This movie reminded me of the time I bought my first White Stripes CD, which was their second record — De Stijl. I had seen this husband and wife duo in concert and they blew me away. They had romance, and angst. The songs included “Why Can’t You Be Nicer to Me?”, “Let’s Build a Home,” and “You’re Pretty Good Looking (for a girl).”
These songs/themes remind me of the couple in this movie. Ben (Adam Pally) has floppy dark hair like Jack White, and he’d rather sit around playing video games and smoking dope than finding a real job. He does occasionally design logos for companies, but housework is something he’ll never do. His wife Anna (Zoe Lister-Jones) is an Uber driver whose book deal fell through. We know this because when a fight starts, Ben brings it up. This couple has no problem pushing each other’s buttons, but something interesting happens when you watch them bicker. Unlike other movie couples that just annoy you when they fight, you adore them more and more with each angry word. In fact, they even seem to enjoy (or at least appreciate) each other when they’re arguing. How couldn’t they? When Ben calls her a “dish Nazi” because of her constant nagging about him not washing dishes, she talks about how as a Jew, that’s offensive. The direction that conversation goes is hysterical. Who said you couldn’t joke about the Holocaust?
All their fights feel authentic, and we’ve all been there in relationships. And unlike other movies, we can see why these two fell for each other. Both are good looking, hip, and have a great sense of humor.
When you’re a movie critic, you appreciate how hard that is to pull off with the amount of crap you see each year. A studio can have a huge budget and hire Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman (No Strings Attached)…and it sucks. An indie, mumblecore movie can come out and everyone thinks it’s so hip with the shaky camera, pot smoking, and Mark Duplass on board. Just as many of those romances are as bad as the big studio pictures. This is an indie movie that you can tell was done on a low budget, yet it’s already on my list of favorite movies of the year. It should get the kind of love that the John Carney “musical” Once received. It’s that good. Hell, it’s better.
Even the small things are done well. When they see a marriage counselor, it’s not just played for cheap laughs. It feels like things a real marriage counselor would say (that doesn’t mean you won’t get a funny punchline in the scene). I’ve always said realistic comedies are so much better, and this is proof.
When they’re at a child’s birthday party, bitching about all their friends with kids, they end up getting stoned and having a jam session on the kids toy instruments. This leads to a revelation — they can take all their anger and fights, and turn them into songs. That might sound gimmicky. I have to admit, when I got the movie sent to me online, I rolled my eyes. Especially when I saw it had Fred Armisen (Saturday Night Live). I like him on Portlandia, but I’m so burned out on his “weird” character he does on Seth Meyers. Yet as “Weird Dave” — the creepy neighbor next door — he’s terrific. He has a few great lines, and his bit about being a sex addict (yet he’s living with two gorgeous women), never gets old.
But back to the songs. They’re both catchy and funny: I’m in No Mood for Your Mood, Love and Lies, I Don’t Want to F**k You…could’ve all fit nicely on Liz Phair’s “Exile in Guyville.”
This couple has so much chemistry on screen, I had to Google to see if they were married in real life. Nope. Lister-Jones’ husband did produce this movie, which she wrote, directed, and starred in and according to an LA Times article, the film has an all-female crew working behind the scenes; (take that, Wonder Woman and your female director). But things like that mean very little to me. We watch films to be entertained. And yes, watching a couple fight can sometimes be entertaining. Even more so here because we’re always rooting for them to work it out because we adore them both.
Just as I was worried Armisen would bring a goofy vibe that would ruin things, I cringed when I saw Susie Essman (Curb Your Enthusiasm). Since early in the movie we hear her on the phone complaining about how she wants a grandchild. Yet when she lectures her son on what it’s like dealing with the opposite sex — it’s a homerun. It reminded me of the powerful scene in which mom (Dianne Wiest) lectures daughter (Nicole Kidman) in Rabbit Hole.
People often ask me to give them a good movie for a date. Well, this would fit that bill. Married couples will enjoy it, too…but don’t be surprised if afterward you’re being asked to do dirty dishes or to pick your socks up off the floor.
Truth be told, you don’t need to be a sci-fi lover to enjoy a good movie that happens to be science fiction. And you don’t have to be in a marriage and fighting, or have been in a garage band, to love this movie. You just have to appreciate good cinema; and this is as good as it gets (no Nicholson reference intended).
It’s one of the best times you’ll have at a movie all year. It’s just a shame that a movie, that had a budget that was probably what Wonder Woman spent on craft services alone — will probably only make what Wonder Woman made in one day [side note: I gave Wonder Woman 2 ½ stars, and I was being generous].
This gets 4 ½ stars out of 5.