Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB. Canada/USA, 2017. Bow and Arrow Entertainment, Concourse Media, Destro Films, Dublab Media, Exhibit, Foton Pictures, Productivity Media, StarStream Media. Screenplay by Jeff Baena. Cinematography by Quyen Tran. Produced by Liz Destro, Aubrey Plaza. Music by Dan Romer. Production Design by Susie Mancini. Costume Design by Natalie O’Brien. Film Editing by Ryan Brown.
A 14th century convent has all manner of madness occurring behind its stone walls: one foul-mouthed nun (Aubrey Plaza) keeps staying out all night and always says it’s because the donkey got loose, another prim and proper sister (Alison Brie) is desperate to leave but unable to find a husband because her father, who has donated a fortune to the place, is actually broke and can’t afford her dowry. Elsewhere in Italy, a nobleman (Nick Offerman) has caught one of his servants (Dave Franco) in bed with his wife and has sent him running, which brings the young man to the convent where he pretends to be mute in order to work as groundskeeper for the priest (John C. Reilly). What makes this naughty comedy sparkle is the fact that writer/director Jeff Baena has adapted one of the tales from Bococcio’s Decameron and given it modern-sounding dialogue, likely aiming to tell us that there is novel about provocative comedy, and that humans have always been ambivalent about who they want to be versus how they actually behave. The combination is successful, for some reason there’s nothing jarring about so much foul language in the middle of something shot and costumed like the finest Pasolini epic, so why doesn’t it work? The biggest reasons are that, for one, it’s rarely actually funny, and for another, it focuses too much on Brie and Franco’s characters; despite being married in real life, the couple has zero chemistry on screen that isn’t helped by the fact that, while physically appealing enough for the role, Franco doesn’t have the charisma to be the kind of Tom Jones rake that the story requires.