I have a feeling audiences are going to respond quite favorably to Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett’s “Ready or Not.”
Very clever, darkly funny and tautly constructed, the film not only delivers a fair amount of thrills but manages to be merciless in its approach to the 1%, showing what unconscionable lengths they will go to in order to secure and hang on to their riches. As the divide grows between the very few Haves and the multitudes of Have-Nots, the timing couldn’t be better for this biting satire, which takes no prisoners where the well-heeled are concerned.
It seems as though things are finally starting to look up for Grace (Samara Weaving). Bounced from one foster home to the next when she was young, she’s just married Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien), whose family has amassed a considerable fortune over the years in various ventures, all of them revolving around games.
They are a tight-knit and odd group, led by patriarch Tony (Henry Czerny) and his wife, Becky (Andie McDowell). Their other son, Daniel (Adam Brody), is unhappy despite his privileged lot in life, while his wife, Charity (Elyse Levesque), is quite pleased with the riches at her disposal. Their daughter, Emilie (Melanie Scrofano), hides her pain with an expensive drug habit while her husband, Fitch (Kristian Bruun), wallows in his wife’s wealth.
Seems like a good situation to marry into; however, Grace must first pass a trial by fire before she’s truly taken into the family fold. She must survive a deadly game of hide and seek, hiding in the family’s massive mansion from midnight to dawn while her future in-laws attempt to hunt her down and kill her.
The premise is introduced gradually in Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy’s script, which wisely devotes ample time to character development so we come to see how and why each ticks. The cast takes full advantage, as each of them gets a moment in the spotlight. Of particular note is Scrofano, whose reckless, giddy abandon as the drug-addled Emilie allows her to steal every scene she’s in; if anything, Busick and Murphy would have done well to give her a few more scenes.
However, Weaving is a true find here as the actress takes the film by the horns and runs with it, giving a passionate performance that runs the emotional gamut. Initially giddy and happy, Grace must deal with her initial fear and panic before transforming into a fiery warrior whose unrealized strength and ingenuity come to the fore when she needs it most. Weaving is convincing every step of the way, giving us a heroine we come to not simply like but respect and admire as well.
The movie’s humor may not appeal to everyone, as it is bitterly ironic and as dark as a raven in a coal mine at midnight. However, if you’re open to the witty and acerbic, “Ready” is your cup of tea, as it cuts no slack in its examination of the effects of greed on those who give in to it. The avarice on display is grotesque and the lengths the family in question goes to in order to keep it are equally outrageous.
The film’s climax is extreme, but its execution and humor are in tune with the movie’s tone. It’s likely the most cathartic ending you’ll witness on screen this year, and for that alone, “Ready” is worth seeing.
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Sweet tone buoys “Good Boys” (★★★ out of four). There’s much of what you’d expect in this film and a bit of what you wouldn’t. It’s produced by the same crew that brought us “Superbad” (2007) and concerns three middle-school boys, so you know there will be plenty of raunchy jokes, physical gags and questionable humor.
The screenplay by Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky certainly doesn’t disappoint on that front, but what’s surprising is how genuinely sweet the film is, as it sees the likable trio take their first tentative steps toward adulthood, leaving some childish concerns behind with no shortage of regret.
As with most things concerning ’tweens, the situations our heroes find themselves in are of great urgency. Max (Jacob Tremblay) has a major crush on the angelic Brixlee (Millie Davis) and longs to give her a necklace he made in art class and maybe even tell her he likes her. This is of little concern to his two best buddies, Thor (Brady Noon) and Lucas (Keith L. Williams), as they have major issues of their own to contend with.
The former is being bullied and is afraid of pursuing his passion — musical theater and auditioning for the upcoming production of “Rock of Ages” — lest the abuse gets worse. The latter has the worst of problems, as his parents are getting divorced, something he keeps from his two pals as he doesn’t know how to deal with it.
All of these issues are dealt with in due time, but not before a fair share of diversions, among them replacing a high-end drone belonging to Max’s dad (Will Forte) that was inadvertently destroyed, contending with two teenage girls who want to retrieve some drugs that have come into the trio’s possession and getting to a party thrown by the coolest kid in town where there will probably be kissing ... and Brixlee just may be there!
The three young actors bring a heightened sense of urgency to each of these crises that only a sixth-grader can muster, which makes their anguish all the more hilarious as well as relatable and cute. Eisenberg and Stupnitsky’s script perfectly captures the language and emotion of this, and in the process, you find yourself associating with, as well as chuckling at, their various dilemmas and reactions to them.
To be sure, they fall back on the use of foul language far too often, a cheap way to get a laugh if ever there was one. However, they more than make up for that with some sincerely funny and inventive moments, including an uproarious sequence that finds the trio trashing a fraternity house and the dopes who live there, as well as a scene of massive yet contained destruction as Max tries to navigate the drone around his house to disastrous results.
While the laughs are obvious, the sentiment isn’t, as the poignancy surrounding these three young boys’ experiences sneaks up on you. Each learn that they may not have as much in common as they thought, that they might not be best friends for life and that each are developing different interests that may require them to venture out of their safe zone. They’re growing up and growing apart, and Max, Thor and Lucas realize this once their grand adventure is over, coming to accept it with a sense of maturity that will hopefully grow with them.
On the surface, “Good Boys” is a good-natured, naughty romp of the sort we haven’t had, and have desperately needed, this summer. But it also has a degree of heart and a sense of maturity you wouldn’t expect, much like the likable trio at its center.