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Ole Miss grad’s film opens at the amp on friday

September 17, 2009


Ole Miss alumnus Tate Taylor has selected Oxford as one of the few screens that will get his film “Pretty Ugly People” during its theatrical opening weekend on Friday. Opening at the Amp this week, the film is a comedy with heart.

Starring Missi Pyle (Visioneers, Big Fish) as Lucy, the film is about a woman who suffers from being the “heavy” friend in college and reunites with her old buddies for a long weekend. After glamorizing her friends for years, she is in for a surprise when she discovers that everyone has their own hangups.

Lucy, having never asked any of them for anything before, needs them “before her time is up.” An ambiguous phone call with her friend Becky leads the friends to reunite because they think she is dying. The crew begrudgingly agrees to a four-day hike in the woods where the reunion is less than perfect.

We’ve seen the reunion stories before, (”Big Chill,” for example) but with a great script and even better cast, the story remains fresh. The idea that weight is just another hang up amongst so many others, looks, sexual identity, race, socioeconomic, gives the comedy a bit more depth. Due to strong direction from Taylor, the film never gets heavy handed even though it takes on some pretty tough subjects.

Since the characters are bitchy and not real happy to support her in the beginning, it doesn’t help that they remain bitchy and not real happy to support her throughout. Why is she surprised by this? Why are these people her friends? Oh because, we all have those college friends, don’t we? The ones that you promise to remain in touch forever but as your lives go down separate paths, it gets harder and harder to remember to reach out. In fact, one of the lines in the film hits the nail on the head about the most obnoxious character, “We all have our George’s, don’t we?”

And that is somewhat to the point of the film. We hold up these ideal moments that were never really that idyllic to begin with as the impossible dream of youth. The time when things were easier, better, happier. But that is what Lucy has to learn. That was never the case. Lucy holds her friends up on a pedestal as these symbols of happiness, but they are just human like the rest of us.
The ensemble cast works beautifully together. Several of them had already worked in Taylor’s earlier short film,  “Chicken Party.” Of course, Missi Pyle as Lucy and Melissa McCarthy as Becky are wonderful. However, Mary (Octavia Spencer) as Ray’s (Phill Lewis) wife, continues to stun me with her talent. She really is one of those naturally funny people that just make you absolutely pay attention when she is on screen.
Then there is Lewis. If you don’t know Phill Lewis, than you don’t have a kid. Because for some of us mom’s who have seen every episode of the Suite Life of Zack and Cody, we know Lewis as Mr. Moseby, the woefully overly stressed hotel concierge. It was refreshing to see him in such a different role as an up and coming political official that struggles with his identity as an African American and what his role is as a representative of all people, and yet, staying true to himself.
Then there is George. Josh Hopkins (”Swing Town,” “Chicken Party”) plays an angry man struggling with who he is outside of his father’s shadow. What can I say about the character George? I know this is strange since he is the meanest character, but I really liked him the most out of the entire cast. He has this moment after their life changing scene with the bus driver that just in Hopkin’s facial expression, shows how much his character has grown over the film. It is a great moment. And it is true about this film, we all have our George’s, and we love them for exactly who they are, even when they haven’t quite learned to do the same.
Although a small role, it’s fun to see William  Sanderson as the bus driver. Any Bob Newhart fans would recognize him as the other brother Daryl, and sci-fi nerds like me would remember him as J.F. Sebastian in Blade Runner. Then there is the scene stealing Allison Janney. A must see if for no other reason than her hysterical bit.
If you haven’t seen Taylor’s work before, check out the film. His next project, “The Help” based on the New York bestselling novel, will be filming in Mississippi next year.

As Published in the Oxford Town by Melanie Addington

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