The Charms and Flaws of Hannah Fidell’s ‘6 Years’

Back in February of 2015, I got a screening invitation for a movie called 6 Years. Though I was intrigued by the poster, I couldn’t make it to the screening. Months later, I noticed it, while doing the random, late night Netflix search and decided to give it a watch.

While the film is definitely flawed, I found it to be mesmerizing and thought provoking. Produced by the ever-wonderful Duplass brothers and written/directed by Hannah Fidell, 6 Years unflinchingly explores all sorts of relationship issues including adultery and physical abuse. However, to me the film at its core is really about the fact that sometimes, as sad as it is, we outgrow relationships. There’s still love, but a time comes when both parties need to move on and that’s more heartbreaking than anything!

If you’re not familiar, 6 Years follows Melanie (Taissa Farmiga) and Dan (Ben Rosenfield), two halves of a young couple that has been together for six years (title!). Dan is about to graduate college and possibly move away for a job. Melanie still has a year left of school. Thus, they’re in a weird phase of their life and drama ensues.

Here’s why you should watch 6 Years on Netflix ASAP:

The Creative Team

The Duplass Brothers, who directed this film are for real responsible for many of our tv/film obsessions. They’ve produced the much lauded HBO comedy Togetherness (I’m still mourning its cancellation!), The Overnight, and the upcoming sure-to-be-amazing Anna Kendrick film, Table 17. They’re great about supporting indie writers/directors like Hannah Fidell, who previously wrote and directed A Teacher, which was another Sundance gem.

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As my mother would say…they’re very Jewish.

The Cast

The strength of this film rests largely on its two young, intensely talented leads: Taissa Farmiga and Ben Rosenfield. Taissa is the younger sister of acclaimed Bates Motel actress, Vera Farmiga, and she certainly got the acting gene. She’s emotional, yet I never felt like a moment was false.

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What if he was just like, um, no?

Similarly, Ben Rosenfield is a revelation in this film.You might know Ben from his stint on Boardwalk Empire or as one of Logan Lerman’s roommates in the recent indie, Indignation. However, 6 Years is his chance to shine and he does. He’s insanely charming and I’m not just saying that because he has great hair, though of course he DOES. 

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Also, can we talk about his hair PLEASE?

Both of their characters do some pretty awful things and yet, Dan and Melanie are still relatable. That’s called acting chops, people!

The Script/Outline

IMHO, this no-real-script thing is usually a detriment and I do think that this may be one of the film’s major downfalls. However, what the film loses in wit, it gains in verisimilitude. Fidell’s script was apparently an outline which included pictures. Similar to Drake Doremus’s Like Crazy, the outline was more of a jumping off point than anything else. Rosenfield and Farmiga knew what was supposed to happen, but they improvised their actual lines. Though according to my dad the film had one too many curse words, 6 Years presents college age kids the way they really talk and thus, makes the characters feel more genuine.

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BURNNNNN.

The Incredible Indie Soundtrack

I’m not gonna lie – the soundtrack for this film is maybe eighty-five percent of why you should watch it. Literally, the moment it was over, I was pulling up the soundtrack’s playlist on Spotify. It’s seriously amazing. Here’s one of my favorite songs from the film:

The Themes

For all its flaws, I loved the film because of the issues it tackles and the way it tackles them. So many times, especially in regards to serious issues like abuse, we tend to vilify someone in a relationship. From the outside, it’s very easy to do that. This person’s abusive – simple answer, leave them! The film makes you feel like you’re in it with them and as despicable as both of them can be, we relate to both of them and can’t put either of them into a box of the “good guy” or “bad guy.” They both make big mistakes, but ultimately their love for each other is real. It’s just not enough to keep them together.

The film is also about decisions in your early twenties. There’s a scene where Dan is telling his mother that he was offered a job at a record label in New York, but that he’s considering not taking it because Mel still has a year left in school. His mother tells him that the decisions you make at this age affect the course of your life and so, you need to think about yourself, be a little selfish. I love Dan’s answer too, “It’s kinda stressful.” I feel ya, Dan. Decisions are always stressful because you don’t know how they will turn out.

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So sweet. 

It’s emotional and thought provoking

When I see a movie, the thing I’m most hoping for is that it gives me something to think about. For a movie that’s only a little over an hour long, 6 Years packs a lot. While I think the film is far from being perfect or even one of my favorite films, it leaves you with something to think about and to me, that’s one of the major purposes of cinema.

It is an emotional one so only watch this if you’re in the mood to feel ALL the feels – including the bad ones! I think it’s worth it just for the performances by Ben and Taissa, who are sure to go on to big things!

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I’m feeling TOO MANY FEELSSSS.

Trailer below:

Photos and Gifs property of Netflix.

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‘Say Anything’ will make you smile no matter what your relationship status

Okay, so Valentine’s Day is upon us and even though I’m a happily single gal, I’ll take any excuse to talk about my favorite romances. And Say Anything is one of my all-time favorites! I love showing this film to anyone who hasn’t seen it, because, *spoiler alert*, it’s impossible not to love.

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SETTING UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS SINCE 1989

If you’re unfamiliar, Say Anything, written and directed by Cameron Crowe, follows Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack), a high school graduate atypically comfortable with the uncertainty of his own future. He doesn’t know what he wants to be necessarily and he’s okay with that. On the other hand, valedictorian Diane Court (Ione Skye) thinks she knows exactly what she wants. Everyone tells Lloyd that he could never make it with Diane, but he believes. He asks her out and they fall deeply for each other. Opposites really do attract. But, as with all teen romances, there are complications. DRAAAAMA ENSUES.

Here are a few reasons why you’ll fall deeply in love with Say Anything:

The Cast

I know I always say this, but the cast in this film is incredible. John Cusack had spent the 80’s playing teenagers, so it’s no surprise that by the time this film came along, Cusack wasn’t exactly ecstatic. However, once he read Crowe’s script, he was in…and what a difference his presence makes. He IS Lloyd Dobler. His charm carries the film.

“He [Lloyd Dobler] isn’t a tunnel-versioned urban teen preoccupied with sex, school, and his job. I realized I would never be 20 again so I might as well cap off that phase of my career on a positive note. I’m glad I took the part.” – John Cusack

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And he can sort of play the guitar…<3

Ione Skye is equally important, but unlike Cusack, she was fairly new to acting at the time. This may be a weird thing to point out, but I appreciated that Skye was not perfect. She was obviously gorgeous, but she had a kind of lisp and I don’t know, she just seemed like a real person. She was genuine and natural and you could understand why Lloyd liked her.

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Girl, I FEEL YOU.

Lili Taylor is also fantastic as Lloyd’s friend, Corey. You might know her from Six Feet Under or American Crime or something else entirely. She’s a big character actress. But, to me, she will always be this character. Her saga with Joe is relatable AF.

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YAS QUEEN.

Paul Mahoney cannot be undervalued either. Another great character actor, his portrayal of James Court, Diane’s father, is layered. In a lot of ways, he’s a bad guy. But, you can’t quite hate him. He loves Diane and in his mind, all the immoral things he’s done, have been for her.

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Just trying to be a good dad…

Bonus: Joan Cusack is wonderful AS ALWAYS. She plays the sister to Lloyd, quite a stretch for her. Ha.

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Her hair is so 80’s.

The Script

Cameron Crowe had written the script for another teen movie eight years earlier: Fast Times at Ridgemont High which Clueless‘ Amy Heckerling directed. Though both scripts are well written, tonally they are very different. Strangely, I feel sort of disconnected from that film. I didn’t see myself in it. Say Anything felt more true to my high school experiences. The characters weren’t stereotypes. They were people.

Diane is ambitious and kind. She thinks the world of her father and ultimately, finds that he doesn’t live up to that. We all get to that point, some earlier than others, where we’re forced to see our parents as people. Her father is far from perfect, but he does love her and that’s worth something.

Lloyd is happy within himself. Once he falls in love with Diane, he finds his post-high school purpose. As a society, we tend to judge people who get into serious relationships too early. We say, they’re too young to know what they really want. And perhaps that’s true. Maybe Diane and Lloyd’s love affair doesn’t last, but this is a movie and I want a happy ending, damnit!

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So sweet!

Crowe based the film on his own heartbreak and it shows. The romance as well as its complications feels genuine. Diane and Lloyd fall hard for one another and it’s sweet and awkward and heartbreaking.

Also, the pen thing. Epic.”I gave her my heart and she gave me a pen.”

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I mean, EPIC, amiright?

The Direction

Believe it or not, Lawrence Kasdan was originally going to direct the film. Prolific producer James L. Brooks had met Crowe when he was researching Broadcast News and hired him to write a script about a girl who finds out her father is a criminal. Once the script was complete, Kasdan told Crowe, “You are that main character. You should direct it” (Interview, Cameron Crowe).

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This relationship always makes me smile.

This was Crowe’s directorial debut and he’s been very candid about the fact that he was learning on the job. I think the first film a director makes is always fascinating because it’s the most pure. They’re really trying, they’re excited. They don’t know what the “right” way to do something is. This was certainly true with Reality Bites and Ben Stiller as well as with Time after Time and Nicholas Meyer.

The Music

Crowe started as music reporter for Rolling Stone, so I think it’s safe to say, the music he chose was important. Beyond the seminal boom box scene which blasted Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes”, the soundtrack for the film also had hits by Depeche Mode, Cheap Trick and Nancy Wilson. The 80’s, man. You’ve gotta love it.

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Honestly, aren’t we all?

The Romance

Again, just, YES. The romance is everything. I have a running joke. I’ve never been on a plane and I keep telling my friends, I’m just waiting for my Lloyd Dobler. When they actually understand the reference (which happens maybe 50 percent of the time), I make them laugh.

But, back to the romance. Just look at these gifs and feel ALL THE FEELS.

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The first time you talk to your crush…the awkwardness!
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PICTURE FUCKING PERFECTION.
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This is her “I’m so messed up” look
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I always watched this scene and was like, “Maybe he should shower first.” Just a thought!
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You just described every great success story. ❤ ❤ ❤

It’s a seminal, heartfelt, old-school, yet modern romance!

Seminal is the key word. If you haven’t seen it, you need to ASAP. Your life will just be better for it. Plus, if you’re single on Valentine’s Day, IMHO, this is a good way to spend your time because it gives us all hope that there is a Lloyd Dobler out there for each and every one of us, or a Diane Court!

Plus, the Peter Gabriel song is just really good.

Vintage trailer below:

Photos and Gifs property of 20th Century Fox Films.

 

 

You should watch ‘Harold and Maude’: an unconventional romance

Every time I try to explain the concept of Harold and Maude to people, I’m met with skepticism and sometimes, a bit of revulsion. To be fair, it’s not a film which sounds like it should work. When it was originally released in the 70’s, Variety said of the film, “[it] has all the fun and gaiety of a burning orphanage.”

I know, with Valentine’s Day and all that this month, people will be turning to romance. Well, couples will be turning to romance. Single people will be eating a family-size pack of Doritos and wondering where it all went wrong, which is why I think, no matter what your relationship status, Harold and Maude will lift your spirits.

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She kinda looks like little red riding hood.

If you’re unfamiliar, Harold and Maude, made in 1971, follows a young rich teenage boy, Harold (Bud Cort). Though he’s wealthy, he has nothing in common with the Gossip Girl crowd. He’s obsessed with death and has great fun creating upsetting suicide scenes for his mother (Vivian Pickles) to find, though she is unimpressed most of the time. Harold also has another pastime: attending funerals. There, he meets Maude, (Ruth Gordon), a kooky, young at heart seventy-nine year old. Harold is set up on a series of dates by his mother, but he’s disinterested in all of them. Harold’s friendship with Maude grows into love, much to the dismay of literally everyone around them. Drama/BIG LAUGHS ensue obvi…

Here are just a few reasons Harold and Maude should be required viewing this Valentine’s Day:

The Cast

This movie is almost half about the casting. If it had the wrong people in it, the film just wouldn’t work. The part of Harold was written for another young actor/musician, John Rubinstein, a character actor who still guests on shows like Grey’s Anatomy and This is Us. However, Hal Ashby, the film’s director liked Bud Cort, who had recently had a bit part in Robert Altman’s war comedy, M*A*S*H. He was 23 at the time he made Harold and Maude and was already a fantastic actor. His facial expressions ARE EVERYTHING.

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Subtle. Also, am I the only one who thinks he is WAY TOO PALE?

Ruth Gordon was a bit younger than her character was supposed to be, in her mid-60’s during the shoot. She had, just a few years earlier, won an Academy Award for her role in Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby. She gives life to Maude and makes you understand why Harold is charmed by her. Gordon was a writer early in her career. She actually co-wrote one of Judy Holliday‘s comedies: The Marrying Kind. Her performance as Maude is equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking.

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Maude created #YOLO

Vivien Pickles is also fantastic as Harold’s mother. To me, her shining scene is when she’s filling out Harold’s dating profile.

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Good parenting.

Charles Tyner also has a good turn as Harold’s army uncle, who’s missing an arm. You might recognize Tyner from Cool Hand Luke where he played the sadistic prison guard.

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LOL the Nixon photo…

The Script

Colin Higgins had originally developed the project for his UCLA thesis film. However, after showing the script to his landlady, Mildred Lewis, who was the wife of a Hollywood producer, they formed a production company and began to shop it around to different studios. The script is obviously most often categorized as a dark comedy, which, of course, it is. But, it’s also a drama and a romance and it’s surprising how effective the dramatic moments end up being.

For the time, the way this story is told was so completely original. Since then, I feel like other writers have tried to replicate Higgins style and wit to the point where a current filmgoer might see the film and call it cliched. Higgins was first. The ending will break your heart and uplift you simultaneously.

Higgins went on to direct 9 to 5 and Foul Play and unfortunately died of AIDS in 1988.

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#RealTalk

The Direction

Paramount exec Peter Bart had faith in the story and in Colin, although he didn’t believe Higgins was ready to direct. Bart had seen The Landlord and appreciated the way its director had made the sensitive material funny with satire. Thus, Hal Ashby was brought on to direct Harold and Maude with Higgins blessing. It’s difficult to separate how much was Ashby and how much was Higgins. However, Ashby brought a distinct style to the film. He went on to direct Shampoo, The Last Detail, and Being There.

“In shooting Harold and Maude, Ruth Gordon recalled in her autobiography, Ashby ‘followed the Gertrude Stein theory: chronology has nothing to do with anything. We shot where and when and what Hal said to. Hal is his own man. Do you care about sequence? Not me. We don’t think in sequence, we rarely talk in sequence, we don’t rehearse a play in sequence, so why shoot a script that way?'” – Ruth Gordon, (TCM Article).

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❤ ❤ ❤

The Music

Elton John was originally supposed to provide a score for the film. However, after dropping out, he suggested Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens’ music provides an atmosphere and a perspective from which to see the story from.

Give a listen:

Harold’s Deaths

Basically, they’re hilarious and horrible and these gifs say it all:

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SO MUCH BLOOD.
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Quite normal…or at least, Harold’s mother thinks it is.
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This is when Harold’s mother is filling out his dating profile.
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Dating can be dangerous…lol

The Romance

Some people can’t watch this film without being grossed out. The idea of a teenage boy and an elderly woman falling in love is societally inappropriate. What I think is most fascinating is that their love affair, although consummated offscreen, is more an emotional love affair than a sexual one. Similarly to my favorite film, Brief Encounter, the romance in Harold and Maude is about their souls, about a connection that is more than just sexual attraction.

Harold doesn’t connect with any girls his age. He finds something in Maude; she understands him and she pushes him to live his life. There’s something truly beautiful about that. To those who are still grossed out, well, all I can say, is, at least the film challenged you, made you look at life from a different point of view. I say love is love. Also, there are plenty of May-December romances with an older man and a younger woman and it seems to be more accepted.

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It’s an existential, hilarious, completely unconventional rom-com.

After the film was panned and subsequently, flopped, something amazing happened. College students fell in love with the film. Colin Higgins had a theory on why they related to it when the older generation did not: “We’re all Harold, and we all want to be Maude. We’re all repressed and trying to be free, to be ourselves, to be vitally interested in living, to be everything we want” (Higgins, TCM Article).

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This SONG and MOMENT are EVERYTHING.

Vintage trailer is below:

Gifs and photos property of Paramount Pictures.