The directorial debut from Australian actor Joel Edgerton (Warrior, Exodus: Gods and Kings) twists an awkward encounter with an old high-school acquaintance into a cracking psychological thriller that offers some genuine surprises.
After returning home early to discover his wife in bed with his boss, Judd Altman (Jason Bateman) sees his marriage, career and happy home disintegrate before his eyes. When his sister Wendy (Tina Fey) then calls to tell him their father has died, Judd comes close to throwing in the towel.
Family can be a blessing and a curse, and Shawn Levy’s bittersweet comedy drama attempts to reconcile both these aspects, as an estranged collection of misfits are forced to live once again under the same roof.
From Jane Fonda’s oversharing mother, who has built a career penning self-help books based on her children’s lives, to older brother Paul, now married to Judd’s ex-girlfriend, and nightmare youngest son Philip (Adam Driver), pin balling from one failed career choice to another failed relationship, the Altman family has more than its fair share of unresolved issues.
Add to the mix childhood sweethearts who now re-enter Judd and Wendy’s lives, and the stage is set for procession of funny, touching, tearful and cathartic moments that may help reshape the rest of their lives.
Jonathan Tropper’s adaptation of his own novel is more mature fare than much of Levy’s past work, but his re-teaming with Date Night star Fey proves a welcome one. Bateman and Fey reveal themselves to be as equally adept at drama as they are at making us laugh, and the strong support from the big name ensemble ensures This Is Where I Leave You touches the heart as often as it tickles the funny bone.
Murderball director Henry Alex Rubin turns his hand to fiction in this multi-stranded drama examining different forms of cyber-crime and our interconnectedness through technology. Similar in tone to something like Paul Haggis’ divisive Oscar winner, Crash, the film follows various characters, whose stories intersect in both meaningful and inconsequential ways.
Andrea Riseborough plays an ambitious reporter looking into webcam prostitution, who grows a little too attached to her informant, an underage gigolo (Max Thieriot). Their relationship forces her employer to take legal action, represented by high flying lawyer, Rich Boyd (Jason Bateman). Meanwhile, his son, Ben becomes the victim of cyber-bullying at school, and tries to kill himself. Looking for answers, Rich inadvertently begins chatting with Ben’s tormentor online, who, in turn, is feeling distanced from his own father, Mike. Mike is a private cyber crimes investigator hired by a young grieving couple when their identities are stolen by an online fraudster.
The film does a great job of outlining a number of ways in which our increasingly online habits make us vulnerable to victimisation and crime, and then developing them into an engaging narrative that interweaves a series of well drawn characters. The performances are uniformly excellent, while the stories are by turn horrifying, infuriating and yet all-too-believable. In its final act, however, Disconnect loses its nerve and allows each situation to dissipate just as it was building to a genuinely engaging climax. Ultimately the film tries too hard to right these wrongs, rather than see them play out the way they do all too regularly in real life, and it leaves the audience feeling somewhat patronised and let down by the outcome.
Melissa McCarthy continues her meteoric rise into the Hollywood comedy A-list, this time opposite perennial straight man Jason Bateman, as a habitual con artist who steals the identity of Sandy Patterson and goes on a spending spree. Due to some incredibly convoluted plot machinations, Sandy stands to lose his job, house and who knows what else if he doesn’t traverse the country, track down and apprehend “Diana” and escort her from Florida to Colorado. Cue a mismatched duo on a road trip laden with misadventures. While the film is often as risible and unfunny as its ridiculous premise might suggest, it is not without successful moments of broad, base humour. McCarthy and Bateman are skilled comedians, and late at night with a bellyful of red wine, it passes the time relatively painlessly, despite a parade of gags committed to stereotyping, degrading and generally ridiculing our fellow man. What I will commit to, is that having seen this and The Hangover Part III in the same week, Identity Thief is the film I would more readily revisit.
In the wake of surprise hits like The Hangover and the monster success of its sequel earlier this year, American comedies are focusing less on the libidinous shenanigans of horny teenagers and more on adult men behaving very badly. The premise of Seth Gordon’s new film is one we have all fantasized about and has its roots in Hitchcock – a fact openly and rather amusingly acknowledged. Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis are three friends who regularly find themselves at the mercy of their overbearing employers. Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston and Colin Farrell aren’t merely pedantic micro-managers or slave drivers on a power trip, they are seriously disturbed and vindictive individuals. Therefore, the guys come to the only natural conclusion and agree to murder their horrible bosses.
The film’s biggest strengths are the bosses themselves, with Spacey, Farrell and particularly Aniston doing fantastic jobs of being sadistic, disgusting or grotesquely predatory as the storyline demands. However, because of their sheer exuberance our three heroes struggle to keep up and the film flounders whenever they are left alone on screen. Bateman, Sudeikis and Day are all fine comic actors with likable onscreen personas, but the film’s premise can’t help but make them appear weak and spineless. In particular, it is hard to sympathise with Charlie Day’s character who is “tormented” by having a scantily-clad Aniston throw herself at him at every opportunity, while purring some seriously perverted pillow talk. Make no mistake, Aniston’s horny dentist couldn’t be further from Rachel in Friends and after 20 films, she might finally be able to re-invent herself.
Spacey, on the other hand, recalls his stellar turn in 1994’s Swimming With Sharks as the ultimate boss from hell. He mercilessly bullies and manipulates Nick (Bateman), taking amusement in his suffering while dangling the empty promise of promotion to ensure he gets results. Colin Farrell sadly gets the least screen time out of everyone, but ensures that, while almost unrecognisabe under a fake pot belly and comb-over, he is unforgettable as the cocaine-addled son of Donald Sutherland, determined to run his father’s company into the ground. There is also an amusing cameo by Jamie Foxx as a sleazy underworld “murder consultant” whom the guys hire for his rather woeful advice on homicide.
Horrible Bosses is often very funny indeed and draws some surprisingly devilish performances from its cast, but nevertheless fails to commit fully to its premise. Gordon and his writers seem convinced their everyman heroes are more than ordinary, and are never willing to push them over the edge or have their bosses corrupt them absolutely. We are left yearning for more face time with Spacey, Aniston and Farrell and to see them gleefully crush more sad sack subordinates on company time. And any film that has me yearning to spend more time with the boss is clearly more horrible and manipulative than I had realized.