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On Oct. 2, The Greatest Love Story Ever Told: An Oral History, a book by Hollywood comedy couple Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman, is being released—and three days later, the hilarious duo will kick off the second season of the Palm Springs Speaks series.

The speakers’ series is a joint effort by the Palm Springs Cultural Center and the Friends of the Palm Springs Library. Ron Willison, the president of the Palm Springs Library Board of Trustees, helped organize the series—which is bringing some huge names to the valley in the coming months.

“We are trying to bring in interesting speakers,” he said. “We want to promote literacy, and we add different speakers for each year to make it interesting. Last year, we had Deepak Chopra talk about wellness. Dan Savage talked about LBGT issues, and Al Gore (was here) in association with the (Palm Springs International) Film Festival.

“This year, to start off, we will have Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally, and they will be speaking on their new book, The Greatest Love Story Ever Told: An Oral History. Palm Springs Speaks is actually one of only six stops they are doing for their book.”

The actors/writers/comedians have been married for 15 years, which virtually unheard of in the entertainment industry. In the book, they explain how their relationship has survived and thrived.

While the entire Palm Springs Speaks series this season has yet to be announced—the complete slate will be announced on Oct. 5—Willison did spill the beans on some of the other scheduled speakers.

“This year, we are also having Janet Mock,” Willison said. “She is a trans activist and director of the series Pose.”

Willison said organizers make a concerted effort to keep ticket costs down; admission to Mullally and Offerman’s talk starts at just $30—and all tickets to Palm Springs Speaks events include books.

“We try to make tickets more affordable to people within different communities, like the trans community,” he said. “We hope people can afford to come and hear somebody from their own community speak (like Janet Mock). We know how important that is.

“We are also having Jane Fonda as a part of this series. We always want community involvement whenever we can. For example, when Jane Fonda comes here, tickets will be donated to high schools because of her work with teen pregnancy in Atlanta.

“Our goal is to eventually take the Palm Springs Speaks series and have it become as large as the Desert Town Hall, which has 1,900 people and is actually the No. 1 speaker series in the country,” Willison said, referring to the series that takes place each year January through March in Indian Wells.

Organizers of Palm Springs Speaks have various goals in mind.

“The level of awareness is important for Palm Springs Speaks. It costs over $100,000 a year to put this on, and luckily last year, we made a little bit of money,” Willison said. “The monies go to two very important organizations, so the more money we raise, the more money they receive. Palm Springs Speaks is presented in the west end of the valley by the Palm Springs Cultural Center and the Friends of the Palm Springs Public Library. Proceeds go to support the Cultural Center and the Friends of the Library equally. The Palm Springs Library uses the money for buying books or helping with new furniture or renovations.

“We are hopeful that in a couple of years, Palm Springs Speaks will be at a level of recognition where it should become profitable for everybody involved. It is our goal to make Palm Springs Speaks something that the city is proud of and the valley is proud of—and to make this series a destination event for people to travel here from Los Angeles or Phoenix for a nice weekend getaway that has a positive reflection on our town.”

Palm Springs Speaks presents Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman at 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 5, at the Richards Center for the Arts at Palm Springs High School, 2248 E. Ramon Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $30 to $60. For tickets or more information, visit www.palmspringsspeaks.org.

Published in Literature

Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons are a winning, inspiring father-daughter team in Hearts Beat Loud, a musically infused cinematic gem that will stand as one of this summer’s under-the-radar greats.

Frank (Offerman), a record-store owner (he sells mostly vinyl) with a gruff attitude, is dealing with tough economic times—which is not good, considering his daughter, Sam (Clemons), is about to leave for medical school. He informs his landlord, Leslie (Toni Collette, having a great year), that the store will be closing. Frank finds himself at a sort of spiritual crossroads.

He takes solace in his mandatory musical jam sessions with his kid. Both of them are decent-enough musicians; in fact, Sam is actually pretty damn good. She has a knack for songwriting but doubts her talents. Frank pushes her to create, marvels in what she’s able to come up with, and suggests they form a real band.

Sam pushes back, wanting to focus on the whole becoming-a-doctor thing, but Frank persists, ultimately uploading one of their demos to Spotify. He hears the song in a coffee shop one morning—and it’s a great moment. As a testament to how the face of the music industry has changed, an artist hears his music streaming on somebody’s “mix” rather than on the radio in his car. The film is somewhat of an endorsement for Spotify and vinyl.

None of this would work if the music stunk. It doesn’t—it’s good. Offerman and Clemons combine for some sweet music-making, including the film’s title track, one that is repeated often in the movie. Offerman is no Hendrix, but he handles his guitar parts with enough finesse to make you think he’s been playing for a long time, while Clemons is a natural wonder with a great voice.

It must also be said that the people in this movie have great musical taste. The soundtrack and the characters reference a who’s-who of great artists, including Ween, Animal Collective, Jeff Tweedy, Spoon and Mitski. Hearts Beat Loud is the best music-store movie since High Fidelity.

Even more inspiring than the music is a love story between Sam and new-friend Rose (American Honey’s Sasha Lane). Their relationship’s depiction surprises in that it’s allowed to happen without any discussion—it’s just two people falling in love. The film’s other love story—the bond between father and daughter and their musical adventure—is equally lovely.

Offerman, a successful comedic actor, is proving he’s also a dramatic real deal. He had a good co-starring role as a stoner in The Hero, last year’s ode to actor Sam Elliott. He also killed it as one of the McDonald brothers in The Founder. This time out, he has a starring role that allows him to show all kinds of range. The final look he gives his daughter in this movie is priceless.

As the movie’s true heart, Clemons boasts a beautiful singing voice to go with her solid acting chops. She and Offerman are strong enough here to overcome the few moments when director and co-writer Brett Haley (who also directed Offerman in The Hero) drifts into obvious territory. The material is never bad, but there are moments that could’ve been hokey if it weren’t for Clemons and Offerman making them better.

Collette, who deserves awards consideration for her barn-burning work in Hereditary, lends a lot to the film in her supporting role, including a karaoke moment that reminds us that she can sing. Also: Let it be said that it’s always great when a production can coax Ted Danson into playing a bartender.

So, yep, Hearts Beat Loud has real music, real love, and Sam Malone slinging drinks—and as a result, it’s a resounding success. If Offerman and Clemons don’t win you over here, you are a super-grouch.

Hearts Beat Loud is now playing at the Palm Desert 10 Cinemas (72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-340-0033).

Published in Reviews

Lee, an aging movie star (Sam Elliott), gets some bad news from his doctor—and he tries to make good on some mistakes in the face of big decisions. The plot of The Hero may sound like a done-to-death story to you, and it kind of is, but director and co-screenwriter Brett Haley makes things intriguing, thanks to a great performance from Elliott and an excellent supporting cast.

Elliott is basically playing himself, a Western star known for his big voice and iconic mustache; the part was tailor-made for him. His Lee is sort of a jerk, but he’s the kind of jerk you have to like. (The way that mustache arches with his smile is magical!)

Nick Offerman is stellar as Lee’s drug dealer and best buddy, while Laura Prepon has never been better as the love interest. (Yes, it’s a cliché role, but she takes it to great heights.) Elliott’s real-life wife, the great Katharine Ross, even has a role as Lee’s ex-wife, which must’ve been a little awkward to pull off on set.

The film looks great, especially during Lee’s dreams, which have him acting out a final movie in his head.

In a summer of blockbusters and blockbuster wannabes, The Hero stands out as a fine sleeper.

The Hero is now playing at the Camelot Theatres (2300 E. Baristo Road, Palm Springs; 760-325-6565); and the Palm Desert 10 Cinemas (72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-340-0033).

Published in Reviews

Michael Keaton is fantastic in The Founder as Ray Kroc, the sorta-kinda founder of McDonald’s. Director John Lee Hancock’s film tells his story, from Kroc selling milkshake mixers door-to-door, through his wife-stealing days as the head of the McDonald’s corporation.

Hancock’s movie desperately wants us to like Kroc … but maybe we shouldn’t? After all, he swept in and took the name of McDonald’s from the McDonald brothers (played by Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch), effectively cutting them out of most profits and leaving them in his dust.

The film is at its best when it is in old-time, Americana mode. It’s a beautiful-looking movie that captures the essence of those old-timey fast-food joints that replaced the traditional drive-in diners. It slows down and gets a little muddled when it tries to depict Kroc as some sort of commerce hero. Hmm … I suppose if they went into details about how McDonald’s has contributed to worldwide obesity and environmental concerns, McDonald’s would’ve broken out the lawyers and put the kibosh on the whole thing.

Offerman is great as the well-meaning, high-standards McDonald brother who regrets the day he met Kroc. Keaton gets high marks for a film that is ultimately uneven.

The Founder is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

High school kid Greg (Thomas Mann) is forced by his mom (Connie Britton) to hang out with Rachel (Olivia Cooke), who has cancer, in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.

Greg and pal Earl (RJ Cyler), who have been making spoof movies since they were little kids, decide to make one for Rachel.

Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon can’t decide if he is making a Wes Anderson-style film or a Noah Baumbach-style movie—and the film often plays like those two mixed together, even down to the music choices, involving Lou Reed and Cat Stevens.

The film deals well with Rachel’s illness, and Mann and Cooke have some great scenes together. Things go a little off the rails at times, and the film lacks a consistent tone. Still, the power of the lead performances, and the fact that good directors are essentially being mimicked rather than bad ones, make the movie decent-enough. Nick Offerman, Molly Shannon and Jon Bernthal are all good in supporting roles.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews