Alice in Movieland

{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.

{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}   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.

et cetera