As Birds of Paradise reveals its (admittedly predictable) secrets one by one, it does so with style and a merited sense of confidence so assertively that even the biggest skeptics of the genre might pause before dismissing it as just another slight YA entry.
Writer-director Sabrina Doyle’s fable-like tale of working-class Americans on the fringe navigates its elusive waters with compassion and care, even when it veers into some predictable shallows from time to time.
More concerned with paying homage to ’90s-era Quentin Tarantino than telling a contemporary coming-of-age tale with believable stakes, co-helmers Manuel Crosby and Darren Knapp’s debut feature First Date saddles a young couple not with a romantic night out, but with a haphazard all-nighter crime-comedy that’s mostly unfunny and free of convincing suspense.
Maintaining a lean sense of suspense throughout, the scribe fashions all her characters with memorable attributes and plenty of social observations, yielding a compelling range of suspects none of which you can write off entirely.
It’s a rewarding experience to watch Izzo thread a tricky line with ease here, emitting both a child-like innocence and gradual steeliness that slowly yet convincingly sharpens and matures. If only the film could deserve her level of commitment.
It’s a welcome entry into a familiar genre that will resonate with young audiences burdened by the unwritten rules of their respective educational institutions. And that’s thanks in large part to an immensely likable ensemble cast guided by Poehler’s sure-handed energy behind the camera, as well as the film’s ambitious aims to be intersectional in its social and political themes.
Beckwith puts forth something rare and full of feeling. This is a genuine love story between two straight individuals of the opposite sex that doesn’t involve sex (let’s call it friendship for kicks), an insightful redefinition of masculinity as well as a gentle, intimate celebration of a unique, 21st-century family in the making.
Sweet and personal, How It Ends is hardly an entertaining movie, or one that will go down as one of the defining films of these unpredictably strange times. But you can’t really blame the artists for trying to make some therapeutic sense of it all, with a little help from one another.
Ultimately, the only respectable thing that remains consistent throughout The Stand In is the beguiling appeal Barrymore brings to both of the personalities, even though neither of them is particularly likable.
Shrewdly, Watts goes for something subtle and soft here — instead of clichéd garishness, her performance hinges on her doleful gaze and melancholic tinge, ultimately helping Penguin Bloom honor its real-life character’s journey with some respect.
While Enemies of the State does not necessarily provide all the answers, it sneakily sharpens your analytical radar by its haunting end. And in today’s conspiracy-theory-fueled world, that just might be everything.