Wilder's Movie Review

By: Dwayne Wilder

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“20 Times a Lady”
In the movie, “What’s Your Number?” Chris Evans plays the guitar to the Commodores’ tune “Three Times a Lady” with the variation, “20 Times a Lady.” He is referring and singing to lead Anna Farris’ character, Ally Darling; and her ‘number situation.’
Ally’s ‘situation’ is that she is near disaster according to one women’s magazine article. She is almost ‘unmarriable’ since she has had sexual relations with 20 men; that’s the limit. If a woman isn’t married by then, she won’t be, according to the article that Ally reads as she is right there!
This is the premise of ‘Number.’ Based on the novel by Karyn Bosnah – the variation title – this film is set up to fail. It takes a special actress to be Ally and at least an equal actor to be her friend Colin (Evans) to give this plot a chance to shine.
Lucky for us: Farris and Evans are up to it and they have great chemistry together. They make this movie work; at least pull it out of the dredges of romantic comedies with no coherent plot and shoddy acting. And in this day and age of movies, that is not a guarantee and it is a good sign for success; even moderate success.
Through a series of events, we find that Ally and Colin are neighbors in a Boston apartment complex who barely know each other, but realize that each can help the other in the relationship department.
Ally wants to look back at her ‘20’ men and see if one of them is “Mr. Right” and cad Colin needs a place to hide when the ‘morning after’ comes around for his frequent female companions. The remainder of the film is Colin helping Ally track down her men in hilarious fashion. This is not the comedy of the year, but given the actors’ chemistry, there are good moments and very funny situations.
The banter between the two telegraphs the ending where each realizes that they should be together; but I’m getting a head of myself. And even if you know this ending, it doesn’t take away from the journey to get there.
This ‘R’ rated film is 106 minutes long; and is rated such for sexual content and language throughout. But Farris and Evans are so ‘real’ with each other that the language and sexual references seem normal in this story context. (It may not make it right, but they are comfortable with each other enough to speak and act this way together.)
Two running gags are the ‘toasts’ that Ally gives and the dog of another tenant in their building, Bandit. Both these situations are hilarious. Along with Farris’ facial expressions, they are some of the funniest parts of the movie.
Director Mark Mylod and screenwriters Gabrielle Allan and Jennifer Crittenden have made a movie that is better than I thought. Even the tagline is a great play on words, “Ally’s looking for the best ex of her life.” You can’t get much better than that!
As in any good movie, there has to be a strong supporting cast. “What’s Your Number?” is no exception. Blythe Danner is Ava Darling, Ally’s mom; and she does a great job. Ari Graynor is Daisy Darling, Ally’s sister; the one whose wedding is the basis for much of the action in the film. Ed Begley, Jr. is good as dad, Mr. Darling while Joel McHale (Television’s “Community”) in a small role as Ally’s former boss is good as ‘number 20.’
Saturday Night Live’s Andy Samberg is also one of Ally’s 20; along with her real life husband, Chris Pratt, who gets the best lines in the movie! (Why not? He’s the husband of the star!) Farris and Pratt even get to dress up in ‘fat’ suits.
After Colin withholds a name of one of the 20, Ally runs to this former lover to rekindle the romance only to discover that the man doesn’t ‘do it’ for her. She realizes that Colin is the one she is most comfortable with. He even encourages her to pursue her dream of making and selling clay sculptures.
“What’s Your Number?” may get a bad rap or grade from a lot of critics, but this is not a bad movie. If you let Farris and Evans take you on their journey, you will be satisfied in the end. If a movie can do that, then you’ve found your ‘one.’

                                                                                  *

“There’s just as good a chance you’ll make it!”
 
In the movie, “50/50,” a young radio writer discovers he has a rare spinal cancer. The film follows his journey through the emotions and medical jungle of such a diagnosis. His doctor tells him he has a ‘50/50’ chance of recovery.
 
This movie was inspired by actual events as writer Will Rieser went through the process as a 27 year old healthy man. He looked back on the events and realized how powerful they were. He attempted to put them into words and I say that he succeeded!
 
Joseph Gordon-Levitt portrays Adam, the healthy 27 year old, in the plot. He captures the essence of emotions that follow such a diagnosis. He literally brings the script to life for Rieser. I feel JGL will get an Academy Award nomination for his performance.
 
But if he was the only character in the story, it would be a dull one! The supporting characters and their interactions with Adam and his illness are what tie the film together so well. This is an “A” film by every stretch of the imagination. Oscar nod here? YES!
 
Comedic actor Seth Rogen plays Kyle – Adam’s best friend – like he plays all his roles in movies. It’s pretty much the same wise cracking slacker character. But there is something more in “50/50” and the closest I can get to it is to say that Rogen has added ‘heart’ to the role. There is a touch of caring underlying the boozing, crass egocentric Kyle.
 
Rogen gets the best lines and he delivers them with ‘oomph.’ The interaction between Adam and Kyle is central to the story and JGL and Rogen have the required chemistry.
 
Bryce Dallas Howard (The Help) is good as Adam’s girl friend while Angelica Huston is great as Adam’s mother. Both their reactions – along with Kyle’s – are the basis for this movie; not only toward the cancer, but toward Adam as well. Then, add Adam’s reaction to their reactions and you have the foundation of a great film.
 
“50/50” is not necessarily a comedy about cancer, but a film about cancer with funny situations. Since humor is one of the ways we humans deal with adversity, then it is natural to put these two concepts together. This movie is funny, touching and insightful. There is emotion to go with the laughter.
 
Director Jonathan Levine does a good job with the principle actors and the others such as Anna Kendrick as Adam’s newly minted therapist, who is excellent in this role. There is sexual tension when both characters know there shouldn’t be, so they fight it. The interplay is great! I liked how the story played out with them.
 
It was good to see Matt Frewer again!!! This is the man who was “Max Headroom” in the 1980s! Raise your hand if you remember that concept! He hawked Coca-Cola while having his own show. Anyway, I haven’t seen him anywhere in decades. It was great to see him as one of Adam’s chemotherapy ‘buddies.’ Philip Baker Hall was another good addition to the ‘buddies.’ You’ll remember him when you see him……………….
 
This 99 minute film is rated “R” for language, sexual content and some drug use. But it is not done for the sake of being done; the language and content matches what Adam is going through with his cancer journey.
 
I can’t imagine anyone else in the role of Adam, but I saw a note that James McAvoy (X-Men First Class) was the original choice to do the role. I’m so glad the JGL got the role because he embodied the young suddenly stricken man with grace and emotion….and not all at once.
 
“50/50” is harsh at times and it gets to you when you think of the consequences and the finality of cancer. You might want to take a few tissues……….there’s a good chance you’ll cry……………


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