Post-modern approach makes Love worthwhile
I'm happy to report that Vanessa Caswell manages to find some new life in the rom-com with Love at First Sight. An adaptation of the novel by Jennifer E. Smith, there are more than a few overt fairy tale elements sprinkled throughout, simultaneously making light of the genre while contributing a bit of much needed levity and charm. That we like the two leads certainly helps.
The title of the source material is "The Statistical Probability of Falling in Love" and the screenplay by Katie Lovejoy uses numbers, ratios, and other mathematical conceits throughout. For example, we're told right off that the heroine in question, Hadley (Haley Lu Richardson), is late 21% of the time, which happens to be how much life she has left on her phone, which she has in her hand as she arrives four minutes tardy to her flight to London.
This information, and other stats like it, are dispensed by actress Jameela Jamil, who pops up in various guises – flight attendant, bus driver, customs agent – throughout the film. She's billed as the narrator, but really, she's a fairy godmother of sorts, nudging the couple in question towards one another when they begin to veer from fate's path. She's charming throughout and once you understand the conceit, you end up looking forward to just when she'll appear next.
The other member of the fated couple is Oliver (Ben Hardy), a student at Yale whose specialty is – ta da – statistics. Seems his mother was diagnosed with cancer when he was a pre-teen, a surprise that sent him down the number-crunching path so that he might be more ready to predict unexpected events such as that. He and Hadley meet while waiting for the flight they will now share because she was late. And though they are seated in different classes on the plane, a broken seat belt on his chair causes Oliver to be moved to the business section where he is placed next to...well, you know who.
While the tone overall is lighthearted, each of the main characters are dealing with serious issues. Having left her family behind for a job in London, Hadley is mad at her father and is more than a bit resentful that he's asked her to be part of the wedding. On the flip side, Oliver has come home to attend a living memorial for his mother, who has only six months to live, what with her cancer having returned. These relationships serve as emotional sounding boards for each as they ponder just how to approach their odd romance. Equal measures fun and poignant, Love cures rom-com fatigue with charm to spare. Streaming on Netflix.
Nun II commits the sin of delaying its payoff.
Of the offshoots in Warner Brothers' The Conjuring Universe, 2018's The Nun has been the weakest, a rather tepid, somewhat confusing affair about an evil spirit terrorizing a Romanian village. Still, it was successful enough to spawn The Nun II, a better but still lacking entertainment that manages to get our attention at times but takes far too long to get to where it's going.
Taissa Farmiga returns as Sister Irene in this follow-up that takes place in France, circa 1956. Seems a rash of mysterious deaths have been quietly occurring across Europe, all of them involving either nuns or priests. Some have died mysteriously, others by suicide. The powers-that-be at the Vatican notice a pattern developing and suspect something supernatural is at play. As Irene has experience in such matters, she's dispatched to investigate.
Unbeknownst to her, Maurice (Jonas Bloquet), who was an unwilling participant in her first outing, is working as handyman at a private school and is having some very strange dreams. Not only that, but it's rumored by some of the students there that something is creeping around the locked off portions of this establishment. As he investigates, sightings of a mysterious, nun-like figure are reported. Could there be a connection?
This is a bloated story, one that has far too many unnecessary details, which delays Irene from putting all the pieces together. This makes for slow going, while director Michael Chaves' tepid pacing, hampered by the leisurely way he executes the suspenseful scenes, makes for a film that plods along. Once certain characters' backstories are revealed and all the narrative connections are made, the conclusion proves to be quite clever. The final 15 minutes contains some rousing moments that, again, speak to what the movie could have been. Genre fans will likely be pleased. A judicious editor may have saved The Nun II, but as it is, it commits one of the cardinal sins of horror films by meandering and not delivering its scares more punctually. In theaters.
Bat a pleasant coming-of-age diversion
I have never been to a bar or bat mitzvah, so I have no frame of reference for such things. However, according to You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah, these are elaborate productions akin to Broadway musicals, at least in the world of the Los Angeles elite, where the film takes place. Though Stacy Friedman (Sunny Sandler) lives the sort of life most kids her age would be envious of, she still must contend with the usual 'tween issues. She has a crush on Andy (Dylan Hoffman), a vacuous boy who doesn't know she exists, and is convinced there's nothing special about her. She wants to stand out but doesn't know how. Thankfully, she has a best friend, Lydia (Samantha Lorraine), she can confide in. BFF'S since kindergarten, they're attached at the hip.
However, things go awry when, at a group outing, Stacy accepts a dare that results in embarrassment, leaving her the object of her peer's social media scorn. Humiliated, she seeks support from Lydia, but that's soon gone when she discovers she's started dating Andy. Impulsive acts, fired by Stacy's anger, and multiple misunderstandings ensue, resulting in the rescinding of the invitation to the titular ceremony.
Sunny has a winning way about her and a natural charm that has us on Stacy's side throughout, even though she commits the sort of inexplicable, infuriating acts that usually have adults scratching their heads. The actor never lets us forget the heart of a moral young woman beats beneath her, at times, petulant exterior. The actor's sister, Sadie, provides solid support as Sunny's sibling, the voice of reason that goes unheeded. Of course, their father Adam is on hand as, you guessed it, their father, exasperated at every turn, his anger finally coming to a head in the film's funniest scene when his character and Sunny exchange insults that increase in severity during a heated exchange.
There are no surprises here, and the film's message – as obvious as it is – is pleasantly rendered. In the end, You proves to be a pleasant enough time-filler and, at least for this viewer, yet another reminder that I'm glad I had boys to raise instead of the alternative. Streaming on Netflix.