Alice in Movieland











{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.

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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.



et cetera