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Mace & Crown | April 22, 2018

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Monarch Movie Minute: ‘Undecided: The Movie,’ ‘I Smile Back’ and ‘Len and Company’

Monarch Movie Minute: ‘Undecided: The Movie,’ ‘I Smile Back’ and ‘Len and Company’
Tyler Passarge
Staff Writer

‘Undecided: The Movie’ (2016) | NR | 86 min. 🎬🎬🎬
With the election recently behind us, perhaps it’s time to reflect on this wildly confusing and divided presidential campaign. Serving as a time capsule, “Unknowing: The Movie” spoofs the 2016 presidential race while also acting as a hilarious hidden camera prank show.

Shot in a mock-documentary style, the film follows John and Dan (Jason Selvig and Davram Stiefler), two slightly dimwitted individuals who become subjects of a reality show. In their show, John and Dan travel the country meeting potential presidential candidates like Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders to decide who they’d back as the future president of the U.S.

Taking the approach that movies like “Borat” took, many of the pranks and stunts that Selvig and Stiefler pull in character are the foundation of “Undecided.” Not only does the movie capture the actual reactions of people around the actors, but even the reactions of the unknowing candidates that the actors interact with as their characters. Many of these pranks were even reported multiple times on national news, as evident in the movie.

The unique concept of the movie contains great and hilarious moments, most notably one where the characters walk around a Clinton rally wearing “Settle for Hillary” shirts. However, for any joke that works in the movie, there are many long winded jokes that don’t work. The film also does run into structural problems around the second half that contain a forced and dated reality TV satire and a rushed ending.

Still, even with its frustratingly unsatisfying ending, “Undecided” manages to boast enough laughs to make this a passable viewing experience.

This film is available on Netflix.

‘I Smile Back’ (2015) | R | 85 min. 🎬🎬🎬🎬
Anyone who is familiar with the standup comedy of Sarah Silverman knows that she is anything but serious. Much of her act involves being very crude and vulgar to the point of being animated, which not everyone is a fan of. So it comes to many people’s surprise that the notoriously foul mouthed comedian made a sudden turn into serious drama.

In the film, “I Smile Back,” Silverman plays Laney, an upper middle class mother whose addiction to drugs and alcohol impairs her decision making. After a stint in rehab, Laney has to take careful steps on her road to sobriety for her husband and two kids. While she has the motivation to deal with her issues, Laney soon discovers that every bump in the road will test her in very uncomfortable ways.

Based on the novel by Amy Koppelman, “I Smile Back” gives audiences a character that could have easily been dismissed by audiences for her constant horrible decision making. However, Silverman’s surprisingly heartbreaking performance is able to give the character enough depth to be sympathetic to the audience. If there is any reason to watch “I Smile Back,” it’s for Silverman’s knock out depiction of a pained addict.

That being said, the movie is certainly not without its flaws that hold the film itself from being great. The plot is very reminiscent of other movies about addiction and really gives viewers nothing new as far as a story. The ending is daring and dark enough to work, but the viewer has to trudge through a basically nothing-new story to get there.

This film is available on Amazon Prime.

‘Len and Company’ (2015) | NR | 102 min. 🎬🎬
Weighed down by years of work and hard partying, Len (Rhys Ifan), an aged musician and producer, decides to seclude himself in his country home. After not hearing from Len for weeks, his son Max (Jack Kilmer) takes it upon himself to drive up and check in on him, much to Len’s dismay. More problems only arise for Len when his protégée turned pop star, Zoe (Juno Temple) comes busting down his door.

As the prickly Len does all he can to avoid his house guests, Max and Zoe each share the real reasons for their visit. Max, who carries a demo tape from his band, is trying to find the courage to ask for his dad’s opinion (which can sometimes be very icy). Meanwhile, Zoe wants to confront Len on his sudden abandonment of her and why he appears to be ashamed of her fame.

While the subject of sex, drugs and rock and roll cinematically makes for an interesting film, “Len and Company” avoid these things for the most part to tell a more personal story. Disappointment and family dysfunction seem to be at the heart of “Len and Company,” which is purely driven by Ifan and Temple’s performances.

These qualities alone would make for an interesting character study, but the disjointed and distracted narrative hold this movie back from getting to the heart of their themes. There are potential moments in the movie that have the ability to peak the curiosity of its audience. Those moments, however, are fleeting as the film spends the rest of its runtime jumping to and from plot points that range from boring to pointless.

This film is available on Netflix.

Rating System:
🎬 — Straight to DVD.
🎬🎬 — Well, there goes 2 hours of my life!
🎬🎬🎬 — Add to my queue.
🎬🎬🎬🎬 — A must see.
🎬🎬🎬🎬🎬 — Mind blown!