Tag Archives: Josh Ruben

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.

Like a Good Neighbor

Werewolves Within

by Hope Madden

I have seen a lot of horror movies. A lot. You have no idea. Do you know what I have never seen before? A horror movie that opens with a quote from Fred Rogers.

Well done, Werewolves Within.

Mr. Rogers is a hero of sorts for Finn (Sam Richardson), new park ranger for a very small, isolated, snowy mountain town. The townsfolk are divided on a deal to run a pipeline through their little hamlet. But they will have to work together despite their differences when it appears that a werewolf has begun to prey on their town.

Because if left and right cannot work together in the face of a common oppressor, the oppressor will win. It doesn’t matter what that is: fascists, greedy capitalists, werewolves. Still, it can be tough to get the two sides to come together, even for their own good, so Finn channels his hero and does what he can to inspire the townspeople to look out for each other. He just wants them to become good neighbors.

It is adorable.

Horror has its share of nice guys, but these are almost invariably tragic victims, either the first to go because they don’t have the inner meanness to overcome villainy, or eventual victims because the movie is so much more emotionally relevant if they sacrifice themselves. The nice guy is almost never a horror film’s hero, and this is where Werewolves Within really does depart from standard fare.

Director Josh Ruben—fresh off Scare Me, a clever horror-comedy he wrote, directed and starred in—delivers a forgiving, even sweet tone. There’s cynicism here, and characters are not drawn with a lot of dimension, but the performances are fun and the comedy is good-natured.

Richardson makes an ideal Rogers-esque central figure, his new hometown populated by a talented comedy ensemble: Michaela Watkins, Michael Chernus, Wayne Duvall, Harvey Guillen (TV’s What We Do In the Shadows), and fan-favorite, Milana Vayntrub. (You know, Lily from the AT&T ads.)

Werewolves Within is loosely based on the video game of the same name, which may be why the plot feels so very slight. Still, writer Mishna Wolff displays a flair for whodunnit fun that elevates the film high above 90% of the video game movies that have been made.

A lot of that success lies in Wolff and Ruben’s investment in the nice guy.

Fred Rogers once said: “When I was a boy and I would see a scary thing in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers.’”

Finn would have made him proud.