Tag Archives: Natalie Morales

Come On and Zoom!

Language Lessons

by George Wolf

Yes, Language Lessons is a “Zoom call” movie. But don’t let that keep you from dialing in, or you’ll miss a completely charming two-hander that has plenty to say, with and without subtitles.

Natalie Morales directs from a script she co-wrote with Mark Duplass, one that finds Adam (Duplass) waking up to an unexpected gift: Spanish lessons with an online tutor named Cariño (Morales).

Adam, who’s living a privileged life in Oakland with husband Will (Desean Terry), is already pretty good at Spanish, but revisiting the language reminds him of his days before wealth, which helps to ease his liberal guilt.

Cuban native Cariño came to the U.S. as a child, but now lives a less than privileged life teaching Spanish from her home in Costa Rica.

The duo’s script upends us by dropping a major bomb in the first act, and then settles in to a sweetly touching rumination on the need for cultivating human connections – regardless of the obstacles.

Morales, a veteran actress who only expands on the directing promise she showed with the wonderfully smart teen sex romp Plan B earlier this year, divides the film via classroom appropriate headers ranging from “Immersion” to “Context,” and “Extra Credit” to “Fluency.”

And, of course, these titles also apply to the budding friendship of Adam and Cariño. They laugh, and cry, make assumptions and then push each other away, and the improvisational nature of the two terrific performances is consistently anchored with personality and authenticity. As these two grow to care deeply about each other, it becomes nearly effortless to care about them.

Adam’s sexual identity takes the rom out of this com early, and the film is better for it. The fact that he’s extremely wealthy is all the flirting we need with narrative convenience, leaving Morales and Duplass more room to expand on what the film is really getting at.

Because while we’ve come to associate Zoom meetings with lockdown, the film itself steers clear of it.

And though Language Lessons may have all the markings of a pandemic production, it’s not a “pandemic” film. These two souls are worlds apart due to circumstance rather than quarantine. But they crave to enrich their own lives through sharing them with someone else, and end up giving us a poignant reminder to make more friends and fewer excuses.

Just be sure to take yourself off mute.

The Rubber Meets the Road

Plan B

by George Wolf

Even before theaters shut down, there was no shortage of solid R-rated comedies getting woefully ignored. One of those was the wonderful Booksmart – which put a female friendship at the center of a Superbad-type coming-of-age romp.

Hulu’s Plan B takes the Booksmart model, mixes in some trusty road movie hijinx and even more sexual honesty than Blockers to concoct a teen sex comedy with plenty of smarts and sustained laughs.

South Dakota teens Lupe (Victoria Moroles) and Sunny (Kuhoo Verma) are best friends on slightly different social levels. The confident, outgoing Lupe is, ahem, “dating,” while the reserved Sunny has zero prospects and just pines for her crush to come over for a “Disney Plus and thrust.”

But then Sunny’s Mom goes out of town, so party! After Lupe’s cheery advice to “make good choices!” an impatient Sunny wants to get it over with already, leading to a very awkward bathroom hookup and an unfortunate condom accident.

Trading puke buckets and talking it over the next morning, the girls decide the best thing to do is get Sunny the morning after pill. This turns out to be a lot harder than they expect.

Moroles and Verma are both terrific, each finding distinct ways to give their characters authentic levels of the angst, curiosity, self-doubt and cautious confidence that are perpetually bouncing off teenage walls.

Once the search for Plan B involves a road trip to Rapid City, the script from Joshua Levy and Prathiksha Srinivasan delivers welcome surprises alongside inspired silliness and moments of outright hilarity (like the bit about Footloose and a doll museum).

There are some dry stretches along the way, but director Natalie Morales shows good instincts for when to pivot, and for making sure this teen sex comedy ends up speaking to some mighty serious issues.

So expect Rachel Dratch teaching abstinence by way of driver’s ed, but also young women exploring their sexuality amid an onslaught of mixed messages, double standards and threats to their freedom of choice.

Don’t let the dick jokes fool ya, there’s heart and brains here, too, and a sweet friendship illustrating the importance of unconditional love from your family, as well as the ones that feel like family.

And also dick jokes.