For character actors, the wall between “Hey it’s that guy from that thing!” and actual public awareness is a tough one to scramble over. It has halted many a talented performer from reaching his or her true potential. Fortunately, one-time SNL cast member Jenny Slate might have just found her ticket to reaching true Hollywood recognition with her movie Obvious Child.
The film, which rocketed out of Sundance as a favorite of festival goers, follows the story of Donna Stern, a plucky, Brooklyn-based comedian whose deeply personal stage antics gives her comedy a certain relatability. Unfortunately for Donna, life comes crashing around her ears when she learns that she's pregnant.
The aesthetic and mood of the trailer will feel familiar to the likes of Lena Dunam's Girls and Noah Baumbach's Frances Ha (the exploration of twenty-something self-worth in New York), but Obvious Child looks to chart its own unique course. The trailer works wonders, and much of that credit goes to Slate, who is charming, weird, goofy, and just a little unsufferable: all the facets of the great indie dramedy lead, and the ones that will hopefully get her talents noticed.
This wouldn’t be a case of overnight success. Slate has definitely put in the legwork toward being a mega success in the comedy world. Her young career has been filled with great character work, including a long list of recurring television roles. She’s played the zany and self-obsessed Tammy on the animated Bob’s Burgers, the obnoxious and grating Mona-Lisa on Parks and Recreation, and a neurotic little shell in the short Marcel the Shell with Shoes On. She’s delighted fans across the TV viewing landscape, but she’s still very much a character actor. Nearly all of her roles have been kooky, unhinged, and self-absorbed caricatures of real people. Fun, but not exactly star-turning material. This role, however, looks to change all of that. Slate certainly wouldn't be the first or last performer to break out of Sundance. The snowy Colorado film festival has launched the careers of plenty of actors. Jennifer Lawrence received Oscar recognition on the back of her heartbreaking performance in Winters Bone, and soon conquered Hollywood in the Hunger Games. Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller both received huge boosts in career status after co-starring in The Spectacular Now as high school lovers. Her performance in Obvious Child looks like it lies in that same vein of star-boosting potential.
For one thing, the film is Donna's story alone. Other characters are dotted around the trailer — a concerned mother, a doting father, a snarky best friend — but they all are in service of Slate's character, who is clearly the star of the show. She's in nearly every shot of the trailer. That's a tall order for a actor who spent most of her career playing characters in sketches, or characters who were little more than one note gags. It also looks life a film with actual drama woven into its story. As entertaining as it is seeing Slate play characters like Tammy or Mona-Lisa, it's nice to see the actor really stretch out her acting muscles for real, and live up to the potential we've been seeing for years. Hopefully everyone else gets a full view of that potential as well.
It was in the cards for Revenge to blow through its reserves in a single episode. Everything was leading up to this week’s explosive run. Nolcorp’s dealings with David Clarke coming to Daniel’s attention, Mason’s interference in the Gordon Murphy business, Victoria and Conrad (apparently) ready to kill one another, Kara at the edge of her rope, Amanda’s former self bubbling up, Emily’s feelings for Aidan slowly returning, and of course that whole bit where Mason started to figure out the connection between Emily and Amanda all came out in full force in “Penance.” And like a few characters in the show, the audience was rewarded for its penance throughout the comparatively lackluster start to the salacious show’s second season. And of course, there’s the shocker: Emily shares her true identity with yet another member of her quickly growing revenge squad.
The Trouble With Mason
It’s no surprise that Mason quickly put the pieces of Amanda and Emily’s juvi pasts together to discover that they were in fact in the same facility together as teens. It is surprising, however, that Mason’s big revelation from this discovery is that Amanda and Emily must have been lovers. Duh, that’s why Emily’s leading the charge on this Grayson-destroying mission. Let us wipe our hands and move on. Bravo, Mason.
Of course, that’s not true and Emily’s quick to tell Mason that. So he goes where he knows his presence will be accepted with greater acceptance, by someone who’s a little more vulnerable: Amanda. He asks to have lunch with her because he’s discovered her past with Emily. Emily quickly intercepts her and tells her to cancel the lunch and threaten to get a restraining order, so right after she claims she’s calling the shots, she folds to Emily’s command that she do all she can to keep her family and tells Mason off.
Unfortunately for Emily, Mason’s not so easy to get rid of and he shows up at the bar to show Jack Amanda’s blast from the past photo. Like the hungry little sea urchin she’s always been, Amanda quickly does whatever she can to keep this from ruining her new, perfect family and agrees to talk to Mason about everything somewhere away from the bar.
She meets him at his house and spins some yarn about how Emily is actually in love with her and stalking her. Mason instantly believes the story. (Why on Earth would he? Hasn’t he been duped enough to know he’s being duped again?) While he wraps his head around the story, Amanda brings out her real secret plan: a crowbar. She swings at Mason, but just in time, Emily shows up to stop her and sends her away while securing her own alone time with Mason. And then, she tells him everything.
Of course, it’s not quite as bad as it seems. Yes, Mason is slippery and only out for himself and the ability to turn whatever he witnesses into a book deal, but his selfishness is incredibly dependable. Plus, he kind of owes Amanda on account of the part where he told her he would write a book exonerating her father and then did the exact opposite. She has him call Kara, who’s on her way to flee the Hamptons from JFK airport, and tell her that he has information about her latest husband, Gordon Murphy. And he does. But that’s not the exciting part. He goes completely off Emily’s well-planned book and tells Kara that the Graysons are behind the David’s frame-job, riling up a murderous woman who just so happens to be off her meds, but more on that later.
Even if Mason didn’t do exactly what Emily planned, she still managed to make the pseudo-journalist useful by having Nolan re-do his cork board and plant evidence that suggests Mason framed Conrad for Gordon Murphy’s murder. It’s not long before he’s behind bars and Emily is offering him a deal, a way out of the sentence she just created for him.
If Mason agrees to plead guilty and go to jail, she won’t have to use all the tampered evidence she has against him in order to take him down for real in a trial. Then, when she’s finished her revenge plot and succeeded, her confession will be all he needs to be released, and at that point he can write his greatest work: Emily’s life story, right up until the end of her revenge. (Of course, you have to wonder how much of her spy tactics might put her in jail when it’s all said and done.) It’s an offer Mason absolutely cannot refuse, and just like that, Emily has guarded her secret and made a de facto ally. Or perhaps we should just call him a helper for now. You never know how long people will stay good on this show.
Kara, Why You So Crazy?
Kara’s so crazy because Kara forgot her meds. Actually. She’s having a little balance issue. She decides it’s time to leave Grayson Manor and the Hamptons and accepts Victoria’s offer to buy her a flight out of the tri-state area. But, as we mentioned, she doesn’t exactly make it. She’s brought back by Mason Treadwell, who also inadvertently creates a rage monster out of her. (We can see where Emily gets that from.)
Kara storms back to the mansion, where she quickly disables all the critical cameras, and while Conrad is dying in an investor Q&A and Victoria is trying to find Conrad to warn him that Daniel’s trying to sabotage his place as the leader of Grayson Global, Kara nabs them both and interrogates them heartily. We learn what we’ve already surmised from all the other details: the Initiative was looking to frame Conrad, but he send them after David Clarke because he was jealous of his wife’s affair with the neighbor. This doesn’t seem to move Kara. She’s still ready to kill.
After realizing that Kara already has her secret fancy lady, pearlescent gun, Victoria tries for one final plea: Kara’s latest husband, Gordon, killed her first husband, David. Rather that redirecting her attention, this only angers Kara more and she commands they get on their knees and blindfold themselves so she can end them. Luckily, Aidan comes to the rescue as Emily helplessly freaks out over the lost security camera feed. He tells Emily, like some dashing and self-sacrificing hero, to turn all the cameras off, begging that she just trust him. This hard for Emily because the last time she trusted him, he left her standing in a snowy courtyard at Takaeda camp.
Next: Aidan plays knight in shining armor... and Emily actually likes it?He not only manages to fix this bad situation by chloroforming Kara and quietly removing her without Victoria or Conrad knowing anything, but he builds a backstory that Kara seems to believe and gets her to leave town. Of course, before she leaves, Aidan parts ways with Kara and Emily and our revenge-stress asks Kara if there’s anything she wants to tell Amanda. Kara simply says that she wishes she had been a better mother, which triggers more regretful memories in Emily. As long as Kara is around, Emily is forced to continually remind herself that she chose the possibility of any future familial or friendly relationships with the people from her past, and new family like Charlotte.
St. Nolan and Mr. Bond
That is, except for Nolan, who whole-heartedly claims Emily as his own family. And really, he’s all she’s got too. When Aidan comes to Nolan to beg him to give up the David Clarke receipts before Grayson Global tears Nolcorp apart and finds out about the company’s connection to Emily, he does it. On one hand, it’s only a matter of time before the all-powerful corporation gets to the bottom of the issue. On another, if Nolan gives up now, Emily will be safe. And as he expresses, that’s all that matters. Adding to the rare moment of sentimentality between these conniving friends, Nolan questions Aidan’s intentions like a proper brotherly figure, threatening to take down Aidan if he hurts Emily and wondering what he stands to gain from taking so much risk for Ms. Thorne. Aidan swears he’s only out for good, but Nolan’s reservation about the hulky Bond-wannabe is one of the only endearing moments this show has seen.
And while you can’t get anywhere without family, blood-related or otherwise, there’s something to be said for a great partner in crime. Emily’s spent all season punishing Aidan for a decision he made to keep her safe years ago, and since then, all he’s done is break his neck to earn back her trust. And he’s done it, tenfold. He’s practically running half (or more) of the revenge operation himself. Luckily, Emily’s finally started to take notice. When she returns home after the ordeal with Mason and her mother, she’s exhausted and Aidan is there waiting with his usual, apparently genuine question: “Are you alright?” Normally, that’s the point at which she kicks him out on his keister or, in a moment of desperation, falls asleep next to him and kicks him out the next morning. Instead, she finally gives him what he (and we) wanted all along: a good old fashioned midnight porch makeout. You can’t put a gorgeous, suave Englishman on a show like Revenge and let his handsomeness spoil due to lack of use.
All the King’s Horses and All The King’s Men
Of course, there are a whole host of other characters working through their problems as well. Most prominently, Victoria and Conrad are strengthening their union through fear. After almost losing their lives at the hands of Kara’s rage, they’ve got a new lease on life. Conrad even kisses Victoria on the forehead. Of course, they’re worried their days are numbered, because everything they can’t explain is automatically some untraceable, unsanctioned move by the Initiative, whose whole purpose is apparently to screw with the Graysons. Right.
While his parents are telling each other ghost stories, Daniel is trying to take over the company. With the David Clarke receipt from Aidan, Daniel whispers to the stockholders during Conrad’s meeting and gathers them for a secret meeting in which he calls for a vote of no confidence in his father so that he can take the ruling chair. Little Daniel is all grown up. It just brings tears of venomous joy to a Revenge fan’s eye.
Finally, we have Jack, who’s nothing but happy at the moment, thanks to his “investor” Kenny and his pending nuptials (luckily, Amanda just wants a low-key ceremony), but this calm water signals only one thing: major swells ahead. Kenny has a slimy brother, who pops his head into the episode long enough to try and convince Kenny that he needs to get back on track with his evil plan. Kenny argues that he would have done it to their father, but that Declan and Jack are good guys. Clearly, Kenny’s younger, darker-haired brother is here to make sure the Porters’ lives get thoroughly ruined. The storm’s a-comin’, Jackie Boy.
Of course, the only question that remains at the end of all of this is: Who will Emily bring into her revenge circle next? Or, now that the selfish Mason knows, how long will it be before he betrays her for a bigger bidder?
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
[Photo Credit: ABC]
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Akiva Goldsman has decided that this moment -- with half the country covered in snow and ice, its residents cursing the heavens for sending "this goddamn snowpocalypse!" -- is the perfect opportunity to announce his next project: Winter's Tale. Yup, that 1983 book by Mark Helprin about how New York City has morphed into an arctic abyss. So, okay! Anyway, the producer/screenwriter will start the film after he, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer finish their current epic project The Dark Tower (its lead role was just offered to Javier Bardem, by the way).
Goldman, who won an Oscar for writing A Beautiful Mind, adapted Winter's Tale, which is expected to cost around $75 million to make. For those unaware, the fantasy story follows a thief, a dying girl and a flying white horse in 19th century Manhattan. And, as mentioned above, it's all snowy and shit.
All of this is cool, but since this is not the William Shakespeare version of The Winter's Tale, Julie Taymor still has a chance to ruin that one.
Before the main feature begins audiences are treated to an added bonus--The Flight of the Osiris a really cool $5 million computer-animated short film created by Matrix writer-director brothers Andy and Larry Wachowski that connects the story to the next installment The Matrix Reloaded. Taking place after The Matrix left off it's a wild ride showing one rebel ship trying to fight off the evil machines--and unfortunately losing the battle. Done in the animated futuristic style of last year's Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within the film will certainly whet Matrix fans' appetites. Moving on....As with any good King tale Dreamcatcher begins with relationships. This time the action centers on four best friends--the agreeable Jonsey (Damian Lewis) the tortured Henry (Thomas Jane) the flippant Beaver (Jason Lee) and the lovelorn Pete (Timothy Olyphant)--who as kids 20 years ago saved a mentally challenged kid named Duddits (Donnie Wahlberg) from some bullies and somehow were bestowed with uncanny powers of telepathy by the eerie little kid that bonded them all beyond ordinary friendship. Now as adults they feel burdened by their powers but soon find out how glad they are they still have them. When the guys head to a hunting cabin in the woods for their annual blowing-off-steam session the happy reunion is cut short by a deadly alien force which has invaded their snowy surroundings. While the U.S. military lead by Colonel Abraham Curtis (Morgan Freeman) and Capt. Owen Underhill (Tom Sizemore) quarantines the area to get rid of the infectious alien presence known as the "Ripley" (named after the main character in Alien) the foursome are haplessly drawn into the aliens' evil plan finding themselves once again inexplicably linked to their old friend the now cancer-stricken Duddits. It's a race against time to stop the invasion but the four men use all their strength to stand together--one last time.
The natural rapport and strong bond between the four main characters needs to be believable to make Dreamcatcher palatable. Fortunately the actors playing them live up to the task and when they are all on screen at one time it works; unfortunately scenes featuring all of them are few and far between. The British Lewis who was so damn good in HBO's Band of Brothers as leader Richard Winters gets his first starring role in a feature film and brings the same level of quiet intensity to his Jonesy as he did to Brothers. Olyphant (Go) and Jane (The Sweetest Thing) play Pete and Henry like they've been lifelong pals offscreen while Wahlberg is almost unrecognizable as Duddits proving he can get rid of those good looks and put in a nice performance. And finally Jason Lee who's been suppressing his witty sarcastic self far too long in stinkers such as A Guy Thing steals the show as the curse-word lovin'--and incredibly brave--Beaver. The plot line revolving around Freeman's and Sizemore's characters is far less interesting with Freeman turning in his usual steady performance but somehow missing the mark as Curtis a military man who has seen way too much.
The talent behind Dreamcatcher is clearly evident. Director/co-writer Lawrence Kasdan and co-writer William Goldman do a wonderful job setting up the action with the quick back and forth dialogue between the four men. It gives you an immediate intimacy with the main characters something King likes to do in his writing as well. Kasdan also uses interesting imagery of a large and dusty library that represents the inside of Jonesy's mind where he hangs out and shuffles old boxes full of memories around to make room for new ones. When the alien takes over Jonesy's body Kasdan frames the action by showing Jonesy trapped inside this library watching what is happening to his friends and trying desperately to keep the invading menace at bay. Ultimately though just when it should jump on the horrific momentum it's built up the film begins to fall apart as we move away from the four main characters and start dealing with the military operation. Perhaps the main problem lies in the fact it is too derivative--of other alien movies (Independence Day meets Alien meets The Thing) and worse of other Stephen King movies (Stand By Me meets It meets The Tommyknockers). In other words it ends up being a highly anticlimactic rehash.