Sunday, December 23, 2007

Two very different movies

I recently watched two newer movies on DVD, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry and Evening. Both got pretty bad reviews when they were in the theater but given the acting talent in both, I still wanted to see them. Chuck and Larry is pretty dreadful. It's full of every possible fear of homosexuals, and every stereotype about why they're terrific and fabulous. Basically, Larry was so distraught when his wife died that he failed to switch his pension to his kids, so now if he died (and since he's a firefighter, not unlikely) his kids would have nothing. So he reads about domestic partnerships and asks Chuck (Adam Sandler), his womanizing, bachelor, fellow firefighter to be his partner so someone will take care of his kids. In a very predictable manner, they are investigated, and hire a lawyer (Jessica Biel) who Chuck of course falls for. The movie is very predictable, and given that it's an original idea for movies, remarkably cliched. The guys get married and the always stupid Rob Schnieder plays the Asian minister, and as they're homophobic themselves, the guys refuse to kiss. This repeats in the climax of the movie, where the idea of kissing another man is so repulsive, it's going to ruin their scam and land them in jail. Overall, it's a stupid movie that doesn't have enough humor to make it worth watching. 2 of 5 stars.

On the other hand, Evening was also given terrible reviews and I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed it. It's not wonderful, but nor is it offensive or particularly cliched. If anything, it's too subtle and should have taken a deeper bite into its material. It takes place in the mind of Vannessa Redgrave, who is on her deathbed, she is remembering being at a wedding in the late 50s/early 60s. In her delirium, she lets escape words to her daughters like "Harris and I killed Buddy". This gives the whole movie a very small mystery to be solved. The daughters are trying to figure out if either Harris or Buddy are real people or her imagination. Toni Collette and Natasha Richardson play the daughters, who obviously mirror the two failed sides of Redgrave's own life - the perfect wife and mother that Redgrave never got to be (Richardson) and the artist that Redgrave was never talented enough to be successful (Collette). Claire Danes plays Redgrave as a young woman, attending the wedding of Connecticutt socialite Mamie Gummer (who in a fun bit of casting is played in later life by her own mother, Meryl Streep). Danes and Gummer were friends in college, along with Gummer's ne'er do well brother Buddy, played well by Hugh Dancy (Ella Enchanted's Prince Char). Dancy is an artistic soul trying to write his first novel and throughout the movie spouts first or last lines of famous works, but doesn't really have the courage to leave his wealthy life to pursue his dreams. He falls deeper into despair as he sees Danes trying to live her dreams, and their former housekeeper's son, Harris, arrives and is a doctor. Harris, played by the ever beautiful Patrick Wilson, has made a success of himself and Buddy sees the connection developing between Danes and Wilson and nearly loses himself. So as not to reveal much more of the storyline, I'll just say, Dancy plays the man struggling with class, dreams, sexuality, and love better than most. Danes is very convincing as Redgrave's younger self trying to be a singer and raise her daughters. Occaisonally the movie does have some trite dialogue, like Streep telling Collette that in the end very little is as important as it once seemed to assuage her fears about having a baby and getting married. I liked the movie, and enjoyed the actors and memories, and of course Patrick Wilson. 3.5 stars out of 5.

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