Treasures of Cinema That No One Cares About – “Eulogy”

Like last weeks entry into Treasures of Cinema That No Cares About, no one knows about “Eulogy”. Nobody. I know about it, and my college roommates, the cast and crew, and probably that’s about it. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone outside of that select group of people who have any idea of what this movie is. It’s a very different project than “Bunny and the Bull” and people probably don’t know about it for very different reasons. Where as “Bunny and the Bull” is a European movie with nary an actor that most people know about, “Eulogy” has a whole host of people who you’ve probably heard of and it was made in the good ol’ US of A.

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Let’s see – there’s Ray Romano (I’m told Everybody Loves him), Zooey Deschanel (I’m told everyone is starting to get annoyed by her), Hank Azaria (aka Helen Hunts ex and all around great performer), Kelly Preston (John Travolta‘s present), Rip Torn (up there on the Mount Rushmore of crazy with Gary Busey, Nick Nolte, and Mickey RourkeCharlie Sheen‘s about to work his way on the list) , Debra Winger (she was huge [not fat, famous] at one point, not so much anymore), Piper Laurie (you may not know her by name, but she was nominated for 3 Oscars and was also in next week’s movie), Famke Janssen (Gene Jean ‘freaking Gray Grey), and Jesse Bradford (who just so happened to grow up in the same town I did and was one of the little kids in “My Blue Heaven”, amongst other things). I realize that they aren’t blockbuster actors, but you’d have thought that maybe with a cast like that they could have grossed more than 70,000 in the box offices. That’s not 70 million, its 70 thousand. For a showing that bad you’d expect the movie to be terrible. As far as I can tell, it’s not. It may not be your cup of tea, but it’s definitely not terrible. I do think it suffers from not going one way or another. It maybe should have been sweeter/cheerier or darker/edgier. Although, I thought it had a nice blend of both, making movies that I particularly enjoy doesn’t tend to be a good marketing strategy.

(Like fools, I’m not aloud to embed this trailer.  Which is probably better.  Although it does have a lot of good stuff in it – it was put together like sh*t – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=idAN2D2S7zk )

The story is about the death of family patriarch, Edmund Collins (Rip Torn), that causes the family to all come together for his funeral. Family dysfunction ensues. Danny (Azaria) is a former child star known for a signature line, who is now doing background porn work. Kate (Deschanel), Danny’s daughter, acts just like Zooey Deschanel acts in every movie. Skip (Romano with an All-Star mustache), is one of the least articulate lawyers you’ll see on-screen – much to our brief benefit.

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Skip brings along his two twin sons Fred and Ted (Curtis and Keith Garcia). Despite all the B+/A- star power, these two kids (who’ve never been in anything before or since) completely and totally steal the show. They’re mischievous, rude, honest, and destructive in ways that I haven’t really seen often enough out of movie characters. They keep the flick funny and interesting when it might have ceased otherwise. Lucy (Preston) shows up with her lesbian fiancee (Janssen) which the twins think is amazing in a way that only teenage boys can.

Most of the family supports their life choice (or whatever the PC way to describe being lesbians is), except for older sister Alice (Winger). Alice brings along her husband Burt (Mark Harelik) who she’s complained, badgered, intimidated, and pressured into perpetual silence [choices like these made me enjoy it more but probably made others enjoy it less]. Bradford plays Ryan, Kate’s childhood best friend who morphed into an awkward romantic moment that causes her to avoid him as much as possible. There’s a nice combination of smart humor, crass humor, and slapstick. Piper Laurie plays the family matriarch whose carrying a family secret that causes her to try committing suicide….. multiple times (nothing funnier than suicide). Eventually, all the dysfunction explodes into resolution and the secret comes out (not to mention a Brady bunch of other secrets).

I think one issue that may hold this movie back is the same one that definitely hurt Star Wars Episode 1 and is so substantially brought up in the Red Letter Media’s review. There doesn’t seem to be a main character. I guess in some way you’d say it’s Kate. She’s probably the main focus and narrator. But her problems, issues, and solutions kind of suck compared to everyone else’s. She’s just there being nice. Her responses are so automatic they seem too nicely un-human at times – to me at least. Hank Azaria’s and Debra Winger’s characters actually come to some life realizations and changes – but Hank Azaria doesn’t get a love story and Debra Winger’s love story isn’t one of the best aspects of the movie. Not that I don’t agree with her choice. It’s just a little too cliché in a completely un-cliche kind of way. Ray Romano’s character gets a better relationship with his sons, but that’s not really the focus of the movie – it’s more of a bi-product. This isn’t a movie that’s better than the sum of its parts. It’s a bunch of really good parts and that’s it (which isn’t all that bad). In a movie with such an ensemble cast, a main character isn’t necessarily needed (like “Love Actually”). However, in this case, Kate is poorly shoehorned into being the main character but she doesn’t really bind the movie together the way you’d want. There’s just something off about her.

The cinematography (interestingly enough, it was by the same guy who did the cinematography for Quick Change which I said the same thing about – of course he still has two more Oscar nominations than I do) and art direction are nothing spectacular. Some of the acting is a little bit clunky in places(Famke Janssen is the fakest smoker I’ve ever seen – just saying). The editing really works. It’s not superstar but definitely maintained a good flow. The music didn’t make much of an impression, but I don’t think it was meant to. It’s a movie with a pretty funny script and pretty good actors and that’s basically it – but that’s good enough for me. (Actually, after looking it all up, I’d be pretty pissed if I was writer/director Michael Clancy.  He collected up famous and award winning/nominated people throughout his cast and crew and had a pretty good script and it totally flopped.  Sucks dude.)   If you have a dysfunctional family, a lot of the issues are probably familiar if not a little unrealistic (like most every movie). If not (is that even possible?) then this will give you a taste of what you’re missing out on.

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