The first John Cusack film I saw was One Crazy Summer. It was in 1986 at the Hi-Line drive-in at Panorama with another movie which has slipped through the midst of time. I remember enjoying the antics of this newish actor who made a name for himself the year before with Better Off Dead. If life is all about coming full circle then I’ve surely arrived by seeing his latest. Set in the very year in which I first made his acquaintance, this nostalgia trip makes fine use of his amiable charms.
Adam (John Cusack), Lou (Rob Corddry) and Nick (Craig Robinson) are three friends busy with their quickly evaporating lives. Wondering where time went, they decide to re-live the good old days by going to their favoured ski resort of their youth for a weekend of debauchery. Accompanied by Adam’s nephew Jacob (Clark Duke), they begin the day by enjoying a dip in the hot tub. Little do they know it’s a time portal which sees them suddenly arriving in 1986. Stuck in the past and re-connecting lost friendships, they ponder how life may have been different given what they now know.
What can one say about a film with such a classy title? Actually it isn’t that bad despite the expected crude humour and silly premise. If you arrive hoping for a few easy laughs you’ll get them as its good natured digs at the Decade of Greed hides a very solid tale. Examining the value of maintaining friendships and the choices made, its themes blend nicely with the mayhem. Its this strong centre which prevents it from straying too far from its concept, as it services the broad comedy without losing focus.
Although the jokes about the era’s fashion and lifestyle may seem a little lazy, the comedic rhythm keeps events going. There’s a lot of side jokes throughout to keep viewers on their toes and it’s a pleasure seeing Chevy Chase make a cameo as the Hot Tub’s repairman, making one realise how missed his presence from the big screen has been. The rest of the actors seem to have a great time as their fractured adult friendship ironically comes under the microscope of their youth. Free of the complications of their future, the temptation to change their prospects is one also left for us to decide if we’d do the same.
One tries to avoid being too reflective seeing films like these, although its’ difficult not too as I lived through the time. I began senior school back in 1986 and, like the guys in this ridiculous but fun romp, it makes one realise how time has flown from an era which literally feels like yesterday.
Rating out of 10: 7
Even before its release Accidents Happen ruffled a few feathers. The hullabaloo centred on despite featuring a mostly Australian cast and shot in Sydney, the story was set in America with an American in the lead. This really shouldn’t matter as long as the tale is a universal one people can relate with. This is certainly the case in Accidents Happen’s quirky fable as the questions arising from fate’s dab hand can be found in any dark burrow of worldwide suburbia.
Returning home from a night out, the Conway family meet a tragic accident. Its aftermath sees a daughter dead and one of their three sons in a coma. Each is shattered in their own way including Gloria (Geena Davis) and her youngest son Billy (Harrison Gilbertson). Separated from her husband and raging against life, her moods push Billy into forming a friendship with his cationic brother’s friend Doug (Sebastian Gregory). Soon events transpire in forcing the family to come to terms with the past and to take the difficult step in moving on.
The intriguing combination of international casting and an almost mystical quality to the story-telling makes Accidents Happen engaging viewing. Helmed by first time director Andrew Lancaster, its screenplay explores the sheer randomness of accidents and the people who must deal with the consequences. The Conway’s reaction to their terrible calamity shows whilst some have reluctantly accepted the repercussions, Billy and Gloria’s lives have stayed in an emotional holding pattern. Finding release with cynicism and dangerous behaviour their actions do a dis-service to the memory of those departed.
Oddly given the themes, Accidents Happen revels in its very black humour. That such topics are handled in a believable but strangely uplifting manner reveals the care taken in the script. Whatever the angst for those complaining about Geena Davis being in an Australian film, her performance mutes such criticism. She really is quite amazing as a mother shattered by the past and afraid of the future. Equally fine is Gilbertson whose character’s almost fatal denial of reality becomes a catalyst to the family’s salvation.
This is quite a daring film with a remote subject expertly given an accessible sheen. Charmed with some powerfully moving sequences and astute observations on the nature of grief, Accidents Happen gives a unique take on humanity’s ability for resilience.
Rating out of 10: 7