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Posts Tagged ‘Hong Chau’

Lucas Jaye, Brian Dennehy

“DRIVEWAYS” My rating: B+ (Now available on Video on Demand platforms)

83 minutes | No MPAA rating

Andrew Ahn’s “Driveways” sneaks up on you.  Instead of wowing us with look-at-me style it quietly seduces us with its substance and deep appreciation for its characters.

That it also features  one of the last screen appearances of the late great Brian Dennehy only makes this gently emotional effort that much more affecting.

Single mom Kathy (Hong Chau) and her eight-year-old son Cody (Lucas Jaye) have driven for several days to settle the estate of Kathy’s sister Alice.  Upon arriving at Alice’s home (the film was shot in upstate New York) they discover  her dwelling crammed floor to ceiling with junk. Unbeknownst to Kathy, Alice was a serious hoarder.

The electricity has been turned off (there’s a back bill of $900). Oh, yeah…there’s also a dead cat decaying in the second-floor bathtub.

Instead of putting the house on the market and getting out of Dodge, the pair are stuck with a Herculean cleanup effort. They end up sleeping on a screened-in porch. Kathy spends every day hauling away the detritus of her sister’s life; Cody slowly gets to know Del (Dennehy), the semi-grumpy widower living next door.

Someone with a short attention span might argue that not all that much happens in Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen’s screenplay.  No, not much. Just life.

“Driveways” is less about plot than about its characters.  Chau’s Kathy is something of a tiger mom when it comes to protecting Cody, who suffers from the double whammy of being both incredibly sensitive (he throws up a lot) and way too smart to connect with other kids (his mother calls him “Professor”).

Which is not to say she’s that tough. After a few days of cleanup Kathy sneaks off to spend an hour or two in a local tavern. She just wants to feel like an adult for one evening.

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Kristen Wiig, Matt Damon

“DOWNSIZING” My rating: C+ 

135 minutes | MPAA rating:

There’s a work of genius lurking inside “Downsizing,” one that struggles to make itself heard and ultimately loses steam and dribbles away.

Bottom line: The first half of Alexander Payne’s sci-fi/fantasy satire/end-of-the-world warning is pretty wonderful. After that, things get iffy.

In the film’s first moments we’re introduced to the concept of “downsizing” — not corporate layoffs but rather the shrinking of human beings to the size of Barbie Dolls.

Downsizing could be the answer to, well, everything.  An ear of corn could feed a dozen people for a week.  Tiny homes require almost no power to heat and cool efficiently.  Moving around is easy — downsized citizens ride in shoebox-sized containers that can fit easily in a bus or airplane’s overhead rack.

Omaha residents Paul and Audrey Safranek (Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig) are initially bemused by this new technology.  But after a decade of hand-to-mouth living they come to the conclusion that downsizing is the key to a prosperous future — especially when it is explained to them that after downsizing their modest savings will translate into millions of dollars.

So they contract to live in a downsized community (a glass dome offers protection from predatory birds). This mini-metropolis takes up only a couple of acres of real-world real estate but, in shrunken form, is the size of greater New York City. Their built-to-order mansion awaits.

The actual process of downsizing is cleverly laid out in Payne and Jim Taylor’s screenplay…and it’s a techno-nerdish wonder. Once sedated, the client’s dental fillings are removed (only organic tissue can be shrunk…a ceramic filling could cause the client’s head to explode).  All body hair is shaved (again, hair follicles are not alive…only the roots).

Once downsized, the comatose clients are moved about on spatulas, like burgers on a short-order grill.

It’s all very amusing, yet weirdly plausible.

Just one problem. Upon awakening Paul learns that Audrey got cold feet at the last minute. She now wants a divorce from her tiny husband and most of  their savings.

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