Month: June 2016

Twelve in a Box

twelve in a box

I suspect most viewers will be watching this movie because Miranda Hart features prominently in promotional materials. Unfortunately, that makes up the bulk of her appearance. She is on screen for no more than five minutes as a harried fiancée and spends most of that time bundled away in a locked room, out of sight from the titular twelve characters, themselves prisoners on an isolated estate.

The film is a classic locked box character study. Twelve people, all graduates of the same school, are summoned to a mansion for what they think is a reunion. They quickly learn that their host is a dying millionaire who wants to bequeath his fortune to his fellow alumni. The catch – no one may leave the premises for 96 hours, including anyone who may wander onto the grounds, lest everyone lose their share and the money is donated to furry animals.

Priorities are tested as people try to convince themselves and each other to stay. The allure of a quick and cool £1 million is enough for most of them to forgo all plans for the next four days. Barry has to tell his fiancée (Hart) that he’ll be a no-show at their wedding. Julie and Adam figure that shirking their parental responsibilities will be fine as long as the grandparents are around. And Brian, who isn’t even a graduate but just the husband of one, risks ruining an important business deal months in the making. There’s some questionable mental and spiritual gymnastics going on as well. Alice, a devout Christian, has no trouble coming up with reasons why God would want her to take the money.

Some of the characters get lost in the mix, but there are enough wacky personalities to keep the story tumbling from one scenario to the next. Agreeing to stay put for 96 hours is one thing; putting up with each other for that amount of time is another. Within the first few hours, one of the party drops dead and is unceremoniously stuffed into a freezer. Then, as cabin fever sets in, a number of guests engage in affairs, leading to some deadly consequences.

There’s a good amount of black humor, which is appropriate for a movie about how far people will go for money. Comedian Katy Wix leads a cast that proves you don’t need big stars or even cameos to pull off good stories. The production quality does make it feel like you’re sitting in on a film student’s thesis project, but if you allow yourself to get over that prejudice, you’ll find a clever and carefully stitched script. The dialogue meanders at times, but the story is packed with enough material to push things along to tense and funny ending.

Released: 2007
Prod: Bruce Windwood
Dir: John McKenzie
Writer: John McKenzie
Cast: Kenneth Collard, Katy Wix, Belle Mary Hithersay, Brian Mitchell, Glynne Steele, Jane Mcdowell, Miranda Hart, Ed Bennett
Time: 93 min
Lang: English
Country: United Kingdom
Reviewed: 2016

Made of Honor

made of honor

Before there was McJamie, there was McDreamy, and Owen Hunt, and Made of Honor. I won’t say the chain gets progressively worse – I’m partial to Kevin McKidd, but those hoping to triple down on this Grey’s Anatomy/Scotland/romcom Venn diagram are in for a disappointment. The movie comes with your standard cool girl caught between two hot guys plot. Hannah (Michelle Monaghan) has been best buds with Tom (Patrick Dempsey) since the day he wandered into her dorm room drunk and wearing a Bill Clinton mask. After hearing about his one night stands for years, she’s ready to have a steady, adult male in her life. A business trip to Scotland leads her to Colin (McKidd), a Scottish royal who gallops in on a horse and rescues her from a downpour and a flock of sheep.

Tom doesn’t take the news of Hannah and Colin’s sudden engagement well and has no idea what to make of the fact that she wants him to be her maid of honor. He does, however, come to realize that she’s the one for him and that maybe he needs to grow up a little. This decision by the writers seems more like a matter of novelty and plot more than anything, but try to find feminist undertones if you must. In the end, it’s mostly a recycled best friend trope, an excuse to keep Tom close to the wedding planning and in conflict with the bride, the groom, and his own feelings.

The limited time that he spends with the bridal party ends up reinforcing some gender conventions. Through Tom’s eyes, we see that Hannah’s friends are catty as ever, whining about dress sizes and tricking him into organizing a bachelorette party that ends with grandma sporting glow-in-the-dark thunderbeads. And though he’s open to sharing his feelings with his basketball friends, including token black best friend (Kadeem Hardison), he proves to be a clueless dude when it comes to what women want.

Wealthy, cultured Colin by contrast is something conjured up from a storybook filled with Scottish clichés – kilts, tartan sashes, bagpipes, castles, Highland games. But might he be too dreamy, too perfect? This idea that American women love the pretense of all things British but in the end just really want an average Joe (in this case who looks like McDreamy) is one of the more interesting things about this movie. In fact, Tom turns out to be so average that we don’t really know anything about him. Outside of his womanizing and puppy dog devotion to Hannah, he’s pretty blank. Though Dempsey looks great for the part, there’s not much of it to play. Which is ironic since the movie is more about Tom than about Hannah. He’s Julia Roberts to her Dermot Mulroney. In that way, you could say this movie subverts expectations, focusing more on the male character’s development. He is the one who finds self-fulfillment by choosing a partner, but do we really need another film about a handsome white guy trying to find himself?

Released: 2008
Prod: Neal H. Moritz
Dir: Paul Weiland
Writer: Adam Sztykiel, Deborah Kaplan, Harry Elfont
Cast: Patrick Dempsey, Michelle Monaghan, Kevin McKidd, Kathleen Quinlan, Sydney Pollack, Chris Messina, Kadeem Hardison, Richmond Arquette, Busy Philipps, Whitney Cummings, Kevin Sussman, James Sikking
Time: 101 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2016