Tag Archives: John Watson

Just Buried (2007, Chaz Thorne)

It’s a terrible thing to say, but I can’t figure out why Rose Byrne did this movie. Not to knock it with a generalization, but Just Buried‘s a Canadian production. Even though Jay Baruchel’s on the rise, besides her, everyone in the principal cast is Canadian. For a while, I thought I had it figured out–why Byrne would do the film. For the first half, it’s a black comedy about she and Baruchel accidentally killing people and their funeral home profiting. Her character’s interesting, she and Baruchel have chemistry, the script still seems like it might develop somewhere. The script’s the most disappointing thing about Just Buried–it’s so full of potential and Thorne wastes all of it. Instead of doing a peculiar black comedy–the film’s still a black comedy in the end, but it’s a cheap farce of one, a TV movie black comedy, the kind USA would do in the mid-1990s after To Die For. It goes from being a pleasant surprise to a dismal failure, with Byrne’s presence somehow being its greatest setback. Seeing her–she’s excellent throughout, even in the end–essaying the crappy parts of the script… it’s depressing. It maddens.

Here’s what Thorne wastes. There aren’t really any spoilers, but I need to get the list down. He wastes a loser moving from a city where he flounders to a small town where he prospers. He wastes a son getting it on with his father’s trophy widow. He wastes a priest who drinks, plays poker and eyeballs girls. I’m trying to think of what else, but maybe I don’t want to remember it. Thorne flushes away all that potential, instead using each of them for a couple or three jokes. Instead of embracing what makes Just Buried unique, he goes with what makes it common. He turns more than the film into a farce, he turns the viewer’s experience into one as well.

Oh, I just remembered what I forgot (and, yes, it does depress me to recall). Just Buried has some of the finest people hanging out and drinking scenes I think I’ve ever seen on film. Baruchel and Byrne go on a couple of late night benders and Thorne beautifully captures the reality of it, each person’s relative solitude. These scenes happen in the first half, when Just Buried still has a bunch of potential.

Thorne obviously thinks he’s pretty witty with the conclusion, because he’s put clues in the film throughout. Sure, they require people not being able to hear what people whisper to other people, no matter how close they are, but whatever. Once the inevitable conclusion becomes clear–Thorne’s camera sits calmly for too long, like he forgot what they were shooting and just kept rolling–Just Buried just gets boring. Thorne has abandoned his characters, leaving the actors to drown.

Byrne’s great. Graham Greene’s pretty good. Baruchel’s very good in the first half, with his big transition not coming through so well. Sergio Di Zio is hilarious as the priest brother and Reagan Pasternak is funny as the stepmother. Nigel Bennett, Thomas Gibson and Brian Downey all appear to be sleepwalking through their performances, letting their costumes (two cops and an ex-clown) do the heavy lifting.

After Just Buried leapt off its cliff, I kept hoping Thorne knew what he was doing. He apparently does not.

1/4

CREDITS

Written and directed by Chaz Thorne; director of photography, Christopher Porter; edited by Christopher Cooper; music by Darren Fung and Scott Loane; production designer, William Fleming; produced by Nigel Bennett, Pen Densham, Bill Niven, Thorne and John Watson; released by Seville Pictures.

Starring Rose Byrne (Roberta Knickel), Jay Baruchel (Oliver Whynacht), Graham Greene (Henry Sanipass), Nigel Bennett (Chief Knickle), Sergio Di Zio (Jackie Whynacht), Reagan Pasternak (Luanne), Thomas Gibson (Charlie Richmond), Brian Downey (Pickles), Slavko Negulic (Armin Imholz), Jeremy Akerman (Rollie Whynacht) and Christopher Shore (Wayne Snarr).


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Larger Than Life (1996, Howard Franklin)

Larger Than Life is a different film today than it was ten years ago–back then, I remember, it was a big deal Matthew McConaughey starred in the film. There were reshoots to add more of him. Today, the film’s sold as a kid’s movie on DVD, which isn’t particularly appropriate, given a lot of the dialogue and some other aspects. The film was also one of Bill Murray’s last roles before he became “serious actor” Bill Murray. I remember, back then, it was of note because it reunited Murray with Howard Franklin and I really liked Quick Change back then.

I remember liking Larger Than Life well enough when it came out, but watching it again, I wish I could remember why–not because it’s terrible or something, but because I can’t believe I would have appreciated the developing affection between Murray and the elephant (it’s about Bill Murray and a giant elephant). I remember loving McConaughey, who turns in one of the great modern comedic performances in the film. McConaughey was on his way up, but whoever advertised the film couldn’t do anything with it (and, to be fair, it did take McConaughey a lot longer to catch on than anyone expected). But, overall, Larger Than Life is an advertising nightmare. It’s an unabashedly sentimental story about Bill Murray and an elephant. It’s also really, really short. It runs around ninety minutes and it probably needs only another ten or so (fifteen tops), but it does need something to make it gel. Most of the film is Murray and the elephant and various character actors showing up from time to time. It’s sort of a road movie, sort of an Americana travelogue, but also sort of not. There are all sorts of little things, which are supposed to be funny and kind of are funny, but they’re too fast to work. It’s like an experiment in humor or something–Murray, playing an up and coming motivational speaker, gets pissed when he sees Tony Robbins on TV. The scene lasts ten seconds and is the only thing regarding Murray’s character’s professional goals in the whole film.

Franklin sets up his comedic set pieces really well and an obvious complaint is the lack of them after the halfway mark. Larger Than Life‘s got a relatively long first act, short second, and long third. There’s not much funny in the first act, lots in the second, and heart-string pulling in the third (except McConaughey). It’s just too light and not in an unskilled way, but in a “something happened production-wise” way. Quick Change was short as well, but it was busier. Still, Larger Than Life does a lot more right than it does wrong–I just wish there were a decent DVD release.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Howard Franklin; written by Roy Blount Jr.; director of photography, Elliot Davis; edited by Sidney Levin; music by Miles Goodman; production designer, Marcia Hinds-Johnson; produced by Richard B. Lewis, John Watson and Pen Densham; released by United Artists.

Starring Bill Murray (Jack Corcoran), Janeane Garofalo (Mo), Matthew McConaughey (Tip), Linda Fiorentino (Terry), Jeremy Piven (Walter), Harve Presnell (Bowers), Tracey Walter (Wee St. Francis), Pat Hingle (Vernon), Lois Smith (Luluna) and Keith David (Hurst).


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