More Fall Movie Reviews 2010— A Better Batch
After the last disastrous movie binge, I had much better luck this week. Here I'm covering Social Network, Secretariat, Life As We Know It, and Leaving (Partir).
This film has been getting rave reviews and Oscar buzz. The story of how Facebook was started at Harvard and the various lawsuits surrounding it is a very well made, acted and written film.
The problem is that i really did not care about any of these people.
(As I have never gone on Facebook, don't own a computer and refuse to have a cell phone may be part of the generational lack of interest.) But everyone in this movie is pretty creepy and it is hard to have a rooting interest in any of them. Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake and Andrew Garfield all give good performances but they seem to be a bunch of well-to-do creeps as they are presented here.
The most fun in the movie is the performance of Armie Hammer who plays BOTH the Winklevoss twins—or at least his face does through creative special effects. Mr. Hammer, who is the scion of a very famous name and fortune, is not only gorgeous but he is very good at playing the two twins. Plus Jesse Eisenberg keeps referring to the twins as the Winklevii, which was most amusing. Director David Fincher who made the excellent Zodiak a few years ago does an excellent job of orchestrating this talky script (Aaron Sorkin of West Wing fame) but when it was over I did not take one thing out of the theater other than the images of the luscious Mr. Hammer.
Both the LA Times and especially the New York Times castigated this film in their reviews for being old fashioned and Disneyesque and too PG for words. Well, this movie is old fashioned in the sense that it tells a great story, is excellently acted and beautifully produced. When these pluses are used against a movie, you start wondering what the hell is wrong with critics.
The luminous Diane Lane gives a great performance as the owner of the world famous Triple Crown winner who fights her husband, male prejudice, and just about every horse expert who tells her this horse is a loser. Seeing Lane overcome these problems makes the film interesting and suspenseful even though you know this horse is going to win.
Lane has been doing wonderful work for years and with the exception of her Oscar nom for Unfaithful is still pretty much under appreciated. In her long career, dating back to her Time cover for A Little Romance, I have never seen Ms. Lane give a bad performance. Even in junk like Nights in Rodanthe she makes her character interesting and worth seeing. When given first-rate material like Unfaithful, Under the Tuscan Sun and Secretariat she gives truly memorable performances. Sandra Bullock won an Oscar for her feel-good film The Blind Side and an Oscar nomination for Diane Lane in Secretariat does not seem improbable. However, the cool opening box office for Secretariat may mean that the younger audience does not want this kind of old fashioned film. Hopefully good word of mouth will keep this film around for a while. I kept imagining what a real treat we would have if Quentin Tarantino had been turned loose on this material. It would probably have been called Inglorious Stallions, and God knows what that poor horse would have been forced to do.
Life As We Know It
This Katherine Heigl/Josh Duhamel movie seemed like another of Heigl's junky romantic comedies but I was totally surprised at how entertaining it turned out to be. Two people who had a disastrous first date are suddenly left a child to care for when their best friends are killed in a car wreck. This is a pretty hokey premise (and it was already more or less used in the Kate Hudson film Raising Helen a few years ago) but it does get the plot going, and the sparring between the two characters is really quite entertaining.
I have never seen Heigl in Grey's Anatomy and her last two comedies were pretty abysmal, but she is very good here. I don't see any great talent but she is very pretty and has an interesting toughness that you don't see in someone like Jennifer Aniston.
But the pleasant surprise in this film is Josh Duhamel. Not only is he pretty dreamy with the body from heaven, but Duhamel shows a real comedic flair. He somehow makes you like this conceited, sexy oaf. And Duhamel plays with— not against— his great looks and it doesn't alienate the audience but makes you like him all the more.
The movie does have a predictable ending and one that may not be keeping in character but this film is so much better than most of the current "romantic comedies" that you will not care. This film makes you wonder how really good both of these actors would do in a really first-rate film. We may never find out, but the clues are quite evident in Life As We Know It.
This French movie starring Kristin Scott Thomas is in limited release in the U.S. and will probably be gone very fast. This study of a well-to-do French housewife who begins an affair with a handyman will not be a popular favorite and I can't say it is a good movie, but it is riveting thanks to Thomas' performance.
Of all the actresses that I really like, I have never done such a 100% about-face as I have with Thomas. When she first became famous in The English Patient I hated her. I didn't like her looks or her performance. The fact that this Oscar winning Best Picture is one of the all time turkeys did not help her at all. I saw some of her British films after that but I still did not care for her until I saw her in the little seen The Walker with Woody Harrelson a few years ago and the French Tell No One. Suddenly I thought she was the best. She has a great strong face that transcends beauty and she is extremely talented. The fact that the British born actress, who has lived in France for years, is totally fluent in French means that she can star in French films— which still have great parts for actresses who are 50-plus. Ms. Scott Thomas is totally compelling in Partir. The film might be a bit much and a total downer, but you cannot look away. Whatever Kristin Scott Thomas has, she has it in spades and her great talents and beauty shine in two different languages.