Saturday, April 22, 2006

Some Movies

Capote

I am not really familiar with Capote's work. I haven’t even seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The extent of my Capote exposure is his cameo in Annie Hall, when Alvy and Annie are people watching and Alvy points out the “winner of the Truman Capote look-alike contest.”

From what I understand, Truman Capote was an asshole with a funny voice. Already that puts this more or less on the level of your pre-serious Adam Sandler movie. Philip Seymour Hoffman does a fine job of being ridiculous yet appealing, currying favor with all those who might help him research his true-crime masterpiece In Cold Blood.

Capote needs the convicted murderers to stay alive long enough for him to interview them extensively, so he finds them a lawyer to help them appeal their case. He proceeds to befriend them, growing so close to one of them, he may even be in love. But the guys keep pestering him for help as their appeals continue all the way to the Supreme Court, even as Capote realizes he can’t finish his eagerly awaited book until they get executed. Awk-ward! Big laughs ensue.

Melinda & Melinda

Not terrible, just boring. Woody Allen has become the friend whose movies you see out of kindness and loyalty. The framing device—playwrights spinning contrasting tales in a restaurant—is as stilted and clumsily written as anything you’ll ever hear. Worse, it only distances you from the characters we’re actually supposed to care about. But never mind, because there was never much hope for them. Radha Mitchell delivers a technically sound performance without ever achieving a compelling screen presence. Will Ferrell labors in the Woody Allen stand-in role, occasionally managing a decent comic delivery but never finding a character to play.

Here and there something is funny. More often you have to strain to find something funny in something that is mildly amusing at best. Will Ferrell’s struggling actor boasts repeatedly about the distinctive touch he brings to his roles—playing them with a limp. The joke, such as it is, gets completely run into the ground.

And then there are the simple, lazy gags that would seem hackneyed in an old sitcom, lifelessly staged without any of the commitment or comic spirit that you'd find on Three's Company. Will Ferrell, nearly caught eavesdropping, presses up against the wall to avoid being seen, then gets his bathrobe caught in a door. This is a comic set piece? For this you made a movie?

And that is only the comic side. The dramatic side gets much more screen time, and without even the attempts at humor, it pretty much just lays there. I could go into more detail, but none that you’d care about.

I haven’t seen Match Point yet. I hope that Woody Allen has indeed redeemed himself. My fear is that people are simply more willing to excuse stiff dialogue when it’s delivered with English accents.

The Squid and the Whale

A whole family of horrible assholes. But they are believable and funny. When Jeff Daniels curses at tennis and the younger son copies him, it rings true. There are some excellent, hilarious moments of dead-on painful awkwardness.

The younger brother’s masturbation stuff is bizarre and creepy. Probably it’s intended to be.

The ending is sudden and not quite satisfying. It casts an air of pretension over a movie that is otherwise much less pretentious than you might expect. What has been resolved? The older brother has realized not to imitate his asshole father, and goes seeking his lost connection with his mother. But was that the story we were following? Maybe the movie is less a cohesive story than a slice-of-life.

4 comments:

lyan! said...

I liked the squid and the whale, a lot.

Kid Fabulous said...

Hey man, thanks for spoiling three movies I haven't seen yet, two of which I was really looking forward to seeing. Why don't you give me a papercut and pour lemon juice on it? It'll save time.

By the by, Matchpoint was really well done.

Kenny said...

Um, sorry? But thanks for reading. Hope to see you again!

Squid and the Whale was the only one I'd really consider a spoiler, and that was pretty vague. I think you'll be okay.

Kid Fabulous said...

OH, uh.. I actually got more about the movies from the IFC freebie mag they give away at the theater. Really was just giving you a hard time. Ha ha. Ha. Hee. ha. ho. Guess it wasn't that funny.

Blast!

Well then. Cheerio.