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Review: Dinner for Schmucks, The Insatiable Moon and Picture Me

By October 12, 2010January 2nd, 2011No Comments

Dinner for Schmucks posterAfter a week when New Zealand has been forced to con­front its own intol­er­ance and social myopia it seems fit­ting that two films that are essen­tially about under­stand­ing and accept­ing diversity should arrive in cinemas in the same week. They both take drastic­ally dif­fer­ent approaches to the top­ic, too.

In Dinner for Schmucks, ambi­tious hedge fund ana­lyst Paul Rudd has to find a guest to take to a monthly seni­or man­age­ment party in which unusu­al people are secretly held up to ridicule. When his Porsche knocks over mild mannered pub­lic ser­vant and ama­teur taxi­derm­ist Steve Carell he thinks he’s found the right man. But Carell’s char­ac­ter, Barry, latches on to him caus­ing may­hem wherever he goes.

Eventually, after Rudd’s rela­tion­ship and career are wrecked, they both reach a deep­er under­stand­ing of each oth­er and some decent human val­ues: laugh­ing with someone is ok. At someone? Not so much. And if you are any­thing like me, you will laugh.

Why did I enjoy Dinner for Schmucks so much more than The Other Guys last week? Because, Jay Roach’s film was actu­ally craf­ted rather than spit­balled on the back of an envel­ope and (based on a suc­cess­ful French farce called The Dinner Game) Dinner for Schmucks puts its jokes in ser­vice of some­thing sol­id and, dare I say it, meaningful.

The Insatiable Moon posterTaking a more dra­mat­ic (and magic­al real­ist) tack is Auckland indie The Insatiable Moon, set around a Ponsonby halfway house for former psych patients and oth­er dam­aged indi­vidu­als. Rawiri Paratene is Barry Arthur who in his bet­ter moments believes him­self to be the second son of God and actu­ally starts to con­vince oth­ers too. Pitting a wor­ried com­munity against its less for­tu­nate neigh­bours, the film care­fully man­ages to send a clear mes­sage: we are all dif­fer­ent, and yet we are all the same.

Usually these sort of micro budget fea­tures are a massive chal­lenge to act­ors – no rehears­al, few takes – but the cast of The Insatiable Moon are mag­ni­fi­cent, par­tic­u­larly Greg Johnson as board­ing house own­er Bob and legend Ian Mune as alco­hol­ic Norm. In fact, only a rushed end­ing really betrays dir­ect­or Rosemary Riddell’s lack of resources.

Picture Me posterFor five years Sara Ziff was a top run­way and fash­ion mod­el, jet­ting around the world to glam­or­ous loc­a­tions, wear­ing extraordin­ary clothes and stand­ing atop archi­tec­tur­ally unlikely heels. Unusually, I guess, she chose to spend a lot of that time put­ting her­self in front of her own cam­era (with boy­friend Olé Schell’s help), doc­u­ment­ing her life from inside the machine. In Picture Me, with the help of some fel­low mod­els (mostly artic­u­late and self-aware), she gives us a glimpse of the dark­er side of the busi­ness but holds back from really spill­ing the beans.

Italian Film Festival posterFinally, a word about the 15th Italian Film Festival which gets under­way tomor­row. Festival dir­ect­or Tony Lambert has got this thing down to a fine art and this year he returns to the Paramount to present a fort­night of screen­ings: 17 fea­tures, the best of mod­ern Italian com­mer­cial cinema.

At the Media Launch there was a danger that the fine Nicolini’s spread would send us to sleep before the film star­ted but Lambert’s fea­ture selec­tion, A Matter of Heart, turned out to be a splen­didly acted drama about two very dif­fer­ent men with an unex­pec­ted bond.

As you might expect there are plenty of love stor­ies (dra­mat­ic and comed­ic) but my eye was drawn to Fortapàsc, anoth­er invest­ig­a­tion into the Naples under­world that was so well por­trayed in last year’s Gomorrah . There’s plenty more to choose from so look for the bro­chures at Italian-owned busi­nesses around town or out­side the Paramount itself.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 13 October, 2010.

Nature of Conflict: I know many of the act­ors in The Insatiable Moon, par­tic­u­larly Greg Johnson and John Leigh. Lovely work all round.