Movies I’ve Recently Seen: The Big Sick, The Little Hours, and Tom Jones

Here’s another three movies I’ve seen recently.

The Big Sick (2017), California Theater (Berkeley)

This romantic comedy/drama is like no other I’ve seen. For one thing, it’s based on a true story, written by the couple it happened to, and stars half of that real-life couple. Also, the plot is entirely unique. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Boy’s traditional parents want to arrange a marriage with someone from the old country. Girl breaks up with boy. Girl gets extremely sick and must be put into an induced coma. Boy visits comatose girl daily, and becomes close to her parents. Also, boy is a standup comedian, so most of the jokes are realistically motivated. Touching, funny, warm, and loving.

The Little Hours (2017), Shattuck

When I reviewed The Innocents last year, I noted that the idea of pregnant nuns sounded more like farce than drama (I liked the film anyway). The Little Hours gives us the farce – even if the nuns aren’t pregnant. But they are horny, and nasty in just about every sense of that word. Although set in medieval Europe, the characters talk like 21st-century Americans, with the nuns dropping F-bombs like teenagers. The unexpected vocabulary is only funny for a short time, but writer/director Jeff Baena finds other ways to keep the story interesting and laughs coming. Sexy, sacrilegious, and fun. Based on a section of The Decameron.

Tom Jones (1963), Filmstruck

I first saw the 1963 Best Picture Oscar winner at the UC Theater, probably in the early 1980s. I remember liking it, but not enough to get around to revisiting it until now. It hasn’t held up.

This bawdy adaptation of Henry Fielding’s novel goes all out to be silly. It uses silent film flourishes, such as irises and a prologue with intertitles replacing dialog. A narrator makes comic asides (“It is said that too much drink dulls a man’s desires; but that’s only true in a dull man”). And the actors frequently break the fourth wall by looking directly into the camera. All these tricks work occasionally – sometimes beautifully. But all too often, the gags fall flat. And when it’s not even trying to be funny, it’s pointless.