The Best of Me (2014) – I’m not sure why all of the major news outlets reviewed this as though they were expecting an Oscar-winning drama. The whole reason to go to a Nicholas Sparks movie is because you’ve enjoyed a few of them in the past and you know just what to expect from the latest one: a not-quite-as-good-as-The Notebook love story. As with all Sparks films, it’s predictable and weepy, with a highly contrived ending. But it’s also thoroughly enjoyable if you’re into schmaltzy romances (as I, of course, am). The casting of young Amanda is well-done, though Luke Bracey looks more like he’d be teaching a high school history class than attending classes with Amanda. Some of the supporting performances exceed the material — Gerald McRaney as Tuck (a character that really reminds me of my grandpa), Sean Bridgers as the villainous Tommy Cole. I must also make note of the fact that I had a hilarious screening experience with this film. The girl sitting in front of us proceeded to leave her seat, sit on the stairs, and clap wildly every time Luke Bracey was on screen or there was a kiss. Normally I’m annoyed by disruptive theater behavior, but I was too amused by her level of excitement to be annoyed.
Refuge (2012) – A mostly-quiet drama about a young woman name Amy (Krysten Ritter) struggling to take care of her two teenaged siblings, one of whom has suffered from a brain tumor. With their parents having abandoned them, Amy dropped out of college to take care of her family. Their lives change when Amy agrees to rent their living room out to a stranger (Brian Geraghty). Krysten Ritter continues to impress. She’s an underrated talent and her performance is solid here. The plot is a bit difficult to buy at times, in the same way that Labor Day was difficult to buy. It’s not possible for a person to show up and magically solve all of your problems. (Honestly, I half-expected Geraghty’s character to turn out to be a serial killer.) Luckily, this film is less dull and less cheesy than Labor Day. I found the characters pretty interesting, and it had no trouble holding my attention.
Silver Linings Playbook (2012) – Bradley Cooper is high on my list of “Actors I Have an Irrational Dislike For.” David O. Russell is on the equivalent “Directors” list. And I have mixed feelings about Jennifer Lawrence, because I enjoy the Hunger Games films but find her kind of obnoxious in other films. Needless to say, my expectations going into this film were below zero — not very difficult to exceed! Jacki Weaver is great as Cooper’s mother. The supporting cast in general is pretty strong. Cooper is much more tolerable here than usual. Not worth the hype, but a decent flick.
Tiny: A Story About Living Small (2013) – I enjoyed this documentary but would have enjoyed it more if it had focused fully on the people who were interviewed rather than on the writer and director building their own tiny home. I found the couple to be kiiiind of insufferable, but was very interested by the stories of the others who were interviewed, and loved seeing the designs of their tiny homes.