Paddleton (2019)

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An unlikely friendship between two misfit neighbors becomes an unexpectedly emotional journey when the younger man is diagnosed with terminal cancer. (IMDb)
In its low-key indie drama construction it doesn’t break any new ground but it sure broke my heart–can’t remember the last time I cried that many sad tears from a movie (see the climactic scene in the bedroom). The quirky central friendship is very touching, and is expertly and lovingly portrayed over the smart screenplay’s short time period (though I’m not sure I liked how the denouement shifted the focus away from it). Beautifully acted (Romano is particularly brilliant as the awkward Andy).
8/10 (Great)

Tully (2018)

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A mother of three hires a night nanny to help with her newborn. (IMDb)
Lovingly shot (lots of delicate attention to depth-of-focus), effortlessly acted (Davis has a constant twinkle in her eye; Theron shows remarkable range in a complex role), and smartly written and edited (the dialogue is perfectly raw and awkward; the pre-Tully mother/parenthood montage is on point). Gets a little weird in the third act though, and while the twist answers some questions and adds some intrigue, it also introduces a bevy of plot holes that overshadow any of its pros.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

 

The One I Love (2014)

Struggling with a marriage on the brink of falling apart, a couple escapes for a weekend in pursuit of their better selves, only to discover an unusual dilemma that awaits them. (IMDb)
With its unexpected mix of suspenseful thriller and romantic dramedy, the film gives both genres a refreshing face-lift: the former with authentic acting, natural dialogue, and heightened character focus; the latter with a bizzare sci-fi-ish twist that puts interpersonal tension within an unsettling new framework. There are a couple of possible plot holes, and the final act’s uncovering leaves something to be desired, but the open-ended mystery of it all has does have its charm too.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

Tammy (2014)

After losing her job and learning that her husband has been unfaithful, a woman hits the road with her profane, hard-drinking grandmother. (IMDb)
McCarthy is the only highlight here; her trademark blend of self-deprecating slapstick and decidedly “unfeminine” and unaware mannerisms produces lots of laughs throughout. Elsewhere, Sarandon is awfully awkward and forms a terribly miscast three generations of women with Janney and McCarthy. The rest of the oddly stacked cast flounders amidst the film’s weak attempt at being a romantic dramedy, with its contrived storylines and insubstantial characters. Some good comedy here but not much else.
5.5/10 (Poor)

Jeff, Who Lives at Home (2011)

Dispatched from his basement room on an errand for his widowed mother, slacker Jeff might discover his destiny (finally) when he spends the day with his unhappily married brother as he tracks his possibly adulterous wife. (IMDb)
The doc-style camera work here is a bit annoying but it doesn’t take away from the heartfelt performances and intriguing one-day storyline. Segel’s philosophical optimist, Helms’ neurotic husband, and Sarandon’s lonely single mother all feel wonderfully real, as do their own personal journeys that converge in a beautiful and moving ending. It’s an understated film that packs a powerful emotional punch, thanks to its endearingly simple script and focused character development.
8/10 (Great)

Your Sister’s Sister (2011)

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Beautiful and authentic performances from Blunt, Duplass, and DeWitt combine with refreshingly natural dialogue (thanks to a largely improvised script and actors up to the task) and a simple, yet affecting plot to make a truly heartwarming film. Nothing flashy, just a straight-forward character-driven drama with dashes of romance and consistent sprinkles of charming comedy. The typical romantic storyline here is given a new twist that results in an odd yet happy ending for this endearing flick.
8/10 (Great)