Two Comedies from Fox Searchlight
Miss March (August 1/09)
Shockingly second-rate and relentlessly unfunny, Miss March quickly establishes itself as a distinctly bottom-of-the-barrel endeavor that's unlikely to earn much support beyond the teenage-boy set - as the film, written, directed by, and starring Zach Cregger and Trevor Moore, boasts an eye-rollingly puerile sensibility that ultimately pervades its every aspect. This is despite a storyline that could've, in better, more talented hands, been employed to relatively compelling effect, with the movie's emphasis on silliness and irreverence undoubtedly designed to evoke its similarly-themed 1980s brethren. The film follows high-schooler Eugene Bell (Cregger) as he falls into a four-year coma just as he's about to consummate his relationship with longtime girlfriend Cindi (Raquel Alessi), with the remainder of the proceedings detailing the wacky road trip that ensues as Eugene and best friend Tucker (Moore) attempt to track down Cindi (who has, in the years since, become something of a celebrity after posing for Playboy Magazine). Cregger and Moore's hopeless (and undeniable) incompetence is evident virtually from the movie's opening frames, as Miss March suffers from a low-rent visual sensibility that exacerbates the patchy, almost sketch-like nature of the frustratingly inane screenplay (ie it's not surprising to learn that the two men cut their teeth within a comedy troupe). Cregger's bland yet personable turn as the central character is certainly in sharp contrast to Moore's aggressively zany performance, with the actor's incessantly over-the-top work hitting the viewer like nails on a chalkboard and ensuring that the film becomes more and more of a chore to sit through as it progresses. And although there's one sequence that's admittedly laugh-out-loud funny, Miss March is, by and large, an utterly worthless piece of work that presumably marks the beginning and end of Cregger and Moore's cinematic career.
Waitress (August 8/09)
Written and directed by Adrienne Shelly, Waitress stars Keri Russell as Jenna Hunterson - a kind-hearted waitress trapped in an abusive marriage who discovers that she's pregnant and subsequently falls for a local doctor (Nathan Fillion's Jim Pomatter). Shelly has infused Waitress with an appropriately low-key sensibility that proves effective at initially drawing the viewer into the proceedings, as the filmmaker does a superb job of establishing the small-town environs in which the almost uniformly quirky characters reside - with the pleasant, easy-going atmosphere generally compensating for the movie's sporadic deficiencies (ie the difficult-to-swallow nature of Jenna's ongoing decision to stay with Jeremy Sisto's absurdly sinister Earl). Russell's warm, thoroughly ingratiating turn as the central character proves instrumental in cementing Waitress' mild success, and although it's impossible to downplay the effectiveness of the supporting cast (which includes Cheryl Hines and Shelly herself), Fillion offers up an endlessly charismatic performance that, while lamentably limited in screen time, essentially forces the viewer to actively root for the permanent coupling of Jenna and Jim. There reaches a point, however, at which the film starts to run out of steam and indeed feels as though it's spinning its wheels, as the uniformly winning work from the various actors can only carry the proceedings so far (ie Shelly's leisurely modus operandi is ultimately just a little too leisurely). It nevertheless goes without saying that Waitress carves out a place for itself as a likeable endeavor that stands as a fitting farewell for Shelly, with the actress-turned-director's surprising decision to eschew certain conventions of the romantic-comedy genre elevating the movie a slight degree above its similarly-themed brethren.