HORRIBLE Bosses is a hybrid: part bromance, part adventure, part moral exploration. Ok, it’s mostly bromance. After all, despite a vague attempt to divide the promotional posters between the film’s three evil bosses, it’s Jennifer Aniston’s stripping, nympho dentist that’s the film’s true draw.
Three decent guys: Dale (Charlie Day), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis), and Nick (Jason Bateman) hate their bosses. Rightly so: Nick’s is an evil egomaniac, played with the same twisted murderousness by Kevin Spacey as he demonstrates this summer in Richard III at the Old Vic. He dangles the VP of Sales job before Nick’s hard-working eyes, then laughingly takes it away, deciding to steal the role himself. Kurt’s boss, played by Colin Farrell, is a coke-snorting playboy who wants to dump chemical waste dangerously into the city to cut costs, and Dale’s boss is the man-thirsty Jennifer Aniston, whose sexual rapacity is so great that Dale concludes there’s nothing for it but to actually murder her – an idea taken from Kurt who suggests murdering his boss while they’re at drinks. Only Nick has reservations about the plan.
The unfolding of the plan has unexpected, often amusing, and almost always completely ridiculous consequences (they enlist the services of one Motherf***r Jones as a hitman “consultant”). Suffice it to say, the moral fibre of the boys just about shines through in the end, but that’s not to say the baddies aren’t punished.
Spacey and Aniston give performances as good as their two-dimensional roles allow, and the boys are all pretty good to watch. It’s funny, but you’ll probably leave wondering what the point of it all was.
ON the face of it, Beginners sounds like a helping or ten too much of quirky, indie whimsy. Oliver (Ewan Macgregor), a cool but sad L.A. graphic designer, reflects back on the last few years of his father Hal’s life – upon being widowed at 75, the old man (Christopher Plummer) announced he was gay, had always been gay, and started living an out-and-proud lifestyle, even picking up a good-looking younger boyfriend. In the present, following Hal’s death (which is where the film opens), Oliver falls for a groovy, free-spirited, gorgeous French chick (Melanie Laurent) who brings him out of his emotional torpor by dint of her groovy, free-spirited French gorgeousness. There’s also a Jack Russell terrier which talks through subtitles.
What prevents the film being a sugary mess of right-on, leftfield clichés is the understated sincerity and naturalism that runs through it. Writer and director Mike Mills, an L.A. graphic designer whose own dad came out aged 75, has created a film of heartfelt hopefulness, a piece whose easy charm belies the subtlety of its nuances and the complexity of its structure (hopping about between three different time frames).
Generally I can take or leave Ewan Macgregor as an actor, but he’s on good form here despite a dodgy US accent. Christopher Plummer, meanwhile, is magnificent – full of grace and joie de vivre.
A film that charms because of its truth, rather than its quirks.
THE BIG PICTURE
ROMAIN Duris, one of France’s most engaging actors, stars in this strange drama about a Parisian lawyer named Paul Exben, whose blissfully comfortable lifestyle comes to a cataclysmic end. He’s got the fabulous job, the beautiful wife and kids, an amazing house – until his wife tells him she wants a divorce and he accidentally kills the photographer she’s been having an affair with.
At which point, Paul makes the only sensible decision: nick the dead man’s identity, fake his own death and move to a remote part of Montenegro to start again as a photographer.
It’s here that tragedy turns to something altogether more interesting, as Paul’s new life brings him a kind of release and redemption. No longer the hardworking metropolitan high-flyer, he finds grace in isolation and freedom through creativity as he embraces his new profession as a photographer. But of course, the fear of being exposed underpins his every move, even as he falls into a new relationship with a photo editor.
Based on a book by American author Douglas Kennedy, this is a rather unlikely story, and a sometimes uneven film, but it’s seductive and absorbing also. Duris, craggy-faced and scruffy, gives a scintillating performance, and Catherine Deneuve pops up in a classy cameo as his law firm boss.