Movie of the Week: Zack and Miri Make A Porno

For almost all of last year, my girlfriend Shiran and I had a tradition of sharing movies with each other every week, trying to fill the gaps in each others’ film experience and share movies that we like. We introduced each other to the likes of Star Wars, Enchanted, Jurassic Park, Big Sleep, Hot Rod, Attack the Block, Terminator, Alien, Stranger Than Fiction, Manchurian Candidate, Clueless, and Hellboy, among many others. While we lost our rhythm late last year during the holiday rush, we finally picked up the tradition this past Thursday, almost exactly a year after it first started. To renew our tradition, decided to show Shiran Zack and Miri Make A Porno as a nice easing-in movie, a Kevin Smith film that also has a lot of crossover with the comedy worlds that she’s more familiar with. Our recaps after the jump:

I was a huge Kevin Smith fan in college, a good part of which was due to my enjoyment of Smodcast, but which started with marathoning his movies in the summer before I started at school. While I’ve since come to accept the shortcomings of several of his movies, there are still some truly great and distinctive films in that filmography. Zack and Miri really isn’t one of those, but it’s still a comfortably assured and enjoyable movie, that maybe would’ve gotten more respect if Smith hadn’t been the one making it. It’s also interesting to see Apatow regulars like Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks in a Kevin Smith movie, if only because it highlights the similarities between Smith’s career and some of Apatow’s work… something I figured Shiran would appreciate.

As always, Smith does a great job mixing the sweet and sincere with the graphic and gross. One thing that really struck me watching it again was the scene where Zack and Miri actually make love; it really captured the intimacy and emotion in the moment, and both Rogen and Banks were very raw in their portrayals. Also despite Smith’s reputation of not knowing how to shoot anything, he and his frequent cinematographer Dave Klein did a great job here (the quick fantasy shot of Elizabeth Banks licking a beer bottle is gorgeous, if ridiculous). Some of the porn gags come off as goofier than I remember, and some of the vulgarity seems a little bit forced for the sake of shock value, but plenty of it still works. Overall the film just has a nice, relaxed energy and pace, especially early on; It allows you to get comfortable with the characters and enjoy the (admittedly basic) story. While it’s certainly not Smith’s best work, I still find it very likable and easy to watch, which sometimes is all I need.And here’s Shiran’s Reaction:

I don’t think Zack and Miri Make a Porno is a perfect movie, or even a particularly edgy one. At its core it’s a fairly standard romantic comedy, and even its many layers of raunch does nothing to conceal that. But what I did find refreshing about the movie was how the two main characters treat the prospect of having sex for the first time (in front of audience, no less) as far less uncomfortable than the prospect of true intimacy between them. There’s a scene relatively early on where Zack and Miri decide that they already know way too much about each other, so why would having sex be any different? But when it later comes to acknowledging that they love each other, they’re near tears. Sex is simple anatomy, but opening yourself up to intimacy and vulnerability is terrifying, especially when the person you’re laying yourself bare for already knows all of your weaknesses. I’m a sucker for any movie that treats sexuality as frankly as this movie does, but this time I was more charmed by Smith’s ability to organically explore the bedrock of friendship that has to form under any lasting love affair.

So there it is, the first Movie of the Week of 2014! Next week is Shiran’s turn, and I can’t wait to see what she’ll show me. Tune in next weekend and find out for yourselves.

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