Release Date: 1996
Director: Doug Liman
Why I picked this: To see the Jon Favreau/Vince Vaughn duo in its prime
This was an unexpected surprise. After seeing this, I might have to use the adjective “money” in my vocabulary from now on. The directing and editing create this nice image of Los Angeles during the so-called “swing revival,” and the movie is bolstered by the writing and acting from Jon Favreau, who plays the protagonist Mike Peters. Mike is a comedian struggling to find work and is still recovering from ending a six-year relationship with his girlfriend. His wingman is Trent, played by Vince Vaughn, who has had little mainstream exposure before this film. Trent is sort of a likable scumbag; Vaughn has great screen presence and always seems to be the focus whenever he opens his mouth. He is fast talking, loud, and assertive, making for a very memorable character. Mike, on the other hand, is down, and socially inept as he is still emotional recovering. There are some scenes showcasing his awkwardness, which may make you squirm, but they are very well done and surprisingly funny. Ron Livingston plays Rob, Mike’s close friend from New York, who is a struggling actor. He doesn’t have a lot of screen time but he gives a great monologue to Peter about how we should appreciate what we already have in life, a message that can resonate with many. I certainly loved the movie’s use of music and popular songs, smartly used in scenes and transitions. For some reason, one sequence that stood out to me was a very lame performance of “Staying Alive” by two elderly people, playing as Trent and his friend Sue observe two women and while Mike awkwardly interacts with another woman. There are many homages to other films; some scenes gave a “Reservoir Dogs” vibe, and one of the characters’ home has a “Reservoir Dogs” poster. However, these homages become more and more obvious, as the characters explicitly talk about “Reservoir Dogs” and “Goodfellas” in a 360-shot inspired by the opening of “Reservoir Dogs”; the slo-mo sequence from that film is then imitated, as well as an imitation of the opening taking shot from “Goodfellas.” While I liked these references, I think the film could have been more subtle with them. Overall, the film has a good, understated sense of humor, and a good pace.
It’s funny, well-paced, and features two great leads, as well as some nice references to other great movies. It surprisingly features themes that are easily to be emotionally connected to.