Winter Movies: Part 2
I'm deep into a big freelance writing project at the moment, but find I can't ignore this space completely. Here, then, are just a few hasty words on the (mostly mediocre) movies I've seen these past few weeks.
Debbie and I both liked Breaking and Entering quite a bit—certainly much more than most reviewers I read—though I thought Jude Law's character got off too easy in the end. Another sticking point for me: the self-incriminating actions of the young thief seem totally unnecessary, undertaken solely to further the plot. Speaking of plot... in case you haven't seen the trailer, the story is this: Jude Law is a successful London architect who lives with his girlfriend (Robin Wright Penn) and her autistic 13-year-old daughter (nicely played by Poppy Rogers). When Law's office gets robbed, he tracks down the thief—a teenage Bosnian immigrant—and proceeds to sleep with said thief's mom, the lovely Juliette Binoche. Complications ensue. Everyone is beautiful, the acting terrific, and London looks fabulous.
I wish all of Venus had been about the relationships among the elderly characters—Peter O'Toole, Vanessa Redgrave, Leslie Phillips and Richard Griffiths—and their physical and emotional struggles with getting old. These parts were warm, funny, charming, sad, insightful. And the inevitable ending was handled surprisingly well: low-key and respectful. Unfortunately, most of the movie concerns O'Toole's too-gross relationship with a barely legal girl. I don't undestand frozen-faced O'Toole's Oscar nod, either. He was OK, but no way was this one of the top five male performances of last year.
I agree with most reviewers that Steven Soderbergh's film-school treatment (it's all shot as an homage to 1940s noir flicks) of The Good German is more distracting than engaging, but, really? I thought that the tepid, illogical plotting is what truly undermined the mostly fine acting here. I just didn't believe the stated motivations of any of the characters, nor that the US Army, in Berlin, in 1945, would give a rat's ass about two-bit journalist George Clooney, much less cave to his demands left and right. Note: I saw this solo at the Paris on 58th Street, my first film ever at that venerable theater. I was surprised at how plush and well perserved the space was—I was expecting something much mustier—but, talk about old school, there are no cup holders on the seats! Is there any other theater in town that doesn't have those these days?
Debbie was dead on about Puccini for Beginners: "If this had been a mainstream Hollywood movie rather than a low-budget indie," she said, "no way would it have gotten such good reviews." So smart and insightful (and, of course, gorgeous) that Debbie! We liked this story of a commitment-phobe woman who simultaneously dates/sleeps with a man and a woman, who happen to be exes with each other, and it had its cute moments, but we weren't fooled by all those big words in the script.
The most unnecessary, unpleasant movie of the year—and I mean ALL of 2007—will undoubtedly be Alone With Her. Shot entirely through the POV of hidden surveillance cameras, this depressing tale of a nerdy stalker (Colin Hanks... yes, Tom's son) is pure voyeur porn with a violent twist. Creepier than the movie itself? The fact that MOST of the audience at the Sunday afternoon show we attended were single men. I can't think of another movie I've seen where that's been the case.