Originally Published On Salty Popcorn
The film is based loosely on a 14th Century Italian collection of novellas titled The Decameron, but, if Wikipedia is to be trusted, adaptation feels like the wrong word. ‘A comedic take on the classic book’ sounds far more accurate. We follow the stories of a group of nuns living out their lives in a convent in the countryside. Except these aren’t your typical nuns. And this isn’t your typical movie. Alessandra (Alison Brie) is alone and unable to control her emotions. Her father, a high figure in the church, donates a great deal to keep the convent running, but she’s looking for something more in her life. She’s looking for love. Then there’s Fernanda (Aubrey Plaza), a loud and sexually curious nun prone to violent outbursts towards her fellow nuns, as well as the groundskeeper, Ilario (Paul Reiser). Her violent actions have forced him to quit, leaving the convent without a groundskeeper to look after the land.
This a film with a sick, dark and frequently blasphemous sense of humour. It riffs on the church, but never in a demeaning way. While set and based around religion, this isn’t a religious movie. It’s a comedy that’s so much more, so much deeper, and far more funnier than something like this should be. Yes, sex jokes and crude, idiotic humour are aplenty, but they’re usually delivered in a quirky, mature and well written way. It’s dumb humour executed in a smart way, taking advantage of as many subtleties as it can. Relationships and character feelings aren’t spelled out in big monologues, like so many comedies do. They’re never forced in, nor rushed into, but instead set free at a necessary, hilarious time. Everything flows naturally. It’s this natural, well-timed humour and character beats that often bring with it the biggest laughs.
As much as I loved Plaza, and as much as she steals the show, this isn’t any one person’s movie. Everyone gives it their absolute all, and they shine. The general premise of every character is over the top and stupid, but it works. Their motives and ideals are clear. A pristine picture is painted of who they are and what they want, and every actor has a thorough understanding of what makes them tick. John C. Reilly is hysterical as the head priest at the convent, sharing so many of the best scenes with his fellow cast members. Reilly spends plenty of time with Dave Franco, which is really the only times when Franco is allowed to speak, and their dynamic made for an intelligent, often hilarious component of the movie. Franco’s acting relies heavily on his body movements, and it works. His scenes without dialogue were often far funnier than his scenes with dialogue, especially those with off-screen partner Alison Brie. Their personal chemistry carries over on screen and makes for so many unforgettable scenarios, particularly one involving an elderly nun and a very awkward sex scene.
Still, everything is necessary, and in the grand scheme of things, this is only a 90 minute movie. It’s short, sweet and to the point. Early characters or early foreshadowing don’t always play a major role until late in the game, making their initial appearance somewhat startling, but later growing into a satisfying payoff. The final act of this movie is absolutely bonkers in the best way it can be. We’re introduced to Fred Armistan’s character, and everything following his arrival, whether it involves him or not, is classic. There is a sequence late into the movie that’s way too good for me to tell you anything about. It’s so out of the blue and over the top, but it blends into the story perfectly. This movie already had me in hysterics, but I nearly died watching that scene. You’ll know it when it comes. It’s a moment too good to be true, leading into a wild, crowd pleasing finale with some serious heart.
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