…and the quest to see everything

2012: Megan Fox with/out Kids

Megan Fox is known to play unsympathetic characters who hate children. We all know the irony in this because she’s actually nice, if not a little batty, who just gave birth this year.

A Manhattanite woman Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt) wakes up her best friend Jason Fryman (Adam Scott), who keeps his iPhone on top of his nightstand along with a hardcover copy of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion. Gross. Well, at least it’s not a Christopher Hitchens book.

Westefeldt, at first glance is a boring presence on-screen but that has its benefits. I can only imagine another actress screwing up the role by seeming too needy or exaggerating any aspect of a character who happens to be a single woman in her forties who wants to take advantage of the last drops of her biological clock. The line reading of her first sentence – ‘Death by Shark or Alligator?’ -says that she has endured a miserable date instead of the morbid, random curiosity of that line. See, dimension! And I buy that someone with great cheekbones as she does has low self-esteem, perpetually comparing herself to the busty Broadway dancers (Megan Fox) who Jason dates.

As I said in a previous, there are two ways in which I receive urban rich/upper middle class/middle class characters and their milieu. Either I want them to die in a fire or I buy into this dream, this middle ground between fantasy and reality. Another reaction between ‘That’s life’ and ‘That’s ridiculously awesome’ is ‘How much is the rent in that apartment?’ Anyway, what fantasy and urban spaces have in common are the ability to transform. Not only can Julie have a job so good that you can afford a spacious apartment in Manhattan and have beautiful friends at their sexual peak, she also lives in Manhattan where she can raise a kid!

But despite having it all, the wish for a kid, or kids themselves, trigger this awareness of discontent within the characters. It’s easy to compare Westfeldt with other female directors, since this movie has the well-earned serendipity of a Nora Ephron movie or the bourgeois technophilia that we see in Nancy Meyers movies. And because, you know, sexism. But the opening showed that Mike Nichols was one of its executive producers and I kept seeing the movie as a Nichols film, a part of a CV full of conflict despite or because of the characters’ idealized situations.

This conflict’s highest point takes place in a dinner table at a cabin during a ski trip, which shows as much missed chances as it does its accomplishments. There’s Jason’s revealing speech about loving Julie which last for like eighty seconds. He probably takes the centre of that frame for aesthetic reasons, but I wouldn’t have  minded to see what that scene would look like if we saw more of Mary Jane’s reactions while he was giving that monologue. Was she too static or distracting? I want to know.

The cast itself feels sporadically used, especially Kristen Wiig and Jon Hamm. Wiig was great if not bipolar in Bridesmaids, but here she’s reduced to the gape-mouth facial reactions that she must have taught herself during her SNL tenure. And Hamm is forced to rely on the bearded alcoholic routine that he’s used in Mad Men. Strangely enough Westfeldt, who wrote and directed this movie, inadvertently contributes to the typecasting of her own husband. God. And it doesn’t sell me that Julie or anyone attracted to men would dump a guy who looks like Edward Burns.

Either way, pointing out these flaws seem like I’m nitpicking since it still holds on to the dream of having it all and letting most of its characters keep the said dream. The script’s structure and its characters might be clichéd but the nuances of the dialogue isn’t.

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2 responses

  1. Adam Scott adds so much depth to what could just be a basic character, though.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, I feel like I ended up liking the movie despite itself. The final declaration of love does make me smile but it feels so unearned but it’s mostly entertaining and its heartfelt (albeit, way earnestly).

    And because I love ranking things: Scott > Rudolph > O’Dowd > Fox > Wiig > [Kelly Bishop’s cameo] > Westfeldt >>>>>> Hamm

    December 9, 2012 at 10:00 am

    • I can’t even remember how they go to that ending, maybe you’re right.

      We already talked about ranking the cast privately, but I can’t group them performance wise without thinking of them as couples or four-ways. I also feel like their performances have a lot to do with how underwritten half of the characters are.

      December 9, 2012 at 6:05 pm

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