Stupid writing wastes a talented cast
Queenpins has a talented cast of funny actors; However, the actual history of the coupon scam is plagued by weak writing and bad management.
The deceptively simple premise in Bowling should be comedy gold: two brave housewives start a business selling (illegally) coupons that turn into a multi-million dollar criminal enterprise. Still, the movie never hits its pace, being at its best, slightly fun, and at its worst downright boring. The light-hearted film has some charming moments, but laughs are rare – worse yet, the story drags on, wasting the potential thrills of its crime-based subject matter. Written and directed by Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly, Bowling features a talented cast of funny actors; However, the actual history of the coupon scam is plagued by weak writing and bad management.
Bowling follows the misadventures of two friends who stumble to success in the world of organized crime, and the two dedicated agents (one an expert in loss prevention, the other US Postal Inspector) who end up breaking the network of fake coupons. The core friendship between the two lonely, frustrated, and dissatisfied protagonists is at the heart of the story, and it’s easy to empathize with them. Connie Kaminski (Kristen Bell) is an unemployed former Olympian trapped in an unhappy marriage and grieving for a miscarriage, all without any emotional support. JoJo Johnson (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) is his neighbor in a similar position of feeling stuck: JoJo is a struggling entrepreneur and still suffers from the after-effects of his stolen identity and depleted credit rating.
Connie’s obsession with coupons turns criminal when she finds out how easy it is to get free products by complaining to companies, which leads her to discover that the coupons are all from the same manufacturing facility. . She gets her neighbor and best friend JoJo to plot to steal coupons (though she’d rather not call it “stealing”) so that they can sell them online for a big profit. The venture turns out to be too successful when, apparently overnight, the two women find themselves inundated with money, causing a spiral of bad decisions that eventually get them made.
The film is based on the real-life story of three Arizona women who were arrested in 2012 for selling fraudulent coupons online; Robin Ramirez, Fontaine Amiko and Marilyn Johnson founded a real life “savvyshoppersite” which brought them millions of dollars. It’s a funny premise that’s been made in other crime comedy movies (2008 Crazy money, or even the air-miles subplot in the years 2002 Punch-Drunk-Love, which is also inspired by a true story). However, Bowling suffers from an uneven plot and a lack of focus. Vince Vaughn’s Simon Kilmurry is the most glaring example of this: his character is introduced so late, and he is given so little to do, that his role in the film is difficult to define. He’s not quite the straight man in Paul Walter Hauser’s easy-to-despise Ken Miller, but he’s not a wise cracker either. He’s really just there to serve the plot when needed, which is an absolute waste of the actor’s talent.
The characters in Bowling are underdeveloped, resulting in poor performance on the part of actors. Gaudet and Pullapilly never seem to know who the public should root for Bowling; great efforts are made to make Connie sympathetic, but in the end, she pursued criminal activity for purely selfish reasons. Rather than thinking Connie is deliciously deviant, or at the very least impressive at connivance, the bored housewife is characterized both as a “good” person and also completely out of her depth. As a result, she comes across as the ultimate “Karen”, willfully ignorant of her own evil deeds and deeply, disgusting, titled. If that was the intention of the film, Connie could be a hilarious source of satire – but the film isn’t that smart or self-aware.
There are times in Bowling that work, like Connie and JoJo’s committed partnership, or the condescending bank tellers whose own prejudices against women are used against them. However, there is a ‘boss girl’ energy throughout. Bowling this often gives the impression of flattering, which has the opposite of the intended effect. It’s a film that suffers from an identity crisis: it wants to talk about both the friendship Connie and JoJo, and the partnership Simon and Ken; it is meant to be a light comedy with feminist themes, but it is also about two women selling stolen objects; and he wants to celebrate the American dream and entrepreneurship – while making a statement on consumerism and corporate greed. At the end, Bowling didn’t say anything, which would have been nice if it was at least funny.
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Bowling opens in select theaters on Friday, September 10, 2021, and will be available to stream on Paramount + starting September 30. The film is 110 minutes long and is rated R for language throughout.
- Bowling (2021)Release Date: Sep 10, 2021
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