Review: Dave Franco’ directorial debut ‘The Rental’ may make you choose a staycation.

Two couples on an oceanside getaway grow suspicious that the host of their seemingly perfect rental house may be spying on them. Before long, what should have been a celebratory weekend trip turns into something far more sinister, as well-kept secrets are exposed and the four old friends come to see each other in a whole new light. Alison Brie, Dan Stevens, Jeremy Allen White, and Sheila Vand star in this unnerving and sophisticated debut thriller from Dave Franco (NEIGHBORS, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK, THE DISASTER ARTIST).

My husband happens to have an Airbnb listing. Dave Franco just made our lives a whole lot more difficult and I’m not even mad about it. With one hell of a cast at his behest, he dives headfirst into the feature-length game with The Rental. The script is juicy and unafraid. Dan Stevens, Alison Brie, Sheila Band, and Jeremy Allen White leave you enmeshed in their emotional baggage. From the very first scene, you feel a subconscious bait and switch in the blocking. As someone who has always had close colleagues of the opposite sex, boundaries are constantly an issue regardless of relationship status. Two couples silently pitted against one another but the dynamics are not what you’d expect. It’s the secrets and lies that drive this plot forward. Add in a more sinister element and you’ve got a storyline that you will not see coming. Alongside Franco in the screenwriting seat in Joe Swanberg, who you can always count on for some true to life complexities. This was a great pairing.

Dan Stevens, whose star has been steadily rising since his departure from Downton Abbey, is strong as ever. We know by now he’s a full-blown Hollywood star. Sheila Vand, who just so happens to be the star of one of my very favorite films of all time, (A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night) is having an excellent year with Snowpiercer the TV series and The Wave. Here, once again, she is a tour de force. She’s an empowered role model while certainly owning her own failures. Alison Brie feels like a quieter presence but in reality, we are her character for more of the film than we realize. Jeremy Allen White might actually be the most sympathetic of the four. The challenge to his past transgressions is huge. These are really only things that struck me in ful as I have been sitting on them since viewing. 

These characters and performances are ridiculously nuanced. You may find yourself not wanting to root for them at one moment but then screaming at the screen the next. It’s confusing and manipulative and I am here for it all. The idyllic setting and isolation add to both the tension and the endgame. Without spoiling anything, it was an incredibly smart choice. Heads up, there is a very brief false ending. You better sit still if you want some real answers. I can safely say I want more from Franco is this is any indication of what he can do. The Rental genuinely through me for a loop in the best way possible. 

IFC Films will release THE RENTAL in select Drive-Ins, Theaters and On Demand on Friday, July 24, 2020.

THE RENTAL is the directorial debut of Dave Franco (Neighbors, If Beale Street Could Talk, The Disaster Artist) from a script co-written by Franco and  Joe Swanberg (“Easy”, Drinking Buddies). The thriller/horror film stars Alison Brie (“GLOW,” Sleeping With Other People), Dan Stevens (“Downton Abbey,” Beauty and the Beast), Jeremy Allen White (“Shameless”, Movie 43) and Sheila Vand (“Snowpiercer,” A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night).

Review: ‘DIGGING FOR FIRE’ ignites the funny and poignant.

Digging For Fire_posterThey say curiosity killed the cat. In the new film DIGGING FOR FIRE, curiosity most definitely killed somebody… but who? Jake Johnson and Rosemarie DeWitt lead an all star cast in this dark new indie from Joe Swanberg. While house-sitting for a client, Lee and Tim find a bone and a gun in the backyard, sparking a mystery that must be solved. Digging for Fire-4Johnson plays gym teacher Tim and husband to Dewitt’s yoga instructor Lee. While the film appears to tackle the mystery aspect at full force, the screenplay veers off onto the topics of marriage, parenting, and losing one’s identity. As Tim and Lee part ways for the weekend, Tim throws an intimate get together at the house, encouraging his guests to participate in his sleuthing. Lee drops their son Jude (played adorably by Swanberg’s real life son) off with her parents to visit with friends and explore some alone time. As their days and nights progress, the two weave in and out of age and stage realizations and reveal subtle personality quirks that are all too relatable. Digging for Fire-8While I wasn’t the biggest fan of Swanberg‘s Happy Christmas last year, Digging for Fire feels more like Drinking Buddies in it’s organic camera work and down to earth quality. Jake Johnson is always funny as hell and this is no exception. His every-man approachability combined with his genuine comic timing is a real win. Rosemarie DeWitt has the same “making the audience feel at ease” way about her. Their chemistry with one another and the entire rest of the cast including, Judith Light, Sam Elliott, Melanie Lynskey, Mike Birbiglia, Jenny Slate, Anna Kendrick, Brie Larson, Orlando Bloom, Ron Livingston, and Sam Rockwell (to name a few) is refreshing and fun to watch. I am really digging, no pun intended, the screenplay pairing of Johnson and Swanberg. This is clearly a great team.

DIGGING FOR FIRE opens in theaters and VOD today

 

Now this looks intriguing… Trailer for THOU WAS MILD & LOVELY

I’m not quite sure how this wasn’t on my radar but I just watched the trailer and I am so in. Check it out below…

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On a farm in rural Kentucky, father Jeremiah (Robert Longstreet) and daughter Sarah (Sophie Traub) squabble together like young puppies. Over crisp, verdant images of nature, of animals, streams and puddles, a mysterious, sensual female voice tells of her lover, who may be a person or may be the whole world. Enter Akin (Joe Swanberg), there to help out for the summer. He’s left his wife and child at home – and taken off his wedding ring as a precaution. Soon the three of them are circling each other, watching, feeling watched and knowing that their watching is not going unwatched. Within this atmosphere, a charged romance develops between Sarah and Akin that carries both an erotic tension and vague feeling of menace. When Akin’s wife Drew comes for a visit, the situation explodes, harmless fantasies giving way to a violent nightmare.

The seductive colors and shallow depth of field of Ashley Connor’s superb camerawork accentuate the ethereal nature of this enigmatic story. Josephine Decker’s second feature lets beauty and horror blithely flirt with one another like two coquettish flowers in the same inviting meadow.

Liz’s Review: Joe Swanberg’s Not So ‘Happy Christmas’

Happy Christmas 1

Drinking Buddies was on my Top 10 list of Films for 2013. It was refreshing to see Olivia Wilde cast against her “usual type”, and thank God for that. She is incredibly talented. Jake Johnson is always funny. The two together, completely believable best friends with an edge. What was awkward in Drinking Buddies is still awkward in Joe Swanberg’s latest improv driven film, Happy Christmas. That something is Anna Kendrick. Read More →

‘Happy Christmas’ In Theaters July 25th – On Demand June 26th

When Jenny (Anna Kendrick), a hard partying 20-something moves in with Kelly (Melanie Lynskey), a budding novelist, her film director husband (Joe Swanberg) and their two-year-old son after a break up, the family’s idyllic life is shaken. Jenny begins a rocky relationship with their baby sitter-cum-pot dealer (Mark Webber), and she and a friend, Carson (Lena Dunham), bring Kelly to the realization that an evolution in her life, career and relationship is necessary for her happiness. A new comedy from the director of Drinking Buddies.

Written and directed by Joe Swanberg
Starring Anna Kendrick, Melanie Lynskey, Mark Webber, Lena Dunham, Joe Swanberg Read More →