Sunday, January 25, 2009

Revolutionary Road

If movies about bad marriages with people who are unhappy with themselves are your cup of tea, then grab your mug. This is essentially an indictment of suburban marriage in the 50s- which was just fine for most people, or as fine as it is for anyone in general. It is a story of a couple who (as Alex says) love one another but hate themselves. Winslet finds out the hard way that her dreams of being an actress were all in vain- that she really had no talent for it. DiCaprio discovers that he actually has a talent for the job he took because he has a wife and children. This movie felt like a weird version of American Beauty. The style, the music, the pacing. Alex thought it was great. I have to say that because I thought it was contrived and had way more anger than normal people would suddenly start spewing that I am still trying to decide. The acting is overwrought. The best person in this film is Michael Shannon- who plays realtor Kathy Bates's mentally ill son. Like a demented cousin of David Letterman (and I cannot stand letterman but there was a resemblance), Shannon had lines that made us laugh out loud. Repeatedly. He was awesome and brought humor to this solidly depressing film. I don't know what I expected, but extensive marital screaming, 6 million cigarettes, 40 martinis and a few affairs do not a movie make.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Wrestler

This movie answers the questions a)what happens to middle aged wrestlers b) what happens to middle aged pole dancers and C)who britney spears sells her ratty hair extensions to when she is moving on to a weave. Mickey Rourke (extension recipient) is the wrestler- the Ram- who is now on the B level circuit with the other older, worn down pro wrestlers. His life is wrestling- and we learn that for that, he has given up his health, his pension, his home and his child. Rourke does a really masterful job of being the man who tries to conform in order to win back his child and regain his life, but he cannot escape the love of the beating he gets and gives in the ring. Some fake, some not. The only female he has any relationship with is a pole dancer played in the buff by Marisa Tomei. She has a face so real and so honest that the fatigue of such a damaged life shows in every scene. Rourke's daughter is played by everyone's favorite crazy, real life chain smoker and Dita Von Teese wannabe, Rachel Evan Wood-and she doesn't disappoint. Rourke, who hasn't been able to claim the title everyone's favorite crazy, pulls off the wrestler with an oddly sweet disposition. The rage is in the ring. He is the friend of the kids in the trailer park, the tentative suitor, the penitent but flawed father. He is so sure he deserves it, that he allows himself to be stapled with an industrial staple gun in the ring. It is as if the ring itself is the punishment he feels he deserves for being so unconnected to the average world. The tragic mask of Rourke's miserable real life plastic surgery adds more poignancy to the character he plays. I am sure there are critics who will give this movie 4 stars. But I'm going to deduct just half a star. But certainly it was very close. If you are wondering what happened to Rourke- here is a good article.

Friday, January 2, 2009


This is an absolutely fantastic movie. In a season of very good films, this is the superstar. What could have been a boring, bombastic, screeching indictment turns out to be a tightly written, incredibly acted, portrait of both David Frost and Richard Nixon. Michael Sheen, a Welsh actor who played Tony Blair so well in The Queen, does a beautiful interpretation of a Frost who radiates personality and optimism. But it is Frank Langella who does a Richard Nixon of such depth that it is totally possible to feel empathy for the predicament he finds himself in. Both Langella and Sheen are reprising these roles from the play. Director, and everyone's fav learjet liberal, Ron Howard, adds a scene with a drunken phonecall, which is really an egregious sort of character assasination (as if Nixon needed any more) on Howard's part. But the film, if you excuse the inaccuracies, is seamlessly done. Howard holds back his tendency to make a statement and tells an exciting story. I have to say, Nixon did end the VietNam war. He did it. No one else did. The Vietnam war did convince the Russians and Chinese that we would fight again. The cost to the Russians may have led to the eventual dismantling of the Russian empire. It cost over 50,000 lives, but could have cost so many more. Nixon didn't PUT us into Viet Nam, and it took a lot to get us back out. So he will never be that much of a villain to me. If you don't see this film, you will have missed quite an experience.

The Reader

Kate Winslet plays Hannah, a German woman of very Germanic temperament who finds a sick boy throwing up in the entrance to her building. She assists him home. He returns to find her to thank her and an affair results. He reads to her as she insists. From there, it develops into an odd holocaust themed moved that tends to confuse in more than one way. I find a lot of holocaust films to be contrived and forced into plots where it does not belong. This movie was great with just the story of the impact of the older woman. Ralph Fiennes plays the adult that the youth becomes- and he has had a life of great sadness because of his grief for his first lover-Hannah. This is a very well done, very deep movie. If all you take away is the surface story, then you have missed the real story. Winslet plays a very unlikeable character- a very self- absorbed, manipulative woman who uses a teen aged boy to get what she wants. His life is of little interest to her- not then and not ever. He, on the other hand, does not have normal relationships again. Does he punish her by not saving her when he has the chance to? Only the viewer can decide his motives. And Winslet has lost a solid 30 pounds. At least. So much for not caring what people thought of her weight. It is an intriguing film- but not for the nazi part- but for the emotional part. It would be wise to fire the makeup artist- at times, Winslet looks like they put paste on her face and shoved it in flour. And the story makes little sense chronologically. The dates and ages are ALL over the place. If you go by dates given, she is only a few years older, but the film implies she is 16 years older. He is 16 in 1943, but in law school as a very young man in 1966? I couldn't figure that out unless I just totally screwed it up. They say they meet in post war Germany in the plot summary, but she quits her job and leaves and goes to work in a concentration camp- how can that be post war? Ugh. The first part of the movie didn't cost a thing for wardrobe- Winslet and Kross are naked. So, there is no excuse for such confusion in a film. Dates can be kept straight by counting on your fingers if you have to.


"Doubt" stars Meryl Streep and Amy Adams as nuns teaching in a Catholic school in Boston and has Philip Seymour Hoffman as the parish priest who Streep suspects of grooming the new scholarship student, who happens to be black, to be his victim. The story is not so far fetched, and having been a play, it is cohesive and well written. Streep does a great job as a stern head mistress of the school, while Adams, with her fetchingly large and innocent blue eyes, does a good job of playing the naive young teacher who doesn't believe what she doesn't know to be fact, yet passive aggressively reports the priest to Streep for suspicious activity. You will get to decide - I said yes, Alex said no.