A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (2006)
I had never even heard of A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints until I rented Charlie Countryman (2013) at the Redbox. When you rent Charlie Countryman, you get A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints as a bonus movie. They give you a two-for-one, a double sided disc for the price of one movie. It’s a Shia LaBeouf double feature. They are both indie films. This was all the more intriguing to me, so I watched each movie the other night. You can guess what one of my next reviews will be.
A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints was based on the book with the same title. Surprisingly enough, the man who wrote the book, Dito Montiel, also directed the movie. The movie is a film adaptation of Dito Montiel’s life growing up in Astoria, New York in the 1980s. The story is a look into a messed up childhood in a rough part of the city. It follows the struggles of inner city teenagers, Dito (Shia LaBeouf plays young Dito, and Robert Downey Jr. plays grown up Dito) and his friends as they are becoming adults. The circle of friends are pitted against drugs, violence, sex, love, hate, loss, and hardship. All the while, Dito wants to escape New York and try to make a better life for himself somewhere else.
The rest of the noteworthy cast includes Channing Tatum, Chazz Palminteri, Dianne Wiest, Rosario Dawson, Melonie Diaz, Martin Compston, Scott Michael Campbell, Anthony DeSando, Adam Scarimbolo, Peter Anthony Tambakis, Laila Liliana Garro, and Eric Roberts.
I’m surprised that this movie got past me 8 years ago, because the cast is excellent. I should have been aware of this film earlier. It’s another low-budget independent film that slipped through the cracks.
A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints was hard to watch, at times, but it was also hard to stop watching. The film was an excellent depiction of how rundown certain areas of the country can be and how it affects the people living there. It’s indeed unfortunate, but it’s in-your-face honesty. Some people won’t be able to handle the honesty of this movie. The trashy characters, obscene language and other vulgarity, along with the sex, nudity, and mindless violence, among other things, will be too much for some.
But, you have to take the sweet from the sour. There is indeed a silver lining in this story. The headlining actors in this film are exceptional. The movie makes you feel like you are in the slums with the characters experiencing it all. The actors portray a remarkable friendship and camaraderie that helps you come back to the reality that people often try to be good even if they are bad.
The story is rigid and rocky, but the writing and acting make it all worthwhile. Here is an unknown gem for those who are willing to give it a chance.
I rate this movie an 8 on a scale of 1-10.
Buy, rent, or run? Buy.
If you liked A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, you might also enjoy the following movies:
Stuck in Love (2012)
Occasionally a love story that is not a “chick flick”, but looks like one, will fall through the cracks. Stuck in Love looked like one of those stories. The movie falls through the cracks because people assume it is a “chick flick” and they dismiss it immediately. I almost did the same thing because I’m not a fan of “chick flicks.” I’m not a fan of
“chick flicks” because well, I’m not a chick.
“Chick flicks” are so prevalent in the movie world these days that they are like a cancer that has spread. They are everywhere and their whole existence is killing the industry that they thrive on.
Stuck in Love is a dysfunctional drama about a semi-popular author (Greg Kinnear) who finds himself unable to get over his ex-wife (Jennifer Connelly), even after being divorced for more than 2 years. His son and daughter, who are also writers, are having their own struggles with love.
The film was written and directed by Josh Boone and the rest of the noteworthy cast includes Lily Collins, Kristen Bell, Logan Lerman, Nat Wolff, Liana Liberato, Stephen King, and Patrick Schwarzenegger.
I have always enjoyed movies about writers, because I have always wanted to be a writer.
The movie is only slightly formulaic and just a little bit predictable. It is not like “chick flicks” that are completely predictable because they always follow the same formula.
The film is rated-R for language, drug use, sexual situations, and adult drama. The movie is as much a teen drama as it is an adult drama.
There is a lot of language in the film, but that has become reality. You would like to think that people don’t always talk that way, but that is how it really is. We are a society that has become de-sensitized and the absence of language in the movie would have made it less realistic and less practical.
I was a little surprised when watching this movie because I thought it was going to be more about the parents in the story, rather than the kids. When, in fact, the film was just as much about the adults as it was about the kids.
The young actors in the movie did a better job than I anticipated. However,
the presence of Kinnear and Connelly help to make Stuck in Love a quirky, heart warming drama worth watching.
Once again, my dysfunctional childhood was probably the reason why I was drawn to this movie. Maybe it is just because I can relate to the craziness that is going on in the movie and that is why I like it. Growing up as the youngest in a big family, it’s hard to avoid the drama. Maybe that is why the movie seems more real to me, because dysfunction is more honest than perfection. Madness is more entertaining than predictability.
I rate this move a 7.5 on a scale of 1-10.
Buy, rent, or run? Rent.
The Way, Way Back (2013)
Steve Carell and Sam Rockwell both have the ability to be really funny and that is why I thought that The Way, Way Back could be hilarious. If both of those guys are in the same movie together than it is bound to make you laugh right?
The movie is about Duncan, a timid 14-year-old boy (Liam James) who is dragged along on a summer vacation with his mother (Toni Collette), her jerk of a boyfriend (Steve Carell), and her boyfriend’s daughter (Zoe Levin). In order to escape the awkwardness, Duncan ventures off on his own to a nearby water park where he befriends Owen (Sam Rockwell) the manager, and gets a summer job.
The film did not have a very promising start, and I was worried that it was not going to get any better. It was a stale dysfunctional drama until Sam Rockwell made his appearance and saved the day, and the movie. Rockwell turned the film into a “dramedy” and made it worth watching. The film literally went from awful to entertaining as if Rockwell had just flipped a switch.
Unfortunately, Carell’s character was not funny at all. Carell is usually pretty excellent when he is in a comedic role, but when his character is all drama, he is hardly likable.
The movie was a good story of how uncomfortable life can be sometimes with a divorced parent who is dating again. Maybe being a child of divorced parents myself, I related to the movie a little bit more than others might. When you are a kid who is stuck dealing with a boyfriend or girlfriend of one of your parents whom you just don’t like or get along with, it is nice to be able to escape with your friends for support. I was fortunate enough to be able to do that many times during my childhood. That is what this movie is about and that is what this movie does a good job depicting.
It’s not the funniest movie in the world and it’s not the greatest, but it is a touching story that should make you laugh.
I rate this movie a 7 on a scale of 1-10.
Buy, rent, or run? Rent.
If you liked The Way, Way Back, then you will most likely enjoy:
The Big Wedding (2013)
I come from a very dysfunctional family, but I am sure that we all do in one way or another. So maybe that is why I am drawn to dysfunctional movies.
The Big Wedding is about a couple that must pretend to be married even though they have been divorced for a very long time. Their adopted son is getting married and the family is reuniting for the wedding, but his birth mother is unaware that his adopted parents were ever separated.
The film was directed by Justin Zackham and the noteworthy cast includes Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Susan Surandon, Topher Grace, Katherine Heigl, Amanda Seyfried, Ben Barnes, Robin Williams, Christine Ebersole, David Rasche, Patricia Rae, and Ana Ayora.
The movie is inappropriate from the very first scene and delightfully dysfunctional throughout.
The film revolves more around the families of the groom and bride rather than the groom and bride themselves. That is what the movie actually has going for it because instead of being a sappy love story, it is more about the harsh reality of the lives of the family attending the wedding.
It’s very amusing to see acting legends De Niro, Keaton, Surandon, and Williams all in the same film together and all as awesome as ever.
There are tons of laughs to be had in this film. From the awkwardness of a divorced couple acting like they are married to the funny insults back and forth between siblings and the jokes that get lost in translation with the adopted kid’s foreign birth family.
The humor is raunchy and there is a lot of language.
I laughed harder than I thought I would. The Big Wedding was a pleasant surprise. It was hilarious, witty, messed up, heartfelt, and dysfunctional. It was just like family should be, or at least how my family is.
The film appears like it could be a chick flick, but don’t be fooled. It was just a pure comedy.
I rate this movie an 8 on a scale of 1-10.
Buy, rent, or run? Buy.
If you liked The Big Wedding, then you will most likely enjoy: