Want to laugh or cry this holiday weekend? Whatever your mood, here are two solid picks that’ll enlist rewinds and Kleenex grabs from the couch.
“Slow Learners” is an indie comedy that follows two nerdy colleagues and friends who are lovably inept and looking for romance. After a couple of failed run-ins with the opposite sex, Jeff (Adam Pally) and Anne (Sarah Burns) resolve to be cooler. And to them, being cool means being “bad.”
“I wanna be one of those girls whose parents don’t want her to come home for Christmas,” Anne said. Jeff wants to look like he steals TVs and sells them for drug money. With these motives, the two embark on an educational couple of months under the tutelage of reality TV, barflies and a Tommy Lee autobiography.
Watching them navigate how to be “attractive” through their naive lenses is adorable and hilarious. They wrestle with pomade, accents and fake tattoos. (Jeff gets one that honors his book club. Anne fakes being a Southern belle.)
Some pros: In the opener, Jeff asks his date why she wants to leave, and she answers honestly. (“You sort of look like you’re smelling something that doesn’t smell good.”) Anne’s seduction outfit that looks like Jeff’s “mom’s financial adviser.” A suitor checks on Anne, who’s taking a second in the bathroom, and she inaccurately tells him she’s pooping.
Actors Pally and Burns are on point. They each commit to not-so-flattering facial expressions, and their execution makes the dry and physical comedy of these roles soar.
There are many laugh-out-loud moments in “Slow Learners,” and its basis is rooted in today’s culture, an underlying disconnection and an idea of unworthiness exactly as we are. It might make you think. It will surely make you laugh. It’s worth a watch.
Available: Amazon Instant, Google Play, iTunes, Netflix
Rating: NR (sexuality, some drug use and language)
“Other People” is a dramedy that follows David (Jesse Plemons), a struggling comedy writer in NYC, who moves back to Sacramento when his Mom Joanne (Molly Shannon) is diagnosed with cancer.
This film follows the year after she’s diagnosed through the lens of a son who is struggling to find his own footing in show business, in love (he’s freshly broken up from a long-term relationship) and with his own family. This is writer/director Chris Kelly’s first feature-length film. His comedy credits include “Saturday Night Live” and “Broad City,” and what an achievement here.
“Other People” chronicles death, ego and family history with realism and grace, as Joanne shaves her head, copes with chemo and the grief of letting go of her outer roles bit by bit. The wonder of this film is in its honesty and its finely woven comedic interludes.
Comedic pros: nonjudgmental run-ins with David’s family who are into ponzi schemes and poorly-timed humor; David and his friend scope Tinder; Joanne experiments with medical marijuana.
Poignant pros: Director Kelly shows through a cracked door, Joanne breaking down in the doctor’s office; the family tries to talk a birthday celebration and Joanne’s deteriorating condition; a deep shout-out to birch trees.
Molly Shannon is luminous and complex and perfect in this role. Her history in comedy makes her an expert pick for the subtleties of laughter through tears. Jesse Plemons as David is lovable as a self-centered, grieving son. He’s relatable and accessible.
“Other People” doesn’t make light of death, but it speaks to the grace that can be experienced during the worst times, and how pain breaks open a space for the light to seep in.
It’s lovely and worth a watch.
Available: Amazon Instant, Google Play, iTunes, Netflix, VUDU
Rating: NR (some language, sexuality and drug use)