Amazon Prime Review – Modern Love: The Highs are Worth the Lows

Amazon gives us a series of interesting portraits of love in the modern world. 

SUMMARY

It’s an anthology, people. I can’t summarize every episode without kind of ruining the surprise. Just know that each of the stories focuses on something about love between people. Mostly romantic, but not always.

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Such a cast. Much wow.

Eh, fine, here’s a 1 sentence summary of each episode:

WHEN THE DOORMAN IS YOUR MAIN MAN

A woman (Cristin Miloti) has a doorman (Laurentiu Possa) who’s a gatekeeper for more than just her building.

WHEN CUPID IS A PRYING JOURNALIST

A woman (Catherine Keener) interviewing a tech billionaire (Dev Patel) about his lost love (Caitlin McGee) reveals her own (Andy Garcia).

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Journalism at its finest.

TAKE ME AS I AM, WHOEVER I AM

A bipolar (Anne Hathaway) woman tries to have a relationship with a guy (Gary Carr), despite her condition getting in the way.

RALLYING TO KEEP THE GAME ALIVE

A married couple (Tina Fey and John Slattery) start to realize that they might not be meant to last, but don’t want to quit. 

AT THE HOSPITAL, AN INTERLUDE OF CLARITY

Two people on their second date (Sofia Boutella and John Gallagher, Jr.) get a crash course in each other after an injury derails their evening.

SO HE LOOKED LIKE A DAD. IT WAS JUST DINNER, RIGHT?

A young woman (Julia Garner) tries to replace her father with an older co-worker (Shea Wigham), but he misunderstands her attention.

HERS WAS A WORLD OF ONE

A couple (Andrew Scott and Brandon Kyle Goodman) tries to adopt a baby from a homeless woman (Olivia Cooke).

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They’re so cute together.

THE RACE GROWS SWEETER NEAR ITS FINAL LAP

A woman (Jane Alexander) who found a new love (James Saito) late in life takes a run around the rest of the series in his memory.

END SUMMARY

The upside of the show is that it’s an anthology, so if you don’t like an episode, you can still try the next one and it’ll be different. The downside is that it’s an anthology and if you really like the way an episode is done, the next one is probably going to go a different way. The episodes, though they all focus on love, are varied in style and also in their focal interpretation of love. Since love comes in all different colors, flavors, shapes, sizes, sexes, Tex-Mexes, and Shrekses (guess what I’m drinking? Hint: Whisky), that also means that a creator is pretty much allowed to justify whatever interpretation they want to put into their story. Apparently, each of these stories were taken from a column published in The New York Times every week, but I have to confess that I don’t think I ever read it, even when I read the paper. Not that I don’t enjoy a good love story, I just never did.

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The quality of the episodes also varies a lot, although, on balance, I thought the series was pretty good. I do admit the finale montage is weird to me. Since there were only eight episodes, it seems kind of unnecessary to spend a bunch of time recapping the series, particularly since the clips don’t really interact, so they don’t give us a ton more perspective on the characters. They could just as easily have added the post-credits epilogues to the actual episodes and maybe spent ten more minutes on the narrative of the last story.

So, since I don’t want to spoil the show too badly, I’m going to do a 1-2 sentence review of each episode, in ascending order of quality. 

8) SO HE LOOKED LIKE A DAD. IT WAS JUST DINNER, RIGHT?

This story is super creepy and includes a girl trying to force herself to sexually fantasize about her fake father figure, which is double creepy. Emmy Rossum directed this, and it’s only a slight step up from Dragonball Evolution

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Seriously, it’s awful.

7) AT THE HOSPITAL, AN INTERLUDE OF CLARITY

Two good actors are absolutely ruined by stilted dialogue and pacing taken from a silent film. The ending feels forced, as do a lot of the moments of supposed clarity.

6) THE RACE GROWS SWEETER NEAR ITS FINAL LAP

The story of finding a second love late in life is adorable, but too much is wasted on the series recap. Still, it was cute.

5) RALLYING TO KEEP THE GAME ALIVE

Tina Fey and John Slattery are great, but honestly it has a melancholy that never feels either closed or cemented as unending to me. 

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Also, how did these two meet? I mean, that’s a real story.

4) WHEN CUPID IS A PRYING JOURNALIST

A cute story, but even with the epilogue, the story just doesn’t feel like it’s that significant. 

3) TAKE ME AS I AM, WHOEVER I AM

By far the most artistic episode, the representation of Bipolar may not be accurate, but it does make the condition more relatable. Also, Anne Hathaway’s breakdown is just damned heartbreaking.

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It’s a musical.

2) HERS WAS A WORLD OF ONE

This one is the most complex story in terms of characterization and Andrew Scott’s performance is just damned perfect.

1) WHEN THE DOORMAN IS YOUR MAIN MAN

The person who requested I review this series said that if I don’t end my review of this episode with “I cried like a tiny child,” then I have no soul. Well, I may have no soul, but I definitely cried like a tiny child.

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Like. A. Tiny. Child.

I hope they keep this show going. Even though some of the episodes weren’t great, I think they’ve got a lot of stuff left that they could cover. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Netflix Review: Always Be My Maybe – Cute Movie, Amazing Cameo

Netflix makes a fairly generic, but fun, romantic comedy featuring a mostly Asian cast with refreshingly few stereotypes. 

SUMMARY

Vietnamese-American Sasha Tran (Miya Cech) and Korean-American Marcus Kim (Emerson Min) are neighbors in San Francisco. Due to Sasha’s parents being gone frequently for work, she often spends her dinners with Marcus’s family, even learning how to cook from Marcus’s mother, Judy (Susan Park). Years later, Sasha (Ashley Liao) and Marcus (Jackson Geach) are still close friends, but Judy dies in an accident. Sasha tries to comfort Marcus, which leads the two of them to have sex in a car. The ensuing awkwardness leads the two to fight and not speak to each other.

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No one would suspect these two just banged… except everyone with eyes.

Sixteen years later, Sasha (Ali f*cking Wong) is a celebrity chef while Marcus (Randall Park) is living with his dad (James “The Shredder” Saito) and playing with his band. Sasha moves to San Francisco to open a new restaurant and runs into Randall when he and his father come to fix her apartment’s A/C. They reconnect as friends, with Sasha meeting Marcus’s flaky girlfriend Jenny (Vivian Bang). Sasha breaks up with her boyfriend Brandon (Daniel Dae Kim) and Marcus decides to tell her that he still has feelings for her, but she meets someone new the night before. She invites Jenny and Marcus to dinner with her new man, who is revealed to be none other than KEANU F*CKING REEVES. The evening quickly devolves as Reeves reveals himself to be strange and aggressive. He repeatedly demeans Marcus, until finally Marcus and Keanu start fighting. Jenny ends up staying the night with Keanu, and Sasha and Marcus start dating.

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Whoa.

Marcus starts taking Sasha to all of the old, local restaurants that they went to as kids, trying to reconnect her to the city and her roots. She starts to fall in love with both Marcus and the local scene, realizing that her dislike of San Francisco was just a byproduct of her anger towards her absent parents. She reveals, however, that she’s still going back to New York to move on with her career and asks Marcus to come with her. He refuses and she leaves alone. Marcus realizes that, much as Sasha’s parents made her hate the idea of staying in San Francisco, Marcus’s mom’s death made him hate the idea of leaving. He moves out of his dad’s house, starts making his band successful, and tries to reconnect with Sasha, but gets no replies. Eventually, he discovers she’s been buying his band’s merchandise, leading him to ambush her on a red carpet and deliver a passionate speech promising to follow her wherever she goes. She forgives him and shows him her new restaurant, which is dedicated to Marcus’s mom.

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No one but Ali Wong should wear that hat.

END SUMMARY

Okay, so, this movie’s super generic in a lot of ways, but most rom-coms are basically just playing Mad Libs with names and jobs on the same script and we still love them. However, I do appreciate that this movie doesn’t have to portray any of its characters as idiots to try and up the comedy part of romantic comedy. I mean, yes, some of the scenes are weird and almost surreal, because it’s still a rom-com, but for the most part they’re not insane or played up for cheap laughs. 

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The dad clearly supportive but also sad that his son does this.

The movie has three really big positives:

First, the performances by Ali Wong and Randall Park are just so entertaining. Ali Wong is someone who would entertain me by reading a phone book humorously, but that’s what makes it better that she is cast as the more successful and slightly more “normal” of the two. Meanwhile, Randall Park is constantly showing just the right amount of insecurity and self-loathing underneath his nice-guy persona to allow the audience to gain some sort of pleasure in his misery, mostly because it’s self-inflicted and therefore earned in a traditional comic sense. When they interact, they both give off the exact vibes that the movie leads us to expect: That they were each their first loves. It makes everything that happens between them, from the resentment to the disappointment to the forgiveness all feel justified. It might be because Wong and Park have been friends for so long that it works between them, or maybe they’re both so lovable it’s easier to make it feel natural. Either way, the performances are above-average for this kind of schlock.

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Fine, yes, I love them and root for them because awwww….

Second, this movie does get a slight benefit from casting two Asian comics for the lead in a rom-com. I know it shouldn’t matter, but on the other hand I can count on one hand the number of movies meant for general American audiences that are rom-coms with Asian leads. Because the movie plays up their different cultures as part of their backgrounds without going too heavy and requiring us to actually know anything about Korean-American or Vietnamese-American culture, it comes off as giving the characters something inherently more original than “guy who likes sports meets woman who doesn’t and hi-jinks ensue.” The movie also manages to avoid falling into any major stereotypes, likely because the two leads were also the ones who came up with the idea and worked on the script. 

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I got so hungry during this film.

Third, Keanu Reeves. Look, this movie’s good, but if you want to know the thing that I most remember about it, it’s the scenes with Keanu. He plays a douchey version of himself so well that Neil Patrick Harris probably needs to take notes. What’s amazing is that apparently he added a decent amount to it, including the amazing character element that he wears glasses without lenses just to make himself look smart. He’s so hateable, but also so naturally likeable at the same time, that his interactions with the main characters could go either way and feel justified. You want to root against him because he’s keeping Sasha and Marcus apart, but also… he’s Keanu Reeves. It’s just such a great element in the film that really does distinguish it.

ABMM - 7Keanu
WHOA.

As for the bad parts:

It’s still a generic rom-com. When they get together, we know they’re going to break up then get back together again with some big gesture because every rom-com since When Harry Met Sally has told us that’s what happens. Hell, Ali Wong and Randall Park even said this was their version of that film. So, yeah, all the notes are the same and, aside from Keanu Reeves, most of the movie is just following the same generic script as all of the others. Also, them never speaking again after some post-coital awkwardness is maybe the most tired narrative device ever.

Overall, if you like romantic comedies, this is a prime example that does merit watching. If you don’t like the genre, you won’t like this.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.