Friday 25 May 2018

Movie reviews: Life of the Party, Redoubtable, Breaking In, How to Talk to Girls at Parties

  • Life of the Party (15A, 105mins) - 3 stars
  • Redoubtable (No Cert, IFI, 107mins) - 3 stars
  • Breaking In (15A, 88mins) - 2 stars
  • How to Talk to Girls at Parties (15A, 102mins) - 1 star
Back to school: Melissa McCarthy in Life of the Party
Back to school: Melissa McCarthy in Life of the Party

Paul Whitington

Melissa McCarthy's comedy Life of the Party is very much a family affair. It's directed by her husband Ben Falcone, co-written by the couple, and stars McCarthy as a woman whose world falls apart. Deanna Miles has just dropped her daughter Maddie (Mollie Gordon) off to her final year of college when her feckless husband announces that he's leaving her.

Devastated, Deanna resolves to turn her life around by going back to college and completing her final year. This is mixed news for Maddie, as her mother will be attending the same college, but Deanna proves a big hit with Maddie's friends and even enjoys a campus romance.

Perhaps Life of the Party shouldn't work but, overall, it does thanks to McCarthy's superb comic instincts, a mainly decent script and a strong supporting cast. The film has heart and Maya Rudolph is wonderful as Deanna's boozy and histrionic best friend.

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"It's a stupid, stupid idea." That was Jean-Luc Godard's reaction when he first heard that Michel Hazanavicius intended to make a biopic about him. Godard's lack of enthusiasm is understandable, especially when you realise that Redoubtable is mainly based on a memoir written by his ex-wife, Anne Wiazemsky: the pair separated acrimoniously in 1970.

The film covers a fascinating period in Godard's life, when he'd just married Wiazemsky and was reeling from the mauling inflicted on his latest film by French critics. Godard was in the midst of a professional crisis of confidence when the student riots of May 1968 arrived to rescue him.

Godard, played here with a theatrical lisp by Louis Garrel, enters the fray with gusto, marching with the students, striking workers and standing up to speak at rowdy university conclaves. This, he thinks, is the revolution he's been waiting for, though he seems not to notice the childish banality of the students' graffitied slogans or the band-standing woolliness of their demands. He will make his own stand at the Cannes Film Festival, but meanwhile his bored young wife (Stacy Martin) is throwing her eyes to heaven on the sidelines.

Garrel's Goddard is odious, bombastic, a petty bully in love with his own voice who falls out with everyone. He's hard to like and hard to square with the great films he made in the early 60s. Hazanavicius's film is full of stylistic nods to Godard, but is a bit of a hatchet job: it may also be accurate.

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Breaking In feels a bit like one of those straight-to-video 80s B-thrillers you'd find at the bottom of a bargain bin on a rainy Monday night and think twice about renting. It's idiotic, remedial, but once you submit to its essential silliness, it becomes almost enjoyable.

Gabrielle Union is Shaun Russell, a mother who travels with her two kids to her late father's vast rural mansion. He was a major criminal, recently whacked: the house will be sold, and Shaun has come to clear it out, but the night they arrive she hears a funny noise and goes outside to investigate.

Four criminals have arrived to search for a safe containing $4m: they seize the children and Shaun ends up trapped outside the high-security home. So implausible it's almost plausible, Breaking In resorts to every cheap trick in the thriller handbook and provides a masterclass in bad acting. But it's watchable.

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Which is more than can be said for How To Talk To Girls At Parties, John Cameron Mitchell's car crash of a movie based on a story by Neil Gaiman. It's 1977 and punk is rampant in the teenage bedrooms of Britain: a young man called Enn (Alex Sharp) is on his way to a house party when he stumbles into a secret alien base. A dreamy young extraterrestrial (Elle Fanning) languidly greets him, and asks "how do I further access the punk?". What happens next is not edifying.

Irish Independent

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