Summer is almost here folks. Reading day is fast approaching, finals study groups are instantly forming and the temperature seems to be doing nothing but rising during these last few weeks of school.
With the inevitable arrival of summer comes something not everyone may be thrilled about: summer blockbuster movies. The month of May alone will bring big-franchise films such as Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the latest Alien prequel as well as the fifth (and hopefully last) Pirates of the Caribbean. And while some will look to these films with unadulterated anticipation, others may be hoping for indie-film, documentary vibes to spring into summer. Luckily for those people, the beginning of summer marks the release of two films which both have little in common with this year's hottest Hollywood's favorites.
First up is the indie, middle-aged romantic comedy, The Lovers. Written and directed by Azazel Jacobs, The Lovers tells the story of a married couple who have fallen out of love, each of them cheating with different people. However, when a spontaneous flame is reignited among them, confusion and awkwardness ensue as they clumsily try to rekindle their marriage, effectively cheating on their respective lovers with their spouses. Starring Debra Winger and Tracy Letts, The Lovers is marketed as a funny and refreshing look at modern marriage, yet in reality the movie comes off as a bit tired.
Full disclaimer, if you're a typical college student looking for a movie to watch, this might not be the best pick. The film seems to be almost exclusively for middle-aged couples, to the point where if you haven't been married for a long period of time, you might simply not understand its humor. If that's not enough of a warning, consider this: The movie has multiple sex scenes involving people that could easily be your parents. Not bad in and of itself, just not something that a 20-year-old college student wants to sit down and watch.
As a whole, the movie isn't that bad. There are definitely some funny moments, but the comedy is for a much older audience. Winger and Letts did a fantastic job in their respective roles however, portraying their ongoing dispassion with each other with such sincerity that you could practically reach out and touch the cloud of awkwardness that surrounds them.
The movie's biggest issue is its pacing. Even though it's only an hour and 30 minutes, watching this movie felt like an eternity. There were way too many lulls; too many moments where neither romance nor comedy could be found on the screen. Which, for a rom-com, is a pretty bad place to be.
The second alternative blockbuster worth nothing is Citizen Jane: Battle for the City. Directed by Matt Tyrnauer, this documentary explores the ins and outs of New York City planning in the 1960s, specifically focusing on activist Jane Jacobs and her fight up against the relentless urban developer, Robert Moses. Including archived footage from Jacobs herself, Citizen Jane: Battle for the City manages to bring to light a topic of activism not typically discussed in everyday culture.
To be perfectly frank, the documentary is only mildly interesting. It's a well made film: the cinematography is clean, and the primary footage is especially interesting to watch. But there's only so much you can say about the topic of urban planning without becoming somewhat dull. Part of this comes from the fact that the total run time was an hour and thirty-two minutes, which was way too long for the amount of information in it. It felt like there were entire sections of the movie that kept getting repeated; points that kept being made. It became monotonous to watch, which in my opinion is the kiss of death for any documentary film.
That being said, it was somewhat thought provoking to see another side of activism not often talked about. I imagine when most people think of activism during the 1960s, their thoughts jump to the civil rights movement, the feminist movement, the LGBT movement or the anti-war movement. I can't imagine a whole lot of people conquering up the image of a group of mothers protesting gentrification as a predominant form of activism. So in that regard, Citizen Jane: Battle for the City served its purpose, managing to expand the idea of activism among its audience members even by a small margin.
Whether you're looking for a middle-aged rom-com or a rather monotonous documentary to take your mind off of this season's blockbusters, you've got options. But as a whole, for both The Lovers and Citizen Jane: Battle for the City the message is clear — different isn't always better.
The Lovers: 2.5/4 shells
Citizen Jane: 2/4 shells