Monday, April 25, 2016

Planeta Singli [2016]

MPAA (UR 'cept for language would be PG-13)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing listing* (A. Tatarska) review* (H. Komerski) review* (M. Żuraw) review* (K.) review* (K. Śmiałkowski) review review* (H. Jasonek) review* (N. Gorzołka) review* (A. Kyzioł) review* (K. Polaski) review*

Planeta Singli [2016] [IMDb] []* (directed by Chicago based Slovenian born director Mitja Okorn [IMDb] []*, screenplay by Sam Akina [IMDb] []*, Jules Jones [IMDb] []*, Mitja Okorn [IMDb] []*, Peter Pasyk IMDb] and Łukasz Światowiec [IMDb] []*, story by Urszula Antoniak [IMDb], Michał Chaciński [IMDb] []*, Radosław Drabik [IMDb]) is a SPECTACULARLY GOOD POLISH ROM-COM that recently made its North American premiere to a weekend's worth of sold-out audiences here in Chicago.  Now there are _a lot_ of people of Polish descent here in Chicago (some 4 million), including _a lot_ of recent (post-1989) arrivals (nearly 2 million).  Still, it's IMPRESSIVE and the film DESERVES ITS PRAISE.

Mitja Okorn [IMDb] []* first made his mark on Polish cinema with the release of his previous Valentine's Day [2010] / New Years' Eve [2011]-like RomCom Letters to Santa (Letters do M) [2011]. That film played here to enthusiastic audiences at the 2012 (24th-Annual) Polish Film Festival in America held here in Chicago.  Present at one of the screenings, the Slovenian-born director explained that he had gone over to Poland from his native Slovenia because he felt that Poland's movie industry was more open to taking risks.  Offered then the script to Letters to Santa (Letters do M) [2011], he quickly gave his Polish backers the opportunity to prove their reputed openness:  He asked them if he could have the script translated into English, sent to some friends in Hollywood for some rework, and then have re-worked script re-translated back into Polish.  THEY AGREED and the result was THE (THEN) MOST COMMERCIALLY SUCCESSFUL (IN POLAND) POLISH FILM IN HISTORY and the MOST COMMERCIALLY SUCCESSFUL FILM IN POLAND SINCE JAMES CAMERON'S TITANIC [1997].

Folks, THE CURRENT FILM, which uses a similar approach, leaning on both Polish and Hollywood screenwriting talent IS EVEN BETTER.  Why?

Well the two leads -- Agnieszka Więdłocha [IMDb] []* as Aina, a humble, if often put-upon elementary school (music) teacher, and Maciej Stuhr [IMDb] []* as Tomek, a jaded from recent overwhelming success as the host of a somewhat crass if still "cutish" (muppet driven) Jimmy Fallon-like late night talk show -- are both excellent. 

They meet at a quite swanky Warsaw singles bar on Valentine's Day: She's there, waiting for an internet date who never shows-up (yes, she's reduced to taking a chance _on an internet date_ for Valentine's Day ...).  He's there (not needing or even particularly wanting a date) seated with his producer partner Marcel (played by Piotr Głowacki [IMDb] []*) at a table on something of a balcony overlooking the establishment's "main floor" watching this evening of "forced 'high romance'" play-out.  When he sees Ania in the process of being stood-up, he decides comes down (in good part as a joke...) and pretends that he's actually her internet date.   

Since, she's a _school teacher_, she doesn't watch a lot of TV.  So she doesn't immediately recognize him (though soon enough every other woman in the place does and this becomes an increasing distraction as a parade of young women come over to interrupt their conversation, asking HER to take a picture of THEM with "the famous Tomek" with their cellphones).   Well with these distractions and his generally condescending attitude -- he asks her: "So was this your first internet date?"  She answers "No, I've had five."  To which he laughs, "Well then it must be your first, because if this was your fifth, you'd NEVER admit that." ;-) -- she just thinks that, "famous" or not, he's a real jerk and leaves.  Worst Valentine's Day ever ...

To her horror, the next night, Ania's older sister Ola (played wonderfully throughout by Weronika Książkiewicz [IMDb] []*) calls her up and tells her to turn on the TV.  There's the famous Jimmy Fallon-like Tomek, WITH A MUPPET looking A LOT LIKE ANIA that's he's calling HANIA and he's recounting the "terrible encounter" he had with her the night before at that Warsaw hot spot.   And the audience is LAUGHING and LAUGHING.

OMG ... the whole world must have seen this (amusingly, most of the teachers at her school, as they are _school teachers_, DON'T ;-).

But anyway, Ania's humiliation seems to be a "one-off" thing, until Tomek to his own surprise / horror is told by his rather ruthless studio boss Octavia (played by Ewa Błaszczyk [IMDb] []*) that the "Hania segment" was "a hit" and that the network wants more of them.  So Tomek and Marcel have to find Ania, and when they do ... after nearly being clobbered by her for embarrassing her like they did, they ask her actually to work for them:

They tell her that they'd pay her to go out on various internet dates using a service called Planeta Singli (Planet Single).  And then she'd recount to them how the dates went and they'd build skits around her stories accordingly.  "But what if I find that I like one of the dates?"  "Well if you fall in love, you can quit and I'll buy you a Steinway Piano for your school."  Somewhat reluctantly she agrees.

Well, of course, a parade of spectacularly awful dates ensues ... spliced together in a spectacularly funny collage to Steppenwolf's Born to be Wild [YouTube-EasyRider] [Amzn] playing in the background (remember Ania's been up to this point _a quiet_ put-upon _elementary school teacher_ ;-)

Of course, Tomek has to fall in love her somewhere in the process.  And then, what of that initial internet date who had stood-up Ania at the beginning of the film?  There has to be a story there too, right?

Then part of the fun in the film is that while Tomek / Marcel are clearly internet and even internet-dating savy (they're part of "the media world" so they know and have even become cynical of all this stuff), Ania and her hairdresser sister Ola are not.  Who is internet savy is Ola's seemingly ever-in-a-funk, always texting, mildly "socio-pathic" teenage STEP-DAUGHTER Zośka (played wonderfully by Joanna Jarmołowicz [IMDb] []*) who both "kinda helps" Ania and Ola out in explaining how how all this "new" technology works and "messes with their heads" in the process.  Indeed, there's an extended sub-plot in which Zośka uses her tech abilities to really mess with her mild-mannered dad's (played by Tomasz Karolak [IMDb] []*) and more impulsive Ola's lives and even marriage.  (I just loved Ola and "kinda respected" (actually mostly _feared_ ;-) Zośka in this film ;-).

There's a climactic scene in the film that's BOTH "Rom-Com worthy" AND honestly POLISH / CENTRAL EUROPEAN (I honestly DON'T believe it would work nearly as well if the film were American, British or even French).    And one of the _remarkable aspects_ of the film is that with the exception of the language (and that could be in part because of the subtitled translation) despite being a film largely about "the internet" / "internet dating" the film could LEGITIMATELY be PG-13 ... all those dates that Ania was on "exploded" in the initial encounter "at the bar" / "coffee shop" ;-).

Anyway, THIS IS A _GREAT_ AND _VERY VERY FUNNY_ FILM !!!!  Honestly, is there an "International Rom-Com Film Festival" out there to submit this film to??  And my hat off to the director Mitja Okorn [IMDb] []*.  This film ought to "open doors" for you in Hollywood, that's of course, if you'd even want them to.  For now though just bask in the glory of becoming a Polish Film God ;-)  Great, great job!

* Foreign language webpages are most easily translated using Google's Chrome Browser. 

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