Movie Reviews: Talented Teens and "Actresses of a Certain Age" edition
This is kind of sick, but one night I was on Netflix Instant looking for a short movie to watch before bed, and I had read on the Internet that day about a girl who was killed by an Amtrak train. So, uh, I decided to watch Stand By Me, a great coming-of-age movie which is about, among other things, kids getting hit and/or almost getting hit by trains.
I’ve never read the Stephen King story on which the movie is based, but I’ve heard it’s great. The movie definitely charms with its 50s detail and foul-mouthed little boys. What’s really distracting, though, is looking at all those young Hollywood actors and thinking about how none of them ended up where people expected. Like, the fat kid slimmed down, is now a regularly working actor (I may have watched his former show, Crossing Jordan, a time or two) married to a former model. The kid who actually seems to have a future as an actor is the one who didn’t (instead he died from drug addiction). The smartass who was already a pretty big star is in the reality TV doldrums now. I especially like that the kid who, in the movie, grows up to be a writer, actually did. Wil Wheaton, one of the few teen Hollywood success stories.
More movies follow!
I could quote this movie from beginning to end, probably. It’s so much cleverer than people know—or rather, than they remember, because everyone I know saw this thing back in the ninth grade, but seemingly nobody saw it twice. Those who do see it again realize that it has a great story—it was adapted broadly but intelligently from Jane Austen’s Emma—that it’s light-hearted, and it’s sweet. It’s FUNNY. It’s madly funny. “My dad’s a litigator—that’s the scariest kind of lawyer. He gets paid $500 an hour to fight with people, but he fights with me for free because I’m his daughter!” Alicia Silverstone could not have been more pitch-perfect for the role she had to play, and it’s a shame that she didn’t go on after that to have the career that everyone sort of assumed she would.
The trio of girls who are the main protagonists in the movie are dumb, kind of, but their hearts are in the right place, and they learn. That’s why it’s called Clueless and not Mean Girls. Heh, speaking of…
Ah, the spiritual heir of Clueless. The one where the girls are not “adorably clueless,” but rather, where they are savages, out to sabotage and steamroll each other. Written by Tina Fey, incidentally, adapting a work of nonfiction, which accounts for some of the weirder elements (i.e., “let’s give the main character a background in anthropology so she has a reason to be making all these observations about how people interact!”). Again, the movie is quotable to no end, mostly Rachel McAdams as Regina George: “Boo, you whore!” “That’s the ugliest effing skirt I’ve ever seen.” “Stop trying to make ‘fetch’ happen. It’s not going to happen.” “I was half a virgin when I met him!” I’m also fond of Damien (“I’ve been really busy with choir”) and Tim Meadows as the principal (“It’s really not required of you to make a speech.”).
I will admit that it’s sad to look at Lindsay Lohan and know about all the God-given gifts (talent, awesome hair) that she’ll go on to squander on drugs and dudes.
This movie is goofy, but man, I love it. Meryl Streep, Action Star! As far as goofy action thrillers go, it’s pretty smart. Streep and the family react to the criminals who take them hostage on their rafting trip in believable ways. When the dad (David Strathairn) breaks loose and sets up a complicated little trap to slow the raft’s progress, it makes sense because he’s an architect, or an engineer or something. The end is the best—I won’t spoil it—but Streep has to decide how far she will go to protect her family and she goes about it in an incredibly logical way. Pure Hollywood, in the best sense.
My sister bought this for my mom for Christmas, but in giving it to her, told her that she would not join in watching it. She had tried to sit through the movie and couldn’t do it; she found it ridiculous and boring. My grandmother professed to dislike it, too. So, my mom and I, who saw it together in the theater, watched it again at home, and when it was over, expressed to each other how baffled we were that other people didn’t like it. Meryl Streep—AGAIN—is awesome. I like the Amy Adams plot, too; see this previous entry where I wrote about how much I got what she was doing. It’s sweet and funny and charming. It’s not a cinematic achievement on par with Singin’ in the Rain or anything like that, but it’s a fun ride.
One of these movies I watch resulting from turning on TCM first thing on a Saturday morning. A silly story, perfect over toast and cereal. For some reason it was set in Cleveland. George Brent is the kind of slimy main guy, who can’t seem to decide whether he wants his acknowledged fiancee or his college-era love, and keeps trying to have both. However, his double dealings are no match for Anne Sheridan, the wisecracking secretary, who is also his fiancee. You NEVER mess with the wisecracking secretary. (Movies from the forties really represent the Golden Age of wisecracking secretaries, which is perhaps why I like movies from the forties so much.)
I put this in the queue because I read about it in Entertainment Weekly—a “can you believe our industry?” article about how established director Amy Heckerling (Clueless among others, see above) made a romantic comedy with two big stars (Michelle Pfeiffer and Paul Rudd) that nobody would consent to release and so it went straight to video. EW thought it was about there being no presumed market for ‘mature woman’ stories. They are definitely more of a draw at the box office now (STREEP!) than they were in 2007, to be sure, but I wonder if maybe the lack of interest was as much about the studio heads being a little insulted by the treatment they got in the movie. Michelle Pfeiffer is the head writer on a teen-oriented TV show, trying to navigate the ‘younger-is-better’ world of Hollywood and not sell out artistically. She continually butts heads with the studio suits, all old men with twenty-year-old girlfriends they want her to hire on in starring roles. Pfeiffer’s clearly a stand-in for Heckerling—she even dresses like her, in rock and roll tees and Doc Martens—and Fred Willard plays the main studio guy, which should tell you everything right there. It was really quite funny, but also really sweet, and Saoirse Ronan, as Pfeiffer’s teenage daughter, was wonderful, endearingly awkward. She writes and performs snarky versions of pop songs and does an awesome Britney Spears: “I’m just—not—TAL-EN-TED.” (Hey, follow this link and you can see it yourself!)
I’d show this movie to anyone who questioned what it meant when a film or novel is called “self-conscious.” This is the moviest movie I’ve ever seen, the indiest indie film I’ve ever seen. Characters sit in artfully-arranged greasy-spoon diners and lament where their lives have gone. The movie doesn’t feel like a glimpse into the lives of real people, it feels like a meticulously-designed collection of cliches—cliches that I enjoy, for the most part, but still cliches.
For some reason, modern day torch singer Norah Jones plays the lead role. She must carry her charisma in her voice, because as a protagonist she’s sort of a blank. Rachel Weisz has kind of a nice turn as a vaguely slutty drunky type; Jude Law as the diner proprietor is somewhat unconvincing. But the movie’s worst misstep is casting Natalie Portman in a role that should clearly have gone to an actress in the 40-50 year old range, a cynical gambling addict with fried blonde hair. I never want to hear Natalie say, “This is for you, toots,” again. Natalie cannot carry off ‘toots.’ (What was Michelle Pfeiffer doing that day? If you can believe Entertainment Weekly she was probably free.)