Julianne on “An Ideal Husband”
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)
Canadian Movie: Owning Mahowny
Owning Mahowny is austere minimalist cleanliness in cinema. This approach is surprising since it tackles gambling addiction, and addiction of any kind is usually portrayed with either evil, grit or glamour. The titular Dan Mahowny (Philip Seymour Hoffman) walks around in beige-painted halls of banks, hotel rooms and airports or visit Atlantic City casinos that aren’t as loud nor distractingly colourful as other gambling places in other films. There’s also spectatorship at work here, as casino employees and patrons both feel greed and pity towards him. Hoffmann’s performance, accordingly, is unsettlingly stoic either when he’s working or sitting on the blackjack tables, losing millions of dollars in one sitting. He barely blinks nor breaks a sweat, his only way to know how to stopp is to endure a spectacular loss. With him is a great supporting cast including Minnie Driver and John Hurt, encapsulating Ontario and New Jersey cadences.
Barney Panofsky (Paul Giamatti) has a second Mrs. Panofsky (Minnie Driver). She’s a Rebecca reference – an unnamed second wife considerably worse in reputation than Barney’s duplicitous first. And of course, I love her. While Barney brings up a guest, Miriam (Rosamund Pike), she replies, ‘She subscribes to The Economist but buys Vogue off the stands.’ I gotta use that one of these days.
Naturally, he ends up marrying Miriam, who’s more bland but less psychotic. Good call, Barney. At 7 tonight,The Toronto Reference Library is gonna ‘preview’ of Barney’s Version, shakily adapted from Mordecai Richler‘s swan song. Geoff Pevere is talk about the author, book and movie. Thanks for the heads up, NOW Magazine!
Princess Mononoke’s Voices
It feels somehow mean that instead of writing about the aesthetic principles of an anime film like Hayao Miyazaki‘s Princess Mononoke, I talk about the voice acting. And it’s not the Japanese voice-acting too, which apparently can only be obtained through a year’s negotiations and waiting and that would have been too expensive. Yet, here I am. Not an expert here, but there is some Noh theatricality bleeding into the Japanese style of film acting down to Kurosawa. Having new, English-language voices then means starting from scratch.
I saw this movie with a friend who told me that Bill Bob Thornton plays a monk. Otherwise I knew nothing about the cast, so throughout the movie I keep trying to figure that out. Was that Tom Cruise as Ashitaka? Angelina Jolie as Lady Eboshi? Drew Barrymore as Princess Mononoke? Julianne Moore as Moro (actually Gillian Anderson)? Is my hearing that bad?
Growing up in Manila, I’m normally greeted at home by anime cartoons, most would have the typical character interpretations, the raspy angry voices of the old and the chipper sounds of the young. Not in the English-language dubbing of this film. At the same time, it’s hard to show the flexibility of facial expressions in animation, and the main characters aren’t drawn to move with large gestures neither. For example, Billy Bob Thornton‘s Jigo is raspy too, but looking like an old fat man he sounds neither. He instead makes Jigo sound like a cynic instead of a uniformly bad person I would have imagines in the supposed evil Western lands where Prince Ashitaka (Billy Crudup) is traveling. Jigo’s humourous even at the film’s most nerve-wracking moments. His realistic worldview makes Ashitaka realize that his quest as just gotten more complex than he might have expected.
And then there’s Minnie Driver as Lady Eboshi. She yells in her first scene. Otherwise, she doesn’t need to raise her voice in front of even the male soldiers. They just have her full attention. Despite laughing at Ashitaka’s face, she spends her night with him by explaining her herself without having to prove herself. She’s like a mother to the residents of her Irontown, later attempting to show her men how to kill a god. ‘The trick is not to fear him.’ Her calm demeanor makes us confident that she knows what she’s doing throughout the film.
Driver and Thornton’s characterizations stand out because they seem for the most part the exception to the rules that I forget that there are two performances that are. And I don’t want this to come across as scorn with praise. Anyway, there’s Claire Danes‘ Princess Mononoke/San, and it makes sense for her to yell through half of the film. San is Eboshi’s enemy. She’s more confused and angry about Ashitaka’s ambivalent allegiances, because of her feelings for him. The deaths of her allies and the destruction of her world don’t help neither. The change of environment brings the worst out of her identity crisis, a human desperately wanting to fit in with her wolf family. Danes also interprets San as someone stuck in girlhood, that even her calmest line reads are filled with misanthropy and rage.
Ok, so maybe the older characters are calmer while the younger ones are more spirited. Which explains Crudup’s Ashitaka, but he comes across more as gallant yet commanding. Which doesn’t explain Jada Pinkett-Smith‘s Toki, a passionate character, loyal to Eboshi. She’s left alone with the other prostitutes to defend Irontown. She takes on herself as the character who leads the women out into safety, becoming as maternal as her role model. Pinkett-Smith as well as the other actors add a universality to this movie.
p.s. I know what I want for Christmas.