Tag Archives: Ismenia Mendes

Pitchforks Out


by Rachel Willis

An insurance investigator is pulled into a who-done-it murder mystery in writer/director Travis Burgess’s film, Hayseed.

Bored from the moment he enters the small town of Emmaus, Michigan, investigator Leo Hobbins (Bill Sage) becomes intrigued when Darlene (Ismenia Mendes) tells him the esteemed reverend’s death wasn’t an accident, nor was it suicide (Hobbins’s reason for investigating). It was murder.

From the get-go, we’re introduced to a colorful cast of characters, each with their own stories and ideas about what happened. It’s a small-town, so gossip runs rampant – some of it true, most of it false. Several characters feel like people you know. Others are awfully quirky, but it works for this comedic mystery.

Hobbins might draw comparison to some of the other big-screen detectives we’ve seen over the last several years, but Sage creates his own character – one who is charismatic in his own droll way. Though Darlene is a member of the community, her status is that of an outcast. Several question her relationship to the reverend and her influence on him. Together, our dynamic duo leads us deeper into the mystery surrounding the reverend’s untimely end.

There are several moments when you might feel like you know where the mystery is headed, but it doesn’t harm the film. Many pieces fall into place as we prod further alongside Hobbins. There aren’t any obvious red herrings, nor are any threads untied. This is a tidy package, one wrapped by a writer who knows how to draw you in and lets you attempt the solve the mystery.

While the conclusions might not be entirely obvious, there is enough on the table to leave you satisfied by what comes of the sleuthing.

With a larger cast, some characters are less well-developed than others, but no one feels underdeveloped. These are all people who have a place, and it’s easy to differentiate one from another – no small feat when working with so many characters. While our two leads are the focus of the show, there are others who stand-out, particularly Joyce Metts (Kathryn Morris) with her bitchy gossip and snide comments.

Overall, this is a film that works well. While it might be overlooked in comparison to other, recent murder mysteries, it’s not fair to draw too many comparisons. This is a movie that deserves its own consideration, and you’ll have fun if you let yourself be draw into the mystery.

Why So Serious?

Are You Happy Now

by Rachel Willis

A self-proclaimed anti-romantic comedy, Are You Happy Now brings us a character who epitomizes a disinterest in life.

Well, Adam (Josh Ruben) does have one minor request: he wants to marry his girlfriend, Gina (Ismenia Mendes). But to Gina, marriage is a sham. What is the couple to do?

Despite this setup, writer/director David Beinstein’s movie isn’t really bothered by the conundrum of two people who want different things from a relationship. The main interest is Adam, and we spent most of the running time following him as he meanders through a film that isn’t about much of anything.

Instead, like Adam, Are You Happy Now is disappointingly aimless. Character motivations are unclear. Though it’s reiterated that Adam is driven by fear, it seems apathy is a better descriptor. Life pushes him along, and he rolls with the ups and downs, never mustering much energy to tackle the challenges he faces – not with work, his relationship, or much of anything.

As a metaphor for the pressures of adulthood, it kind of works. Societal expectations can overwhelm anyone, particularly those who live life in a constant state of anxiety. Adam is the perfect representation of anyone struggling to anticipate what comes next.

The film’s at its best when it’s not focused on Adam or Gina, but instead Adam’s co-workers, the brothers Walt (David Ebert) and Drew (Gregory Jones), whose vitriolic banter is hilarious.

Infrequent narration from Gina interrupts at odd moments, and though it does fill in a few narrative gaps, the film would have been better off without her occasional commentary.

Adam is not without his endearing qualities, so he evokes a certain amount of sympathy. His lost puppy expression certainly helps. It’s hard not to want to give him a pat on the head and a kind word or two, as it seems that’s really all he needs to be happy. The rest of life’s details are inconsequential.

That appears to be the message the film wants to get across, but the clunky delivery weakens the message. Like Adam, it’s not without its charms. But it takes more than charm to make a movie work.