Welcome to the Men's Group Reviews
About what happens during one meeting of a monthly men's support group, the characters pull you in and keep you involved with the issues they and their relationships face, both in the world and with eachother, in the most serious, funny, and even tragic ways.
The writing is superb, and the cast should most certainly be in the running for BEST ENSEMBLE honors.
Feel free to dismiss Mr. Golstien's inept and dismissive review as a classic case of projection; This film is a drink of cool water in a desert. Highly recommended!
In this movie some of the men's imortant personality layers have been peeled.
If this movie become a TV series it can remove many other layers of men's personality and can result in living a more authentic life for men.
These are an eclectic group of angst ridden guys next door, whose stories are captivating and actually end up mattering deeply, in large part because they will resonate with such aching familiarity to any full grown American male, well over the age of forty.
I know these guys. I'm one of them.
But please don't suppose that the familiar cadence of man speak is in any way cliché. It isn't. The dialogue In Men's Group is simply spot on. Writers Joseph Culp and Scott Ben-Yashar hit arcing home runs of lucid differentiation between their characters. In many a Woody Allen film, alas, everybody kind of sounds like Woody - but here - these are men cut from different cloths, who speak in different tongues.
The actors are marvelous. Though I risk spoiling the attendant joy for viewers who delight in racing to IMDB to figure out, "Who was that guy?" - the "Ah-ha's" here need to be mentioned upfront as a tribute to both cast and casting. Joseph Culp directed this original mélange with a stage actor's eye, though it's clear he knows his movie history, too. I suspect he knew exactly what he was doing when he cast these actors who are familiar but not overly so. The casting is a coup, because several of the key players have had defining turns in remarkably significant films - and have been such standouts - that the movie goer's subconscious is at work throughout Men's Group - sorting out both the profundities in the performances on screen, while simultaneously harkening back to other indelible moments these actors have quietly implanted in the collective memory.
Let me give you a few quick examples; David Clennon plays Fred. He also played the obnoxious lawyer who kicks Peter Sellers to the curb in Being There, and he played Palmer in The Thing - who, when the severed head of Charles Hallahan suddenly sprouts crab legs and attempts to scuttle to safety - bellows, "You gotta be fucking kidding!" That moment is the very best in a horror movie filled with great moments. Wait till you see what Clennon does here with the word "Broccoli."
In Groundhog Day, Stephen Tobolowsky cried, "Phil! Phil!" once too often and got belted in the belly for it by Bill Murray. Tobolowsky's Ned Ryerson will forever live in memory as the guy you just don't want to be recognized by, but when we look at his white supremacist hate speech in Mississippi Burning - we see something we don't ever want to recognize in our own selves. In that film, Tobolowsky's eyes seem to be backlit somehow - illuminated through contempt and conviction. If the eyes are the windows of the soul - and act as portals of truth - Stephen Tobolowsky would have to be a card carrying Klansman - he is that convincing. Yet, in Men's Group his character's eyes in close-up tell a different story - with equal conviction. Here, nothing of Townley or Ryerson remain. Tobolowsky is 100 percent Carl.
Timothy Bottoms was captivating in The Last Picture Show, and endlessly touching thanking Cloris Leachman for a Dr. Pepper. Here, some forty five years later Sonny Crawford has grown up and turned into Larry - or certainly could have. There is something so remarkably familiar about Timothy Bottoms - his left of center innocence and secret self-awareness. Sonny and Larry seem to be struggling with the same demons, and in this film, it is Joseph Culp who delivers the greatest moment, in a movie with a slew of great moments by answering Timothy as Larry's eternal question about what to do with life. With absolute clarity and profound simplicity, Culp utters, "Let go." It's like Culp has channeled Sam the Lion.
Just watch as Timothy Bottoms absorbs the advice, now, like a man.
Two final shout outs - male nudity and the character of Olivia.
The full frontal exposure of the male cast in Welcome to the Men's Group is light years ahead of anything else that has been put on screen before, because for the first time, men are portrayed naked - emotionally and physically - with nothing to hide. They come by it honestly and it makes sense. These actors have balls. See for yourself.
As to Livya Howard-Yashar, who plays Olivia, the daughter of Timothy Bottoms' character; the actress is remarkably appealing. The Joseph Culp character, Michael, clearly agrees. Without giving anything away, what goes on between Michael and Olivia also comes about honestly and makes sense, too - even if this full grown American male, well over the age of forty, would like to pretend that it didn't.
Thanks fellows. It's a great group.
Peter D. Cook Los Angeles, Ca.