Sunday, March 26, 2017

AFT Awards: Best Original Score


This is the eleventh category of the 10th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Runners-up:
Arrival, Hell or High Water, Pelé: Birth of a Legend, The Light Between Oceans

The winner:
La La Land (Justin Hurwitz) had a wonderful, memorable melody to it that made its story all the more whimsical, ranging from melancholy to furiously exciting.

Other nominees:
Nocturnal Animals (Abel Korzeniowski)
Moonlight (Nicholas Britell)
OJ: Made in America (Gary Lionelli)
Lion (Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

AFT Awards: Best Film Editing


This is the tenth category of the 10th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Runners-up:
20th Century Women, American Honey, An Eye for Beauty, Elle, Equals, Fences, Game of Aces, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, In a Valley of Violence, Julieta, Lion, Moonlight, Pelé: Birth of a Legend, Snowden, The Birth of a Nation

The winner:
Hell or High Water (Jake Roberts) paced and framed its narrative as a taut thriller, slowly churning and assembling its intriguing and involving story.

Other nominees:
La La Land (Tom Cross)
Manchester by the Sea (Jennifer Lame)
Sully (Blu Murray)
Arrival (Joe Walker)

AFT Awards: Best Costume Design


This is the ninth category of the 10th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Runners-up:
None

The winner:
La La Land (Mary Zophres) outfitted its characters with colorful modern-day outfits that made them feel infinitely more jovial and full of timeless life.

Other nominees:
High-Rise (Odile Dicks-Mireaux)
Jackie (Madeline Fontaine)
Hail, Caesar (Mary Zophres)
Florence Foster Jenkins (Consolata Boyle)

Friday, March 24, 2017

Movie with Abe: Wilson


Wilson
Directed by Craig Johnson
Released March 24, 2017

Some people just have a problem with the way the world works. It’s a frequent joke – not far from the reality in many cases – that those currently among the older generation strive for a return to simpler times before the advent of texting and screens that diminish the desire for good old-fashioned human interaction. Grandparents may prohibit their offspring from using their phones at the table and institutions may bar electronics or selfie sticks from public places, but an effort to combat modernity and whatever advances, good or bad, that it has brought are usually futile, no matter how determined the person trying to reverse the course of history is.

Wilson (Woody Harrelson) is the kind of man who purposely chooses the seat next to the one person sitting on an otherwise empty bus and strikes up a conversation even though that person is wearing headphones and listening to music. Unhappy with just about everything around him, Wilson’s life takes a turn in a new direction when he finds the ex-wife, Pippi (Laura Dern), who left him years earlier and discovers that she did in fact have the baby he thought she gave up. Neither Wilson nor Pippi is a particularly positive role model for their misfit teenage daughter, Claire (Isabella Amara), yet they both find it immensely difficult to let her go after missing out on so many years of her childhood, eager to help her embrace her individuality.

Wilson is an instantly memorable character who couldn’t have been played by a more fitting actor. Harrelson has a way of speaking that often makes his lines inherently funny, and indulging in the absurdity of the impossibly stubborn and eternally inappropriate Wilson yields excellent results. Harrelson is clearly having fun, and he does a great job portraying a man who’s hard to like but easy to root for. Dern, as the completely frenzied and ungrounded Pippi, is a solid match for him, and Amara complements them both nicely with a good deal of personality and disdain for the world. Margo Martindale, Judy Greer, and Cheryl Hines contribute memorably in small roles.

This project feels very much like a Fox Searchlight film, telling the story of one loner whose outlook on life makes him a unique outlier and an equally fascinating protagonist. It’s the latest in an impressive line of independent films produced by the distribution company, adapting a graphic novel character and bringing him to terrific, hilarious life. Some might find Wilson to be too detestable to be entertaining, but it’s not too hard to find Wilson charming in his own unfriendly way and to really enjoy this experience.

B+

Thursday, March 23, 2017

AFT Awards: Best Art Direction


This is the eighth category of the 10th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Runners-up:
A Bigger Splash, Arrival, Doctor Strange, Equals, Hail, Caesar!, Hell or High Water, Star Trek Beyond

The winner:
La La Land (Austin Gong, Sandy Reynolds-Wasco, David Wasco) made an energetic, lively musical come to life with unforgettable, eye-popping colors and vivid, whimsical scenery.

Other nominees:
20th Century Women (Aimee Athnos, Chris Jones, Traci Spadorcia, Neil Wyzanowski)
High-Rise (Heather Greenlees, Nigel Pollock, Paki Smith, Mark Tildesley, Frank Walsh)
American Honey (Kelly McGehee, Lance Mitchell, Graham Wichman)
Moonlight (Mabel Barba, Hannah Beachler, Regina McLarney)

AFT Awards: Best Cinematography


This is the seventh category of the 10th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Runners-up:
20th Century Women, Arrival, Embrace of the Serpent, In a Valley of Violence, Julieta, Moonlight, Sully, The Birth of a Nation, The Light Between Oceans

The winner:
American Honey (Robbie Ryan) made simple moments and backdrops look and feel incredibly poignant, contributing tremendously to the aesthetic of the film and its protagonist’s journey.

Other nominees:
La La Land (Linus Sandgren)
Hell or High Water (Giles Nuttgens)
Pelé: Birth of a Legend (Matthew Libatique)
Lion (Greig Fraser)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

AFT Awards: Best Adapted Screenplay


This is the sixth category of the 10th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Honorable mentions (in alphabetical order):
None

Runners-up:
Lion
Arrival
Deadpool
Hidden Figures
The Family Fang


The winner:
Julieta (Pedro Almodovar) was a layered, involving story with a fantastic central character and supporting players, thoroughly prepared on paper before being brought to life by terrific performers.

Other nominees:
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi and Te Arapa Kahi)
Elle (David Birke)
Fences (August Wilson)
Moonlight (Barry Jenkins)

AFT Awards: Best Original Screenplay


This is the fifth category of the 10th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Honorable mentions (in alphabetical order):
An Eye for Beauty, AWOL, Captain Fantastic, I, Daniel Blake, Maggie's Plan, Pelé: Birth of a Legend, The Hollars, Women Who Kill

Runners-up:
Adult Life Skills
In a Valley of Violence
Sand Storm
American Honey
Little Boxes


The winner:
Manchester by the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan) was a devastating drama that managed to be just as funny as it was poignant, showing the true range of human emotion in unthinkable situations.

Other nominees:
Hell or High Water (Taylor Sheridan)
La La Land (Damien Chazelle)
20th Century Women (Mike Mills)
The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou)

*I suppose I should consider it a badge of honor to have one of my categories match up 5/5 for the first time ever with the Oscar list. Or just good selection on the part of Oscar voters!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

AFT Awards: Best Actress in a Supporting Role


This is the fourth category of the 10th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them and drawn from a pool of approximately 117 films. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Honorable mentions:
Anna Kendrick (The Hollars), Assi Levy (Wedding Doll), Azita Ghanizada (Complete Unknown), Carla Gugino (Wolves), Christine Estabrook (Is That a Gun in Your Pocket?), Christine Taylor (Little Boxes), Dakota Johnson (A Bigger Splash), Elisabeth Moss (High-Rise), Gillian Jacobs (Dean), Giulia Lazzarini (Mia Madre), Greta Gerwig (20th Century Women), Hayley Squires (I, Daniel Blake), Helen Mirren (Eye in the Sky), Janeane Garofalo (Little Boxes), Janelle Monae (Moonlight), Jessica Barden (The Lobster), Julianne Moore (Maggie's Plan), Karen Gillan (In a Valley of Violence), Kathryn Hahn (The Family Fang), Lauren Bowles (Is That a Gun in Your Pocket?), Léa Seydoux (The Lobster), Lucy Boynton (Sing Street), Malin Akerman (The Ticket), Margo Martindale (The Hollars), Marie-Josée Croze (An Eye for Beauty), Maryann Plunkett (The Family Fang), Mili Eshet (Beyond the Mountains and the Hills), Naomi Watts (Demolition), Naomie Harris (Moonlight), Naruna Kaplan de Macedo (Is That You?), Nicole Kidman (Lion), Nicole Kidman (The Family Fang), Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures), Rachael Deering (Adult Life Skills), Rachel Brosnahan (The Fixer), Rachel Weisz (The Light Between Oceans), Rachel Weisz (The Lobster), Rima Te Wiata (Hunt for the Wilderpeople), Sheila Vand (Women Who Kill), Shiree Nadav-Naor (Beyond the Mountains and the Hills), Teresa Palmer (Hacksaw Ridge)

Runners-up:
Janelle Monae (Hidden Figures)
Viola Davis (Fences)
Taissa Farmiga (In a Valley of Violence)
Olivia Colman (The Lobster)
Kerry Bishé (The Ticket)

The winner:
Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea) did a magnificent job of inhabiting a character defined by her connection to others whose circumstances go from one extreme to another in this equally excellent film.

Other nominees:
Elle Fanning (20th Century Women) was completely on point as a young woman with a distinct idea of what she wants and how she doesn’t want to be defined by anyone else’s expectations of her. Rooney Mara (Lion) reserved little recognition for her part in a powerful story, supportive of the main man in her life despite not being able to understand his experience. Riley Keough (American Honey) was a leader to those with no particular aims, lording her power over her minions just because she could. Breeda Wool (AWOL) drove her film’s energy as an alluring enigma who represented everything that a lost young woman could have wanted but never seemed to be quite within reach.

AFT Awards: Best Actor in a Supporting Role


This is the third category of the 10th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them and drawn from a pool of approximately 117 films. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Honorable mentions:
Aaron Paul (Eye in the Sky), Alan Rickman (Eye in the Sky), Alan Tudyk (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), Amir Tessler (A Tale of Love and Darkness), Armani Jackson (Little Boxes), Barkhad Abdi (Eye in the Sky), Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), Ben Wishaw (The Lobster), Billy Crudup (20th Century Women), Daniel Grao (Julieta), Dario Grandinetti (Julieta), Ethan Hawke (Maggie's Plan), George MacKay (Captain Fantastic), Gil Birmingham (Hell or High Water), Gilad Kahana (A Tale of Love and Darkness), Hitham Omari (Sand Storm), Hugh Grant (Florence Foster Jenkins), James Purefoy (High-Rise), James Ransone (In a Valley of Violence), Jason Butler Harner (The Family Fang), Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water), Jeremy Irons (High-Rise), Jerome Holder (Dough), John C. Reilly (The Lobster), John Travolta (In a Valley of Violence), John Turturro (Mia Madre), Laurent Lafitte (Elle), Lucas Jade Zumann (20th Century Women), Luke Evans (High-Rise), Matthias Schoenaerts (A Bigger Splash), Michael Chernus (Complete Unknown), Mykelti Williamson (Fences), Nanni Moretti (Mia Madre), Oliver Platt (The Ticket), Ozzy Meyers (Adult Life Skills), Ralph Fiennes (A Bigger Splash), Richard Jenkins (The Hollars), Russell Hornsby (Fences), Sharlto Copley (The Hollars), Shia LaBeouf (American Honey), Stephen Henderson (Fences), Tomer Kapon (A Week and a Day), Werner Daehn (Game of Aces)

Runners-up:
Timothy Spall (Denial)
Sam Neill (Hunt for the Wilderpeople)
Brett Goldstein (Adult Life Skills)
Christopher Walken (The Family Fang)
Taylor John Smith (Wolves)

The winner:
Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea) broke through with a very real, refreshing, and entertaining performance as a teenager going through a morning period with an unusual role model and allowing his experience to be shaped by his culture.

Other nominees:
Dev Patel (Lion) convincingly and emotionally demonstrated what it feels like to be relatively happy and well-off yet be reminded every day of a missing piece of your life. Ben Foster (Hell or High Water) had complete control over a character whose impulse in any given situation was to allow himself to be swayed by anger, aggression, excitement, and unpredictably. Andre Holland (Moonlight) and Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) contributed tremendously to a story about one incredible protagonist, adding depth to the two most influential men in their lives.

Monday, March 20, 2017

AFT Awards: Best Actress in a Leading Role


This is the second category of the 10th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them and drawn from a pool of approximately 117 films. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Honorable mentions:
Alice Braga (Aquarius), Alicia Vikander (The Light Between Oceans), Andrea Anders (Is That a Gun in Your Pocket?), Caitlin FitzGerald (Always Shine), Greta Gerwig (Maggie's Plan), Ingrid Jungermann (Women Who Kill), Isabelle Huppert (Things to Come), Kristen Stewart (Equals), Lily Rabe (Miss Stevens), Lola Kirke (AWOL), Mackenzie Davis (Always Shine), Margherita Buy (Me Myself and Her), Margherita Buy (Mia Madre), Melanie Lynskey (Little Boxes), Mélanie Thierry (An Eye for Beauty), Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins), Moran Rosenblatt (Wedding Doll), Natalie Portman (A Tale of Love and Darkness), Natalie Portman (Jackie), Nelly Tagar (Past Life), Rachel Weisz (Complete Unknown), Rachel Weisz (Denial), Ruth Negga (Loving), Sabrina Ferilli (Me Myself and Her), Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures), Tilda Swinton (A Bigger Splash), Victoria Summer (Game of Aces)

Runners-up:
Isabelle Huppert (Elle)
Amy Adams (Arrival)
Annette Bening (20th Century Women)
Lamis Ammar (Sand Storm)
Ruba Blal-Asfor (Sand Storm)

The winner:
Emma Stone (La La Land) was charming, sincere, and believable as an actress trying to make it in the business and encountering an epic love story with sweet song and dance.

Other nominees:
Emma Suarez (Julieta) and Adriana Ugarte (Julieta) were two parts of one incredible whole, a film-defining character with deep complexity and two unifying portrayals. Sasha Lane (American Honey) expressed an incredible lust for adventure and excitement as a young woman with her whole life ahead of her. Jodie Whittaker (Adult Life Skills) delivered a refreshingly honest and humorously endearing performance as a grieving sister unable to motivate herself to truly achieve anything.

AFT Awards: Best Actor in a Leading Role


This is the first category of the 10th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them and drawn from a pool of approximately 117 films. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Honorable mentions:
Alex Hibbert (Moonlight), Alon Aboutboul (Is That You?), Alon Pdut (Beyond the Mountains and the Hills), Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge), Ashton Sanders (Moonlight), Barkhad Abdirahman (A Stray), Chris Klein (Game of Aces), Colin Farrell (The Lobster), Dan Stevens (The Ticket), Dave Johns (I, Daniel Blake), Dominic Rains (The Fixer), Éric Bruneau (An Eye for Beauty), Ethan Hawke (In a Valley of Violence), Ferdia Walsh-Peelo (Sing Street), Gael Garcia Bernal (Neruda), Jake Gyllenhaal (Demolition), Jason Bateman (The Family Fang), John Krasinski (The Hollars), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Snowden), Jude Law (Genius), Kevin Spacey (Elvis and Nixon), Mads Mikkelsen (Men and Chicken), Mathieu Amalric (My Golden Days), Michael Fassbender (The Light Between Oceans), Michael Shannon (Complete Unknown), Michael Shannon (Elvis and Nixon), Nate Parker (The Birth of a Nation), Neel Sethi (The Jungle Book), Nelsan Ellis (Little Boxes), Nicholas Hoult (Equals), Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool), Tom Hiddleston (High-Rise), Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight), Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic), Vincent London (The Measure of a Man)

Runners-up:
Ryan Gosling (La La Land)
Julian Dennison (Hunt for the Wilderpeople)
Michael Shannon (Wolves)
Jonathan Pryce (Dough)
Demetri Martin (Dean)

The winner:
Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea) delivered an incredible, emotionally raw turn as a man unable to even imagine what his life used to be like after devastating loss.

Other nominees:
Chris Pine (Hell or High Water) received little praise for his nuanced starring role as a conflicted criminal dealing with a highly unpredictable partner. Tom Hanks (Sully) delivered classic reliability as a pilot impossibly cool under pressure and determined to prove the correctness of his actions. Sunny Pawar (Lion) was a wonderfully endearing part of a soaring story, with just the right amount of boundless energy and youthful determination for the part. Denzel Washington (Fences) directed himself in a tour de force performance as a father intent on making his mark as a patriarch.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Movie with Abe: Song to Song

Song to Song
Directed by Terrence Malick
Released March 17, 2017

Terrence Malick is the definition of an eclectic filmmaker. He made his first movie in 1973 and now releases only his eighth narrative feature nearly forty-five years later. He hit Oscar success twice – with “The Thin Red Line” and “The Tree of Life” – but those films are also known for their very distinctive styles that can be easily attributed to him. He even stipulates when making a movie that his image or likeness cannot be used, making him a true enigma, telling stories in a way that is equally fascinating and frustrating, and his latest release very much fits that description.

It’s not easy to summarize this film because it, like all his others, is so much less about plot than about aesthetics. The most accurate picture of the film is a purposefully disjointed exploration of romance and affection as it pertains to a number of intersecting individuals. Their names include Faye, Cook, and Amanda, but as a way of explaining the film, this reviewer couldn’t have identified a single one of their names immediately after watching it because the conversation is so pointed and directed at emotion rather than who the characters are – and as a result they could well be anyone.

The talent amassed in this film is impressive, and it’s worth noting that this film was made five years ago, before some of its players had earned their most recent Oscar nominations. It’s fair to say that all were on an excellent career track then and remain so now, with Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, and Michael Fassbender enjoying higher profiles since 2012 and Natalie Portman and Cate Blanchett remaining at the same already elevated level. These performances can’t really be compared to most of their other work, but it would be accurate to say that all adapt well to this unique universe Malick creates in his movies and assume the parts more than adequately.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that this film’s original cut was over eight hours long, and it feels like that even though the film actually clocks in at two hours and nine minutes. Artsy cinematography and extended sequences that show close-up points of view and portray characters framed in a sexually alluring angle or light can be found incessantly throughout the film and, as usual, that overpowers any semblance of linear storytelling. There is beauty and poignancy to be found here, but it’s wrapped up in such dense and unhurried filmmaking that it’s hard to be completely entranced and moved.

B-

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Movie with Abe: Deidra and Laney Rob a Train


Deidra and Laney Rob a Train
Directed by Sydney Freeland
Released March 17, 2017

Movies that describe actions are often isolated to one specific event that transforms characters. In this case, it’s not just one verb or one character, but two protagonists performing an action. For them, it’s not a one-time thing, but rather a decision to start something that turns into a repeated process, something that does in fact change them and sets their life on a different course. This creative comedy presents a fun look at one solution to survival that two young sisters come up with which leads to unexpected developments presented through an enjoyable and entertaining ride.

After a meltdown involving the destruction of property outside the electronics store where she works, Marigold (Danielle Nicolet) is arrested, leaving her three children to fend for themselves at home. Deidra (Ashleigh Murray), the class valedictorian, already acts as a mother figure of sorts for her younger sister Laney (Rachel Crow), who struggles with popularity, and brother Jet (Lance Gray). With no help from their deadbeat father Chet (David Sullivan), Deidra hatches a plan to start robbing trains to sell goods to pay their mother’s bail and keep current on their bills, which attracts the attention of a relentless railroad cop (Tim Blake Nelson).

There is a sweet simplicity to the illegal behavior that Deidra and Laney begin to engage in, which begins with determining what trains run when and bringing along the proper tools to cut through the locks that guard each car. Their school attendance isn’t as consistent once they begin their extracurricular activities, but that doesn’t stop Deidra from being her guidance counselor’s great hope for success and Laney from doing her best to fit in to the beauty pageant in which she’s advanced, earning the contempt of her former best friend who had her eyes set on winning the contest. These sisters are just trying to make ends meet in a particularly bizarre situation that demands a bit of ingenuity and unlawful behavior on their part.

Murray and Crow are both superb as the determined sisters, delivering mature and endearing performances. Nicolet is a standout of the supporting cast as their animated, expressive mother, and both Sullivan and Nelson have fun with exaggerated roles. The film’s script is fun and its styling appealing, and there’s actually a good deal of drama to be found here, best represented in two particularly evocative scenes that summarize the film’s story and themes. I was sad to miss this film when it premiered at Sundance and I’m very happy to now recommend it to anyone with a Netflix subscription to check out when it makes its streaming debut on March 17th.

B+

Friday, March 3, 2017

Movie with Abe: Table 19


Table 19
Directed by Jeffrey Blitz
Released March 3, 2017

Almost everyone has experienced the feeling of showing up to a friend or family member’s wedding only to find themselves seated at what my parents endearingly refer to as a the “punishment table.” There are plenty of friends or other people in the same category at other tables nearby or closer to the action, yet for some reason, they’ve been deemed guilty of some unknown offense and relegated to the worst seats in the house with a handful of other allegedly random tablemates. The meaner way to put it is to refer to those people as those who should have known to RSVP no, and fortunately this concept proves a great premise for an entertaining comedy about the unexpected benefits of ending up at that table.

Eloise McGarry (Anna Kendrick) wouldn’t ordinarily be described as a misfit. In fact, she was supposed to be the maid of honor at her friend Francie’s wedding. When she got dumped by Francie’s brother Teddy (Wyatt Russell), she recused herself, making way for Nikki (Amanda Crew) to take her place. When she shows up to the wedding, she finds herself seated close to the bathroom with a strange assortment of attendees: bickering diner owners (Lisa Kudrow and Craig Robinson), an overeager teenager (Tony Revolori), a recently-released convict (Stephen Merchant), and the bride’s old nanny (June Squibb). As they realize just how little they mean to the happy couple, they develop a special bond that only outcasts can share.

Movies about weddings are usually fun, and while this one focuses a lot less on the bride (and barely at all on the groom) as compared with many others, it’s nice to see this atypical spotlight on those who don’t fit in and are forced to band together because they literally have no one else to talk to. This comedy does take the time to get to know each of its characters, allowing them a bit of backstory at the start and then giving them the chance to grow as a result of their experiences at this festive celebration. Eloise may be the main character, but this is really an ensemble effort both in terms of actors and characters.

Kendrick is a wonderful actress who has played roles like this before, and this part allows for her to really embrace the humorous nature of her situation. Those seated at her table are all terrific, with Kudrow and Robinson having fun together, Merchant playing weird just right, Squibb delivering a reliably formidable turn, and Revolori following up well on his memorable performance in “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” Russell contributes as well in an unexpectedly layered role, and while this film is prone to seemingly aimless and unadventurous drama, it pivots towards an affirming and endearing ending that makes attending feel much more worthwhile.

B