The Little Hours 2017 ****


Aubrey Plaza’s role in Park and Recreation could have set her up in a rut; her dour demeanour and caustic attitude inspired countless memes, but ran the risk of making Plaza something on a one-trick pony. Thankfully her film work has established that she’s anything but. Films like Safety Not Guaranteed and Ingrid Goes West show a diverse range, but her role as producer and star in writer/director Jeff Baene’s The Little Hours suggests there’s more to come. Based on The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio, it’s a medieval comedy which covers some of the same ground as Pasolini’s celebrated film, and has a similarly improvised style. The Little Hours features naughty nuns, randy mutes, and all sorts getting into amorous and sexual escapades in the Italian countryside. Plaza seems to have brought her client book from her Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre days, with comic icons Nick Offerman, Dave Franco, John C Reilly, Molly Shannon and Paul Reiser amongst a very recognisable cast. The results are generally charming and occasionally hilarious; Reilly has a great scene discussing sin, and Fred Armisen has a brilliant cameo as a scolding Bishop.

Hearts Beat Loud 2018 ***

Nick Offerman has plenty to offer as an actor; his character in Parks and Recreation had a layer of officious stiffness that he shrugs off nicely as the cool and funky dad of Sam (Kiersey Clemons), a teenage girl about to go to college. Her dad’s life is music, owning and closing Red Hook’s best record shop and playing the guitar at home. He’s still in mourning for Sam’s mother, killed in a cycling accident. The gentle pace is key here, allowing the music in the film to breathe, as do support turns from Toni Collette, Ted Danson and Blythe Danner. Hearts Beats Loud deals cautiously and lightly with bigger topics, before doubling down on the father-daughter relationship. Creating music that fits the story well is Keegan deWitt, who makes the characters’ enthusiasm for music feel understandable. Hearts Beat Loud has got the simplicity of a good short film, and the music fills the cracks and makes it fly.