Friday, February 7, 2014

Stream a Kat Coiro/Kate Bosworth mini-fest: AND WHILE WE WERE HERE & LIFE HAPPENS

The name Kat Coiro (the actress/writer/director/ producer is shown at right) is coming up a bit on Netflix these days, what with the recent limited theatrical release of her movie AND WHILE WE WERE HERE and an earlier one, LIFE HAPPENS, both now available to stream. Neither film is spectacular or must-see material, but both have things going on that make them worth a watch. Both also star Kate Bosworth (below, left), a performer TrustMovies usually enjoys watching. Ms Bosworth -- a very pretty, blond actress who may initially seem like this millennium's version of Sandra Dee
-- possesses more pointed, sharper features than the round-faced Ms Dee had in her heyday, while her choice of material (Black Rock, Another Happy Day, Big Sur) has proven rather dark, and sometimes as sharp as her pert features. In these two collaborations between Coiro and Bosworth -- one lighter, the other darker -- we get a chance to see (to some extent) just what both women are capable of.

While the rom-com Life Happens is an ensemble piece, offering a host of good performers doing their thing and mostly making it work, And While We Were Here, is a rom-dram
(tending toward melodram) showcase for Bosworth, who stars as an unhappy wife named Jane, vacation-ing in Naples while her musician husband works a gig there.

Jane herself is working on a book about her grandmother's time in England during WWII, and much of the movie is given over to her listening to tapes on Gran's reminiscences (voiced by Claire Bloom, whom we never, unfortunately, get to see). Out walking one day, Jane asks directions of a young man, and her question leads eventually to a relationship developing.

The husband is played by Iddo Goldberg (above right, with Ms Bosworth), the young man by Jamie Blackley (below). Both are effectively used as foils for Jane, one seeming to imprison her, even as the other offers freedom. The real questions, however, involve identity: Who is Jane and what does she really want?

Ms Coiro and her crack cameraman, Doug Chamberlain, use space and composition quite well, and some of the shots of Naples and its bay and famous castle, in high-definition, are eye-poppingly gorgeous. After watch-ing the film, I felt as if I'd taken a nice vacation to a country I dearly love.

Ms Bosworth is unafraid to make Jane sometimes annoying and petty, and she pulls us into her situation as well as possible, given the so-so screenplay (also by Ms Coiro) that goes from not begin nearly detailed and specific enough in its almost impersonal dialog to occasionally and obviously spelling things out that would be better left unsaid.

Overall, though, the movie works, thanks to the performers, the exquisite location, and the fine visuals throughout.

In Life Happens, Ms Bosworth plays Deena, a bent-on-success writer and best-friend/roommate of Kim (Krysten Ritter, who co-wrote the screenplay with Ms Coiro), a dog-walker and animal lover who longs to open a shopping mall devoted exclusively to pets. The third roommate is a 20-something young woman named Laura (Rachel Bilson), whose main claim to fame is that she is still a virgin. The three -- shown below, with Bosworth at right, Bilson center and Ritter at left -- make a fetching trio.

This is a rom-com, and so into the mix must come some men. Three of them --  Jason Biggs, shown below, left; Justin Kirk, center; and Geoff Stults, right -- do their studly stuff just fine, with Stults' non-pushy sexuality and Kirk's comic quirks a big plus (Biggs' role is barely there).

There are some cute moments -- off an on -- in the film's first half, but as written and acted, these characters, the girls in particular, seem so insistently spunky and cute that the movie is always threatening to curdle on us. Again, it's the screenplay, which offers up girls so dumb regarding everything from condom use to job hunting that our sympathy is soon in short supply. "When one of them finally admits, "We acted like total mental patients!" you will sadly agree.

If you last out the first half, however, the remainder of the movie brightens considerably. Characters begin acting like real people and the adults they are, and you realize that the film might just earn its happy ending. (How Bilson's professional virgin makes her condition pay off is particuarly juicy.)

You can stream both movies off Netflix now, although DVDs and other viewing sources are also available.

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