Sunday, July 19, 2009
Seven this week...
Bride Wars (Gary Winick, 2009)
Liv (Kate Hudson) and Emma (Anne Hathaway) are two successful women in New York who have been best friends since childhood. Doing everything together, luck would have it so that they even get engaged on the same day. Naturally, they both want The Plaza as their wedding venue, and though they initially have separate days booked, a secretarial slip-up means that they end up being double-booked on the same day. It's not long before the claws are out, kept-in resentments are spilled and best friends turn to worst enemies.
It's a pity, because this film started out so promisingly - cute snapshots of beautiful weddings and a voice-over telling the story made me think this could be SATC-lite, but it soon just turned into cliched, trite nonsense. Character development was a joke - they were as close as sisters, and out of nowhere, started hating on each other?, and don't get me started about the ending. There were small mercies in it - the scene in which the two try to sabotage each other's weddings, from hair colour to bad tans, was quite amusing, albeit completely unrealistic. Anne Hathaway deserves much better than this and can do a lot better, as demonstrated in last year's wedding film (of sorts), Rachel Getting Married, but she did get one moment to shine in this film, when she delivers a very bitchy line about the size of Kate Hudson's ass at prom. The hairpin was also a nice touch, if only because the hairpin was so utterly intricate and beautiful. Apart from that, no redeeming qualities to this film.
The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond (Jodie Markell, 2008)
Bryce Dallas Howard plays Fisher Willow, a rich-but-disliked debutante returning to Memphis for her studies. She's got a mouth on her, and likes to expose the social-climbing society around her for what they are. That, along with her father's ruthless dealings, have rendered her unpopular. She has a soft spot for Jimmy, a poor farmer son of an alcoholic dad whose mother works for her family, and invites him to accompany her to the parties she loathes so much. She does everything in her control to make him appear presentable, but he's held back by his lack of self-worth and, in the film's climax, she loses one of her diamond teardrop earrings, worth $5000, and in her own insensitive way asks him if it fell in his pocket, which sounds to him like an accusation, bringing out his crushing low self-esteem back out and threatening to annhialate their already stilted relationship.
It's a good thing Bryce Howard stepped in for this film, because before her it was Lindsay Lohan cast as Fisher Willow, and Lohan would not have done as well as Howard. The film deals with many of Tennessee William's favourite themes - class, honesty, fidelity, the truth, and it's a talky film, with some stunning costumes and backdrops. The strand with Ellen Burstyn bored me, but overall, it was a well-made, small picture with an uneasy strand running throughout, a strand that was not settled even by the semi-happy ending.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (David Yates, 2009)
Full review here. The installment of raging hormones and innuendos littered about here and there were very amusing ("Did you and Ginny do it?"), and if there was any justice in the world, Tom Felton would get an Oscar nomination for his bathroom scene; he was incredible. Also, Rupert Grint, wheeeeee! So lovely. I can't wait for 2010 and 2011 for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows parts 1 and 2, even if it does mean I'll be significantly older than Harry when I see my beloved franchise end.
Anna Christie (Clarence Brown, 1930)
We all have our little secrets. For Anna Christie, it relates to her secret history of prostitution as a result of running away from her cousins when they abused her. Many years on, she comes back to see her dad, a sailor, who believes his daughter to be a respectable young woman. Anna Christie falls in love with another sailor, Matt, who also misguidedly thinks her a pure angel. But how long can she keep her past a secret from them?
Greta Garbo would be the main (and only real) reason to see this film. From her opening lines "Give me a whiskey with ginger ale on the side, and don't be stingy, baby", she captures the audience's interest and keeps it throughout the movie up until the climactic moment she tells her secret. Dressed in ill-fitting clothes and a look of malaise on her face throughout, there's an androgynous quality to her look. The rest of the film is nothing special, though amusing to watch how they skirted around mentioning words like "prossie" in the '30s.
The Soloist (Joe Wright, 2009)
Joe Wright's two previous movies both made my top 100 films. On seeing the overwrought, weighty trailer to The Soloist before Synecdoche, New York, I had a feeling that the Soloist wouldn't be joining Atonement and Pride & Prejudice. I was right. It tells the story of Mr. Lopez, a reporter for a New York paper who befriends talented musician Nathaniel, a man living on the streets, who manages to make beautiful music even with half a violin. Steve Lopez, knowing talent when he sees it, tries to turn Nathaniel's skill into his path towards a better life, but Nathaniel's mental illness along with unrest on the streets stand in his way.
Well-acted The Soloist certainly is, but I could definitely sense Downey Jr was *acting*; it wasn't his most natural performance. Jamie Foxx is better, although he's done the "trouble musician" in the past, and better, in Ray, he is still very affecting and moving. The scene where he is playing the cello are genuinely moving and powerful and effectively conveys the transcendent power of music. Indeed, the orchestral scenes and musician scenes are the best thing about The Soloist, the rest of it feels rather flat.
Magnificent Obsession (John M. Stahl, 1935)
The "bad boy turned good due to his redeeming love for a good woman" story gets yet another 30's step out, in the form of this medical drama. Playboy Lothario Bobby is brought back to life after a boating accident, though due to the doctors operating on him, another doctor, Dr. Hudson, having a heart attack at the same time, was not able to be healed. Rather predictably, Bobby falls for the doctor's widow, Helen Hudson (Irene Dunne, amazing as ever), and when his car accident blinds her. This, along with another doctor's monologue about the importance of doing something with your life, prompts him to become an esteemed doctor. A fairly engaging romance with some fine performances.
In the Loop (Armando Iannucci, 2009)
It's a chuckle-a-minute in this political drama starring Peter Calpadi on his best, shouty form, and Tom Hollander is hilarious as the clueless Minister of International Development. Hollander is repeatedly putting his foot in it, and as a result is a lot of confusion and pointless back-tracking. Filmed on handheld camera, there's a docudrama feel to In the Loop and its brand of humour is very much like The Thick of It, from which this is a spin-off from. The parts where the characters are shouting colourful abuses at each other are hilarious and, whilst a little convoluted toward the end, In the Loop is nothing short of an enthralling satire, with Hollander and Calpadi, two talented individuals even on their worst days, positively bouncing off each other. The best film of 2009 so far.