In Dianne English’s re-adaptation of The Women, Meg Ryan comes out of obscurity and plays Mary Haines. Mary is praised by her circle of rich, Long Island housewives even if her hair looks like that of a drowned rat and she dresses like her window curtains. Her husband, Stephen, is cheating on her and her friends Debra Messing and Jada Pinkett Smith) are all so surprised. Cue a more forced character arc than the original, her ‘I’ll change myself in hopes of getting him back’ is implicitly placing blame on Mary for Stephen’s indiscretion with a girl behind the perfume counter, Crystal Allen (Eva Mendes). This material has already been remade before with the 1956 film The Opposite Sex starring the insufferable June Allyson. Films about the rich were both a fantasy and a target for satire but today it just seems out of touch, upper-class snobbery falling flat in front of contemporary, more cynical audiences.
Despite my strong words above, I can see some things where this remake excels. The original has Mary’s declaration along the words of ‘In [her mother’s generation], women were chattel. Today we’re equals.’ She stays a trophy wife from beginning to end. It would be easy to fall towards Crystal’s methods by pretending to learn how to bake like a fetishized housewife, but in the remake, Mary is her own woman, actually getting her own career, her seduction is independence instead of subservience. Speaking of careers, this film also makes a bigger deal about the falling out between Mary and her best friend Sylvia Fowler (Annette Bening). It allows us to see Sylvia’s side as well as her clichéd struggle between her friendship and career, betraying the former to keep the latter intact. Slyvia inadvertently hijacks the story and even gets Mary’s daughter’s friendship because of her more realistic take on life.
Bette Midler is also in this movie. I’ve always been on her side in the Bette versus Barbra debate, although that changed in recent years with discovering Barbra’s work in Funny Girl and her winning streak in the 70’s while Bette is doing indie films with Helen Hunt that I nor many people have not seen. But all it needs to take me back is watching her character smoke pot with Mary. She looks good and she doesn’t overdo her lines, saying them like she’s experienced love and loss without them scarring her. If only the movie was two hours of female stoners, I would have paid to see that.
My childhood memories of The American President and its run on late 90’s HBO Asia was that Annette Bening as Sydney Wade is the most beautiful woman on earth, her glow of sanity here is unforgettable. Crazier roles almost made me forget, but rewatching is remembering. She cuddles to President Andrew Shephard (Michael Douglas) in the couch, the country loves her, they get all the votes they need. The perfect couple. I honestly didn’t remember how hostile the movie was.
And I don’t remember Sorkin writing the typical second act of a romance movie where the lovers are driven apart. Their differences are more political, as Shepherd’s Crime Bill conflicts with Wade’s fossil fuel bill. Let me remind you guys that this is 1995, when people still cared about the environment. Then people stopped caring, then Al Gore made people care again. The film’s a product of its left-leaning time. Another conflict within the film is how the Republican men labels Wade a ‘whore.’ How dare they! And she had red hair? And everyone else in this film has red hair?
Michael J. Fox is awesome here too. I never thought he could play an adult, but there you go. Aaron Sorkin is a great but with his characters-as-symbolic ideologies method, he’s not the best writer of TV and film. He does, however, know how to write explosive, eloquent dialogue. His America sounds more true than we think, one that doesn’t pay attention to sexual gossip of the Clinton era nor the Tea Party insanity of today. I just hope my country catches up. Also, Samantha Mathis and Anne Hathaway’s stepmother in Rachel Getting Married is in this movie.
Also, I never watched The West Wing“. I know Peggy’s in it, but I was 11. I liked stuff like Buffy and MTV. Give me a break.
Now to Fincher. I’m not the biggest fan of ubermasculinity and Fight Club is the cinematic version of a hockey bag. Yes, I’m turning down shirtless guys with that sentence. At the same time, I also resent that Project Mayhem promised so much but didn’t really happen, or that it kinda did but people turned away and instead defended the institutions that oppress them. But then again, if I ever joined a radical group like Project Mayhem, I’d cry if they took away my iPod. My whole life is in there!
I’ve had, however, fantasies about this scene, as an Asian who hates his job and secretly wants out.
Fight Club, not The Social Network, is Fincher’s most Wellesian film. Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) inherits an empire and wants a newer, more radical, destructive, oppressive one of his own making. It’s liberating to blow up buildings of credit card companies, but a leader taking away individuality casts doubts. Yes, this movie was in my Imperialist Cinema class. This film also fits into my unorthodox education, corporate sculpture and bauhaus bourgeois being shoved away by performance art, performed by Project Mayhem.
And the shot composition, finding unconventional ways to light every shot, and often times there’s symmetry despite its baroque angles. And the colour, just like Se7en.
My mom has harped about how ugly Pitt is, an unfathomable concept to me until I rewatched this movie. As Tyler he’s both sexy and bruised, letting himself go as he sees fit. Speaking of Brad Pitt, this was a date movie. That’s as much as I’ll share.
Thinking this out, Fight Club might become my favourite Fincher instead of Zodiac all along. Also, I need to read Palahniuk’s book.
- Modern Maestros: David Fincher (filmexperience.blogspot.com)
The trailer for The Kids are All Right shows Manohla Dargis calling it a ‘near note-perfect portrait of a modern family,’ in a way that it shows complex implications to the words ‘biological’ and ‘parent,’ there are clashes, affairs, dinners with people who are having affairs, cathartic speeches of redemption. It’s a typical formula if not for the slow pacing, the script, tick-y acting from the major players and the hand-held cam close-ups in group scenes, all giving the impression of a balance between improvisation and direct delivery.
Basically, two teenagers from lesbian parents look for the sperm donor, and whatever ensues, ensues.
Annette Bening as Nic is the best in show without trying. I’ve only seen her in crazy parts (American Beauty, Running With Scissors). Other reviews have tried to sell her as the stable one in the relationship, and she is that. She can also be ‘not my real self,’ be acidic, be the embarrassing drunk one, be the one who has to deal with the headaches just like a parent. Her first line at the first dinner conversation about Jules’ (Julianne Moore) truck makes the audience follow her more. Her calm reaction to a shocking revelation proves that Bening’s performance becomes the greatest one within greatest performances.
I’m ambivalent about Laser (Josh Hutcherson) as a character. It was his idea to contact their sperm donor Paul (Mark Ruffalo). A little selling point for the movie and his character that he might or might not be ‘too close to his loser friend Clay,’ that subplot being really hilarious. He also doesn’t know how to talk to Paul, being directly hostile about Paul’s opinions about little things, this approach somehow different from his sister, college age Joni (Mia Wasikowska) just smiling at him. Despite of those things, I don’t feel like I got to know the guy. He must have had female friends, unless that’s what ticked off Nice and Jules. I think Laser just fades into the background after the scene with the talk.
O hai, HaySpayTu. Tanya (Yaya da Costa) is a bit Earth Mother Archetype to me, just like a grown-up version of the real Yaya da Costa we know.
And hai, Peggy’s lesbian wooer (Zosia Mamet) from “Mad Men!”
I also wanna talk about the Susan G. Cole critiques to this movie. A) Mark Ruffalo doesn’t even act like a stoner in this movie and the last time he did that was in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I think he actually does his best to defend his character – a lesser actor would have just laid there and portray Paul as the dirt bag that he is on the script. B) Bisexuality exists. I’ll concede that the film uses a Degrassi: TNG storyline, and that she’s not alone in thinking that the Jules and Paul thins is BS, but a plausibly realistic one. But then I’m not a lesbian so I don’t know how strong their fortitude is against Mark Ruffalo. Mine isn’t.
Now that that’s all out, time to download the rest of the soundtrack!