Monday, January 09, 2006

A Quartet of Reviews

Transamerica tells the story of pre-operative male-to-female transsexual, Bree (played by Felicity Huffman). Prior to surgery, Bree must go to New York City to meet the son, now a teenager, she didn't know she fathered while in college. The son Toby (played by Kevin Zegers) and Bree wind up on an unexpected and unpredictable journey cross-country.

Huffman brings a sympathetic, honest, multi-faceted quality to the role. What is most striking about her performance (outside of the physicality of the role) is the subtle yet profound way the character changes over the course of her journey. One of my first thoughts with this film was wondering why film-makers cast a woman in a role of a male-to-female transsexual, but Huffman is perfect in the part and is always convincing. D's comment upon leaving the movie theater was, "It ceases to be about her being a transsexual; you essentially forget that she's a pre-op in light of the story." I agree. The interaction between the reluctant parent, Bree (who keeps the information a secret -- oooh...wonder if Toby finds out?) and the rebellious Toby is at times amusing, at other times maddening, and still at other times opens the audience's eyes to the realities of what it means to be a parent.

The movie slips easily into the genre of "road trip" and "buddy movie." It isn't as memorable as, say, Thelma and Louise, but the uniqueness of the story itself adds a fresh twist to a been-told story. I give it 3 1/2 stars.

Let's start by saying that I simply do not get Woody Allen. Everyone said, "Oh, Match Point isn't your typical Woody Allen movie." I believed them, so I went to see it. Conclusion: I simply do not get Woody Allen. Match Point tells the story of former tennis pro, Chris (played by Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) as he transitions from the world of professional tennis into the corporate world, and the changes to his persona that come with his life changes. After becoming connected to a wealthy British family, he meets and falls for Nola (played by Scarlett Johansson) who happens to be engaged to the family's son

My problem (in addition to utter boredom -- was that 4 hours long?) is that I had absolutely zero sympathy for any of the characters. I didn't care about their lives, their mistakes, their personalities. Honestly, I just wanted them to all shut-the-fuck up. The only difference between this and any other Woody Allen movie is that they all had accents (well, except for Johansson). Other people in the theater were laughing; what on earth was so funny? I thought maybe I'm just a clueless wench, but then A (bless her) confirmed that the movie was, in fact, pointless.

In all fairness, there were a couple of good things: the men were cute; Woody Allen wasn't actually in the film. I'll give it 2 stars, just because it's over (and better, I suppose, than Mr. & Mrs. Smith). Please don't try and explain Woody Allen to me. I know why I'm supposed to get Woody Allen; I just don't.

The Producers is one of Broadway's all-time favorite musicals brought to the big screen. Reprising their Broadway roles as a Broadway producer and a former accountant turned producer, Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick play two men desperate to produce the world's biggest Broadway flop in a mad attempt to make a million bucks. The result, Springtime for Hitler, brings them everything they don't expect.

The rule when one goes to a crazy musical like is this: do not take yourself seriously. It's okay to laugh when full-grown men and women suddenly break into song & dance routines in the middle of their office. It is not meant to be realistic. It is not meant to teach a great moral lesson. If you can accept this rule, you will love The Producers. Yes, it's a bit cheesy. But it's supposed to be cheesy. It's a musical, dammit! Nathan Lane has got to be the funniest man alive (well, second only to Martin Short); Matthew Broderick is a damn good dancer (who knew? okay, if you've seen him on Broadway, perhaps you already know). But my favorite treat from the film is Will Ferrell as Franz Liebkind, the writer of the musical. His comedic timing is spot on, and I found myself wishing he were on-screen even more.

Yes, we would all love to see Broderick and Lane on Broadway. But not all of us have this chance. So go see them on screen. So worth it. Four stars!!!

Cinderella Man is the true-life story of boxer Jim Braddock (played by Russell Crowe) and his struggle to take care of his family during the height of the Depression. After what seemed like the end of his career, Braddock finds himself back in the national spotlight as a hero for overcoming even the worst situation.

This kind of movie usually turns my stomach. I see the name "Ron Howard" attached to it and immediately think: Oh no. Sentamentality, here we come. To make things worse, I see the name, "Russell Crowe," attached to it and immediately think: No way. Kind of like George Clooney, I just don't get the appeal of Russell Crowe.

But, the movie surprised me. Yes, it's sentamental and sappy and predictable. But Crowe's performance is genuine, and I found myself cheering for him in the end. (No, not on the level of Rocky, but c'mon...there's only one Rocky.) What annoyed me the most was Renee Zellweger as Mae Braddock. She was just so flat and disappointing. Give us something we haven't seen from you, Renee!

Yes, the fight scenes got a bit long (as I was watching the film on DVD, I found myself fast-forwarding through many of them) but Depression-era New Jersey and New York was vivid and real, and I found myself most drawn to the scenes between Crowe and his children and between Crowe and the always-delightful Paul Giamatti as Braddock's trainer. Will someone please just give Giamatti an Oscar?

I give it 3 1/2 stars.


Blogger Karen said...

I don't get the appeal of Russell Crowe either.
But George Clooney - you really can't see it?

8:35 AM  
Blogger TessaJ said...

They do both have talent, I'll give them that. But, no, I just don't see the appeal of George. Totally overrated, not sexy. Just does nothing for me.

9:35 AM  
Anonymous Vanessa said...

I have to agree with you, when it comes to Russell and George I just don't see the appeal. What a pity about Match Point. I had high hopes for it. I liked Woody Allen's last venture, Melinda and Melinda, quite a bit. Can't wait to see The Producers!

9:43 AM  
Blogger TessaJ said...

Don't listen to me about W.A.! A person who likes his films might really enjoy it.

9:55 AM  
Blogger Miss V said...

Giamatti won the critic's choice award last night

5:54 PM  
Blogger Julia said...

Thank you so much for this!

Love George, loathe Russ. The SATC episode where they blurt out who they fantasise about and it's Russell Crowe - nooooooo!

Heard amazing things about Match Point then saw the previews. I was searching through the boredom for the magic. So your review confirms what I felt it would be like, Allen or no Allen (and I like some of his films - have you seen Husbands and Wives?).

Glad you enjoyed The Producers, we saw the local version a few months ago and that was enjoyable, so this should be good. Uma seems perfect for Ulla and Will Ferrel - love him!

6:12 PM  
Blogger TessaJ said...

I was SOOOOOOOO thrilled for Giamatti last night! And even more thrilled for Phillip Seymour Hoffman! Two of my favorite underrated actors are scoring big this year.

Soon, the countdown to Oscar will begin :)

Julia, I always think of that SATC episode as well. Of course, after they say "Russell Crowe," Samantha says: What did women do before Russell Crowe? The response: George Clooney!

7:50 PM  
Blogger TessaJ said...

Update: D has informed me that he really enjoyed Match Point. He found the characters and their conflicts to be fascinating as well as the notion of "luck" that runs throughout the film. He did not, in fact, fall asleep during the movie, wishing desperately that the damn thing would end.

9:14 AM  

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