Capturing the spirit of "The Graduate", "All Relative" is a nice rom-com for a cold winter night.
If you're reading this site, there is a pretty decent chance that you're willing to give something in the romantic comedy genre a chance. Sorry to stereotype if you're just here for the incredibly powerful first-person essays about love, cheating or tips on making sex tolerable.
But on to rom-coms. The genre is often unfairly maligned due to formulaic plots, unrealistically dumb decision-making and groan-worthy dialogue; but you could say the same for almost any cinematic category.
Look at the universally beloved Love, Actually or the cult hit The Hammer; formula can be overcome with snappy writing, clever direction and editing and, of course, good acting. That's where the All Relative comes in.
JC Khoury, directing his second full-length feature after 2011's The Pill, takes on cougars, modern courtship and, oh yeah, The Graduate. Not to give away something that the title and trailer don't but we follow Harry (Jonathan Sadowski) as he meets Grace (Sara Paxton). Sparks fly but things keep them apart.
Meanwhile, Harry has a fling with a gorgeous older woman named Maren (the incredible Connie Nielsen). Harry and Grace overcome a minor hurdle, catch feelings for each other and head to her family's country home to meet her family and possibly further his career. At the country cottage, we all meet her dad, Phil (David Aaron Baker) and her mom, drum roll, Maren.
Yeah, it's basically The Graduate. While I mourn the very recent death of that film's director, the great Mike Nichols, All Relative is likely more accessible and better suited for our times. It combines elements of the Meet The Parents trilogy and, in some aspects, Wedding Crashers without being too jokey.
It would fall flat on its face if the actors didn't take the material incredibly seriously; including a turn with Harry as marriage counselor. Like an episode of Three's Company, the humor lies in the misunderstandings and the trope of fear of being found out.
Not to film nerd you to death but I'm not sure if it was done in homage to Nichols but some of the hand-held close-ups build on the same claustrophobic uncertainty.
Traditionally, rom-coms are a mix of quickly revolving over-the-shoulder shots and slightly longer lingering composites of all of the actors. The slight handheld feel does a nice job of making the audience feel like a fly on the wall.
I don't mean to imply that All Relative can really compare to a masterpiece The Graduate. Harry is not Dustin Hoffman's Benjamin Braddock (he's much less of a sad sack; the characters in All Relative are more likable in general) and the tale is more of a this-crazy-thing-happened than an indictment on the human condition and general pulse of the late 60s. But it's fun. And it's funny.
The initial release is only in a handful of cities but is, like it's becoming more popular for all indies, available from Video On Demand starting today. At around an hour and a half, this is a good movie to watch in sweats over takeout dinner and a few glasses of wine.