Friends with Benefits: Something occurred to me while watching Friends with Benefits: crafting a romantic-comedy obstacle is rough business. Maybe that's just due to the glut of samey-sounding/feeling romcoms (Friends with Benefits follows the identically premised No Strings Attached, and that wasn't exactly the first movie to explore the idea of non-romantic sex between people who are in fact extremely well-matched, romantically), but it seems like in order to keep characters apart modern romantic comedies either force ridiculous contrivances (he's engaged to someone else! She finds out that it was all just a stupid bet! Or was it?!) or tortured psychological motivation (she's waiting for Prince Charming because her mom never found him! He has problems with commitment because his mother left!) (those are actual supposed motivations for Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake not admitting that they like each other in Friends with Benefits) that seem like characters could just, you know, stop dwelling on.
The Myth of the American Sleepover>: I'm a sucker for one-night-in-the-life movies, probably doubly so for those about teenagers (as so many of them are); it's such a bracing, immediate antidote to those movies that try to cram an entire school year into ninety minutes, an admitted structural pet peeve of mine. I'm also a sucker for the lyrical everyday imagery of Aaron Katz's Dance Party USA and Quiet City. The Myth of the American Sleepover falls somewhere in between Katz's aesthetic and the more pandering mainstream versions of the one-crazy-night formula (say Can't Hardly Wait)—it's chattier than the former, but more grounded than the latter. If you want even more comparisons: it's not as panoramic as Dazed and Confused or hilarious as Superbad.
But David Robert Mitchell's debut film, which follows a bunch of loosely connected teenagers on the last night of summer, does have its own quiet rhythm. Besides the effective young actors, mostly first-timers, enacting convincing awkwardness, what's most striking about Mitchell's work is its non-cloying sweetness. The characters are by turns misguided, careless, or clueless, but not one of them comes across as mean. As far as hormonal teenagers go, most of them have good intentions; some are even suspiciously articulate about their transition from childhood to whatever comes next. The film stops short of outright sap, though, and ends at just the right moment.
Another Earth: I'm also a sucker for indie sci-fi; anything, really, that helps shield the genre from bad Philip K. Dick adaptations and Michael Bay. So this low-budget picture about a second Earth appearing on the horizon has my attention; I hope it does something interesting with it rather than just keeping Earth 2 on in the background, like so many nerds' basements on Sunday nights in the 90s (too labored?).