Movie Reviews: Burlesque & Love and Other Drugs
Two movies that seem absolutely perfect for the gay audience: camptastic musical Burlesque and beautiful Anne Hathaway and dreamy Jake Gyllenhaal's romantic Love and Other Drugs.
Do they dance or die? Reviewer Mike McCrann lets you know in his reviews.
Burlesque is one giant cliché but because of this (or in spite of it) the film is quite entertaining and fun. There is not one single new element in this Star is Born ripoff, with the exception of positive gay characters, but at least the film is well acted, well edited and mercifully short.
Burlesque had gotten some pretty terrible reviews, even comparing it with Showgirls. I never saw that turkey, but any movie with Cher and Stanley Tucci is at least going to have some star power. Cher's face doesn't move much when she speaks, but she does have presence and talent and it is a tribute to Cher's talent that you always want to see more of her character, Tess. I always thought Cher made a terrible decision when she gave up a movie career to concentrate on singing; after winning an Oscar for Moonstruck it became clear she had a real movie star glow.
Stanley Tucci as Tess' gay compatriot Sean, pretty much steals the film. But then, Tucci pretty much steals every film even when playing opposite great actors like Meryl Streep. Tucci is sexy, funny and talented... something that cannot be said of Alan Cumming whose one musical number is, mercifully, pretty much ignored. Maybe Cumming works on stage, but he is just creepy in films and make most of his roles annoying gay stereotypes.
Okay, so I haven't gotten to Christina Aguilera yet, who plays Ali. To be honest, I had never really seen her before except for one tacky Dancing With the Stars appearance where she was wearing enough makeup to support Max Factor for years. In Burlesque she is fine. She has been made up and photographed with great care and her musical numbers, while not memorable, do reveal an excitingly big voice worthy of better material.
The two sexy men in this film are Cam Gigandet—who you get to see in (almost) all his nude glory— and Eric Dane. Dane plays Marcus, the big bad businessman who plans to tear down Cher's club for some ghastly high rise. Everyone warns Ali about Marcus, but he truly is the sexiest thing in the movie, and his scenes with her do not highlight his greedy ways. Though Gigandet is a cutie and we have an inkling of where his romance with Ali is supposed to lead, I would have gone off with Dane's Marcus in a minute.
So go see Burlesque. You won't see a great musical like Cabaret but you will see every Hollywood cliche' entertainingly delivered.
Love and Other Drugs
Or as I like to call it: "Love Means Never Having to Say You Saw This Film!"
The condition of the Hollywood romantic comedy seems pretty terminal these days. Most of the Jennifer Aniston and Katherine Heigl films of the past few years have been new lows in the genre, but Love and Other Drugs may be the worst as the expectations were so high.
Starring the gorgeous Anne Hathaway and the equally beautiful Jake Gyllenhaal, this film had the most promise: The story of a sexy Viagra salesman meeting an independent woman sounded great. But after seeing this trendy remake of Love Story all I could think was how badly everyone screwed up. Hathaway and Gyllenhaal are probably better actors than either Ali MacGraw or Ryan O'Neal, but at least the earlier movie was coherent, professionally made, and had few extraneous subplots.
Most of the fault lies with director Ed Zwick. I can't say I have ever liked any of his films as they all seem pretentious and poorly executed. Legends of the Fall was one of the worst turkeys ever made, The Last Samurai was faux-epic, while Defiance and Blood Diamond were faux-everything. Zwick, who rose to fame with the popular Thirty Something TV series, seems like the new Stanley Kramer. But at least Kramer occasionally made a good film.
In Drugs we have nudity, drugs, disease of the month, and lots of sex. Not that I have any complaints about seeing Gyllenhaal in various stages of undress, but never did I feel that the characters ever really connected. And yet the worst flaw in this film is the ghastly supporting cast. Josh Gad plays Jake's fat, gross, boorish brother, and, like the equally repellent Jonah Hill in his films, is given an inordinate amount of screen time to disgust the viewer. Considering that fine veteran actors George Segal and Jill Clayburgh (her last film role) are given exactly one short scene as Gyllenhaal's parents makes this directorial decision even more baffling. Are American movie audiences so jaded that creepy overweight actors are allowed to dominate movies playing creepy overweight characters?
The full page ads for Love and Other Drugs had a number of quotes stating how wonderful the film was. Check the sources and you'll find the most obscure critics are quoted here. You know a movie is a dog when they cannot get any positive word of mouth from someone with any critical acumen.
To be fair, I really adore Hathaway and think she has the potential to be a real star. Gyllenhaal is a work in progress. He possesses a great face, charm to burn, a body to drool over, and he has turned in some very good performances, but I am still not sure of his true abilities.
Love and Other Drugs plays like an extended drug/disease infomercial. The scene with real victims of Parkinson's disease sharing at a convention seems truly offensive in this film's context, and the ending is totally predicable and not especially well done.
The fact that this movie rated only a B- in its exit polls is pretty ample proof that audiences want a wonderful love story with beautiful, sexy stars, but they also do not want coarse dialog, disgusting supporting players and a plot that cannot induce one legitimate tear. At least Love Story did all that, and more than 40 years ago.