Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Two new movies

For a change we actually got two new movies at the local cineplex. So I took in the double feature of Burn After Reading and The Women. First, Burn After Reading, the Coen brothers new comedy, delivered in the style I expected. It was funny, confusing, expertly acted, with new original characters and a decent amount of violence. A basic outline of the plot begins with John Malkovich as a CIA agent being fired. He yells and fights but is still fired and decides to write his "mem-wahs" (memoirs for the rest of you). His wife, Tilda Swinton, is actually sleeping with a really weird, creepy, womanizing US Marshall, George Clooney. This world of Washington insiders eventually gets involved with much of the staff of "Hardbodies" gym when a CD of Malkovich's info is dropped in the ladies room. Brad Pitt, as the greatest character he's ever played - Chad the gym guy, and Frances McDormand (a woman who just wants 4 elective surgeries to improve her appearance) decide to try to blackmail Malkovich to get money out of the deal. Lots of things go wrong as you might expect, but obviously moronic hilarity ensues. Pitt's perforamnce as Chad is still funny to remember. He wears shorts and his uniform all the time, rides his bike, listens to his ipod constantly and has frosted tips. His dancing skills will become iconic (or maybe just funny forever). It wasn't quite up to the standard of Fargo, but the characters were more entertaining. 4.5 of 5 stars/LAMBS.

The Women was a remake of the 1939 movie based on the play by Clare Booth Luce. This version starred the best Meg Ryan we've seen in ages (but that doesn't make her terrific either), with a terrific Annette Benning and great supporting performances by Cloris Leachman, Debra Messing, Candice Bergen, Eva Mendes and Debi Mazar. I liked the movie, but it didn't really go anywhere new. Since it was a remake, it really should have been more unique in taking the themes created by the original work and bringing new things to it. I saw the original very recently too, and it was more interesting for its time, but the new version just took all the cliches that make sense in certain scenes and applied today's version of them. They didn't investigate much beyond the original. There were some interesting questions - what do you do when you find out your husband's cheating?, do you stay or leave?, how far does a friend have to go to end the friendship? and if everyone already knows your business is it worth trying to pretend any more? Ryan and Benning do a great job of being friends, hand working women, and annoying at the same time. I liked the overall story, but wasn't impressed in general. It was interesting to watch a movie that had not a single man anywhere in it (except 1 obvious one). All the scenes were deliberately situated not to be ridiculous without men (a lesbian bar, a woman's luncheon, day spas) but it was still interesting to realize. Definitely a chick flick, but only a 3 of 5.


Cat said...

I agree with your review of Burn After Reading exactly, and I loved its grim sense of humor about the combination of chaos and violence/covert authoritarianism in American government. Your remarks on The Women were really fascinating too and made me look forward to seeing it this Saturday in spite of the negative reviews it's been getting. I taught the play and the 1939 movie in a course last spring, and I think you're right that if the adaptation is just translating all the scenes into contemporary terms, the filmmakers are losing the chance to explore, revisit, and adapt the themes involved.

Jess said...

Oh, I'm excited to see what you think of "The Women". I'd love to hear your parents' opinions too. It was good, but it just felt like a lost opportunity. I understand sometimes you want to make a faithful update, using similar dialogue, scenes, etc. but updating the scene where Meg Ryan confronts Eva Mendes by putting it in an lingerie shop rather than a dress shop, didn't really reasonate with me.

Rachel said...

After seeing the trailer for BAR, my husband started imitating Pitt's dance on the treadmill when we were at the gym. Now that we've watched the movie, he won't imitate him anymore, which makes me sad:(

But I am happy the Coens put out a decent comedy again:)