James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.
James Clay // Film Critic
Rated R, 96 minutes.
Director: Nicole Paone
Cast: Malin Akerman, Kat Dennings, Chelsea Peretti, Jane Seymour, Aisha Tyler, and Deon Cole
Overeating food is a painful experience. We’ve all been there, and it’s never pretty. It may look fun at the moment, but there’s always going to be that lingering pain — perhaps even the memory will be hard to forget for years to come. That’s kind of where Nicole Paone’s FRIENDSGIVING finds itself. It’s a comedy chock full of jokes, only the content is painfully unfunny.
The set up is simple: Two best buddies, Abby (Kat Denning) and Molly (Malin Ackerman), are going through some hard times and they throw a Thanksgiving bash with family members, peripheral friends, ex lovers and a lot of strange characters who are cooking up a “Friendsgiving” they won’t soon forget. The script and acting are so desperate to appease an R-rated audience that it very quickly becomes off-putting.
Molly is a semi-famous actor who has a kid and a new (perpetually shirtless) boyfriend (Jack Donnelly), and she wants to start a new phase in life. Abby has only recently come out and is searching to find the new version of herself; it’s just been pretty tricky lately. So, the characters are set up in a way that’s relatable and undoubtedly sympathetic.
Clearly, Paone really cares about her characters and gives Abby and Molly well-thought out backstories that are attempting to evoke genuine pathos. This isn’t the AMERICAN PIE movies; it’s more like a knockoff version of early Judd Apatow-produced stuff where the cast is given carte blanche to improv. There is a little heart and a lot of bad one-liners to get to a place where thematic elements start to take shape. Thankfully, Dennings and Ackerman are up to the task. It’s just that the performances have the humanity of a network sitcom.
In fact, the entire film plays like a sitcom with a revolving door of familiar faces coming and going, including Jane Seymour, Christine Taylor, (the great) Chelsea Peretti, Deon Cole, Aisha Tyler, and Ryan Hansen. All of these actors are pretty talented in their own right, so something went painfully wrong when putting this story together. It comes down to the timing and the editing of jokes in successful comedies, and unfortunately, FRIENDSGIVING is the Boston Market version of holiday cheers. FRIENDSGIVING is a bad movie.
FRIENDSGIVING is now available on Blu-ray and Digital HD.
Special Features includes:
- Audio Commentary with writer-director Nicol Paone and producer-actor Malin Akerman
- Making Friendsgiving: Serving Up Insanity
- Gag Reel
Rated R, 94 minutes.
Director: Alex Huston Fischer and Eleanor Wilson
Cast: Sunita Mani, John Reynolds, and Amy Sedaris
SAVE YOURSELVES is a movie that was meant to be an apocalyptic story about our relationships with our significant others and technology. What writers and directors Alex Huston Fischer and Eleanor Wilson didn’t bargain for was how painfully relevant this story would become in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a lot of ways, every form of media has taken on a new meaning in light on this tragic year.
But enough about the real world. SAVE YOURSELVES attempts to make sense of our addiction to being always connected with the outside world. Maybe we are searching for something bigger than ourselves, or perhaps we just are too afraid to look into the mirror, so we stare at the black screen. Either way, this is a delightful little romp about trying to change when the chips are down, and the apocalypse may just be around the corner. Wilson and Fischer’s film is about honesty with your partner and learning how to love yourself in the process.
The cast consists of Sunita Mani (Blumhouse’s EVIL EYE) and John Reynolds (HBOMAX’S SEARCH PARTY) as a tragically hip Brooklyn couple self-absorbed with the world in-between their thumbs rather than the world around them. Hellbent on makeing a change, the borderline annoying yet adorable couple leaves the city and heads out to the woods for a week of disconnecting from the outside world as they try to get in touch with themselves. Little do they know, the world is ending as they try to catch some much-needed peace.
SAVE YOURSELVES reveals itself to be a film that will go down as an underrated gem of 2020. It was supposed to screen at the South by Southwest Film Festival this year, and it would have played wonderfully for that Austin audience. Mani and Reynolds have a unique appeal as a couple who are trying to navigate a whole new world for themselves. When the apocalypse arrives, sometimes there’s only one thing to do: make jokes.
SAVE YOURSELVES is now available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD.
Special Features include:
- Deleted and Extended Scenes
- Feature Commentary with Director/Writer Alex Huston Fischer and Eleanor Wilson
- Blooper Reel