meaningful way wasn’t brought up.

Matt: True.

Melissa: I’d be terrified of that in their position. There’s a bit of a double standard there, too.  The men have clearly been given the okay to cheat. But when Owen Wilson finds out that his wife might be cheating too, he freaks out. Like it didn’t ever dawn on him that she might get a hall pass this week too. 

Matt: Were there any moments that you thought accurately portrayed a marriage?

Melissa: Just that marriage is hard sometimes, I guess.

Matt: One thing I didn’t quite get was why it took Wilson and Sudeikis so long to think of going to a club to meet women.

Melissa: Especially since they live in Providence, which has more clubs than any city I’ve ever been to.

Matt: They literally needed someone to come and take them by the hand to a club because they were too stupid to figure that out on their own.  Which I guess was part of the point, that men are stupid.

Melissa: So why do you think the women are portrayed so badly? The men are portrayed horribly!

Matt: It’s a good question. I see a movie like this and I’m immediately sensitive to the depiction of women, because the depictions of women in movies like this are always so terrible.  But you’re right. The men in this movie are stupid, they’re led around by their penises, they have terrible fashion senses, bad haircuts, terrible diets, bad physiques.  Not a flattering picture of manhood. So why is it that the women side of it upsets me so much? Maybe it’s because the men are portrayed poorly but…

Melissa: — They’re funny.

Matt: Exactly. We’re supposed to embrace their flaws.  They’re supposed to make them charming.  Meanwhile, the women are joking about how it’s their job to leave their men unfulfilled. The men’s jokes make us like they more. The women’s jokes make us like them less.

Melissa: But not all the women in it are killjoys.  I actually liked the scene where the guys are playing poker and Fischer comes home and says hi and then leaves the guys alone to have their space.  That’s a nice moment.

Matt: That’s true.  So where is my impression coming from then?


Melissa: I don’t know.  That one line about faking orgasms, apparently.

Matt: That one line stuck in my craw, I guess. So who do you think this movie is for: men or women or both?

Melissa: Judging from the audience we saw it, men, clearly.  The men were cackling and the women were not laughing.  I think one woman even dropped a grumpy “Oh no he didn’t!” at one point.

Matt: She did, yes.

Melissa: That was the extent of the female reaction in our audience.

Matt: Because women are killjoys. 

[awkward silence]

Matt: Okay, that was a joke.  I try to think who this movie is supposed to entertain.  Would you recommend this movie to a married couple to go see on a date night?

Melissa: No.  Wait, maybe. Seeing it might make you feel better about your marriage.

Matt: Or it could lead to that discussion of hall passes, and men asking for them and women being furious that they asked for one.

Melissa: So it sets up women to be killjoys again.

Matt: Or it sets up couples to argue.  The one thing I did like about “Hall Pass” was the fact that the film was told from this horny male perspective but the film constantly undercut that heterosexual bravado by featuring more male nudity than female. The biggest sexual object in the film besides the young coffee girl who starts flirting with Owen Wilson was the Cape Cod baseball player who takes an interest in Christina Applegate. I didn’t time it, but I would guess the hot baseball player was topless for a lot longer than the hot coffee girl. And he might have even had a better figure than she did.

Melissa: Oh yeah he did.

[awkward silence]

Melissa: What? Oh, don’t give me that look.

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Holiday Extra Special

Make The Holidays ’80s Again

Enjoy the holiday cheer Wednesday December 21 at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Whatever happened to the kind of crazy-yet-cozy holiday specials that blanketed the early winter airwaves of the 1980s? Unceremoniously killed by infectious ’90s jadedness? Slow fade out at the hands of early-onset millennial ennui? Whatever the reason, nixing the tradition was a huge mistake.

A huge mistake that we’re about to fix.

Announcing IFC’s Joe’s Pub Presents: A Holiday Special, starring Tony Hale. It’s a celeb-studded extravaganza in the glorious tradition of yesteryear featuring Bridget Everett, Jo Firestone, Nick Thune, Jen Kirkman, house band The Dap-Kings, and many more. And it’s at Joe’s Pub, everyone’s favorite home away from home in the Big Apple.

The yuletide cheer explodes Wednesday December 21 at 10P. But if you were born after 1989 and have no idea what void this spectacular special is going to fill, sample from this vintage selection of holiday hits:

Andy Williams and The NBC Kids Search For Santa

The quintessential holiday special. Get snuggly and turn off your brain. You won’t need it.

A Muppet Family Christmas

The Fraggles. The Muppets. The Sesame Street gang. Fate. The Jim Henson multiverse merges in this warm and fuzzy Holiday gathering.

Julie Andrews: The Sound Of Christmas

To this day a foolproof antidote to holiday cynicism. It’s cheesy, but a good cheese. In this case an Alpine Gruyère.

Star Wars Holiday Special

Okay, busted. This one was released in 1978. Still totally ’80s though. And yes that’s Bea Arthur.

Pee Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special

Pass the eggnog, and make sure it’s loaded. This special is everything you’d expect it to be and much, much more.

Joe’s Pub Presents: A Holiday Special premieres Wednesday December 21 at 10P on IFC.

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It Ain't Over Yet

A Guide to Coping with the End of Comedy Bang! Bang!

Watch the final episodes tonight at 11 and 11:30P on IFC.

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After five seasons and 110 halved-hour episodes, Scott Aukerman’s hipster comedy opus, Comedy Bang! Bang!, has come to an end. Fridays at 11 and 11:30P will never be the same. We know it can be hard for fans to adjust after the series finale of their favorite TV show. That’s why we’ve prepared this step-by-step guide to managing your grief.

Step One: Cry it out

It’s just natural. We’re sad too.
Scott crying GIF

Step Two: Read the CB!B! IMDB Trivia Page

The show is over and it feels like you’ve lost a friend. But how well did you really know this friend? Head over to Comedy Bang! Bang!’s IMDB page to find out some things you may not have known…like that it’s “based on a Civil War battle of the same name” or that “Reggie Watts was actually born with the name Theodore Leopold The Third.”

Step Three: Listen to the podcast

One fascinating piece of CB!B! trivia that you might not learn from IMDB is that there’s a podcast that shares the same name as the TV show. It’s even hosted by Scott Aukerman! It’s not exactly like watching the TV show on a Friday night, but that’s only because each episode is released Monday morning. If you close your eyes, the podcast is just like watching the show with your eyes closed!

Step Four: Watch brand new CB!B! clips?!

The best way to cope with the end of Comedy Bang! Bang! is to completely ignore that it’s over — because it’s not. In an unprecedented move, IFC is opening up the bonus CB!B! content vault. There are four brand new, never-before-seen sketches featuring Scott Aukerman, Kid Cudi, and “Weird Al” Yankovic ready for you to view on the IFC App. There’s also one right here, below this paragraph! Watch all four b-b-bonus clips and feel better.

Binge the entire final season, plus exclusive sketches, right now on the IFC app.

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Everybody Sweats Now

The Four-Day Sweatsgiving Weekend On IFC

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This long holiday weekend is your time to gobble gobble gobble and give heartfelt thanks—thanks for the comfort and forgiveness of sweatpants. Because when it comes right down to it, there’s nothing more wholesome and American than stuffing yourself stupid and spending endless hours in front of the TV in your softest of softests.

So get the sweats, grab the remote and join IFC for four perfect days of entertainment.

sweatsgiving
It all starts with a 24-hour T-day marathon of Rocky Horror Picture Show, then continues Friday with an all-day binge of Stan Against Evil.

By Saturday, the couch will have molded to your shape. Which is good, because you’ll be nestled in for back-to-back Die Hard and Lethal Weapon.

Finally, come Sunday it’s time to put the sweat back in your sweatpants with The Shining, The Exorcist, The Chronicles of Riddick, Terminator 2, and Blade: Trinity. They totally count as cardio.

As if you need more convincing, here’s Martha Wash and the IFC&C Music Factory to hammer the point home.

The Sweatsgiving Weekend starts Thursday on IFC

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