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Birds of America More at IMDbPro »

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98 out of 109 people found the following review useful:

Odd Birds. Good Eggs.

Author: wmjaho from Park City
26 January 2008

You might be getting a little tired of movies about dysfunctional families. I know I am. I think I've seen at least three at Sundance this year. But Birds of America manages to break the mold and feel fresh and alive from the outset, delivering a warm, funny, zany, tender and compassionate film that left the audience smiling and satisfied.

Morrie (Matthew Perry) is an uptight university professor anxiously seeking tenure, which requires the approval of his department head, who lives next door. Morrie and his wife Betty (Lauren Graham—Gilmore Girls) live in a house he inherited at 18 years old after his mother died and his father committed suicide. As a result, Morrie raised his brother Jay (Ben Foster) and sister Ida (Ginnifer Goodwin), both of which grew into their problems. Ida is substance-abusing and promiscuous, and Jay a deeply gentle and sensitive soul whose actions are almost completely unfettered by advanced thought. They reunite in the family home when Jay gets run over by a car (he was laying in the road) and Morrie, who still feels more parent than brother, asks him to move in for a while. Without asking permission, Jay invites Ida to join them, stressing Morrie and Betty's relationship and jeopardizing his career with their outrageous behavior.

Matthew Perry is surprisingly good in his deadpan portrayal of an overwrought brother who cares deeply for his siblings, often at his own expense. Goodwin is a pleasure as well, as the addictive personality with the carefree spirit. But Ben Foster (3:10 to Yuma) is great, and despite having such a naturally funny role, manages to never play Jay for laughs, creating an endearing and memorable character. Growing up without parents, these three have formed an unbreakable bond, with unconditional love and acceptance, and a tenderness and compassion unlike any I can remember in movies. Elyse Friedman has crafted a remarkable script, and Sundance veteran director Craig Lucas (Secret Lives of Dentists, The Dying Gaul) brings it to life with a funny but light-hearted and gentle touch.

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59 out of 87 people found the following review useful:


Author: paprotek from Poland
17 October 2008

I watched this movie and i enjoyed it, I really did. But I've read some comments after watching it and I found that within that movie you shouldn't do that (reading comments), they are too much disturbing. So I got a small warning/advice for people who are intending to watch this fine movie: don't read the comments, just watch it. I can guarantee that you will see a great performance of M. Perry and rest of the "team". But hey, how can you see this comment when you shouldn't supposed to read it ? I hope you gonna read it anyway, and maybe you enjoy this movie as much as I did. Thats all what i want to say about this thing, but i cant post mine text cause its too short. I didn't want to write a science work considering "Birds of America", just a note that will encourage somebody to see this movie.

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35 out of 49 people found the following review useful:

A Birds' Nest

Author: Chrysanthepop from Fraggle Rock
13 August 2008

Though the title is derived from Audubon's priceless book and there are several references within the film corresponding to the title, it also serves as a metaphor. The film centres around a dysfunctional family and each member is like a bird. Morrie (Matthew Perry) is a bird who's lived in a cage for so long that he's finding it difficult to break free. His wife Bettie is like a bird who desperately wants to create a nest and nurture children. His brother Jay is a gentle young bird who keeps flying. And, similarly, his sister too keeps flying, only that she's flying away from having to deal with her problems.

While movies about dysfunctional families are becoming redundant these days (though they haven't tired me), 'Birds Of America' feels refreshing. It's a funny, at times hilariously outrageous, heartwarming, whimsical, poetic and humane little film. While these siblings, who have grown up without stable parents, have their own problems, their unconditional love for one another is strong and genuine it is sensitively demonstrated by the actors with compassion. They do feel like a real family.

Friedman's writing is superb as the dialogues are authentic, symbolic and humorous and the poetry of the story comes across very well. The characters are very real with a gentle touch of humour. Lucas's direction is equally good as he stays focused on the main story, telling it with sincerity and clarity. In addition, Yaron Orbach's playful cinematography and Ahrin Mishan's whimsical score are excellent and they beautifully enhance the mood. Eric Kissack's editing is crisp. It is a very short film but it's rounded up well.

The performances are outstanding. It was great to see Matthew Perry in a serious role (with a comic touch). He just proves what a versatile actor he is and his effective portrayal comes across as very genuine. Lauren Graham is just as fantastic as the desperate housewife desperate to have kids with the husband she loves. Ben Foster is brilliantly restrained and very likable. He does not have to rely on overt gimmicks to draw laughter. Ginnifer Goodwin too is excellent as the promiscuous, carefree and addictive sister Ida. Hilary Swank springs a pleasant surprise as the pompous 'perfect' neighbour. It's a role that any star of her caliber would turn down without second thought and it's not a role that one would expect an accomplished actress to play but Swank does a fine job nonetheless and it was great to see her as part of an already magnificent cast.

It's a light hearted film and it's basically about lightening up and not to take every single thing in life so seriously but at the same time to respect other's boundaries. To quote a friend, 'it's about the invisible boundaries of social norms: both breaking and respecting them and it's about the importance of loving and respecting people who care for you (family and real friends) versus sucking up to others only because they might give you a promotion or a 'better' social status'.

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19 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

Not a waste of time

Author: Danielle from Syracuse, NY
25 November 2008

Not a great movie, and certainly not as funny as the people who made it seem to think it is, but it still creeps up on you, and you find yourself rooting for these characters, even while you're getting slightly annoyed by them. Pulling together a really terrific cast is a triumph in itself, and if the end result isn't a home run, it's still a decent double, maybe even a triple. I grabbed this off the Hollywood Video shelf based totally on the cast, especially Ben Foster (LOVED him in Barry Levinson's Liberty Heights, and of course Six Feet Under). While I thought it could have been more, especially with Craig Lucas at the helm (and I was surprised that there was no gay characters at all), it wasn't a terrible way to spend a dreary Monday night when there was nothing to watch on TV.

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23 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

Good Movie.

Author: kennyv11111 from Canada
16 October 2008

I know a nine is going to seem high. But after a slow start, this movie begins to grab at you. There are moments you feel the boundaries of realism have been touched upon, but somehow it all meshes together and becomes the heartfelt story it's meant to be.

At times, you might suspect the actors were learning improvisational skills on the job, as they most definitely improved scene after scene.

Give this movie the half hour investment of boredom you might endure, and you'll be grateful for the half hour you "suffered" through.

Matthew Perry hasn't had the best of luck in reviews of his movies. I think this movie should certainly help to redeem any sagging career thoughts swirling is his head.

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15 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

genuine feeling film

Author: Charles Gough from Los Angeles
18 January 2009

Honestly I found this movie to be a very enjoyable experience. The pacing was fantastic, the whole time I wanted a character to do this or that, but they didn't, so I'd get frustrated. But then a half hour later they'd do something twice as satisfying then what I had wanted them to do and with perfect timing. The movie starts off a little slow but let yourself get to know the characters, try to understand their points of view and guess how they became this way. By the end of the film everything is understood and it makes those first few scenes even better now that you understand why the characters where acting the way they were.

Elyse Friedman's writing feels genuine. The characters are rich, and the story plays out very well in getting to know those characters. At times you think you have one figured out and then you learn something new that changes who they are in your eyes. I love when a film can do that affectively and this one does. It feels like a character piece, but unlike most who overdo the story, this film is entertaining enough just getting to know the characters.

Craig Lucas does a great job directing the camera to support the performances. This film has a genuine indie feel. It's not forced it just fits.

The performances are also very appropriate for the feel of the film. Matthew Parry was a fantastic choice for his role. He acts by not overdoing it. He keeps his performance inside and in turn it seems more real on the outside. Ben Foster is perfect. He nails the character in a way that few actors could have pulled it off. He makes me want to meet Jay and have a conversation with him. I want to hang out with him and ask him about his perspectives on life. Lastly but certainly not least, was Ginnifer Goodwin. I want you Ginnifer, I want you so bad. She delivers a performance that is fantastic in its combination of both subtle and not so subtle moments. At times you have to look closely into her eyes to figure out what the character is feeling, other times it's displayed in her every expression and gesture.

I really am a tough critic most of the time, but I was just so surprised by this film that it sold me. I love it. I won't recommend it to all my friends because it is a film for people who love film and don't just want to see car chaises and sex scenes.

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12 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

An interesting film but some elements do not completely work

Author: Argemaluco from Argentina
17 February 2009

Recently,there have been some movies dedicated to examine the silent melancholy of the middle class,hidden behind the illusion of "normality" the society requires to interact.In other words,films like Dan in Real Life,Kabluey and now Birds of America,are films which follow the themes and ideas examined on superior films like American Beauty and The Ice Storm.I think that the clue to success on this sub-genus is having interesting characters starred by actors who can dominate the difficult balance between humor and tragedy.Birds of America fulfills the second condition but the characters from this movie are not completely solid.Let's first talk about the good elements from this interesting,but not totally satisfactory,film.The dialogs from this movie are intelligent and realistic; they never feel forced.The performances are excellent.Matthew Perry brings a very solid performance,as well as Lauren Graham.Ginnifer Goodwin,Ben Foster and the great Hilary Swank also show conviction and credibility on their roles.And,in spite of the fails,I think this movie is an interesting experience.Now,let's see the negative elements.As I previously mentioned,the characters are not completely solid in spite of being perfectly performed.I mean,the characters are insipid because they lacked of more development on the screenplay.And,in spite of the short running time (85 minutes), the film gets a little bit dull on a few occasions.In spite of that fails,Birds of America is an interesting movie but I feel that with a better development of characters,it could have been much better than what it is.In summary,a good film but not completely satisfactory.

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8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

The One About The Dysfunctional Family With A Shaky Storyline

Author: D_Burke from United States
14 July 2010

"Birds of America" is a quiet independent film that managed to get big names to star in it. I'm not sure what drew Matthew Perry, Lauren Graham, Ginnifer Goodwin, and (last but definitely not least) two-time Academy Award Winner Hillary Swank to star in this film, because the story went from taking plots and characters similar to movies I've seen before, to going in weird and confusing directions that make you go "huh?". Such directions are aided by random subplots.

Matthew Perry plays Morrie, a college professor who had inherited his parents' house after his father fell out a window and his mother died from cancer. The problem was, he was just completing high school when it happened, and he still had two younger siblings to take care of. Those siblings grow up to be Jay (Ben Foster) a borderline psychotic who likes laying his head on concrete waiting for cars to come by, and Ida (Ginnifer Goodwin), a promiscuous party girl who is a little less crazy than her brother, but still hard to handle.

The movie doesn't bother to even begin to explain how they got this way. All we know is that Morrie is still living in that house, is married to Betty (Lauren Graham, playing yet another distraught housewife), and (random subplot alert) has not had a bowel movement in a few months. When this point is revealed, the next scene you see is Perry sitting on a toilet seat with a Microsoft laptop in front of him and a MacBook on his left side. When seeing this scene, I thought to myself, "Why, movie, why?". It's a good thing Morrie isn't a germaphobe.

Things get messy when Jay and Ida have nowhere to go, move into the old house, and continue to test both Morrie and Betty's patience. Morrie can't just dump them on the street because, I guess, they're family. However, the character of Jay, to me, seemed to be better off in a mental institution given his suicidal tendencies. Why that option never occurred to Matthew Perry's character at any point in this film is beyond me. Goodwin was good in her role as a misfit, and the film could have easily just kept her. It's not that Ben Foster didn't do a good job in his role. He did. Jay just seemed too heavy a character for this movie to handle, and could have been utilized better in another movie.

It also surprises me that Hillary Swank took on such a thankless role as the suburban débutante next door to Morrie and Betty who happens to be married to Morrie's boss, Paul (Gary Wilmes). Swank turns in a one-dimensional performance here that could really have been played by anyone. In fact, for some reason, her character reminded me of a less over- the-top Babs ("That boy is a P-I-G Pig!") from "Animal House" (1978). Since she's not only a two-time Oscar winner, but an A-lister at that, it surprises me that she played a role this small. They could have gotten a no-name actress, and it would have cost a lot less.

This movie suffers greatest from being a hodgepodge of subplots, all of which don't tie together well or resolve originally. In fact, the title of the movie, "Birds of America", comes from a first edition book Morrie also inherited from his father. In the beginning of the film, it's revealed that Jay ripped it to shreds for reasons the movie never explains. Is the book referred to again? Not until the closing credits, where you see L.L. Bean-esque pictures of birds from this aforementioned book. These credits only remind you that the movie could have made a metaphor that made sense using this book, but didn't even try to do so.

And speaking of useless subplots with shifty solutions, remember the bowel trouble Morrie has? If you've seen "Me, Myself, and Irene" (2000), you can probably guess how it's going to resolve itself. This movie tried, but the plot felt messy, unrealistic, and forgettable at the same time. I can't give it a stronger recommendation.

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9 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

a nice independent

Author: jakers12367 from United States
31 August 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I was a little apprehensive going into this movie as Matthew Perry has not had much luck choosing successful films. While his television career has been critically successful with friends and studio 60, he is usually a victim of poor writing. In truth, although he will always be "Chandler Bing" as will the rest of the Friends crew, he does have talent for the dramatic. This is shown in "Birds of America" Being a future independent filmmaker, I chose to enter this movie with loosening my predisposed judgements and this helped me find the depth in the film. When watching independent cinema, you must always expect the unexpected and allow yourself to think outside the box.

This film was significant as it dealt with the importance of family connection and being true to oneself. As well, it brings out the question "Is honesty always right". This has been a topic that has been debated for years. Honesty has always been thought of as a necessity, but what happens when it takes precedence to kindness? This is all dealt with during the film.

In terms of the performances, I believe that the two strongest links in this film were Ginnifer Goodwin and Ben Foster as the "problem" siblings. Ginnifer Goodwin's mannerisms and subtle facial expressions really captivate the screen and for me, although Matthew Perry's character is considered the father figure in the story, she really is the central link of the sibling connection. Ben Foster was great as well. It's refreshing to see that some people in Hollywood are not encapsulated by money and fame and are just in acting for the material. Matthew Perry was very good as the older brother /father figure, but I found my attention drifting to the other characters performances when he was sharing scenes. Finally, Lauren Graham, who is also very talented and needs to make wiser choices than "Evan Almighty", was great as the desperate wife trying to get her husband to have a baby with her. In one scene, she makes washing clothes seem like such a luxury and with her subtle nuances, makes the audience truly feel for her.

I thought the film was very good, but there were some slip ups. First off, Hilary Swank was wasted playing a stepford-wife type, which truth be told, could have been played by anyone. She is far better than that role. As well, although somewhat important to the theme of the film, I found the feces aspect of the film rather distracting and with exception to one humorous scene, took away from the storyline.

It sometime amazes me that cinematography can be far superior in films with independent budgets. I really appreciate the "nature aspect that the cinematographer incorporated into the setting and I found that it really highlighted the themes of kindness and connection. The only complaint I have about the cinematography and lighting is that some scenes were very dark and it was difficult to truly connect with those scenes.

All in all, it was a very good movie and I recommend it as a "lazy Sunday afternoon" type movie

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

An amazing cast slightly let down by the plot...

Author: reeb-myoo from Spain
26 March 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I give this 5 out of ten for a number of reasons. But mainly, because I was just disappointed in it. It was good acting, the camera work was good, but it just lacked luster and imagination...

I understand that the Birds thing in the title is a metaphor. No need to throw it in my face with constant pictures of birds and an annoyingly fake bird call track playing throughout the film.

Lauren Graham should have had a bigger part in the film. She was a good character, but she needed developing a lot more. She seemed a little one-dimensional at times. For any friends fan, I will quote Perry's character - "she's like a mother with no baby." This subplot needed to be developed more as well - felt like all of that was just skimmed over. Graham is an amazing actress, and her character deserved to be as good as she is.

Perry, as always, was simply fabulous. He managed to make a pretty annoying character (the slightly OCD, won't have a baby until he gets tenure, etc etc) into a likable, lovable one. His wit and charm as a person shines through to all of his characters, and he made this movie what it is, in my opinion.

The other actors were good as well, albeit a little unbelievable at times. I especially liked Ida (I've forgotten the actress' name, I apologise).

I really, really wish I'd loved this movie. I was looking forward to it so much, and had pretty high expectations, seeing as Perry and Graham are two of my favourite actors. But, it was a bit of a disappointment.

I would recommend watching it, but go in with low expectations, because it's not a fabulous film.

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