Sunday, April 27, 2008

Then She Found Me

This morning I screened Then She Found Me, starring Helen Hunt and Colin Firth.

I was quite pleasantly surprised by the depth and meaning of this film.

The main character, April (Hunt), seems to have everything going wrong in her life: her adoptive mother just passed away, her husband cheated on her and left her, and she desperately wants to be a mom as she feels her biological clock ticking out of control. She's 39, a teacher and alone.

Then out of nowhere, her obnoxious biological mother (played by a perfectly cast Bette Midler) swoops back into her life to complicate things even further.

What saves the movie from being a complete downer is the lucky connection she makes with Frank (Firth), the father of one of her students, though she works hard to self-sabatoge that relationship too.

That's not to say that all (or any) of this is her fault—her persona is likable and sweet, if not pathetic, and you can't help but root for her. But what I liked the most about this intertwined story was that every situation could happen. April is not perfect, so when her character grows as a result of these experiences, it makes them all that more believable.

Hunt should be commended not only for her acting in this role, but for her directing, as she commands great performances from all involved.

The only elements of the film that bothered me were an early street scene between Hunt and Midler, which feels more like a theater performance than a conversation, and the fact that I found myself wanting to give April a hairstyle for the duration.

Otherwise, watching this movie is a great way to spend a couple of hours.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Tonight I saw Forgetting Sarah Marshall, starring Jason Segel.

It was the topic of Cinebanter #50, which is available here.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

My Blueberry Nights

This morning I saw Blueberry Nights, starring Norah Jones and Jude Law.

I expected so much more from this film.

As a big fan of director Wong Kar Wai, I knew the movie would be shot beautifully, have a meaningful soundtrack and involve the topic of love. And I was right—all of those elements were present, but what was missing was the intrigue of his past films and actors who fit the parts.

Jude Law, who plays café server Jeremy, is the only one in this movie that seems to fit. He's a disheveled, lonely worker who genuinely misses his regular customer Elizabeth (Jones) when she suddenly disappears.

Jones, who has the voice of an angel and a stunning face to go with it, is sadly not much of an actress. I really, really wanted to like her in this role, but her delivery was so static and robotic, I couldn't be forced to care about her character.

Anyway, Elizabeth has just experienced a bitter breakup and is searching for something new to take away the pain. She begins a nightly ritual of visiting Jeremy in his café and eating blueberry pie with him into the wee hours of the night.

One day she decides the memories of her relationship in New York are too much for her to bear, so she sets out on a direction-less journey, which takes her to Memphis and Las Vegas. Along the way she encounters more poorly cast folks (Natalie Portman as a cheap gambler; David Strathairn as a possessive alcoholic) that are no more endearing than their caricatures would suggest.

The meandering nature of the film is somewhat of a hallmark for Kar Wai, but when it doesn't work it only forces us to look at our watch.

After leaving this long movie, which was actually quite brief, all I wanted to do was listen to Jones' hit CD Come Away With Me, watch Kar Wai's masterpiece In the Mood for Love and eat a slice of blueberry pie.

My own direction-less journey to take away the pain of this disappointment.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Life Before Her Eyes

Tonight I saw a screening of The Life Before Her Eyes, starring Uma Thurman and Evan Rachel Wood.

If you could see your future life before your eyes, would it change how you live and love in the present?

At the root of this story, that's what's being asked of the audience.

We see a rebellious teenage Diana (Wood) bored with classes, free with sex and cold to her mother. When a Columbine-like shooting happens at her high school, and the killer is a boy who told her the previous day he was going to do it, we're forced to watch Diana and her best friend lobby for their lives. The scenes (some may call flashbacks; others may not) are brutally tension-filled and well-acted, which makes them incredibly hard to repeatedly sit through.

In parallel frames of the film, we see a thirtysomething Diana, now played by Thurman, in an unstable marriage with a bratty daughter of her own. She's struggling to get through the anniversary of the massacre and live her life in a meaningful way despite its dysfunctions.

The hard-to-believe part of the film was the fact Diana became a teacher. If I were the victim of a school shooting, the last place I'd probably want to spend every day would be at a school.

That said, the character in question and all of her actions are completely up for interpretation, so that last paragraph there could be erased, depending on how you digest one of the twists.

Regardless of where you think the story goes or went, no one can argue that the two leads aren't superb. Wood is an actress so gifted, her eyes convey her character's intentions and her body and words simply follow; Thurman brings a maturity I've never seen from her to the role, portraying 'damaged' in a painfully authentic and vulnerable way.

I would recommend this film as food for thought, if nothing else. And those of you who have seen it—I'd love to debate the ending with you.

E-mail me at with your theories...

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Snow Angels

Tonight I saw Snow Angels, starring Kate Beckinsale and Sam Rockwell.

It is the topic of Cinebanter #49, which is available here.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Married Life

Tonight I saw Married Life, starring Chris Cooper and Pierce Brosnan.

I wonder why this isn't getting more press?

It's a woven tale of love, lies, lust and deceit, featuring brilliant actors, clever writing and solid direction. I was thoroughly entertained.

Harry (Cooper) is a man an an unhappy marriage (it's just based on sex) to Pat (Patricia Clarkson), who desires to marry his mistress for love (Rachel McAdams). It looks as though that will happen until outside interference throws everything out of sync.

Pierce Brosnan plays Rich, Harry's single best friend who narrates the story, and gives a charming Pierce-like performance.

There are a lot of twists and turns to all of the relationships (none I can mention without spoiling), some predictable; others not at all. This light and fast-paced journey has so much substance underneath, it's almost as if the audience is tricked into pondering life's big questions upon leaving the theater.

Very well done—anyone who's ever kept secrets from their lover (or had secrets kept from them by their lover) should see it. And then promptly get a divorce.