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Will You Go “Mad” for These Upcoming Indies?

November 15, 2012

In the course of researching a couple of upcoming articles, I’ve gotten sneak peeks at a pair of upcoming indie movies featuring Mad Men costars. I watched them both online, and I can’t say they lost anything by viewing them on my computer screen as opposed to a “big” one. And while each has its merits, I’m not sure either of them is worth leaving the comfort of your own home.

First up is Save the Date, a rom-com that plays like an even more hipster version of Rachel Getting Married. In this case, the bride-to-be is played by the impossibly lovely Alison Brie of Community as well as Mad Men fame. She’s engaged to a hangdog alt-rock drummer, improbably embodied by Freaks and Geeks alum Martin Starr. His Party Down costar Lizzy Caplan takes the Anne Hathaway role as Brie’s screwed-up sister, who rejects a marriage proposal from the band’s lead singer (the goony Geoffrey Arend, aka Mr. Christina Hendricks—another Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce connection!) and pursues a romance with a dorky slacker played by the charisma-free Mark Webber (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World).

Cowriter-director Michael Mohan seems overly pleased with himself, inserting cutesy drawings and twee indie-rock tunes in place of emotional depth or three-dimensional characterizations. I’ve always been puzzled by the brittle Caplan’s appeal—she’s almost as dislikable here as she was in Bachelorette—but Brie’s immense charm carries you through the lightweight story. Already available On Demand, Save the Date won’t hit theaters until December 14, but I wouldn’t recommend you, ya know, save the date.

One week earlier, a much better romantic dramedy, In Our Nature, will arrive in theaters. It’s essentially a four-hander about a Brooklyn couple (Friday Night Lights alum Zach Gilford and Donnie Darko‘s Jena Malone) who travels to his family’s upstate vacation house, unaware that his distant dad (Mad Men‘s John Slattery) and his much-younger girlfriend (Gabrielle Union) will also be there.

Not much happens in writer-director Brian Savelson’s full-length feature debut, but all of it is sensitively observed and expertly performed by the estimable ensemble. Slattery finds new shades of smarm in his Roger Sterling-esque character (it’s hard not to flash back to Mad Men‘s LSD episode when he lights up a joint with his son’s girlfriend), while Bring It On grad Union has matured into an actress of uncommon poise and grace, rare qualities she shares with Malone. And Gilford proves he’s better suited to high-quality fare like FNL and this flick than to his role in Fox’s soon-to-sleep-with-the-fishes Mob Doctor. In Our Nature won’t rock your world, but it won’t insult your intelligence either.

Chances are both of these little movies will get lost amid the sea of year-end Oscar contenders. But if you’re in the mood for something less epic than, say, Lincoln—or if you can’t wait until 2013 for your next dose of Slattery and Brie on Mad Men—you could honestly do worse.

What’s on your moviegoing calendar for the rest of this year?

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