Screen Savor: Waiting, Being and Meddling

Written by Gregg Shapiro

Dark, moody and mysterious, L’Atessa/The Wait (Oscilliscope), plays like a modern horror story, but the shock is of a more subtle nature. Jeanne (Lou de Laâge) arrives at the home of her Italian boyfriend Giuseppe at a time when the household, including his mother Anna (Juliette Binoche), are deep in a period of bereavement. However, it’s not made clear for whom they are mourning.

Meanwhile, Jeanne, who argued with Giuseppe before her arrival, can’t figure out why he’s not returning the messages she’s leaving on his mobile. The messages, which range from seductive to apologetic to frustration and anger, are being listened to by Anna who has Giuseppe’s phone with the cracked screen.

Come to find out the screen isn’t the only thing cracked. Anna is well-aware that Giuseppe is dead, and so is the audience, for that matter. She’s simply unable to break the news to Jeanne. As the women become better acquainted and Anna warms to her dead son’s girlfriend, people come and go from the house, including best friends Giorgio (Domenico Diele) and gay Paolo (Antonio Folletto).

In a matter of just a few days, Jeanne evolves from being a timid and overly polite girl to a woman before Anna’s eyes. But Anna, so torn apart by grief, keeps the mind games going, including telling Jeanne a hateful lie about Giuseppe. Visually captivating, but slow, The Wait is almost pulled under by its own weightiness.

If you miss the Rob Reiner of old, the one who directed classic comedies such as This Is Spinal Tap, The Princess Bride and When Harry Met Sally…, as well as acclaimed dramas such as A Few Good Men, Misery, Ghosts of Mississippi and Stand By Me, you won’t find him in Being Charlie (Defiant). Basically a glorified advert for sobriety and recovery, Being Charlie can’t seem to make up its mind about what kind of movie it wants to be and ends up a confusing muddle. If you don’t do hard drugs, you might want to start after watching it.

On his 18th birthday, Charlie (Nick Robinson) is also marking six months of sobriety. Both anniversaries are observed at a “recovery ranch” in Utah. But Charlie has other plans, beginning with leaving the facility before his time is up, but not before he shatters a stained glass window on the premises first.

After hitching a ride in the direction of L.A., Charlie calls home and leaves his mother a message to the effect that “things will be different this time.” Of course they won’t, as we see when Charlie steals Oxy from the people who offered him the ride. Dumped by the roadside, Charlie calls drug buddy Adam (Devon Bostick) who picks him up in Barstow.

Contrary to his plan to stay at home after Adam drops him off, Charlie discovers that his parents, former actor turned gubernatorial candidate David (an almost ageless Cary Elwes) and Liseanne (Susan Misner) have staged yet another intervention. Charlie refuses, but Adam intervenes getting Charlie to agree to check into another facility for 30 days. This is where Being Charlie basically becomes an extended recovery program advert. There’s a group session led by Drake (Ricardo Chavira), talk of someone’s relapse and departure, and the acceptance and commitment mantra. To be fair, Charlie does let Drake have it, slamming the program.

Ultimately, it’s fellow addict Eva (Morgan Saylor) who convinces Charlie to stick around. Soon, Charlie has 60 days of sobriety. Moving to a less restrictive outpatient facility, run by Travis (Common), as part of his recovery, Charlie is nevertheless still a rule breaker, seeing Eva on the sly. Obsessed with vintage comedians and stand-up comedy, Charlie performs at the facility’s talent show; an act that will eventually backfire on him when a video of it hits the internet.

After Charlie and Eva’s clandestine visit to his parents’ beach house while on a weekend pass, it doesn’t take long for everything to unravel. Eva makes a hasty exit from the recovery facility, Charlie starts using again, Adam ODs and David’s political future hangs in the balance. It’s almost as if the story of Charlie’s recovery isn’t an interesting enough subject to sustain the movie. All of these other distractions are layered on so as not to lose anyone’s attention. Additionally, some of the homophobic dialogue is made all the more shocking because of Reiner’s well-known liberal-leaning politics and support of the community. That’s too bad, because like the main character, Being Charlie definitely had potential.

So far, 2016 has been a good year for femmes d’une certaine age, with decent movies starring Sally Field and Helen Mirren, among others. Susan Sarandon (of questionable politics fame) can add her name to the list with writer/director Lorene Scafaria’s The Meddler (Sony Pictures Classics/Stage 6). Not a perfect movie, it nevertheless gives Sarandon, and co-stars Rose Byrne (as daughter Lori) and J.K. Simmons (as possible love interest Zipper), the chance to shine.

Marnie (Sarandon), a bored but well-provided for widow, has moved to L.A. to be closer to screenwriter daughter Lori (Byrne). Neither woman has fully processed the loss of Joe, husband and father, respectively, although Lori is seeing therapist Diane (Amy Landecker). Marnie appears to think that all she and Lori needs is constant communication – by phone, by text and in person. Lori disagrees.

Marnie doesn’t limit her meddling to Lori. She also offers unsolicited advice to Apple Store employee Freddy (Jerrod Carmichael, who also plays twin brother Fredo), retired police officer Zipper (who has taken a strong liking to Marnie), Lori’s ex, action movie star Jacob (Jason Ritter) and Lori’s lesbian friend Jillian (Cecily Strong).

Comedic situations aplenty arise, along with some that also tug heavily on the heartstrings. Sarandon is fabulous as Brooklyn transplant Marnie, and despite the movie’s flaws, is the main reason to see The Meddler.