Reviews: Romantic comedy ‘In Reality’ hits its mark, the thriller ‘Long Lost’ and three other indies, not so much
Director, co-writer and star Ann Lupo’s “In Reality” may not reinvent the romantic comedy, but it’s a sweet, imaginative and insightful little film about the search for love and what happens when you find it — or, rather, when you think you find it.
Lupo engages as an unlikely leading lady in a peppy story that follows a budding, self-effacing Brooklyn filmmaker — also (remarkably!) named Ann Lupo — trying to fathom how she landed in the friend zone with the adorable John (Miles G. Jackson) after several hot dates and what seemed like an undeniable emotional and romantic connection. Think “When Harry Met Sally” in reverse.
But that’s just the spine of the amusing script, which Lupo penned with co-directors Esteban Pedraza and Aaron Pryka. The film is fleshed out with fun fantasy sequences (including the zippy musical number “In Reality”), black-and-white interview bits with Ann recounting her tale, and such enjoyable supporting characters as Ann’s engaged co-workers, Miguel (Pedraza) and Adrienne (Olivia Washington); her BFF, Lallie (Kimiko Glenn); and forthright aunt, Doreen (Jill Eikenberry).
Although this cleverly shot and edited picture (it began as a short, grew into a digital miniseries and was then expanded into a feature) doesn’t shy away from its eccentric side, it remains a convincing, relatable look at one woman’s inner workings and the vicissitudes of love and friendship.
Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes
Playing: Starts March 29, Arena Cinelounge Sunset, Hollywood; on VOD April 2
Shortly after Seth (Adam Weppler) arrives at a remote mansion, it’s clear something is off in the indie thriller “Long Lost.“ The owner Richard (Nicholas Tucci) knows far too much about him, and Richard’s girlfriend, Abby (Catherine Corcoran), is far too friendly with the new guest.
For his debut feature, writer-director Erik Bloomquist keeps the audience as unsettled as his hero with an intense atmosphere that turns even a game of “Chubby Bunny” into something sinister. With its good use of a single location and just three characters, “Long Lost” almost works, though its fun twist would have felt fresher a decade ago.
Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Playing: Starts March 29, Arena Cinelounge, Hollywood
Writer-director Josh F. Huber puts a lightly humorous spin on the many trials and tribulations of infertility with his directorial debut “Making Babies.” Eliza Coupe and Steve Howey star as married couple Katie and John, who dream of having a family but soon realize that will be much more complicated and challenging than they had thought.
Coupe and Howey have the looks of Barbie and Ken and are talented physical comedians with a flair for the absurd. But a dramedy of this nature both muzzles their natural eccentricities and renders the more serious moments silly. Everyone in the supporting cast overacts with wild characterizations, forcing Coupe and Howey to be the straight men, which doesn’t serve their innate talents.
The material is breezy and amusing with a few piercing moments of emotional truth, but the tone never quite feels right for the issue at hand. There’s a tendency to rely on incredibly hacky material, like extended bits about the complexities of sperm collection and well-trodden jokes about alternative healers.
It’s not entirely fair to compare two films while evaluating one, but while watching “Making Babies,” which relies on predictability, one can’t help but think of Tamara Jenkins’ impeccable 2018 film “Private Life,” which made more nuanced and surprising choices while grappling with the same topic. “Making Babies” offers exactly what you might expect for a light dramedy on the issue of infertility and IVF, and that isn’t necessarily a good thing.
— Katie Walsh
Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes
Playing: Starts March 29, Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica
Based on an abortion rights advocate’s conversion experience, the drama “Unplanned” wastes little time in getting to the graphic depiction of the procedure that earned the Christian film an R-rating from the MPAA.
When Planned Parenthood clinical director Abby Johnson (Ashley Bratcher) is unexpectedly asked to assist with an abortion in the movie’s early moments, the sight of the fetus on the ultrasound shocks her into reconsidering her career.
With its solid production values, “Unplanned” has all the appearances of being a real film, but viewers in favor of abortion rights will find it to be pure propaganda. Writer-directors Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon spend more time making their talking points than developing their characters, who exist merely to make their arguments. As the lead, even Abby lacks agency, influenced by men who always know better than she does.
Rated: R, for some disturbing/bloody images
Running time: 1 hour, 46 minutes
Playing: In general release
‘The Legend of Cocaine Island’
Your Netflix homepage should have a category bar along the lines of “You’ve Seen Everything Else.” It’s a spot where “The Legend of Cocaine Island” would rest comfortably, awaiting the conclusion of your umpteenth “Breaking Bad” re-watch or exhaustive perusal of the narco kingpin genre.
Theo Love’s documentary is a valiant effort to make the case of Florida construction businessman Rodney Hyden’s ill-advised flirtation with treasure-hunting and drug trafficking into a rollicking ruh-roh of a yarn, but mostly it’s a test of your tolerance for puffed-up re-creations as atmospheric window dressing. The story has all the earmarks of a crime-doesn’t-pay narrative Carl Hiassen would appreciate.
A family man casualty of the financial crisis, Hyden believed enough in a local acquaintance’s tantalizing tale of once discovering and burying a washed-up parcel of cartel cocaine, that Hyden partnered with some shady characters to fly to Puerto Rico and dig up this potential financial windfall himself.
The problem is that for all the ways this story is entertaining as a magazine article or Dateline segment, it’s an awkwardly bloated bore when Love makes the affable, naïve Hyden not just his key interviewee but also his reenactment star. The details get repetitive, the turnabout you can see a mile away, and soon you’re wondering, “If this is about buried treasure and twists of fate, why am I watching an inside-the-refrigerator shot of this guy grabbing a beer?”
‘The Legend of Cocaine Island’
Running time: 1 hour, 27 minutes
Playing: Available March 29 on Netflix
‘The Sex Trip’
In “The Sex Trip,” an icky, unfunny comedy, an ’80s body swap movie meets a fairy tale, keeping all the retro gender politics of both still intact. Dating guru Eddie Greenlead (Marc Crumpton) turns from a ladies man into an actual lady after he shuns a homeless person. As Edna (Jade Ramsey), has to deal with all the sexism he doled out as Eddie, as well as his randy best friend, Steve (Louis Mandylor).
“Sex Trip” tries to tell its audience that what’s inside is what matters, but this comedy is rotten at its core and sure to offend most people unlucky enough to watch it. Director Anthony G. Cohen and his co-writer Marc Prey have created a film with the emotional intelligence of a 13-year-old — and the maturity to match.
‘The Sex Trip’
Running time: 1 hour, 21 minutes
Playing: Starts March 30, Arena Cinelounge, Hollywood
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