The Little Things and Our Friend

Hi there and welcome back! It’s been almost nine months since my last entry. Being stuck at home with a beautiful and healthy baby girl in the midst of a global pandemic, you would think that I would have cranked out more posts than ever before.

If you thought that, you probably don’t have a baby at home.

Regardless, I am going to try to post more and get back to my first love – movies. Series are great, but they take up A LOT of time, and it seems like there are more quality movies being simultaneously released in theatres and online, so that THEORETICALLY means more to write about in between play time and diaper changes.

Anyway, welcome back!

The Little Things

Have you ever been excited about an album from a ‘Super Group’ and after listening felt slightly let down while still wanting more? You know, the album that features the guitar player that you have loved since middle school, the bass player that never gets enough credit, the cagey veteran drummer who never misses a beat, and the singer who can hit all of the high notes?

In a nutshell, that is what The Little Things is – an album from a Super Group that could have been better if those involved took their time, got deep into the process and dropped a double album instead of an eight track EP.

Starring Denzel Washington, Jared Leto, and Ramey Malik and written and directed by John Lee Hancock (Saving Mr. Banks, The Blind Side, The Founder), The Little Things is a noir crime thriller set in 1990s Los Angeles. It features odd-couple cops Joe Deacon (Washington) and Jim Baxter (Malik) teaming up to track a serial killer who may or may not be repairman, strip club regular, and creepo extraordinaire Albert Sparma (Leto).

There is a lot to like about this film. All three leads give dynamic performances (particularly Leto) and have solid chemistry, the city of Los Angeles itself is a character (even if it seems like a watered-down version of director Michael Mann’s Los Angeles) and the cat-and-mouse games are well executed, with director Hancock sprinkling in the right amount of tension to keep the viewer on the edge of their seat.

However, there are also a lot of crime thriller clichés including stakeouts, wise anecdotes and life lessons from coroners, a brief reunion with an ex-wife, and cop buddies willing to take risks to right past wrongs. The most egregious cliché is the odd coupling of Malik, the young cop who will stop at nothing to solve the case and Washington, the mentor veteran cop who is haunted by a former case. This odd coupling even comes complete with a family dinner in Malik’s home where the two police officers realize they really aren’t that different and if they would just work together, they might be able to blow the lid off this thing!

It isn’t that badly clichéd, but it’s close.

It’s not to say that these clichés make the movie unwatchable – they don’t. But given the talent of the writer/director, main cast and secondary cast, you expect more from than tropes. These characters, theirs histories, and relationships could have been deeper and more meaningful if The Little Things was given the limited series treatment instead of a 130-minute movie. I would love to have learned more about Washington’s old personal and professional relationships, what makes Malik tick, and most especially, who murder suspect Jared Leto really is.

Without fleshing out of these characters, or spoiling the ending, they remain largely one dimensional, and the story is stuck at good instead of great. The Little Things is certainly worth a little of your time but could have been worth a lot more.

Our Friend

(Spoiler alert: This film’s ending is given away in the first few minutes and is obvious from trailers. However, if you like to go into movies without knowing anything about them, please quit reading now)

Based on an Esquire article by journalist Matthew Teague, Our Friend tells the true-life tale of best friends/family Teague (Casey Affleck), wife Nicole (Dakota Johnson) and best friend Dane Faucheux (Jason Segel), as the trio journey through Nicole’s diagnosis, fight and eventual death from cancer.

There are a litany of other movies that deal with cancer (50/50, Terms of Endearment, Funny People) and do it well to different extents. However, other films gloss over the worst parts of cancer or the patient at the heart of those films pulls through. Or both. Rare is the film that does neither.

It takes a talented and nuanced director to balance this material with the right amount of gravitas and levity that Gabriela Coperthwaite (Blackfish) achieves. Of course, she is aided by the incredible cast who are every bit as good together as you would hope.

Affleck plays his usual stellar dour and morose self, and given the topic at hand, he is a perfect fit. Johnson is more than believable as a terminally ill patient, wife and mother of two young children.  But the real star is Jason Segel.

From Freaks and Geeks to Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Segel has always been talented, if not type cast, as the lovable, underachiever next door. In Our Friend, Segel takes that torch and runs with it, adding a layer of depth unseen in his previous.

From becoming a defacto parents to the young Teague children to helping Nicole in the restroom to holding Matthew accountable for his time away from home, Segel’s Dane is a low key chameleon who helps the family adapt to their new and fluid situation. After recent years of honing his chops is more conventional dramas, it looks as if Segel’s hard work has paid off is he is the emotional as well as physical caretaker of the Teague family.

In fact, my primary criticism of Our Friend (aside from a time hop to a wonderful hiking trip excursion where his character contemplates suicide) is that we never really see Dane outside of the context of his friendship with the Teague family.

It might be the lack of new films that aren’t big budget, CGI triumphs, or maybe because I recently lost my own mother to a short but brave battle with cancer, but I connected to this movie because of its brutal honesty and simple story telling. We all need more of that and we all need a friend like Dane Faucheux.

EXTRAS

  • Game of Thrones alumna Gwendolyn Christie really displays some great acting chops in her hiking trip cameo in Our Friend. Well done, Brienne of Tarth.
  • The Little Things would have made an incredible second season of True Detective.
  • Why is it that in crime thrillers that coroners are almost always the wise sage? Is it because they are constantly surrounded by death
  • If you are looking for a reason to give HBO Max a free trial, you could do worse than The Little Things

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s