Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Finding Bliss

A couple years ago, Jester really ripped into Jamie Kennedy for his documentary, "Heckler," (see review, 4/29/07) that was a response to critical drubbings some of his movies got.

But with a small role in the as-yet-undistributed "Finding Bliss," which closed the Gen Art Film Festival tonight, Kennedy redeems himself by delivering with smart timing the dialogue he has playing a dumb porn star. It's the little things he does, like mistaking 'thrust' for 'trust' and deflating the naive hero of the movie, played by Leelee Sobieski, when she talks up the delayed sexual gratification that is the subject of her character's film within the film -- by summarily dismissing that as "blue balls."

"Finding Bliss" may not be the most substantial movie or greatest comedy classic ever, partly because of some obvious turns in the story, but it's a fun flick. Jamie Kennedy's part in it contributes to that sense of fun and sense of play seen onscreen.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

God of Carnage

"God of Carnage," the new play on Broadway by Yasmina Reza, featuring Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini and Marcia Gay Harden, like Reza's previous long-running hit, "Art," seen years ago, takes a seemingly simple conflict and spirals it out into illuminating dark comedy. In "Art," it was three middle-aged friends' debate over an abstract painting one bought, and in "Carnage," it's two sets of parents trying to resolve an incident where one's son knocked out the others' son's teeth.

Reza uses the premise to unwind the inevitable differences between couples, no matter how good they might seem together. The cast puts so much physical energy into their performances that you feel not just the words, but their impact. Gandolfini and Gay Harden draw a little bit on previous characters -- maybe this production is a bit tailored to them -- Gandolfini the obvious one and Gay Harden, very similar to the harpy she played in "The Mist" -- perhaps by design.

The show's dark comedy comes from the way the husbands and wives alternate both going at each other and the other couple, and at times siding with their own mate in the arguments and at other times, the others' spouse. Reza's lines, coupled with the actors' commitment, makes it all come alive and brings out that wry humor all at once.

Bill Hader

I do like to or tend to critique or rant about SNL, but here's a recent bit, where they really get it right, in no small part due to Bill Hader's talent. This sketch takes a simple tone of voice and inflection and gets all the absurdity possible out of that -- and doesn't drag or overdo it. It's written economically & compactly. Enjoy.