Let me begin by apologizing because I’ll be talking about Julianne Moore’s (vote for her here on Andrew’s Showdown) physicality, especially that in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights. But I can’t help but comment on her look, preceding the Jem doll a decade later, evoking the sexuality missing from early Michael Mann LA heist movies. She is a product of her time, Amber is, when women could be pastel glamour without slinking into being tawdry. She can evoke that era in a snapshot.
Or maybe she’s classy in our standards, a quality that only Moore can bring to a character on the other side of the fence. Moore never overacts even in situations where it would call for it, her character being in an industry of exaggeration and reputation, but even then she sells any situation she’s in. She’s sexual but she also understands the banality of her own objectification, allowing distance even from the men she loves. Even if we’re hearing a voiceover of her in that high timbre we can feel the body from where she comes.
Moore’s characters in the 90’s always have been volatile yet caring, active as an actress in a decade of unconventional matriarchs. She’s the mother and the whore and makes a case for the latter. And she is quick in her actions and towards her surrogate children (e.g. Mark Wahlberg’s Dirk Diggler), a swift word or nod delivering her inner cognitive dissonance, unknowingly doing harm to the people she loves or dismissing the idea that what she does could be harmful. But she still has good intentions, we sympathize with her when she’s hurt and we cheer as she quietly heals.
Julianne Moore is one of Hollywood’s most versatile actresses but there are arguably three performances where she could be interchangeable with Madonna. The first and most obvious is as Charley in A Single Man. The second being Maude Lebowski although of course we’ll assume that the singer doesn’t have the same comic timing as Moore does. The third is the twice divorced Laura Chevely in An Idea Husband, a dramedy set in London during the Gilded Age. Madonna has the alabaster complexion back in 1999 but Moore had the curly red hair, ringlets and a luminescent yet cleavage-revealing golden gown, looking like an older yet polished Morisot muse. But when she slithers beside Lord Arthur Goring (Rupert Everett, at one time Madonna’s best friend), opens her mouth and unleashes her laced sexuality, it makes my mind go ‘Madge….’
An Ideal Husband is Oscar Wilde territory – petty, bourgeois, yet more lighthearted than a few other works I’ve skimmed. Laura used to believe in concepts like love but she only concerns herself now with acquiring husbands for power or destroying the enemies who get in her way. She threatens Arthur, wanting marriage from him or else she will reveal the contents of a scandalous letter! Her other option would be destroying Sir Robert Chilton’s (Jeremy Northam) integrity, a Member of the Parliament, by convincing him to approve of a scene. Meanwhile the lives of headstrong Mabel Chilton (Minnie Driver), Robert’s sister, and the shy Lady Gertrude (Cate Blanchett), more worthier wives than Laura can ever make, hang in the balance.
Moore’s casting, along with Blanchett’s, makes the film merely three-fifths British. Everyone’s accents, including Moore’s affected and sassy rendition, are passable but there’s something in the movie that takes away from its authentic locality. Maybe I’ve seen most of these actors play North Americans too many times and in better movies. Or that they seem to belong somewhere else.
Getting neither man, Laura plants the letter, leaves London’s boulevards and hopes her work is done. Unfortunately, she leaves us withe the rest of the sappy, romantic characters and I turn into a Grinch.
- Happy 51st Julianne Moore. What’s Next? (thefilmexperience.net)
I’ve seen Stephen Daldry‘s The Hours yea ago.
A movie that has an imprint on my brain. Its deep vibrancy and visuals to show the spark within its three protagonists, all of them connected with Virginia Woolf and her novel “Mrs. Dalloway.” I remember the dialogue and arguments that the characters have with each other, the camera’s close-ups towards these women and the object that surround them.
The parks where Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman) strolls to after discovering her first sentence to “Dalloway.” Laura Brown’s (Julianne Moore) colourful suburbs and one-time hotel room that she rents before she resumes her duty as housewife for her husband Dan’s (John C. Reilly) birthday. How Clarissa ‘Dalloway’ Vaughn (Meryl Streep) taps her chin with her finger before doing her chores, walking all over the cold and polished grit of Manhattan to prepare for the party she’s throwing for her poet ex-boyfriend Richard (Ed Harris), starting with deciding to but the flowers herself.
And there’s the other common element among the main characters – their female love interests, unrequited and fleeting for both Virginia and Laura. Vanessa (Miranda Richardson), who has three young children and is a better and more benevolent head of the household than her sister Virginia. Kitty (Toni Collette), the well-built yet childless and possibly cancer-stricken housewife next door to Laura with a husband grosser than Dan. And Sally (Alison Janney) who gets to go to dinners with a recently outed action star named Oliver St. Ives. The three having this aura and presence when they walk into a room even if they’re arguably less beautiful than the women who pine for them. It was the early 2000’s and despite the lamented decline of queer content then, this is one of the instances when queer cinema was becoming mainstream.
One of the entries in the trivia section of the movie’s iMDb page: “Although the widely perceived notion was that Michael Cunningham‘s original novel was felt to be unfilmable, adapter David Hare actually thought it was effortlessly cinematic.”After seeing the movie, I read the book to find out.
Hare and Daldry make subtle changes to the story, setting Laura and Clarissa’s story lines two years later than they are in the novel. Clarissa’s Manhattan feels more autumn than June. The movie excises characters like St. Ives and Mary Krull. And sure I had reservations about casting like Moore who is older than Laura. Reilly, despite being well-groomed, is on the schlubby end instead of being in the middle ground of schlub and war veteran as the novel suggests. Clarissa’s competition Louis who is seemingly smaller than Jeff Daniels. Claire Danes has to wear chunky sweaters to remind us that she’s Julia, Clarissa’s Viking-like daughter. But they bring such effortless life and well-rounded nature to these characters.
The novel stays with each protagonist for a longer section of time while we see each women reluctantly start their days. The movie is otherwise loyal with the book’s interwoven time lines, such as portraying what happens to Clarissa before showing how Laura has caused them.
Sentence structures look simple until Cunningham’s urban sense kicks in. He describes the places where the characters live, putting his reader into each world and making us shift our eyes from one building into another, into the sky, making us hear the loud sounds or the silences. The writing evokes the few morsels of Virginia Woolf’s prose that I’ve read both in this novel and in college readings. He pulls out from detail to a bigger picture, these transitions within the paragraph read as easy as Woolf would push in the other way.
It’s also very object-oriented, especially in the novel’s ‘Mrs. Dalloway’ sections. There, he explains the bourgeois exoticism and how Clarissa likes things like her flowers to appear wild, even if everything is clean and arranged. Equally he writes how detached she is with things like her dishes that feel like her girlfriend Sally’s instead of hers, the same way the other main characters feel dissatisfied and awkward with their own relative comforts and successes. There are still traces of unhappiness in Clarissa’s life even though she’s supposedly the symbol of progress that feels so fleeting that the fictional Virginia and Laura couldn’t grasp it in their minds.
There is also less dialogue in the novel, as if it wants Virginia and Laura to share a kiss and a love for a woman or for Clarissa to successfully negotiate the power dynamic between her and her few guests. I like that the movie lets the characters air their stuff out with each other and let their pathos be more visceral and verbal. Of course that’s the only choice since two people staring or firing short sentences at each other in a room seems anti-cinematic. That makes me sound like a Philistine, right?
- Michael Cunningham discusses The Hours (guardian.co.uk)
Chandler Levack called A Single Man an ‘interesting failure.’ I agreed with her to a certain extent, reminding me of its disappointments, all but one are the film’s fault. A mix of diaspora story and American Gothic, I devoured the book about a day in George’s (Colin Firth) life and it devastated me (that’s a good thing). I found flaws within the casting, since George is ten years older than Firth when the film was released, or that they turned Asian Lois into white, or that all the actors are good-looking except for a Jewish bit part. I’m also going to back sell that despite Firth being theoretically miscast, he should have won the Oscar for this role.
The heading for this film indicates that I saw this again eight hours after I passed out while watching the Oscars. Sure it’s not a great condition to watch and write, but I retained a few things:
Director Tom Ford has given more attention to the film’s surfaces than any of the other film’s aspects, but I finally concede that George and his house, described as a constraining home across a bridge, can look stylish since every self-respecting middle class gay man in the early 1960’s should be dressed or living with class. Charley’s house actually has a better description in the book. But everyone else? And turning gruff Kenny (Nicholas Hoult) into a twink? I suppose the style adds a fictionality within the film, and you can decide whether the latter is a good thing.
George and Jim’s (Matthew Goode) couch scene also makes me think that he has taken Jim for granted when the latter was alive. There’s a power dynamic between them that heteronormative or fictional homosexual relationships have, their book choices show how one is supposedly more masculine or intelligent than the other. This dynamic is subverted by Kenny’s entrance into George’s life, Kenny being more game than George, the latter submissively lusting over the former. Anyway, I actually appreciate how the script and Goode characterizes Jim with sunny optimism, despite seeing him through George’s nostalgic goggles. Goode has always been my second MVP in the movie, but too bad he’s such a jerk.
Emily Watson could have been a great Charley (Julianne Moore) since she’s the right age and nationality. I’m however warming up to Moore’s performance now, and for some reason, it’s because of her dancing. Despite the beautiful exterior that she’s grown into, she dances like she’s trying too hard, making me think of someone who wasn’t loved in her younger years, who certainly isn’t loved by George in the same level that she does.
Five of the movie couples here will appear ad nauseam in my other lists. I’m really worried and sorry about that, being derivative and all. I just have a compulsion to make these lists. Then in like, three days, I’ll tell you what I really think of the new Harry Potter movie. Not on this list.
Noah Baumbach creates two characters so real and on the surface, kinda boring. Florence and Greenberg (Greta Gerwig and Ben Stiller) are half a generation apart, and they come to blows sometimes with that. Florence sometimes talks and acts with irony that she doesn’t make a good impression on Greenberg. He’s an impulsive slacker but he blows his lid when her immature side pops up. Nonetheless they’re there for each other in times of need, belonging in Noah Baumbach’s world of under-dramatic characters. Thankfully, they don’t need speeches to reconcile neither!
The hero of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Michael Cera) and his heart eventually sets itself for the almost unattainable Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), but I really thought Scott and Knives (Ellen Wong) could have worked it out. They’d go to the arcade or Sonic Boom and it doesn’t even feel like she’s dragging him. Then peer pressure kicks in, understandably because it isn’t cool for a twenty year old to date high school girls. They end their relationship with Knives complementing Scott’s hair, a perfect Annie Hall ending. They can be good friends after all.
The obligatory LGBT couple could have either been Cherie and Joan, Eames and Arthur (I can see you write the gay fan fiction now, LJ) or the ployamorous relationships in Heartbeats or FUBAR, but it goes to Nic and Jules (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) from the Kids are All Right. Marriage is hard, as Jules says. Despite some flaws in the film, writer/director Lisa Cholodenko creates people, not symbolic entities, who have their own quirks and desires. Sleeping under a big comforter, ridiculous in LA standards, you can feel them snuggle in. Please adopt me!
They’re on this list because I felt really bad omitting Rabbit Hole on my top ten – the ‘revelation scene’ was kinda weird – but Becca and Howie (Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart) make for a great couple. Yes, most of the film equally captures Becca’s relationship with her family, and Howie’s questionable friendships, but underneath that grief, anger and resentment is repressed passion and a will to reintroduce themselves into the Yonkers community where they normally belong. They help each other move on despite of the tragedy that kills the other marriages in the movie.
Representing puppy love are Lina and Leco from Modra, where the first time actors improvise their way into Lina’s titular home town in Slovakia. Instead of barraging each other with questions, they walk around the bucolic town. Leco jumps on top of Lina at least once. They find out the nice and not so nice things about them. Will this summer decide if they’re gonna stay together, even if the town elders bet that they will? This is showing at the Lightbox as the better parts of the apparently stupid best Canadian movie list. This movie’s so cool and obscure, it doesn’t have an IMDb page!
Some of you might think that the least conflicted part of Easy A is Olive (Emma Stone) getting swept off her feet by a Prince Woodchuck (Penn Badgely), which is true. So we’ll go for the bets parents ever (Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci), and I remind myself that they were part of the me generation, as the mother intimately reveals, which is why they can give such great advice for their own daughter coming to terms with her sexuality. Again, Clarkson and Tucci have such great chemistry and humour, making jokes when they’re actually worried about their children’s well-being.
Here comes another odd, unattractive couple from another indie movie. It’s mean, I know. Jack and Connie (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Ryan) in Jack Goes Boating decide to embark on love despite of cynicism they receive from their married friends. They’re learning the physical taps of love, not lust, as Connie tells him to overpower her without sound like she’s over-directing. In the end, while Fleet Foxes’ pastoral folk music is playing strangely on a New York City backdrop, the only thing more fitting is to see these two put their arms on each other’s shoulders.
I’d be sadistic enough if I put Barney Panofsky (Paul Giamatti) on this list with either of his first two wives (Rachelle LeFevre and Minnie Driver), but author Mordecai Richler is sadistic enough to let Barney meet his third wife Miriam (Rosamund Pike) in his first wedding. In Barney’s Version, he tries to work it out with this Myrna Loy-esque image of perfection they try to work it out and do for almost twenty years, then he cheats on her. He tries to win her back, prankster that he is, by giving her new husband (Bruce Greenwood) a heart attack. But they’ve remained good friends.
‘You’re used to getting women drunk, aren’t you?’ Carlos and Madga (Edgar Ramirez and Nora von Waldstatten) are the definition of the sexy couple. In their first meeting, both test each other and that goes for the rest of their relationship when they have children and both have to go on terrorist missions. Nonetheless, they get on each other’s nerves, she does everything for him while he calls her a ‘petit bourgeoisie’ to his mistress. Like most of the women in the miniseries, she’s attracted to the man who makes things explode, but she can’t love the man who loves himself.
The reason this list even exists is because of Micky Ward and Charlene (Mark Wahlberg and Amy Adams) from The Fighter. From their first date you can hear the rhythm of their banter already, might as well sounding like a couple twice their age. Micky admits later that they’re going in a nice part of town to hide, but only will he show this uptown side of his with a girl he really trusts. Director David O. Russell helps create that picture, showing Micky’s new support system as both, with little good reputation under their names, try something new and something with a great payoff.
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!
Is it just me, or is everyone in “Far From Heaven” just a little creepy? Grown up version of a boy from “Children of the Corn” randomly showing up in Frank Whitaker’s (Dennis Quaid) hotel room door. Actual children of the corn chasing black girls and throwing stones in their heads. Frank’s wife Cathy (Julianne Moore) randomly showing up at Raymond’s (Dennis Haysbert) trailer-y looking home, with good intentions of course. Flash bulbs. Gossip. Mona Lotter (Celia Weston) spying. Spying! Spying! Spying! If I could give an advice to any civilization, I would tell them not to have too many social constraints, because everyone just ends up being creepy.
“Far From Heaven,” like many melodramas I’ve seen, is almost a masterpiece. The one thing I respect about the movie is that it’s a 2002 movie stuck in 1957 Connecticut, where everything is everyone’s business. The movie can therefore never be judged by any standard other than the latter.
Because it’s stuck in 1957 I’d understand if some people found this a little pessimistic, but that pessimism comes through the movie’s ending. It could have ended with Cathy’s phone call to the NAACP or another call between Cathy and Frank arranging a meeting. Instead it ends with Cathy and Raymond in the train station (Did he expect her to be there?), putting the other two actions or events on hold. We’ll never know if Cathy ends up volunteering for the NAACP or what’s gonna happen between Cathy and Frank.
Also, I saw this movie in entirety in some shitty pan and scan TV airing, and the lighting’s a bit dark. Again, noir elements in a romance-themed film, using colour filters more than neon lighting. I just hope the lighting and the colours are greater in a better quality version.
Another reason why I can’t fully dislike the movie is the cast, especially Julianne Moore, who deliver dated conversation with such straight faces. Dennis Quaid depicts Frank as a loose cannon, but that’s not too distracting.
p.s. Lars’s essay on the same movie compared to an actual Sirk.
Atom Egoyan has the benefit of a conventionally beautiful Hollywood cast and make them straddle between that and the common non celebrities that they were playing. The bridge in Chloe’s (Amanda Seyfried) nose disappears, Catherine (Julianne Moore) is Freckle City, David (Liam Neeson) looks like the typical British person who moves to Toronto and says “soccer” – yes, those people exist and they piss me off. Michael looks like the Torontonian with one or two weird features. Not saying that white people in Toronto have weird features, the upper middle class are beautiful and Nordic, just like half of the cast members I talked about. And there’s also the name dropping of certain places that makes me feel like this is supposed to be some twisted love letter to Toronto or something.
With that sort of ordinary people look is the ordinary people outlook. Specifically, a robotic, cynical, urban outlook of sex. Catherine is a gynecologist who tells a mousy troubled virgin that an orgasm is just a series of muscular contractions. Appetizing. Chloe narrates that she knows how to touch a man and what words to say, in an unconvincing baby voice but the text should stand in for her character. The sex scene between them is more honest than it is erotic, which I’m glad for that.
Which is why it’s so contradicts how Chloe would fall in love with her female client and stalk her. The arc between professional prostitute to histrionic stalker wasn’t done well, and Amanda Seyfried couldn’t make the material work. She’s the right age in the second half of the movie, but too young for the first half. And she keeps wearing that same jacket every single time and there’s no way that’s warm enough. Chloe and Catherine’s mindset may break down and succumb to the erotic but within two extremes?
Michael, however, is enjoyable to watch as the ungrateful private son and probably has the best put-downs in movie history (“Isn’t my mom your gynecologist?”). But he and Chloe eventually consummate because he’s a horny teenager and she’s just that good in seducing everyone, right?
There is an honestly good scene between Catherine and David putting all the cards in the table. They talk over each other, they say everything with conviction, they’re neither loud or campy enough to get the attention of everyone else in the cafe. But Chloe has to show up and ruin every other scene she’s in.
And I guess it’s my Torontonian cynicism about sex and adultery. Good examples either rationalize the act, that their partners are neglectful or that the adulterers have a memory they like to cling to. Most of the time in this movie I just kept shaking my head at these fucking idiots.
Listen Atom Egoyan. I know where you hang out, and when I see you I will panhandle the shit out of you. At least George Clooney is good enough to those who saw his Batman in theatres.