Great news! A few more cities have signed on to this fabulous campaign. And thank God because this is crucial cinema for the kids to experience.Read More »
THE WEDDING RINGER
Directed by: Jeremy Garelick
Written by: Jeremy Garelick, Jay Lavender
Starring: Kevin Hart, Josh Gad, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, Ken Howard, Mimi Rogers, Nicky Whelan
Kevin Hart’s ascent to bona fide comedic superstardom didn’t happen overnight. It just seems that way. Like any comedian, Hart started with stand-up, graduated to bit parts, then supporting roles, before headlining or co-headlining a steady stream of comedies, first oriented toward African-Americans, but more recently, far more expansively. Hart began last year with RIDE ALONG, another in a long series of box-office successes, and now he’s back with THE WEDDING RINGER, a film that spent the better part of a decade in development (or more accurately “development hell”) before Hart and co-star Josh Gad came along. A bromance by any other name, though far less crude, vulgar, or offensive (with some caveats) than the Seth Rogen and James Franco’s THE INTERVIEW, THE WEDDING RINGER will hit the comedic sweet spot for Hart’s ever-growing audience (with an able assist from Gad, it should be added).
When we first meet Hart’s character, Jimmy Callahan, he’s giving a touching, heartfelt toast as the best man at his best friend’s wedding. Except, of course, it’s all an act, a put on. That touching, heartfelt speech that brings tears to the eyes of the wedding party? It’s just another commodity, the capper Callahan provides as part of his “best man” services. He gives friendless men the appearance, however temporary, however false, faux-friendship for a hefty price. Callahan also has a strict “no friends after the wedding” rule, leaving him just as friendless as the men he ostensibly helps sell a lie on their wedding day. Callahan operates out of a basement office, presumably because he likes to keep things on the down low (he also keeps it “real”) while keeping overhead to a minimum.
A bromance isn’t a bromance without a partner and Callahan unknowingly finds the best friend he’s always wanted and quite possibly needed in Gad’s friendless tax attorney, Doug Harris. Inexplicably, Harris has landed the girl of his dreams, Gretchen Palmer (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting). She’s admittedly out of his league, apparently doesn’t need Harris to provide her with financial security (not because she’s equally successful, but because she has wealthy parents willing/eager to hand over $200,000 for their wedding). Harris really is friendless, though, and given the size of the wedding, he needs seven groomsmen, what Harris calls a “Golden Tuxedo.” It’s also never been done before (or so we’re told repeatedly), primarily due to the difficulty involved in creating and maintaining elaborate fictions about their lives and experiences together. The groomsmen Harris finds – all on incredibly short notice – are, by any definition, a motley crew. They come in all shapes, sizes, and ethnicities (well, African-American and Chinese to be exactly), providing THE WEDDING RINGER with a near-constant barrage of physical comedy, mostly of the lowest common denominator.
As THE WEDDING RINGER winds down toward its not-so-inevitable denouement, it circles back to the question of authenticity. Everyone, it turns out, is living a lie of one kind or another. Lies, the more convenient, the better, are important, if not outright essential, to the characters’ lives (better the easy, comforting fiction than the not-so-easy, discomforting truth). Ultimately, however, THE WEDDING RINGER reveals its central concern: The primacy of male friendships over romantic ones, albeit through the usual surfeit of crude, stereotype-based humor, some racial, some gender-specific. Co-writer and director Jeremy Garelick occasionally plays the moderately subversive card, unpeeling one stereotype (effeminate gay men) to reveal another (which won’t be spoiled). He wants us to cringe at one 20th-century stereotype while laughing at another’s subversion of masculinity.
Hart rarely receives credit for his acting ability and while the words “dramatic range” and “Kevin Hart” are unlikely to be uttered in the same sentence (like this one), Hart proves himself an adept, capable performance, modulating his performance to better reflect Gad’s talents as an actor and Harris’ straight-man role. Hart even gets one or two semi-poignant, emotive moments. That he persuasively “sells” those emotions to the audience – especially in a film centered on inauthenticity – suggests we’ve only begun to see what Hart might be capable of doing as an actor, comedic or otherwise. At minimum, it guarantees that Hart, a shrewd self-promoter (he’s often talked about himself as a “brand”) won’t fade away into obscurity like so many comedic actors do.
2.5 out of 5Read More »
Jennifer Lopez is a born entertainer, so it’s no surprise that her latest (and greatest) project, THE BOY NEXT DOOR, is hugely entertaining. In the charged adult thriller, Ms. Lopez plays “Claire Peterson” a recently separated high-school English teacher who’s feeling unloved and undervalued by most of the men in her life – her soon-to-be ex husband Garrett (John Corbett) and teen son Kevin (Ian Nelson). Enter Noah Sandborn (Ryan Guzman), the titular smokin’ hot boy next door to rock her world… uh, for the worse. As it turns out, he’s way too obsessed with her and scares her off – only he’s not about to take no for an answer.
At the film’s recent press conference in Los Angeles, Ms. Lopez spoke about what drew her to the role, what she and fellow dancer/ co-star Guzman did to break the ice and also how she feels about calling this a “popcorn thriller.”
Q: Jenny, back when you were on the block, was there a hot boy living next door or nearby?
Actually my first boyfriend was the boy next door when I was like 13 or 14 years old. Yeah, it was the summer I turned 14.
Q: You’re a producer on this as well. What made you want to produce it?
When it came to us, we got it made. We produced it with Blumhouse – they’re the ones who got us the financing for it. The character for me was something that seemed a perfect fit for right now. I really could relate and I think a lot of people can relate to what she’s been through and what she’s going through – men and women – and being at the point in your life where your relationship falls apart and you’re left feeling that sense of worthlessness, like you don’t belong anywhere, and that everything you thought was true is not. I think that’s something that at the base of Claire’s character is very, very understandable. People can understand that. They can understand making a mistake in a moment like that.
Q: What was the appeal of this particular project?
I liked the script. Actually my producing partner and I kind of had a vision of me doing a role like this. We just took it on and championed it and got it made. And got it made on a micro-budget of $4 million in 25 days. It was super intense. I never had done a film like that in my career. It was very liberating as an artist because it made me realize I can make whatever movie I want like this. It’s the material that really matters. Not waiting for a big studio to green light something or hire you as an actress – it really is very empowering. I think it’s just a new day, a new time in the kind of trajectory of artists that we have more power in that way than we’ve ever had before.
Q: Did you use a double in the love scene?
Q: How was the chemistry in that scene? It looks so natural.
That is our job to make everything look natural. Scenes like that are always uncomfortable. It’s a very vulnerable position to be in. It’s not something you ever get used to as an actress. It’s just as hard to bare your soul emotionally sometimes. This was a very important scene in this film, so that if that scene didn’t work, the rest of the film doesn’t work, because that’s the moment that they share together. If it wasn’t intense, passionate, real enough, then the rest of the movie doesn’t make any sense.
Q: You’re dealing with some serious subject matter in THE BOY NEXT DOOR, but this film is also a lot of fun. As an actress and as a producer, was the intent of the film to make something that was fun and that the audience could enjoy?
Yes. We knew that we were making a popcorn thriller. That doesn’t mean that you don’t want it to have themes that resonate with everybody – or else, it just doesn’t matter. Then you’re just making a bad movie. That wasn’t the intention. The intention was to make a fun popcorn thriller that made people feel something, made you root for the main character. And I think we do. I think at the base of it, there’s a broken family and it’s about that family coming back together through this terrible thing that happens. That, for me, was what it was always about – her being broken at the beginning and finding the strength and realizing that her family is worth saving, whereas at the beginning she’s not sure. Do I go back with him? Do I not? Is it the right thing for me? Is it not? And realizing that their family is worth everything and that that’s the most important thing in life and you fight for that to the death.
VeryAware: Both you and Ryan are dancers and I’m wondering if you guys had any behind-the-scenes dance-offs to break the ice?
Yes, all the time. We were battling constantly.
VeryAware: What did you guys do to break the ice before some of the more intense scenes?
We had a great relationship – me, Ryan, John Corbett, even Ian. We had a great time together. And again, being so intense, being 25 days and knowing we had so much to accomplish in each day, it was sometimes looking at the call sheet and going, “How the hell are we going to do this all in one day?” We have to be a real team and so we did have fun and we did have great communication. It was always like, “I’m going to do this. You’re going to do this.” “How do I do this?” “This is how I see is. What do you think?” “Okay, well let’s try that next time.” There was just lots of that, where sometimes when you have more time, everybody’s kind of on their own. They come to it with their point of view. You come to it with your point of view. You’re not as communicative. You’re holding things close to the vest. We had no time for that type of bullshit to be honest. We just had to go for it.
Q: You’ve played women that have felt vulnerable and a little bit weaker, but you’ve also played women who are much more badass and kickass. This was a mix. For you, what is easier to play and what do you prefer?
I prefer romantic comedies. They’re just fun.You’re just seeing how silly you can make things. They’re romantic and I’m a hopeless romantic as well. I really enjoy doing that kind of stuff. But as far as the type of acting, like being more dramatic or being more tough or being more vulnerable, it’s all the same. It’s all about trying to find the reality in the moment, making it real, making it feel like I’m constantly reminding myself, “Okay, your best friend just died. If you walked in and saw this, what would that be like?” And then, all of a sudden I have this high-pitched scream that I’ve never heard myself do. That’s when I know I’m tapping into something real. It’s just about the moment.
THE BOY NEXT DOOR opens on January 23.Read More »