Nightmare Alley (2021) review

For F*** Magazine

Director: Guillermo del Toro
Cast : Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Rooney Mara, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Ron Perlman, Mary Steenburgen, Holt McCallany, David Strathairn
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Run Time : 150 min
Opens : 13 January 2022 (Exclusive to Cathay Cineplexes)
Rating : M18

All of Guillermo del Toro’s feature films have included elements of horror or fantasy. One could be forgiven for thinking Nightmare Alley is the same, but it is not. This adaptation of William Lindsay Gresham’s novel of the same name, which was earlier adapted into a 1947 film starring Tyrone Power, is a neo-noir psychological thriller.

Stanton “Stan” Carlisle (Bradley Cooper) joins a travelling circus as a carny, doing odd jobs and studying how the various performers’ tricks work. Stan learns mentalism from Zeena Kurmbein (Toni Collette) and her husband Pete (David Strathairn), who perform a psychic act. In the meantime, he falls in love with Molly (Rooney Mara), whose act involves her pretending to be electrocuted. Stan is horrified at the way the carnival boss Clem (Willem Dafoe) treats the “geeks,” alcoholic, drug-addicted bums who bite the heads off chickens for paying spectators. Stan and Molly eventually leave the circus, establishing their own act. Psychologist Dr Lilith Ritter (Cate Blanchett) attempts to expose Stan’s act, and he gradually falls under her spell, a nguishing Molly. As Lilith draws on Stan’s skillset to stage an elaborate and deadly con, one question arises: is Stan innocent, or a willing co-conspirator?

Del Toro is known for being an atmospheric filmmaker, and Nightmare Alley is brimming with atmosphere. Gorgeously shot and designed, it evokes the feeling of noir movies in an affectionate, layered way. Cinematographer Dan Laustsen plays deftly with light and shadow, as the movie takes viewers from the grimy carny world to the gleam of Chicago high society. While Nightmare Alley is a marked departure from the kind of movies del Toro is known for, many of his trademarks are still present, and is reminiscent of Crimson Peak in many respects. The allure of the movie is that while it takes place in the real world, it feels as if the tendrils of the supernatural are creeping along the edges. Nightmare Alley is moody and deliberately depressing in a way that is somewhat surprising given the warmth present in many of del Toros’ other movies, but also fits the source material.

For all its atmosphere, Nightmare Alley is often challenging to engage with emotionally. It’s two movies: the first one at the circus with the carnies, the second in Chicago high society with the femme fatale psychologist. The movie is 150 minutes long, and while the set-up at the circus is necessary, perhaps it doesn’t require over an hour. Indeed, Cate Blanchett, who is second billed, makes her first appearance over a third of the way into the movie. Stan is maybe the first protagonist of this type in del Toro’s filmography: someone who is charming, but whom we are meant to suspect. It’s a far cry from the loveable but misunderstood monsters who often appear in the director’s movies. Suffice it to say, this is no The Shape of Water. Granted, it’s not a bad thing that del Toro isn’t repeating himself, but Nightmare Alley is sometimes straight-up nasty by design, which can be off-putting. Del Toro is sometimes criticised for relying too heavily on references to existing films and other media, and in Nightmare Alley, he is operating in full-on noir mode. Audiences who recognise the style and are registering all the little flourishes might find themselves held at arm’s length from the story.

Del Toro is a filmmaker whom actors often enthusiastically say they want to work with, so it is no surprise that the cast is stacked. Bradley Cooper is alternately sympathetic and slimy, playing a con artist who will make audiences wonder how much of what he’s up to is strictly for survival. This is a role that Leonardo DiCaprio was initially attached to, which makes sense. It starts out restrained, before becoming flashier.

Rooney Mara turns in a quietly sad, endearing performance as an innocent drawn into Stan’s web, while Cate Blanchett plays a textbook femme fatale with a knowing wink. Everywhere else one looks, there are character actors of a high calibre, including many who have collaborated with del Toro before. Willem Dafoe as an unscrupulous carny boss and Richard Jenkins as the wealthy mark of a con are the highlights.

Summary: An atmospheric, dark tale, Nightmare Alley is largely bereft of the warmth which lurks beneath the surface of many Guillermo del Toro movies. Stepping outside his comfort zone of supernatural horror and sci-fi, Nightmare Alley is a stylistic exercise in the noir genre. Unfortunately, the overlong movie often feels inert up until the very end, despite the best efforts of a talented cast. This is an intriguing but frustrating effort from the auteur, indicating interesting things to come, but straying from what has worked in his earlier films.

RATING: 3 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

Unlocked

For F*** Magazine

UNLOCKED 

Director : Michael Apted
Cast : Noomi Rapace, Orlando Bloom, Toni Collette, John Malkovich, Michael Douglas
Genre : Action/Thriller
Run Time : 1h 38min
Opens : 4 May 2017
Rating : NC16 (Some Coarse Language and Violence)

Erstwhile Lisbeth Salander Noomi Rapace steps out from behind the computer and into full action heroine mode in this thriller. Rapace plays Alice Racine, one of the CIA’s top interrogators. After failing to extract information from, or ‘unlock’, a suspect in time, dozens lost their lives in a terror attack in Paris four years earlier. Since then, Alice has been laying low. She is called back into action by senior MI5 operative Emily Knowles (Collette) and the CIA’s head of European operations Bob Hunter (Malkovich). After a CIA agent is killed in London, Alice is tasked with foiling an act of bioterrorism that will cripple London. Alice finds that her mentor and former handler Eric Lasch (Douglas) is also in danger. A spanner is thrown into the works in the form of Jack Alcott (Bloom), an enigmatic soldier-turned-thief, with whom Alice must cooperate to untangle the conspiracy and prevent the devastating attack.

Unlocked is directed by veteran English filmmaker Michael Apted, who replaced the initially-hired Mikael Håfström. Apted is best known for the ground-breaking Up series of documentary films, as well as the 1999 Bond movie The World is Not Enough. Unlocked is a markedly less flashy, less ludicrous espionage thriller than Pierce Brosnan’s penultimate 007 outing was. That’s not to say it’s very good. Anyone who’s watched a few episodes of 24 will have an idea of what to expect from this competently executed but profoundly generic and somewhat dull action movie.

As if to compensate for doing nothing new, screenwriter Peter O’Brien throws multiple twists at the viewer, but these generate plot holes instead of excitement. Unlocked also falls back on what has now become a cliché – religious extremism as a red herring. We’re supposed to assume that Islamic radicals are the villains, when there are obviously shadowy forces at work merely making it appear that way. A scene in which an Imam explains why he would never incite violence is written and performed well enough, though.

Rather like last year’s Criminal, Unlocked is a run-of-the-mill action thriller which has wrangled a top-shelf cast. Rapace makes for a fine action heroine, even if her back-story (rough childhood, problems with authority, haunted by a past failing) is typical stuff.

There isn’t nearly as much of Bloom in this as the poster implies. While his turn as a roguish rough-and-tumble type sporting scraggly hair, tattoos and an earring has its entertaining moments, it’s clear that Bloom is better suited to playing clean-cut characters.

As expected, not too much is asked of the prolific supporting cast. Malkovich’s Bob Hunter is pragmatic but prickly, and Collette is reprising the Judi Dench-lite performance she gave in xXx: Return of Xander Cage, albeit less exaggerated. Unlocked’s best scene is when Malkovich and Collette are yelling at each other over Skype. Then there’s Douglas in the largely thankless mentor role.

Stunt coordinator and second unit director Greg Powell, who has worked on the Bourne and Harry Potter series and several James Bond films, puts together fight scenes that look fine, but aren’t particularly impactful. Unlocked looks slick and its cast is packed with talent, but it’s clear that nobody’s heart was really in this. Unlocked isn’t a travesty, it’s just the kind of action movie that comes and goes without anyone really noticing.

Summary: A top-flight cast is mostly wasted in an action thriller made with competence but without passion.

RATING: 2.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

xXx: Return of Xander Cage

For F*** Magazine

XXX: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE

Director : D. J. Caruso
Cast : Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Ruby Rose, Kris Wu, Toni Collette, Nina Dobrev, Rory McCann, Tony Jaa, Michael Bisping, Samuel L. Jackson
Genre : Action/Thriller
Run Time : 1h 47min
Opens : 19 January 2017
Rating : PG13 (Some Violence and Coarse Language)

xxx-return-of-xander-cage-posterAny action star worth his salt has got to keep more than one franchise going, so get ready for more Diesel-powered action with this continuation of the xXx series. Extreme sportsman and elite secret agent Xander Cage (Diesel) has long been thought dead, but his services are needed again as a new threat emerges. Xiang (Yen) and his team of highly skilled adrenaline junkie operatives have gotten their hands on a device called Pandora’s Box, which can be used to crash any satellite in orbit. NSA handler Jane Marke (Collette) draws Xander back into the fray. Xander calls on his associates, including sharpshooter Adele Wolff (Rose), stunt driver Tennyson Torch (McCann) and deejay Nicks Zhou (Wu) to back him up. They are assisted by tech expert Becky Clearidge (Dobrev). They must face off against Xiang and his team, comprising Serena (Padukone), Talon (Jaa) and Hawk (Bisping), as Serena questions where her loyalties lie. xxx-return-of-xander-cage-kris-wu-ruby-rose-rory-mccann-and-vin-diesel

The first xXx film was pitched as a hipper, cooler competitor to the Bond franchise. In the same year, the Bond film Die Another Day tried to pull off some extreme sports action. It was not a good look. The premise of devil-may-care thrill-seekers recruited into a spy program is silly, but in the right hands, it can be the fun kind of silly. xXx: Return of Xander Cage is absolutely the fun kind of silly. From the first scene, director D.J. Caruso practically announces that this is a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously at all. What follows is a string of outlandish stunts and set pieces which, while smaller in scale, almost rival those showcased in the recent Fast and Furious flicks. Anything that was considered remotely cool in the 2000s is, by now, painfully awkward, so xXx: Return of Xander Cage boldly embraces the cheesiness and is all the more enjoyable for it.

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F. Scott Frazier’s screenplay bursts with quips and one-liners of varying quality, but at its core lies a generic spy thriller plot: one team of agents has the MacGuffin, and the other must get it back. There’s globe-trotting, car chases and shootouts, as well as shifting alliances and standard-issue plot twists. Then again, nobody’s going to watch this for the plot. There are enough bells and whistles and a spirited embrace of ludicrousness to lift this above the humdrum formula of many a disposable action flick. You will believe a man can ski through a rainforest and that motorcycles can transform into jetskis to ride ocean swells. The visual effects work is surprisingly competent, and the explosive climax doesn’t look conspicuously phony.

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Diesel’s Xander allows the star to indulge his ego as a coolly laconic, an anti-establishment rebel who lives life on the edge. This was never a particularly grounded character and Diesel seems aware of that. This time, he has an eclectic ensemble supporting him.

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Yen is on excellent form here, the film making good use of his skill set. He’s is charming and menacing as Xiang, but the character is not a moustache-twirling villain and surprisingly, there’s some nuance to him. Yen gets to perform more martial arts here than he did in Rogue One, and he plays off Diesel superbly. Jet Li was originally cast in the part, and it is speculated that he dropped out due to health concerns. We think Yen is a better fit for Xiang than Li might’ve been.

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Bollywood starlet Padukone is counting on this film to help her break into the American market. She’s a serviceable femme fatale, but is far from the most memorable actress to play the archetype.

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It’s Rose who steals the show as the smart-alecky sniper Adele. The epitome of cool, Rose seems right in her element whether she’s handling a rifle or hitting on every woman in sight. McCann, best known as Sandor “The Hound” Clegane on Game of Thrones, puts in an amusing turn as the slightly-unhinged Tennyson. Dobrev plays up the ‘adorkable’ shtick for all it’s worth, but borders on grating as the resident tech geek. Out of Xander’s sidekicks, it’s Wu who makes the least impact as Nicks, who serves no apparent purpose on the team. Each character is introduced with a title card listing their special skills, akin to the ones seen in Suicide Squad. Nicks’ just says he’s “fun to be around”.

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As the no-nonsense boss lady, Collette delivers her many dramatic declarations with gusto, and appears to be having fun being a part of a big, silly action movie, since she doesn’t do those too often. Jaa has his hair dyed blonde and styled into a faux-hawk, and his role is largely comedic. If there’s any big missed opportunity here, it’s that Jaa isn’t given more to do, and that he doesn’t have a fight scene in which he either teams up with or faces off against fellow martial arts expert Yen. Jackson’s reprisal of the Augustus Gibbons role amounts to little more than a cameo, but there are a couple more cameos sure to elicit a reaction from the audience.

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xXx: Return of Xander Cage isn’t particularly original or, god forbid, smart, but it’s good at what it does. Erring on the right side of self-aware without plunging into obnoxious self-parody, this threequel announces “this is silly, and that’s perfectly okay”. If this gang is staying together, bring on xXx IV.

Summary: The rip-roaring third entry in the xXx series put a smile on this reviewer’s face. A big, dumb smile.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

Imperium

For F*** Magazine

IMPERIUM

Director : Daniel Ragussis
Cast : Daniel Radcliffe, Toni Collette, Tracy Letts, Sam Trammell, Nestor Carbonell, Pawel Szajda, Chris Sullivan
Genre : Crime/Drama
Run Time : 1h 49min
Opens : 29 September 2016
Rating : M18 (Coarse Language)

imperium-posterDaniel Radcliffe solemnly swears he is up to no good, and that’s putting it very mildly. In this thriller, Radcliffe plays Nate Foster, a promising FBI analyst. His superior agent Angela Zamparo (Collette) gives Nate the assignment of infiltrating a Neo-Nazi white supremacist group, in order to foil an impending terror attack. Agent-in-charge Tom Hernandez (Carbonell) thinks that Nate and Zamparo are barking up the wrong tree, but Nate is determined to prove him wrong. Nate fully immerses himself in the role of a skinhead, with the intention of getting close to radio host Dallas Wolf (Letts), whom Nate believes is plotting something big. While he is initially accepted by Vince (Szajda) and his gang, Nate finds himself drawn to Gerry (Trammell), who appears to be a mild-mannered engineer and family man, worlds away from your typical white supremacist thug. At every turn, Nate is in danger of having his cover blown, as he starts to wonder if the risky endeavour was worth it.

Imperium claims to be inspired by real events – it isn’t based on a specific case, but former FBI agent Michael German, who receives a story credit, did have similar experiences on the job. Writer-director Daniel Ragussis makes his feature debut with this gripping film. Imperium invites audiences to not just stare evil in the face, but to dig beneath its skin and see what makes it tick. The scenarios presented are chillingly plausible, and we gain insight into the different facets of the white supremacist movement. The motivations and rationale of these people are established clearly enough. Some of these scenes are heavy on the exposition, but the film stops short of unspooling a manifesto and making the audience read through it line by line. All of the obstacles one imagines Nate might run up against when going undercover do present themselves, but the momentum of the story means it’s easy to overlook some fairly standard procedural plot developments.

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There are a few lines in the screenplay that are unintentionally funny – “we can’t control the ketchup, but we can control the streets” comes to mind (no, we’re not giving any context for that). However, most of the writing is engagingly clever, and it’s evident that Ragussis has given the premise a good amount of consideration. Nate thinks his way out of some truly daunting binds, and we are presented with characters who are very satisfyingly developed. It might be tempting to portray militant racists as one-note monsters or bumbling buffoons, but that would end up quite boring. It’s scarier when we see them as actual people. We learn that there isn’t just one type of white supremacist, and that there are rivalries of ideology even within that community. Imperium details why some would be drawn to the cause, while also acknowledging its danger.

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That’s not to say that Imperium is a work of unparalleled nuance: Ragussis falls back on familiar shock tactics, including sweet-looking children spouting hateful rhetoric. Flashing images of marching hate groups fill the screen, which comes quite close to hitting the audience over the head.

Many child actors dive headlong into eyebrow-raising, ‘adult’ roles in an effort to shake off any potential type-casting. One could dismiss Radcliffe as doing just that, but his varied post-Harry Potter career on the stage and screen shows that he is putting in the work to cement himself as a serious actor. He gives an Oscar-worthy performance here, creating a fully-rounded character whose harrowing journey is easy to go along with. Nate starts out looking like John Oliver Jr., and then goes full skinhead. Not the most drastic physical transformation, but striking all the same. This is an intelligent character who is able to apply what he’s studied to practical use, and who does his homework – there’s a montage of Nate diligently poring over Mein Kampf, Essays of a Klansmen and books of their ilk. He doesn’t look like he’s cut out for undercover work, but goes on to prove that he has a real knack for it. It’s a generalization, but English actors seem to struggle with American accents – we’ll be darned if Radcliffe doesn’t sound really natural here.

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Collette’s Zamparo is the authoritative maternal figure, and she seems to play the role a little too broadly. However, the interactions between Zamparo and Nate do reveal just enough about their respective characters, with a big part of Nate’s motivation being his eagerness to impress his superior. Letts avoids turning his radio host character into a blustery blowhard, and the character is all the more insidious for it. Trammell’s charming turn is disarming – Gerry is the friendly neighbour who builds a treehouse for his kids and throws barbeque parties; his wife makes cupcakes – albeit cupcakes that are decorated with Swastika frosting. The way Gerry views Nate as a potential successor in the movement and the hospitality he shows to Nate provide nail-biting tension cloaked in suburban normalcy.

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Imperium succeeds as a blistering thriller and a searing voyage down some foreboding paths. It may not be terribly complex, but there is a palpable effort to ask difficult questions, and it will give your skin a workout from all that crawling it’ll be doing. A likeable protagonist trying to keep a grip on his sanity as he plunges into the lion’s den ties it all together.

Summary: Placing the audience on the razor’s edge alongside its protagonist, Imperium is an affecting and deeply engrossing thriller boasting a captivating lead performance by Daniel Radcliffe.

RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

Krampus

For F*** Magazine

KRAMPUS

Director : Michael Dougherty
Cast : Adam Scott, Toni Collette, Allison Tolman, David Koechner, Emjay Anthony, Stefania LaVie Owen, Conchata Ferrell, Krista Stadler
Genre : Horror/Comedy
Run Time : 98 mins
Opens : 3 December 2015
Rating : PG13 (Frightening Scenes)

This Christmas, the weather outside is far from the only thing that’s frightful. Tommy (Scott) and Sarah (Collette) Engel, along with their children Max (Anthony) and Beth (Owen), are gearing up for the annual torture that is their relatives visiting for Christmas. Sarah’s sister Linda (Tolman) arrives with her husband Howard (Koechner), their four children and Aunt Dorothy (Ferrell) in tow. They’re stuck inside with no electricity due to a ferocious blizzard. Tommy’s mother (Stadler) begins acting strangely, as she usually does around Christmas, and soon the family is terrorised by some particularly nasty uninvited guests. It turns out that Max has inadvertently summoned the Christmas demon Krampus, Santa Claus’ evil counterpart, and good cheer is not on the agenda.


            Krampus, the cloaked, horned figure from Germanic folklore who punishes misbehaving children during Christmas, has only recently entered American popular culture. Krampus seems like a natural antagonist for a film of the holiday horror subgenre and we’re getting two this festive season, the other one being a Canadian anthology movie called A Christmas Horror Story. Michael Dougherty, who helmed the acclaimed cult anthology horror film Trick ‘r Treat, wrote and directed Krampus. While he does ensure the film is tonally consistent and doesn’t stray too far into campiness, Krampus is far from the hearty Christmas meal horror fans have been hoping it would be.  

            The Krampus mythology is one that most American audiences wouldn’t be familiar with, and the inclusion of a slightly creepy German grandmother figure hints that the film will dive headlong into the trove of tales surrounding this dark anti-Santa. We do get a haunting animated flashback sequence, but there is very little that makes Krampus and his minions stand out from being run-of-the-mill horror movie monsters. There are some fantastic creature effects furnished by Weta Workshop, but apart from CGI gingerbread men attacking David Koechner with a nail gun, there aren’t any particularly inventive set-pieces to be had. The justification that is given for Krampus selecting this particular family as his target is quite flimsy, and the moral of treasuring one’s relatives in spite of how annoying they might be comes off as half-hearted. The film’s scathing opening sequence is set to Bing Crosby’s It’s Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas and depicts crowds violently jostling each other in a frenzy while Christmas shopping at a mall. It suggests a bitter satirical edge which is not followed up on.

            Scott and Collette play it straight and their steadfastness in refusing to wink and nod at the audience does help the material. Anthony, memorably loveable as Jon Favreau’s on-screen son in Chef, is a convincingly earnest good kid. While none of the performances are terrible, everyone here is a family comedy cliché: we have the harried mother who has to hold the fort when the relatives descend on her home, the teenage daughter who is never more than a minute away from rolling her eyes, the boorish uncle, and the belligerent, alcoholic grandaunt. Austrian actress Krista Stadler does lend the film some texture, keeping “Omi” from being a full-on “creepy grandma” type ala The Visit.



            The first half of Krampus has dysfunctional family members squabbling, the second half has said family members chased through the house by an assortment of Christmas-themed monsters and the ending is vague at best, a howl-worthy cop-out at worst. The Krampus legend has all the makings of a terrific horror flick, showcasing the dark side of a holiday that’s associated with commercialised cheeriness. There are some effective atmospheric touches, such as the incorporation of the already-kinda creepy Carol of the Bells into the soundtrack. At times, the film almost feels like it could be something in the vein of Gremlins, though it lacks the demented energy to reach that level. Unfortunately, Krampus doesn’t make optimal use of the legend and its PG-13 rating does somewhat hamper the scares it can provide.

Summary: There’s talent behind this horror comedy, but the rich, fascinatingly spooky Krampus legend is left largely unmined.

RATING: 2.5out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong 

Miss You Already

For F*** Magazine

MISS YOU ALREADY

Director : Catherine Hardwicke
Cast : Drew Barrymore, Toni Collette, Dominic Cooper, Paddy Considine, Tyson Ritter, Mem Ferda, Jacqueline Bisset, Frances de la Tour
Genre : Drama
Run Time : 113 mins
Opens : 5 November 2015
Rating : NC-16 (Some Sexual Scenes)
The course of true BFF-ship never did run smooth, and in this comedy-drama, Toni Collette and Drew Barrymore play best friends who weather thick and thin together. Milly (Collette) and Jess (Barrymore) have been the closest of pals since childhood, when Jess’ family moved from the US to the UK. Milly marries former rock band roadie Kit (Cooper) and the two go on to have two kids together. Jess settles down with construction engineer Jago (Considine) and the two are trying for a baby. A spanner is thrown in the works when Milly discovers she has breast cancer. As those around her, including Jess, Kit and Milly’s mother Miranda (Bisset) try to help out in any way they can, the time-tested bond between Jess and Milly undergoes considerable strain. Will the besties conquer all?
Miss You Already is adapted for the screen by Morwenna Banks from her own BBC Radio play. The radio play has a spoiler-tastic title, so we shan’t print it here (and don’t go looking for it if you haven’t seen the movie yet). It’s very easy to be cynical about Miss You Already – it’s a story about a cancer patient and her best friend and has drawn inevitable comparisons to the likes of legendary chick flicks Beaches and Steel Magnolias. Now, “chick flick” isn’t an appellation and it’s perfectly fine for a film to be made with the intention of getting its audience to get all misty-eyed. Director Catherine Hardwicke is cognisant of the pre-conceived notions one might go into Miss You Already with and attempts to walk the tightrope between subverting the tropes of the weepie movie subgenre and playing them straight. This is mostly successful. 
There is the great danger of the film coming across as a blatantly hokey “Lifetime movie of the week” affair. At the same time, one wouldn’t want it to be too bleakly mundane. Miss You Already does stick to many of the established traits of comedy-dramas centring on someone battling a terminal illness, but it carries nary a shred of self-importance and as such is easy to get involved in. The recent comedy drama 50/50 took a down-to-earth, gently humorous look at dealing with cancer, and while the situations in Miss You Already are more outlandish, the approach is along those lines. Many of the jokes do land, and the comedy functions as a way of cushioning the blow of the devastation that comes with a condition like breast cancer. It doesn’t feel like the film is forcing us to laugh at something that inherently just isn’t funny, and that’s a point in its favour. 
Miss You Already’s coup is its casting, since if Milly and Jess come across as actual lifelong friends, half the battle is won. Milly and Jess are distinct enough without being polar opposites; it’s a relief that the film doesn’t take the “one’s buttoned-up and the other’s a flighty free spirit!” approach. Collette does most of the dramatic heavy lifting and her performance is as entertaining as it is affecting. We get the sense that this is a woman who loves having fun and does have a real zest for life, so we’re rooting for her in spite of some very questionable decisions she makes. Collette’s comic timing is on point, and both she and Barrymore consciously avoid over-the-top joke delivery styles. Barrymore’s Jess is the more stable and dependable of the two, having to be the unwavering pillar of support throughout Milly’s ordeal and Barrymore is understated and appealing in the role. There’s even a reference to E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, which this reviewer found especially amusing. 
Both Cooper and Considine make for fine significant others to Collette and Barrymore, with Considine in particular turning in what might the movie’s most realistic performance. Each has to “share” his wife with her best friend, but they become friends in the process and it is heart-warming to see them all hanging out together and enjoying each other’s company. Bisset, fabulous as always, is a complete and utter hoot as Milly’s feisty actress mother. 
Miss You Already is by no means a realistic movie – there’s a subplot involving Milly dragging a pregnant Jess along on a spur-of-the-moment road trip to Brontë Country, the setting of their favourite book Wuthering Heights. However, by the time the film closes in on the tear ducts, it has largely earned that and the characters feel sufficiently developed and relatable. Miss You Already’s formulaic aspects are easy to forgive, because director Hardwicke and writer Banks have mostly put them to good use. 
Summary: While partaking in its share of clichés, this story of two friends manages to be funny and moving thanks in no small part to enjoyable, engaging performances from its leads.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Jedd Jong