Isn’t It Romantic
In an alternate universe, Rebel Wilson plays an architect who designs parking garages in a movie that is a lengthy meditation on process—a three-hour journey into the psyche of someone who devotes herself to tedious tasks for the sake of the craft itself. It would make film snobs the world over weep. Isn’t It Romantic is not that movie. But that’s fine, normal people would be bored to tears by such a project. Instead, our parking garage architect—unlucky in love and career—hauls around a bag of hangups about her body and how people perceive her until she gets hit on the head and wakes up to find herself living in a real-life romcom. There’s a cute stud, a gay best buddy, a female work enemy and Wilson, befuddled by it all, trying to get out of this contrivance by finding Mr. Right. The best moments come when the movie embraces the slanderous metafiction skewering the genre its parodying, but it’s hard not to feel that sooner or later the plotline sags and becomes the very thing it’s supposed to be savaging. Still, there’s some good laughs and fun performances. Liam Hemsworth, in particular, as a handsome billionaire with whom Wilson becomes involved, does right by his family’s honor in the realm of being funny in comedies. They can’t all be Blazing Saddles, I suppose. PG-13. CORBIN SMITH. Bridgeport, Cedar Hills, City Center, Clackamas, Division, Eastport, Fox Tower, Lloyd, Oak Grove, Scappoose, Studio One, Tigard, Vancouver.
Never Look Away
The profile of this three-hour German epic spiked last month after it received Oscar nominations for Best Foreign Language Film and, far more surprisingly, Best Cinematography. If there’s one facet of the muddled love story that does merit an accolade, it’s Caleb Deschanel’s work behind the camera. The cinematographer, who has been making great-looking movies as far back as Being There (1979), brings exquisite framing to tragedy in Never Look Away as well as kinetic humor to unexpected action. (Seriously, someone jumps buck naked from a window into a pine tree in this movie, and it’s beautiful.) The storytelling, however, is a test of emotional, as much as moviegoing, endurance. Our protagonist Kurt (Tom Schilling) is an unfit epic hero in that he changes very little over 20 years. And an ex-SS officer (Sebastian Koch) survives the bulk of Never Look Away to little effect besides casting a disturbing, uninterrogated shadow. Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck may have earned international acclaim with 2006’s The Lives of Others, but his German-language follow-up is a reach in every sense—for prestige, for 12 different themes, for an extra hour of your time. R. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. Cinema 21.
Happy Death Day 2U
After the surprising success of Christopher Landon’s 2017 film, Happy Death Day (budget $4.8 million, box office $126 million), a sequel further exploring the Groundhog Day-meets-slasher film presented in the original was inevitable. Happy Death Day 2U seeks to establish the franchise as a sci-fi Scream with plans for sequel after sequel until the films’ teenage audience grows weary of the premise and stops showing up. Landon and company have only partly succeeded. Not as charming (or gruesome or well-written) as the Scream films, Happy Death Day 2U doubles down on the complex multiverse premise presented in the first film—our hero repeats the day of her murder over and over until she solves the mystery behind it—by including the friends of Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) in the reality-bending chaos this time around. A few of the filmmaker’s choices are a bit confounding, like the “charming” suicide montage (Rothe’s character needs to die again and again to have enough time to figure out her predicament) that sees our heroine “comically” drink drain cleaner in a grocery store, as well as a preposterous emotion-baiting subplot that forces her to choose between a reality where her formerly deceased mother is alive and one that finds her dating her beloved Carter, played by Israel Broussard. Rothe shines in this film as she did in the original, and so does most of the supporting cast, but her charms aren’t enough to make Happy Death Day 2U a multiverse you’d be happy to be stuck duplicating. PG-13. DONOVAN FARLEY. Bridgeport, Cedar Hills, City Center, Clackamas, Division, Eastport, Lloyd, Oak Grove, Pioneer Place, Scappoose, Studio One, Tigard, Vancouver.