Tag Archives: Geraldine Viswanathan

Coen My Way?

Drive-Away Dolls

by Hope Madden and George Wolf

Is the flattery still sincerest if you’re imitating yourself?

Because about 15 minutes into Drive-Away Dolls, the first installment of a lesbian B-movie trilogy from director/co-writer Ethan Coen and co-writer Tricia Cooke (Coen’s longtime producer/editor/wife), you can’t ignore how much this film reminds you of Coen Brothers movies.

And yes, better Coen Brothers movies.

Like The Big Lebowski, Burn After Reading, Barton Fink and A Serious Man, all of which get subtle and not-so-subtle nods in a twisting story of two young women and a mysterious, valuable briefcase.

Jamie (Margaret Qualley) and Marian (Geraldine Viswanathan) are queer best friends in 1999 Philadelphia. Marian is sexually conservative, and the free-spirited Jamie hopes to get her friend some action while they accept a drive-away job down to Tallahassee and hit every lesbian bar they can find.

What the girls don’t know is that the car they’ve been given has two very important items in the trunk, and it isn’t long before “The Chief” (Colman Domingo) and his two hapless henchman (Joey Slotnick, C.J. Wilson) are on their tail heading South.

The cast is indeed impressive (with appearances from Pedro Pascal, Bill Camp, Beanie Feldstein and Matt Damon), but while the film serves up a handful of LOL moments, the vast majority of the nuttiness lands with more desperation than inspiration.

It all feels so forced, except for Viswanathan, whose earnest delivery points out the artifice in Qualley’s. The Foghorn Leghorn-y of pre-millennium lesbians, Jamie’s every line draws attention to its own zaniness. It calls to mind The Ladykillers—and that’s never the Coen movie you want to make people remember.

Much of the ensemble works magic, though. Camp is particularly, dryly memorable. But this script, and the unsteady direction, suffers from high expectations. Drive-Away Dolls is fine. It’s fun enough. It’s nutty. But if Coen and Cooke weren’t awkwardly chasing their own family history, it would have been more satisfying.

In Sickness and in Health

7 Days

by Matt Weiner

We likely have years of pandemic-related movies ahead of us. And while 2022 may seem a bit soon to look back on the early days of Covid-19 (much as this country seems ready to declare mission accomplished no matter what), here’s some good news: You’ll be hard-pressed to watch anything more winsome and heartening than Roshan Sethi’s 7 Days.

A pre-arranged first date in March 2020 between Ravi (Karan Soni, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Sethi) and Rita (Geraldine Viswanathan) goes for much longer than either one was expecting when Covid grinds the country to a halt. Unable to get back out of town right away, Ravi hunkers down with Rita.

As the world outside Rita’s house falls apart, the two opposites—traditional, marriage-minded Ravi and freewheeling, drinking and partying Rita—slowly get to know each other on a deeper level than their disastrous first meet-up.

Sethi’s romantic comedy might be the first to use shelter in place as a meet cute, but the film earns its medical bona fides. This is Sethi’s feature debut, perhaps because he is also a practicing oncologist who wrote on medical dramas while finishing Harvard Medical School.

The film is set not only in quarantine but almost entirely within the confines of Rita’s house—save the occasional video call for Ravi, who keeps to his arranged dating schedule even with Rita sitting just feet away. So it falls entirely on Viswanathan and Soni to make these people we genuinely want to be trapped with, even as their perfectly opposite foibles drive each other mad.

And sure, their relationship follows the usual romcom course. (No spoilers, but you will get an answer to the question of whether opposites attract.) But both leads bring an impressive level of charm and depth to their roles, with a chemistry that feels natural and earned even within the formula.

Ravi and Rita have more in common than they first think—not just their traditional families urging them to settle down, but also the struggle of forging their own identities and paths in life.

Of course, the shadow of Covid looms over all of their conversations, especially the early days when so much was unknown and a cough could be the harbinger of weeks on a ventilator—or worse. The way the film works these concerns into the third act is inevitable but no less affecting.

Nothing about the phrase “Covid romcom” should play out as well as everything does with 7 Days. For that alone, the movie is a surprising gem. But to also get an incisive look at love and dating, thoughtful cultural commentary and genuine laughs is a pandemic miracle.

Show Me Your Junk

The Broken Hearts Gallery

by George Wolf

I have no problem at all with scary movies, I love them. But I gotta be honest, I can’t think of many things more frightening than the prospect of dating in today’s social climate.

So kudos to writer/director Natalie Krinsky for squeezing so much feel-goodiness out of the dating tribulations of twenty-something New Yorkers in The Broken Hearts Gallery.

Lucy (Geraldine Viswanathan), a gallery assistant, is smarting from a painful breakup. Her roommate besties Amanda (Molly Gordon from Booksmart, Good Boys, Life of the Party) and Nadine (Hamilton‘s Phillipa Soo) are helping her cope.

First lesson in letting go: get rid of all that junk you’ve saved as souvenirs from past relationships!

But a chance meeting with Nick (Dacre Montgomery from Stranger Things), a budding hotel owner, spawns an idea. If Lucy will help get the hotel ready for opening day, Nick will give her space to open a gallery showcasing trinkets donated by lovers left behind.

Krinsky, a TV vet helming her first feature, leans on plenty of familiar rom-com tropes, but gives them all just the right amount of unabashed enthusiasm to feel more comfortable than cheesy.

The dance montages are numerous, the dialog less like real conversations and more like people waiting for their next turn to quip, and the ladies’ Big Apple cynicism as biting as a sugar-coated fantasy.

But Viswanathan (Blockers, Bad Education) is bursting with bubbly charm, Montgomery brings a welcome, dialed-down authenticity, and Krinsky is able to mine some contemporary laughs from recycled ideas (the actual Museum of Broken Relationships, When Harry Met Sally-styled interviews with the trinket owners).

The Broken Hearts Gallery is often as awkward and messy as it is breezy and spirited. You know where it’s going and it goes there, pushed buttons blazing.

And for 108 minutes, dating in this world seems like it isn’t that scary at all, and could maybe even be fun. Maybe.

Parentus Interruptus


by George Wolf

Is it me, or is there an encouraging trend building here? In the last few years, mainstream teen comedies such as The Duff, The Edge of Seventeen and Love, Simon have shown more smarts and diversity, with less reliance on the same old same old pandering.

Blockers starts with a cliched teen sex premise – gotta get some before college! – and turns it sideways, managing solid laughs (and some self-aware winks at romance fantasies) in the process.

Julie, Sam, and Kayla (Kathryn Newton, Gideon Adlon, Geraldine Viswanathan) are three Chicago-area high school seniors who vow to all turn in their V-cards on prom night (so they can commemorate the occasion every year at the Olive Garden).

The girls’ respective parents (Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, John Cena) uncover the plans for “sexpact2018” (after a hilarious bit of emoji code-breaking) and set their own quest in motion: less cocking and more blocking.

Veteran writer Kay Cannon (30 Rock, the Pitch Perfect films) makes her directing debut, giving some nicely paced zest to the winning script from Brian Kehoe and Jim Kehoe. Even the film’s most outlandish moments (a “chugging” contest gone way wrong) seem to serve the film’s purpose.

Young adults are capable of making intelligent choices, and young women don’t need saving. Adults can be juvenile in their own self-interest, and some raunchy laughs can be had making all of those points.

Yes, the points come on a bit strong time and again, but the cast (especially Mann) keeps it  lively and relatable. If Blockers means this movie trend is working, keep ’em coming.