Alice in Movieland

{January 30, 2010}   NEW BLOG

I’ve exported my blog to Come visit me there! =)


{January 29, 2010}   Hope Springs (2003)

When British artist Colin Ware (Colin Firth) receives an invitation to the wedding of his fiancée and another man, he flies to the most hopeful sounding place he can find: Hope, Vermont. He arrives, nearly immobilized by emotional distress, and his motel manager (Mary Steenburgen) calls her friend Mandy (Heather Graham) who’s a therapist at the local nursing home to come talk to him. She’s young and attractive, but things quickly become ridiculous with her glugging down an entire bottle of liquor on their first outing and then stripping down and jumping around his motel room because being naked makes her happy (couldn’t be due to the fact that she’s drunk). Colin is thus instantly attracted to her (well, she *is* naked), but the movie then tries to make us believe that their attraction builds slowly as they continue to see each other around town. Who wrote this script?? Anyway, they’re supposed to be in a believable relationship, happy and falling in love, when Colin’s ex-fiancée Vera (Minnie Driver) shows up claiming that the invitation was just a gag to get his attention because she felt they were drifting apart (hello, heartless psycho). Colin tells her to leave, but in a most annoyingly stubborn fashion she continues to hang around to attempt to get him to take her back. She slyly tricks Mandy, who responds something like a melodramatic teenager and tells Colin they’re through. Pepper in a bit more unbelievability and plotting which I suppose was intended to be intriguingly suspenseful and the movie ends up falling far short of its goal of being a witty and charming romantic comedy.

I’m sure the actors did the best they could with what they had, but it comes off as ridiculous and I blame very bad writing. By far, not my favorite Mary Steenburgen piece (though, to her credit, she does do ditzy almost too well – very scary) and I prefer Firth in roles a little more… I’m not even sure what. Random: Oliver Platt plays the major.

{January 27, 2010}   Genova (2008)

Story of a father (Colin Firth) and his two daughters who move to Genova, Italy after his wife dies and how they each cope with their loss (seems he always plays someone who’s either been left or widowed, poor guy). It’s filmed in a very unusual way, at least compared to American films. Seems more like a documentary of their lives. It’s an okay movie, but there’s nothing in it that really stood out. The story’s good, it’s a quiet piece about grief, but I think they could have written it in a much more engaging style. Firth pointed out something in an interview, though, that I hadn’t thought of, that there are lots of shots of them going from place to place, room to room, and carrying on with the normal stuff of life and they did that to show that grief is dealt with in the context of having to continue one’s life. All in all, though, I felt as if I were seeing scenes and snippets in the family’s life, but not actually watching a movie. It didn’t help that there was no real ending. It just sort of curved it’s way through their lives for an hour or two and then… [end credits]. As one reviewer said, “everything remains unspoken, underdeveloped and annoyingly inconclusive.” Again, not a *bad* movie. Just not a very engaging one. I might watch it again in a few years and have a better appreciation for it.

{January 27, 2010}   Then She Found Me (2007)

This is the story of a woman named April (Helen Hunt). We’re immediately and without explanation thrown into her life. She’s having difficulty getting pregnant, but is very set against adopting, having been adopted herself and insisting that the bonding isn’t as strong as with biologically related parents and children. Very next scene: her husband (Matthew Broderick) is apologetically telling her that he’s leaving her, saying he made a mistake (assumably marrying her), but he hopes they can be friends. She kisses him and they have sex one last time on the kitchen floor (which, I have to tell you, was just gross, because, after his pathetic “I’m going to leave you” blah-blah, he’s a spineless, whimpy little twerp, and I’m like, “Ew, don’t sleep with the disgusting boy-man!!” Thoroughly repulsive and I feel violated even having to *watch* something that immature grope a woman. Seriously, he’s like prepubescent-nasty. How can you let that near you?) and then he leaves. Next scene: chaos at the elementary school where she’s a teacher, because her husband, who apparently used to work there too, has quit and all of his students are funneled into her classroom. Next scene: her adoptive mother’s funeral. NEXT scene: she receives news that her biological mother wants to contact/meet her for the first time. The effect: You’re left feeling like you’re being drug behind a car and you’re not even sure where it’s going. When we meet her mother (Bette Midler), oh maybe a minute later, she’s overwhelming. No other word for it. Simply overwhelming. WHY AM I WATCHING THIS MOVIE??? Oh, yeah. Colin Firth‘s in it. He plays Frank, the sleep-deprived father of one of her students whose wife conveniently also left him, aka, the romantic interest, though it’s somewhat unnerving how quickly said interest is developed. He is, of course, though, beautiful to behold and that makes up for a good deal of  the movie’s other failings. Almost… Anyway, insert attraction and complications and overbearing mother and slimey husband and a pregnancy and some scenes with a very hurt or angry Frank… and it just keeps going… The only part that resonates with me is the desperate sense of frustration when she’s trapped between two lives. Will she be able to be with Frank, who truly gets her, or is she stuck (by a formerly wanted pregnancy) with a poor excuse for a man? Just remember that we end up with a happy, albeit anticlimactic, ending in the end. That’s where you would put the happy ending, afterall, is at the end, but with this movie you’ve been wishing it would hurry up since you started watching and you weren’t quite sure you were going to make it all the way through. But did I mention Colin Firth’s in it?

Hunt directed as well as starred in this movie and perhaps that’s why it turns into something of a melodrama swirling around her character. A very dull, drawn out melodrama. Not the worst, but definitely one of the lower points of my Colin Firth fest.

This movie does what few romantic comedies do and lets us see *after* the Happily Ever After of the first movie. Six weeks into her relationship with Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), Bridget (Renée Zellweger) begins to question how perfect her life has become. Despite being in a relationship with a man who clearly loves her (or maybe *because* of it… hmm…), Bridget’s insecurity increases to enormous proportions. Her self-esteem plummets as she views herself unreasonably harshly in contrast to the pedestal Mark is on. She is certain he sees her in this same light (fat, socially inept, and generally not good enough for him) and her insecurity turns to jealousy when she compares herself to Mark’s beautiful colleague Rebecca and begins to despair that he may be having an affair. He’s not, of course, but jealousy and insecurity are nearly incurable once set in motion. Additionally, in the wake of a pregnancy scare, they struggle with how different their backgrounds are. It all comes to a head at a luncheon with their parents when Mark says they aren’t thinking about marriage yet. Bridget’s certainly thinking about it and this comment crushes her already fragile view of their relationship. She breaks up with him very soon after. Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) is thrown back into the mix when Bridget’s boss hires him to do a televised travelogue series and wants her to be his co-host. Thankfully, she brings Shazzar along for protection, because, once in Thailand, Daniel turns up the charm and tries to get Bridget into bed. But you have to give her credit! She *is* at least a little smarter in some respects than the first movie and leaves him shocked at his lack of success. On their way out of the country, however, Bridget is arrested for carrying cocaine (the souvenir from Shazzar’s vacation fling). Daniel does nothing to help her and Bridget lands in jail. After some time, Mark arrives in legal capacity to tell her that she will be released, but still seems to be hurt from the breakup and tells her that he’s only the messenger. But once Bridget is set free and makes her way back to London (now a bit of a celebrity because of her ordeal), her friends tell her that Mark worked tirelessly, traveling to several countries, pulling in favors from top officials, to get her released (which somewhat echoes P&P’s Darcy’s background efforts). Hoping against hope that he still loves her, she bursts into a meeting at his legal office to ask him to take her back. He excuses himself from the meeting and, after a slight blunder on her part, asks her to marry him. The movie ends with her catching the bouquet at her parents’ vow renewal wedding.

There are a few things we could say about this movie. Yes, it is obviously a sequel and, therefore, some of the things like her unflattering tv adventures and her battle to resist Daniel and the fight between the two guys do seem a little overworked. And, yes, as one reader remarked about the first movie, the ending here too does seem a little too abruptly “storybook” in it’s sudden, near perfect, happy resolution. And, YES, Bridget is remarkably more stupid in this one and the first half of the movie (with her and Mark) is almost painful. Yes. I will grant you all these things. … I still very much love this movie (in a very different way from the first). I love the first movie the way I love all romantic movies with a happy ending: for its vicarious emotional high. This movie… What I love most IS the painful part. The part where she’s being completely insecure and paranoid and jealous and utterly hopelessly stupid… I love that part. It is the greatest of negative lessons. I know exactly how she’s feeling. I see exactly how she gets there. I know why and I identify soooo much, because I have felt that way too and it SUCKS. I can see why she is so crazy and acts so rashly, so… stupidly. Every time I watch it, I cringe and I want to yell at the screen for her to stop being retarded, but I love it, because it’s very cathartic for me. It reminds me not to be that way. Every time I watch it, I resolve to be sane! And secure. And trusting. The next time I am in a relationship, I will *not* be Bridget. I will trust him when he says he loves me (if indeed it should be obvious that he does). I didn’t believe him last time and I ruined everything. Bridget reminds me of that. …and, yet, amazingly, Bridget gets a happy ending (yeah, maybe that part’s slightly unrealistic, but after the first half it would be cruel not to give us *some* emotional reconciliation or bring us up a notch).

Oddly, my biggest complaint is that I hate the poster. In the first one, she’s all sweet and pretty looking. Here, it might as well read, “Uhhhhhhh… Me no know…” She looks Retarded (and fatter and hardly like the same person). Hate this poster. HATE, HATE, HATE this poster.

But I have to admit that I very much enjoyed the fight scene in this movie. While they obviously put it in because the one in the first movie had been such a hit, it really does work in the story line. Mark needs to confront Daniel (after all, he thinks Daniel slept with her again) and that seems a very sweet expression of how much Mark cares for her. YouTube is woefully lacking in clips of this scene, but I did find one (sorry about the quality):

There is, of course, talk of a third Bridget Jones movie, but nobody seems to know much yet.

{January 20, 2010}   Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)

Alright, back to my backtracking… where was I? Oh yes. I had reached Alan-Rickman-overload and needed to watch something/anything else. Bridget Jones’s Diary popped into my head as an option I hadn’t seen in forever, so I went for it. …and fell in love with the irresistible Colin Firth.

The movie is based on Helen Fielding’s book of the same name and is a modern retelling of/spin on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Instead of Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters, we now have Bridget Jones (Renée Zellweger) and her band of friends; in place of Wickham, we have Bridget’s boss, Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant); and standing in for Mr. Darcy, we have… Mr. Darcy (Colin Firth). Mark Darcy, that is. *clears throat*

Starts off with Bridget arriving at her mother’s annual Turkey Curry Buffet, dreading the idea that her mother would probably try to set her up with someone. She was right. Her mother almost immediately introduces her to Mark and runs away, hoping they’ll hit it off. Nervous, Bridget makes a fool of herself by rambling on about her drinking and smoking habits. Minutes later, in line for the buffet, she overhears him telling his mother that he doesn’t need to be set up, “particularly not with some verbally incontinent spinster who drinks like a fish, smokes like a chimney, and dresses like her mother.” Ouch. Hearing herself described in that manner, Bridget realizes she needs to make some changes. She vows to lose weight, find a respectable boyfriend, and stop fantasizing about her boss. To keep track of these New Years’ Resolutions, she starts a diary (hence, our title). Well, she very quickly fails at the last two and, instead of ignoring Daniel, in short order begins shagging him. He, however, equally quickly cheats on her with a colleague who’s over from the states. When Bridget finds out, she is devastated, but resolves that she “will not be defeated by a bad man and an American stick insect.” She quits her job at the publishing house to get away from him and is hired elsewhere as a television journalist. Meanwhile, she has continued to periodically run into Mark Darcy (EVER accompanied by his assistant Natasha). At first, he was the last person she wanted to see, believing (based on Daniel’s account) that Mark had previously slept with Daniel’s fiancée, leaving Daniel brokenhearted. Now however, despite having been very dour at every meeting while she was dating Daniel, he professes to like her and, indeed, seems warmer at every meeting, especially when he comes by on her birthday and attempts to rescue the dinner. Things fall to pieces, though, when Daniel interrupts their little party. Mark, uncomfortable with being in the same room as Daniel (and possibly believing that Bridget is about to take him back), leaves but immediately returns to have it out with him. Insert funny sissy fight. When Daniel is knocked out with the last punch, Bridget sides with him (one nearly wonders if he might not be faking for exactly that purpose). Only later does Bridget realize her mistake when she learns from her mother that it was not Mark who slept with Daniel’s fiancée, but Daniel who slept with Mark’s wife, leaving Mark, not Daniel, the brokenhearted one. She hurries to apologize only to discover that he is planning to leave to take a job in America. To comfort her, her friends decide to take her to Paris, but, at the last minute, guess who shows up. :)

The message of the movie is simple: be brave enough to be yourself and, in the end, someone will love you just as you are. It’s a message that all women long to believe, but which is too often told to them unconvincingly by someone who has it all together. Not this time. That’s where this movie triumphs. Bridget hits a note with women everywhere becuse she *doesn’t* have it all together and EVERY woman can identify with her in one way or another, be it her wobbly self-image, her battles with weight, her difficulties with men, or simply her struggle to come into her own. What woman hasn’t wondered whether she is the one exception who will never get it all together and find her happy ending? What single woman in her 30’s hasn’t heard the ticking clock and felt like she was the only one left alone? When Bridget unveiled her private thoughts to the world, a cry went up, a cry of recognition, as females everywhere rejoiced that they weren’t alone, they weren’t abnormal. Bridget’s frankness and candor is both refreshing and delightful and her honesty in her successes *and* failures gives women hope and reassurance. As she gives us the gift of laughter, we are freed to release our fears as well. Bridget found love in the end. We will, too.

Zellweger did an incredible job with this role, moving to England well before filming in order to immerse herself in the setting and learn the language (British, as opposed to American, English) and the accent. She even took at job at a publishing house for a little while. She was totally committed to the part and pleasantly stunned the rest of the cast with her work ethic. As a result, she delivers a performance of haunting honesty and gives her character, already so alive to Fielding’s readers, a very human face and further endeared her to viewers.

Firth does an excellent job as Darcy (by now, he’s had enough practice with the character). On subsequent viewings, it’s fun to pay close attention to Mark’s expressions each time he sees Bridget and watch the subtle progression. Firth has extremely expressive eyes and seems to be a master at controlling exactly how much emotion they reveal. He makes reserved, apparently snooty lawyers hot. Grant, on the other hand, was outrageous in his role as Cleaver. If Firth’s was a job in subtlety, hiding Mark’s great sensitivity behind a guise of aloofness, Grant’s job was to go over the top in portraying Daniel as a suave womanizer. He succeeded brilliantly. He’s slimey enough to despise, but too charming to hate.

Gemma Jones and Jim Broadbent played the parts of Bridget’s parents. Their subplot nicely rounded out the movie. And, by the by, two of Bridget’s friends seemed strangely familiar to me. You might recognize them. Tom (James Callis) went on to play Gaius Baltar in Battlestar Galactica and Jude (Shirley Henderson) later had the part of Moaning Myrtle in two of the Harry Potter movies (In her first scene, where she’s crying on the phone to Bridget, her voice is unmistakable. And, amusingly/coincidentally, she’s in a bathroom.)

Needless to say, this is one of my favorite movies. After watching it online, I just had to go out and buy it. Barnes & Noble had a Buy 2, Get 1 special, so I got Bridget Jones 1, Bridget Jones 2, AND the 5-hour BBC Pride and Prejudice! A very nice beginning to my Colin Firth collection. (Gee, I wonder which movies I’m going to review next?? :-p)

This trailer mix-up humored me. Very funny.

{January 17, 2010}   Laws of Attraction (2004)

I really need to stop watching previews til I catch up with the Colin Firth reviews, but can you blame me? I saw this…

…and I thought, “Wait a second. I *own* that!” Apparently, I’d never watched it. So wasteful! I know! So I went hunting through my movie stash and here we are.

All in all, pretty good, pretty cute (especially Pierce Brosnan). It’s about two lawyers, two *divorce* lawyers, Daniel Rafferty (Brosnan) and Audrey Woods (Julianne Moore), who… wake up one morning and find themselves married. To each other. Problem: they don’t *like* each other. At least, that’s what she thinks (well, they *have* been bickering pretty much nonstop since they met. Er… is she just bickering at him?). Poor Daniel. I felt so bad for him when she told him they were going to have to get it annulled.

Audrey: Oh, oh, oh, it’s all coming back! We gotta find the guy that did this and tell him we didn’t mean it!
Daniel: Well, what if I did mean it?
Audrey: Of course you didn’t, how could you? You don’t want to be married to me!
Daniel: (after she runs out of the room) How do you know?

You feel so bad for him!! And he keeps trying to make it work. She, however, has the curse of many women, insecurity, and doesn’t realize that he actually loves her til after she makes him leave.

On a few points, it’s a little formulaic, like the crucial last minute save (oops! well, you knew it was coming), or the two of them falling into bed after the first date, but, eh, so what if it’s predictable? It’s a romantic-comedy!! They’re always predictable! Doesn’t mean we don’t love ’em. The point of the genre is that it makes you feel good, gives you a few laughs, and leaves you walking away all dreamy-eyed, ready to find your own Pierce Brosnan (who, by the way, did not fail to bring his rugged good looks and irresistible smile to the picture, even if he is, and I only just realized this, 56).

I was actually very pleased to see that they gave their “relationship” a little time to develop before the crisis of ending up married. I’d been worried they were going to do it much earlier in the film. I was a little disappointed with Moore, though, because, although she looked stunning, she seemed to go a tiny bit overboard with her character’s uptightness (and something else I can’t quite put my finger on…). Maybe it was to help accentuate the contrast with Daniel’s easy, laid-back manner. She did, however, unravel far too quickly when drunk (a smidge past believable there) and her blind insecurity got a tad old after awhile. And I’m not sure why they thought the Weather Channel joke was funny enough to leave in the movie… twice. But, as I said… it does what a romantic-comedy’s supposed to do. It’s a decent, feel-good movie. (I’m not going to complain about 85 minutes with the dazzling Brosnan even if the plot *is* slightly unrealistic!!)

And, if for some reason Brosnan does nothing for you, the movie *does* boast a couple beautiful shots of Irish scenery. At least, I hope they were actually shot in Ireland. I think that would have been a nice treat for the native born actor.

{January 16, 2010} Celebrity Lists

Went puttin’ around, looking for a list of actors from which I could cultivate a list of my favorites, since that’s basically the format this blog is going to follow, going through the movies of my favorite actors and actresses, exploring their films I haven’t seen… Anyway, landed on and (I’m sure I’m the last person on the planet to have found these, but) came across a couple interesting lists pertaining to Hollywood incomes and “power levels.” Amusing enough for a short browse.

Like I said, not my normal deal, but it did help give me some ideas of who to watch after my Colin Firth fest, which I shall launch into next. :)

{January 15, 2010}   Stranger Than Fiction (2006)

So, it was at this point that I’d had my fill of Alan Rickman (::gasp:: Blasphemy!! I know, right? Just temporarily!). I needed a romantic comedy. Something. Anything. As long as it didn’t have Alan Rickman in it. So I opted for the first one that popped into my head, which happened to be Bridget Jones’s Diary. But, as you can see, this post isn’t about Bridget Jones’s Diary. Rather, I somehow just came across a trailer for Stranger Than Fiction (which this post *is* about) and can’t resist running off and watching it. Right now. Mid-post.

Two hours later… I must say I liked it. Normally, I despise Will Ferrell (Bewitched being the one tolerable exception). Granted, I’ve practically refused to watch anything he’s been in since I saw Elf, but all the previews for his movies look retarded, and if there’s one type of movie that I hate, it’s retarded, “stupid humor” movies. The kind I associate Will Ferrell with. (…actually, I can’t stand horror either, but anyway…) *This*, though, was actually *good*.

He plays Harold Crick. IRS agent, low-key, uptight, moderately obsessive-compulsive, intelligent, shy, self-isolated Harold Crick. Will Ferrell?! Will Ferrell is playing a nice, decent (if at first glance somewhat boring), non-obnoxious, relatively sedate personality???!! Holy cow!! And he *nails* it. Positively adorable, sweet, and, dare I say it, attractive. See guys? It *is* all about the personality.

As I was saying, he plays Harold Crick. Normal guy, normal routine, suddenly starts hearing voices one day. Well, one voice, and it’s narrating his life. Harold’s a little freaked out by this (wouldn’t you be?), but he tries to ignore it… until it foreshadows his death. “What?! Why??!!!” And thus begins his quest to prevent his death, in the course of which he learns to live. Oh, he was alive, but he hadn’t been living. He’d been mindlessly plodding along, working at a joyless job, living alone… Now, he’s stepping out, taking a vacation, learning to play the guitar, and working up enough nerve to get the girl. …and trying to find the narrator (Emma Thompson) who’s going to kill him. Well, she doesn’t know she’s going to kill him. She, Karen Eiffel, thinks he’s just a character in her book. When she finds out that he’s real, she’s striken, remembering all the other characters she’s killed and wondering if they were real. But the end of her book *needs* him to die. I don’t want to ruin the ending, but when Harold reads the manuscript, he’s willing to die for the sake of another. Will Ms. Eiffel do it? Will she kill Harold Crick?

This is a smart, endearing movie that strikes the perfect balance between comedy and tragedy and has you rooting for the unlikely hero you’ve come to care about.

Emma Thompson does an excellent job portraying the reclusive, chain-smoking writer suffering from writers’ block. Some of the most unusual scenes show her trying to overcome her problem by hanging out in emergency rooms and imagining jumping off buildings in her attempts to come up with the proper way to kill Harold. Undoubtedly my favorite line in the movie is her saying, “I don’t need a nicotine patch, Penny. I smoke cigarettes.”

Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Ana Pascal, the woman Harold is auditing and finds himself attracted to, despite knowing she hates him for auditing her. Her character is in many ways the opposite of Harold (a look at their apartments removes all doubt – his is in varying shades of beige while hers has a turquoise accent wall and a multicolored chandelier). She looked familiar so I went looking for where else I’d seen her. She later played Rachel Dawes in The Dark Knight. Queen Latifah and Dustin Hoffman also have supporting roles as the assistant sent by the publisher to help Ms. Eiffel finish the book and the literature professor that Harold goes to for help in finding the narrator. Can be found online at the links provided here.

The guitar store scene (quite funny):

And the best way to pick up a woman: honest & humble sensitivity + vulnerable sharing of emotions & desires + puppydog eyes (thoughtful gift-giving helps).

Interview with Will Ferrell:

{January 15, 2010}   Truly Madly Deeply (1990)

I liked this movie. It has very sad overtones to it, but it makes you think, and that, more than being smashingly entertaining, is truly the mark of a good movie. I must say, though, this is my least favorite movie in terms of Rickman’s hair (and the mustache is just silly).

It’s starts off sometime shortly after Jamie’s (Alan Rickman) death. His girlfriend Nina (Juliet Stevenson) is having difficulty moving on. Anyone would. They had been so in love and his death was so unexpected and sudden. She sits at home, playing the piano, humming the cello part that he used to play. She doesn’t go out. She’s isolating herself. Not dealing with it very well at all. Then… one day he’s back. As a ghost, of course, but Nina’s ecstatic and for a little while they’re lost in their own little world as happy as they ever were. But eventually Nina has to go back to work. It’s not a dream world where you can just stay at home with your boyfriend’s ghost all the time, now is it? And Jamie starts bringing home some of his ghosty friends. They’re not scary or anything, but they’re *ghosts*, and they’re always there… and they’ve taken over her VCR… And Nina meets someone, Mark, who’s very much alive. Spending time with him, she’s refreshed. She slowly begins to realize that you can’t live life in the past, no matter how much you loved what or who you’ve lost. Jamie’s return helped her find the closure she needed to be able to move on. Mark is there to help her live.

I didn’t care much for the Mark character myself, but that’s probably out of jealousy for Jamie. The two men are so different… and, though I fing him a bit annoying, Mark (and how different he is from Jamie) seems to be exactly what Nina needs. She’s alive again, the way she used to be with Jamie.

I understand that this movie was written partly to showcase Juliet Stevenson in a way that she wasn’t able to be seen in other parts that she’d had. Thus, we see her playing piano and being quirky, as well as demonstrating that she’s not afraid to portray some very messy emotions (such as the scene with her therapist where she expresses how angry she is that Jamie died).

I’ve filed this one under my favorites because it *is* one of those movies that touches you and changes you just a bit. You might never have thought about the long-term realities and problems of having a loved one come back as a ghost (I’m being silly), or (to be serious) the fact that clinging to the past can keep you from living in the present. This movie presents this truth in a gentle and heartfelt manner while paying tribute to how very painful letting go and moving on can be. Very good. Very good.

Find it on YouTube here, or elsewhere here.

The poem scene:

“Forgive me, if you are not living, if you, beloved, my love, if you have died, all the leaves will fall on my breast, it will rain on my soul all night, all day, my feet will want to march to where you are sleeping, but I shall go on living.” [Pablo Neruda]

Alan Rickman talks about the movie’s writer and director, Anthony Minghella, after his death.

{January 15, 2010}   Mesmer (1994)

So I continued jumping around through Alan Rickman‘s filmography and landed on Mesmer. … Good enough entertainment, I suppose, considering I didn’t have anything else to do that day but watch movies, but it was very slow-paced and … boring, really (aside from the pleasure of listening to Rickman’s voice). You can decide for youself (the entire movie’s on YouTube here), but I’m going to move on. He does have long hair in this one. That was interesting.

Plot Synopsis (taken from In 18th century Vienna, middle-aged Dr. Mesmer believes that he can cure physical and mental diseases by manipulating a force within the body that he calls “animal magnetism.” The only patients who seem to respond to his treatments, however, are troubled young women who react ecstatically to his caressing therapeutic touch. He makes particularly good progress with a blind teenager whose sessions with Mesmer provide her with a means of escape from her father, who’s been raping her. At one point the girl hits her head, and regains her sight; Mesmer takes the credit, and they seem about to embark on an affair. However, Mesmer’s jealous wife and the medical authorities conspire to have him exiled from Vienna. He relocates to Paris and becomes a deliberate quack, exploiting his magnetic therapy methods to provide bizarre entertainment for fashionable court ladies. His French medical colleagues hold a hearing against him, calling in his former patient, who is now blind again, to testify against him. At the last moment, an approaching mob of revolutionaries forces the doctors to scatter in panic, leaving Mesmer alone with the girl. She accuses him of abandoning her. Sadly, he tries to explain himself.

{January 12, 2010}   An Awfully Big Adventure (1995)

I have to admit to liking this one despite the ending. Actually, despite the ending, it’s one of my favorite Alan Rickman movies to date (though, for certain reasons, I must leave the rating very harsh).

Set in 1947, it centers on the theatre company in Liverpool, England, which stage-struck 16-year-old Stella joins as an apprentice. Almost instantly, she falls for Meredith Potter (Hugh Grant), the company’s director, who is aware of her feelings and enjoys toying with her. The company rehearses and performs several plays, but when the lead actor breaks his leg, P. L. O’Hara (Alan Rickman) joins the cast to replace him. He’s dashing (yummy) and a legend on the repertory circuit, but immediately takes note of Stella, feeling he knows her somehow. They swiftly become **cough** involved, but Stella stays emotionally detached, viewing it as a chance to “practice,” still blindly in love with Meredith. O’Hara, on the other hand, *is* becoming attached. Sadly, though, he knows she’s only using him to become more experienced, as on one occasion she even calls out Meredith’s name as O’Hara makes love to her. After sex, he asks her, “Don’t you love me just a bit?” and she flatly states, “No. I love another.” When Stella later accuses him of being jealous and storms out, swearing never to return, he goes to visit her aunt and uncle (whom she’s lived with since her mother left her as an infant). When O’Hara asks about her mother, he accidentally discovers that she was his former lover… and realizes that Stella is his daughter. In a frenzy of confusion and emotion, he races to the docks (not sure why) and, in his hurry, slips on a wet patch, hits his head, is knocked unconscious,  falls into the water and drowns. … (I went slack-jawed) … When Stella hears the news, she is horrified, thinking he committed suicide because she left him. She never learns that it was an accident or that he was her father (sad, but probably for the best as that would have really warped her mind).

Yes, it’s a twisted, messed up ending, but so freaky, it’s hilarious. I HATE that he dies!! So tragic. Sooo messed up. So emotional. And I know the oedipal implications ought to be disturbing, but with Alan Rickman it’s just kinky. I think I need a cold shower.

ADDITIONALLY, we get to see him dressed as a pirate, Hook to be exact, as the company does Peter Pan. Very entertaining. Also fun to see Hugh Grant play a poof. He’s the perfect cad. That said, this movie has very deep characters and a second viewing (or 3rd, or 4th), gives one a better grasp of who they are as people and why they behave as they do. Another reason repeated viewing helps, or very close attention the first time, is that important bits of information are laced in very subtly and, if you aren’t listening, they’ll slip right by. This is going to be one of those stories that I go back and read the novel for in order to get an even more complete picture.

Final note: I found it intriguing that the title was actually taken from a line in Peter Pan: “To die will be an awfully big adventure.” Kinda puts a spin on things… What do you think they were trying to say?

I tried to post the trailer, but embedding was disabled, but you can watch it on YouTube, as well as the entire movie (note: part 7 isn’t broken – it just takes a full minute or so to start playing, presumably due to an error while it was being uploaded).


{January 11, 2010}   Close My Eyes (1991)

If I was uncomfortable mentioning the inappropriate segments in John Gissing, it’s a wonder I review this movie at all. This is where I began questioning if I was just watching all the wrong movies or if I had seriously misjudged Alan Rickman. …or if, perhaps, the British film industry was just okay with a vast deal more sexual content than I am used to. I try not to be a prude… The tagline is “There Are Some Relationships So Taboo, They’re Irresistible.” Okay, that’s intriguing, I’ll give you. RUN AWAY!!!! Rickman plays a man named Sinclair… The movie is about the affair and sexual escapades of his wife with her brother!!!! Not with *his* brother. No, no, that would have been a welcome dose of *normal* perversion. No, they ramped up the aberration to the extreme, well beyond anything that had ever crossed my mind as acceptable movie material. She’s sleeping with *her own* brother. Gag me, the review’s over! Someone close MY eyes.

So, I needed something, ANYTHING, to sear Nobel Son from my memory. I found John Gissing. Alan Rickman plays the title character in this relatively amusing comedy. Americans Matthew Barnes (Mike Binder) and his wife Linda (Janeane Garofalo) land in London expecting to be picked up by a company man named Gissing. When he doesn’t come, they think it’s an innocent mistake. They don’t realized that he’s packed their itineraries full of “innocent mistakes.” Several irritating surprises later, it becomes clear that Gissing is out to get them. Turns out Barnes is slated to replace Gissing, so he’s been making their first days in the country as unpleasant as he can in hopes that they’ll leave. He almost succeeds. Linda is *not* happy. By the time a counter offense is waged, Barnes is on the brink of being transferred to Detroit. He’s running out of options. Is an alliance with Gissing the only way to save his job?

Definitely needs to be rated for adult subject matter, but if you can handle that and a night gown malfunction… eh… Also features Juliet Stevenson and Sonya Walger. Found on YouTube here.

And, because the music’s been stuck in my head (all the characters tap dance through the end credits):

{January 11, 2010}   Nobel Son (2007)

So, for a completely different side of Alan Rickman… Not that you *wanted* to imagine the total opposite of Colonel Brandon, but I found it.

Short story: The best parts, and even they’re a stretch, were mashed together into a mildly entertaining preview, which I will not show you because it would be wrong to lure anyone into watching this movie.

Is my watch broken? Shouldn't this movie be over by now??

Long story: Rickman plays Dr. Eli Michaelson, professor of Chemistry, arrogant genius, rude chauvinist, perverted prick. I think that covers all the bases. First time we see him, he’s shagging a student. Moments later, we find that his monstrous ego *can* get worse as it swells to gargantuan proportions when he learns that he has been awarded the Nobel Prize. Enter: Hideous Jerk. So he, his wife Sarah (Mary Steenburgen), and son Barkley are all to fly out to receive the award and all the fancy perks and parties that go with it, but when it’s time to leave for the airport, Barkley’s nowhere to be found. Patient man that he is, Eli refuses to wait for him and they leave without him. When they get the call that he’s been kidnapped, Eli assumes it’s his son’s idea of a prank and hangs up on the kidnapper. It takes getting a severed thumb in the mail to catch his attention. However, when Sarah delivers the $2,000,000 ransom from the Nobel prize money, we find Barkley in league with his kidnapper, who incidentally claims to be his half-brother Thaddeus. Things get complicated (as though they weren’t already) when, instead of never seeing each other again after the con, Thaddeus rents the apartment over the Michaelsons’ garage and endears himself to Eli as the-son-who-would-follow-in-his-footsteps that Barkley never was. At this point, however, my brain was aching with boredom, so when the plot further raveled, my eyes continued watching but all I remember seeing is “Are we there yet??????” This movie’s only saving graces are Rickman’s voice and the pleasure of seeing Bill Pullman and Danny DeVito in supporting roles. (Eliza Dushku has a notable part as a fairly obvious mental case.) Other than that, I want to gauge my eyes out in an attempt to reclaim those 102 minutes of my life and hope that the 2 and a half minutes that you’ve wasted reading this review give you just enough of a hint that you steer clear. Save yourself. Do NOT watch this movie.

Just to demonstrate I’m not alone: Nobel Son (2008)Nobel Son Review, and Nobel Son Movie Review. I’ll not shame Wiki and IMDb by linking them.

{January 11, 2010}   Sense and Sensibility (1995)

I started my adventure with Alan Rickman’s Sense and Sensibility. I call it Alan Rickman’s because it was his movies I continued following for the next week and a half (my entries here will follow suit).

The cast boasts several of my favorites: Alan Rickman *obviously* (Colonel Brandon), Hugh Grant (Edward Ferrars), and Emma Thompson (Elinor Dashwood), and I was delighted to see Gemma Jones and Hugh Laurie in supporting roles. Kate Winslet plays Marianne Dashwood and impressively portrays the younger sister’s passionate and impetuous temperment, as well as her prideful disdain for Elinor’s careful reserve and ponder-things-in-your-heart approach. I believe that pride is why Marianne is not my favorite of the two sisters. It is, however, this conflict in approach which the story centers upon.

From the beginning of the movie, Elinor is attracted to Edwards, but quietly treasures it away because she has no assurance of his returning the feeling. This appears to have been for the best when she meets a girl claiming to be his fiancée and must bear a broken heart in silence. Emma Thompson does a wonderful job of subtly showing the pain Elinor hides as she believes all hope is lost. Meanwhile, Marianne falls hard for Willoughby (played by Greg Wise) and hardly notices (though when she does notice, she looks down on) the more sedate Colonel Brandon. Brandon’s love, however, though restrained, never fades. Difficulties trouble both women, but by the end of the movie, Elinor is able to open up and share her emotions and Marianne has learned the wisdom of not letting her emotions carry her away.

In addition to playing the part of Elinor, Emma Thompson wrote the screenplay. She did a wonderful job of preserving the spirit of the book while freshening it for modern viewers. Most notably, she  added the scene where Marianne is standing in the rain, looking over to Willoughby’s estate on the far hill, repeating his name and the sonnet they had shared, and then is carried back by Colonel Brandon. The addition of this scene is brilliant because 1) it parallels her having been carried home in the rain by Willoughby earlier and 2) the sonnet she is whispering about her love for Willoughby (“Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove. Oh no, it is an ever-fixèd mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken”) is seen to perfectly describe Colonel Brandon’s love for her.

This is the performance in which Alan Rickman stole my heart. One of my favorite movies. Cemented my love of Austen and period romances. I consider it a must-have for any woman’s movie collection, though the entire thing can be found on YouTube here. I’ve embedded the trailer below and, further down, there’s a clip of Alan Rickman discussing what it was like working with Taiwanese Ang Lee as the director, as well as a deleted last scene.

Sites for more Sense and Sensibility info and reviews:

Additionally, there’s a clip of Ang Lee discussing the movie himself, but you have to go to YouTube to watch it because embedding was disabled.

And lastly, a scene they deleted from the end of the movie:

et cetera