SXSW 2021 reviews: ‘Language Lessons’ translates universally, and ‘Violet’ silences the voices that haunt us.

LANGUAGE LESSONS

A Spanish teacher and her student develop an unexpected friendship.

Unique, shocking, insightful, complex, beautiful, these are a few words that describe one of the best films from this year’s SXSW virtual festival. Two strangers become connected through chance and a gift of Spanish lessons. Cariño and Adam communicate through zoom, voicemail, genuine human connection. Mark Duplass plays Adam. Unsurprising that he is completely natural and down to earth. You’re instantly enamored with his performance. Natalie Morales is charming and honest. She’s funny and relatable. Their chemistry is the stuff of movie magic.  I would love to see them paired up again and again. They completely work around the entire subject of Covid. This could be happening at any point in time and that’s nice to feel right now. Ultimately, this screenplay is about the human spirit without a filter. Written by Morales and Duplass, and directed by Morales, Language Lessons is profound and revealing. It will touch you in ways you won’t expect.

 

VIOLET

A film development executive realizes that “guiding voice” inside her head has been lying to her about everything.

I don’t know if a film could be any more relatable to everyone. My husband used to point out how negatively I spoke about myself. Once I noticed the self-deprecating behavior, I started noticing my mother doing the same thing. It’s a learned behavior. One we permit to exist. Olivia Munn, who wowed me back in The Newsroom, represents so many of us. This issue is ageless, ingrained, suffocating. Her vulnerability and honesty shine and we’re better for it. Justin Theroux‘s voice acting is the dickheaded tone we all know too well. What a fantastic choice. The internal battle of never feeling like we’re enough is universal. In Violet, the visual juxtaposition of handwritten thoughts, like a right-brain/left-brain battle, and Theroux as “The Voice” is perfection. When you finally catch onto the overall picture, it’s really quite genius. It’s telegraphed without our knowledge early on. Writer-director Justine Bateman nails her feature debut. What a complex and carefully curated script. Women, in particular, are going to be locked into this film.

Review: ‘HAPPILY’ is completely unexpected

 

HAPPILY

A happily married couple (Joel McHale and Kerry Bishé) discover their friends are resentful of their lustful relationship. When a visit from a mysterious stranger leads to a dead body, they begin to question the loyalty of their so-called friends.

As a 40-year-old woman who has always had her relationship categorized as Janet and Tom, this film spoke to me in a completely different way. I felt the animosity that they receive in a visceral way. The dialogue was genuinely funny in an adult way. The kind of dialogue that actually comes out of our mouths at a certain age and comfort level. The things we say when we just don’t GAF anymore, and honestly, I respect the hell out of it. The plot seems simple enough but the thriller aspect ramps up along with the funny. This cast is superb. They’re sexy, blunt, hilarious, weird, and the kind of eclectic personalities you need to pull this off. This set is cool as hell. I want to go to there. You think you know where this script is going but you really don’t. It’s much darker. It’s much twistier. Do. Not. Get. Comfortable. At the heart of it all, HAPPILY is about communication and trust. It’s about the facade of happiness we feel like we have to portray to the world. This interaction of that theme is told through terror and humor and a bit of WTF. Congrats to writer-director BenDavid Grabinski on a true standout film in 2021.

In Theaters, On Digital & On-Demand March 19th, 2021
BenDavid Grabinski’s Happily is a dark romantic comedy from producer Jack Black, with an all-star powerhouse cast including Joel McHaleKerry BishéStephen RootPaul Scheer, Breckin MeyerNatalie ZeaNatalie Morales, Jon Daly, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, and Charlyne Yi.

RED NOSE DAY USA is today! Live on NBC tonight at 8/7c

Red Nose Day, the U.K.’s #1 television fundraising event, is coming to America in a spectacular live star-studded special Thursday, May 21 (8-11 p.m. ET) on NBC.

redNoseDay_marketingBand_learnMore_1080x350Hollywood’s biggest stars, including Julia Roberts, Will Ferrell, Jack Black, Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Jodie Foster and more, are coming together to have fun, raise money and change lives in an incredible “fun-raising” special. Featuring great comedy, videos produced by Funny Or Die, incredible music performances and Hollywood’s favorite stars, the benefit event will help 12 charity organizations lift children and young people out of poverty, in the U.S. and throughout the world.

RND_Tonight_350x467_v1Julianne Moore, Jack Black, Coldplay and Neil Patrick Harris will also appear, along with John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Michelle Rodriguez, Gwyneth Paltrow and music sensations John Legend and “Voice” coaches Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Christina Aguilera and Pharrell Williams. Sienna Miller, Paul Rudd, Olivia Wilde, Eddie Redmayne, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sir Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom, Leslie Mann, January Jones and Simon Cowell will also be joining the fun, as well as Matt Lauer, Carson Daly, Nick Offerman, Elizabeth Banks, Chris Pine, Jeff Goldblum, Billy Eichner, Martin Short, Laura Linney, Anna Kendrick, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, John Michael Higgins, Bill and Melinda Gates, Stephen Merchant, Naomi Campbell, Anna Camp, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Yvette Nicole Brown, Retta, Natalie Morales, Danny Pudi and Rob Huebel.

In addition, the star-studded event for charity will feature “Game of Thrones” cast members Kit Harington, Peter Dinklage, Iwan Rheon, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Emilia Clarke, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Mark Addy, John Bradley, Rose Leslie, Alfie Allen and Charlotte Hope.  “Orange is the New Black” cast Dascha Polanco, Samira Wiley, Yael Stone, Selenis Leyva, Lea DeLaria, Adrienne C. Moore and Jackie Cruz will also be part of the charity special.

Nick CanonDancathonNick Cannon will kick off the festivities for NBC’s broadcast of “Red Nose Day” with “Red Nose Day Danceathon with Nick Cannon,” streaming live on NBC.com beginning Wednesday, May 20. “America’s Got Talent” host Nick Cannon will attempt to dance non-stop for 24 hours in honor of the inaugural Red Nose Day celebration in the United States, leading into the “Red Nose Day” telecast on Thursday, May 21. Streamed live from the NBC Experience Store at Rockefeller Center in New York City, the day of dance will be filled with guest DJs and musicians, celebrity drop-ins, and a variety of dance acts and troupes. Viewers can support Cannon’s endeavor through sponsorship and donation.

DonateThe money raised during Red Nose Day will be used to fund programs that address the immediate needs of children and young people living in poverty in the U.S. and internationally in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The money will be split between domestic and international poverty issues. The pre-selected charity partners are Boys & Girls Clubs of America; charity: water; Children’s Health Fund; Feeding America; Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance; the Global Fund; LIFT; National Council of La Raza; National Urban League; Oxfam America; Save the Children and United Way.

In the U.K., Red Nose Day has been a tradition for 30 years and is an inspiring cultural phenomenon that unites people from all walks of life in the interest of saving and changing lives across the globe. With superstar presenters and comedians, original sketch comedy, hilarious film parodies and amazing musical performances, Red Nose Day has been one of the BBC’s highest-rated Friday night shows for many years and raised more than $1 billion in donations so far for organizations addressing poverty.

Created in 1985 by Oscar nominee and Emmy Award-winning writer-director-producer Richard Curtis (“Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Bridget Jones Diary,” “Notting Hill”), Red Nose Day was built upon the foundation that mass media and celebrities can help raise money and increase awareness of poverty in order to save and change millions of lives.

Curtis is an executive producer for the NBC telecast (a Universal Television production), along with Hamish Hamilton and Ian Stewart of Done + Dusted Productions. Henrietta Conrad and Lily Sobhani will also serve as executive producers, as will Mike Farah, Anna Wenger and Joe Farrell from Funny Or Die. Hamilton is set to direct.