Tagged: Noah Baumbach

You’re Next. The quirky indie horror movie.

yourenextAdam Wingard’s You’re Next begins with the obligatory “let’s show some boobs than kill some people who won’t really figure into the plot” scene and follows that up with the usual gathering of the victims before the slaughter begins, but the movie plays with these moments in a way that shows it has more on its mind than parading new and interesting ways to maul the human body.

For starters, the opening scene sets up a running gag that manages to work its way to the closing credits. It’s one of those earworms that you won’t be able to get out of your brain for at least a few hours after seeing the movie.

But it’s the dinner party where the movie really shows what it’s up to. You’re Next is about a family getting together to celebrate the 35th wedding anniversary of the parents. It’s a large mansion in the woods, and just about every room has some sort of floor-to-ceiling window, making it ideal for the sort of attack that’s about to take place.

Just before arrows begin flying through the windows and wire is strategically stretched outside of one of the doors, the family sits at dinner and we discover one of the guests (a boyfriend of the daughter) is a documentarian. At first, the other members of the family are impressed that a filmmaker is at their table. But then everyone begins to lose interest once they realize that his movies have only been shown at a couple of underground film festivals (one of them even asks if an “underground festival” actually takes place underground.)

And then the arguing begins. Family secrets begins to emerge and old wounds are reopened. But it’s the style of hostile discourse on display that’s interesting; this isn’t the type of dialogue we usually hear in movies like this. And the energy of the movie begins to change; we’re expecting a horror movie and all of a sudden, a comedy of manners breaks out. It’s almost as if we’ve stepped into a Noah Baumbach movie.

But then people start to die and blood begins to flow and You’re Next becomes the home invasion horror fest we’ve been promised. And while it references other horror movies and retains a knowing and intelligent sense of humor about itself, it never becomes as self-referential as the Scream movies, nor does it go full meta like The Cabin in the Woods.

Wingard not only delivers some unexpected laughs, but he also delivers a couple of really good scares. Because he is so obviously playing with certain horror-genre tropes, you never quite know where he’s going to take them, or how he’s going to present them. This is not likeĀ The Conjuring, where director James Wan, while very well executed, gave you the exact type of horror movie moments you’ve seen over and over again without any creative embellishment; if you’ve seen more than a few horror movies, you could almost count out the beats just before the boo! moments in The Conjuring, which greatly reduced the impact of the thrills.

And if you’re a gore hound (like yours truly), You’re Next doesn’t disappoint. There are a couple of horrific gags that are just so gruesomely wonderful. One of the characters gets it with an appliance in a way I’ve never seen before and just thinking about it still brings an evil smile to my face.

You’re Next is an unexpectedly entertaining horror movie. In terms of recent movies in a similar vein, it’s not quite as memorable as the hardcore, stripped-down home invasion classic from 2008, The Strangers. And it’s not as ambitious as The Cabin in the Woods. But it’s a good time at the movies, and funnier than many of the “comedies” released this summer. Go have a couple of sick laughs, and watch out for that front door.


Frances Ha. Portrait of an effervescent screw-up.

FrancesHaDanceI can’t think of the last time a movie so completely won me over that, for the first forty minutes or so, left me totally bored and aggravated.

As the movie begins, we get to see Frances, a 27-year-old ballet dancer living in New York City and played by co-writer Greta Gerwig, play fighting in the park with her BFF! And we see Frances run and pirouette down the street while David Bowie’s “Modern Love” plays on the soundtrack! And Frances bounces from apartment to apartment! (The movie’s chapters are named after Frances’ most current address.) With its French New Wave-inspired, grainy black and white and its tinny audio, Frances Ha was beginning to look like a paean to Millennial self satisfaction/self loathing.

I just slumped in my seat. I was hoping for a little more from Noah Baumbach. While I can’t say I’ve enjoyed his movies (the characters in his movies are way too grating and acidic for that), I’ve admired the intelligence in the writing and the level of performance he gets out of his actors. Baumbach is just too smart to be doing something like this! But then one of the characters describes Frances as looking “a little older, but less grown up,” and my ears perked up! A comment CRITICAL of Frances?! Maybe this movie wouldn’t be an ode of hipster malaise? Perhaps I was wrong about the movie? Boy, I was SO wrong.

Things start to fall apart for Frances. And, for the most part, they do because of the choices Frances makes. But Frances’ bad choices aren’t what got me interested. I fell in love with the way Frances, portrayed with a wonderful playfulness by Gerwig, doesn’t quite own up to her faults, but doesn’t place the blame for her predicament on “the state of the world” or something like that.

She handles her situations with the grace of the ballet dancer she happens to be. There is no self pity in her. She goes from sharing a $4000-a-month apartment with two young artists (they’re the children of rich parents, the only people who can afford to be an artist living in New York City, according to Frances’ BFF Sophie, wonderfully played by Mickey Sumner) to going back to her old college in Poughkeepsie in order to live in one of the dorms working as an RA. And she never feels sorry for herself.

This is the first time Noah Baumbach has made a movie with a character you can truly embrace. Margot at the Wedding, Greenberg, and, my favorite, The Squid and the Whale, are all about grating narcissists. And while their journeys to some sense of happiness (and, more often than not, relief) are well crafted, they aren’t a lot of fun to sit through. But once I got through the rather twee beginning of Frances Ha, I was completely swept away by it. Most of the credit goes to Gerwig. She creates in Frances a person so goofy and gentle that you feel protective of her and you want to find some of the joy she projects. And the movie’s final shot so simply and eloquently gives her and the audience a reason to be joyful.

I mentioned earlier the moment when Frances runs down the street with Bowie playing in the background? When I first saw it, I thought it was coy. The movie hadn’t earned that moment… yet. But the movie knew a whole lot more about Frances than I did. When I got back into my car after the movie was over, I played that song four times in a row, reliving the moment in my head.