On a plane, hours delayed. Exhausted, but must write something about this heartening, misshapen movie.
Moment to moment the love shone through, and in a picture about love, that’s what you want. Still, could have used a bit of smoothing out. Naturalism no excuse for lumpiness. Why so long here? So short there? Why so little of that character and so much of that one? Why inject three-act arcs in into an honest, anti-Hollywood affront to the well-told story? (Also, lessons to be learned from Mike Leigh. When characters are given strong enough intentions, they can meander a little.)
However. Many howevers. However: points for things we’ve never seen. New ground broken? Lesbians watching gay porn and other bold (gratuitous?) sex scenes. Grownup fucking, but childish attitudes (slack filmmaking, or thematically relevant? Too late to decide.) Another however: Annette Bening’s thoughtful performance (however within however: tonally out of sync with the rest of the picture, as if she stepped out American Beauty. Yes, good, but turn down volume.)
Bit of context. Descendant of Mazursky. California liberals asking, “How much cool is too much?” cf. Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. Well observed local ephemera: Acai, Whole Foods, compost, give strong sense of time and place. How many movies pick settings that matter? Kudos.
Beating a dead hobbyhorse: Julianne Moore. I told you it was hype. Next to Annette Bening her deficiencies are easier to spot. Annette is a listener, a reactor, makes strange and memorable choices. Understands her relationship to the satire. Julianne too often playing attitudes. Blase, etc. Do we really know who she is? Feel what she fears? Want what she needs?
In the end, these people live. Though the drama is limited to a few situations, many of which are not explored to satisfaction, one comes to know the family intimately. One could imagine the movie going on indefinitely, just as losing twenty minutes may not have affected much. Bening’s work is crucial. She pumps the blood. Without her, you have skits tied together with frayed strings.