Monday, April 09, 2007

Summer in Berlin, The TV Set

Was it just last weekend that I saw "Summer in Berlin?" Seems like a long time ago. Which does not bode well for my ability to recall much of it. It's a German movie, about two women who live in the same apartment building and have formed a friendship, despite the differences in their lives: one is a recently divorced single mother, unable to find a job in her field (window dressing) and the other a single woman who provides home care for the elderly and is unable to find a man who's worth much. The setting is well-detailed, and you get to know their building, with its balcony and view of the nearby pharmacy's lit windows, the neighboring cafe/bar, and the insides of their small apartments. Both actresses are good, and there's the added bonus of a strong performance by the actor playing the teenage son. I'd expected it to be a comedy, from reviews that I'd read, but despite some laughable moments, it was more melodrama than light adventure. Nothing earth-shattering, but a decently entertaining movie.

* * *

So this weekend I saw "The TV Set," a film that snuck up on me despite starring one of my personal lust objects, David Duchovny. (I know, I know.) The movie didn't provide much eye candy, though, as he's covered in a thick and unattractive beard, wears plaid flannel over his plump belly, and offers a few too many awkward shots of such body parts as the inside of his nostrils and the bottom of his butt crack. (Neither of these intended to titillate, and therefore, successful.) He plays a writer whose sold his first pilot to a network, headed by Sigourney Weaver as an older version of her "Working Girl" boss. She's mellowed a bit, but is still as unfeeling and power-hungry (this time it's ratings) as Katharine Parker. (And she wears a panda on her clothing - sometimes a jeweled pin, but in one scene she has a stuffed panda draped over one shoulder like a toddler's attempt at a fur shrug. At that point, I'd missed earlier references to the "Panda Network," only to figure it out later.) (Hey, it sounds silly only until you remember there's a Fox.)

The writer/director Jake Kasdan has directed a lot of TV, including the great spoof of "90210" called "Grosse Pointe" (regrettably canceled before its time, but recently released on DVD.) You'd think he would pull of a satire of TV pilot season well, and while there are some funny moments, there also are some tedious scenes. It's very slow-moving, which in itself could be a commentary on the nature of how these things progress, but that's not the result. It's just slow.

There's a subplot about a British exec who's come to the Panda network for some reason, maybe instill some class into its lineup? The reason isn't entirely clear, although on a network whose most recent success is a reality show called "Slut Wars" (really), it's a fair assumption, especially as a fondness for BBC shows seems to be common in all the people who meet him. We also spend too much time with his sadly displaced wife (the great "Dawn" from the British "The Office") which does nothing to move the main story forward, other than to underline the contrast between Sigourney Weaver's "family second" approach and his desire to keep his family together. Yawn. Sorry, but yawn.

There's also Lindsay Sloane, who was fabulous as Marcie on "Grosse Pointe," playing the female lead in the pilot. She's still great, but serves as a reminder that this could have been done better. Throw in a pregnant Justine Bateman, and there's the film: passable, but not up to its potential.

Rent "Grosse Pointe." For real.


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