Sunday, October 07, 2007

Three films: Jane Austen, Ira & Abby, and Eastern Promises

Yesterday before I got the mail, I went and saw "The Jane Austen Book Club." (I went early, to a $6.50 matinee, and the ticket person gave me change for a $20 instead of a $10. When I first went back to tell he'd made a mistake it looked like he was about to argue with me until he realized I was giving him back money, not asking for money. "Wow, that's really honest," he said. Why do people first assume you're trying to screw them, not trying to help them?)

I was bored during the movie. It had some interesting actors (notably Emily Blunt from "The Devil Wears Prada"), but too many uninspired storylines that the film didn't explore deeply enough, leaving me to care very little about any of the characters or their fate. There is a marriage at the end, and it's of the one woman who you learn nearly nothing about, so it's not like you want to applaud her happiness. There were endless scenes where I wondered, why is this even in the movie? Like a scene where one character shaves her girlfriend's legs and tells a long boring story about her childhood. (Okay, later this becomes a plot point in the breakup of said relationship, but since you don't have any time to care about them as a couple, their breakup isn't that interesting either.) Yawn.

So last weekend, or was it two weekends ago, I saw "Eastern Promises" and "Ira and Abby." "I&A" is a romantic comedy written by and starring Jennifer Westfeldt, who wrote/starred in "Kissing Jessica Stein," which I liked. This one? Not so much. The character of Abby is so preposterously frothy, it's hard to believe in her or care for her much. But the film pretty much belongs to Ira, played by Chris Messina, who I only know as the corporate guy Claire falls for in the last season of "Six Feet Under." He's more interesting than Abby, but when the film is all about his love for/relationship with her, it doesn't help when she's a nothing. There are the requisite sets of parents played by familiar faces: in this case we have Robert Klein and Judith Light, and Fred Willard and Frances Conroy (hey, playing Chris Messina's character's mother-in-law, as she was never quite on "Six Feet Under.") The movie is farcical without being particularly funny, romantic without being exceptionally sweet.

"Eastern Promises," on the other hand, I really did like. It's a film from David Cronenberg, who directed last year's "A History of Violence," and it stars that movie's great Viggo Mortensen. (Career check: Maria Bello, who was fabulous opposite him in "A History of Violence," got stuck with "The Jane Austen Book Club" this year. Who said that it's hard for women over 40 to find interesting roles?) If you've heard anything about the film, you've probably heard about the fight scene in a steam room in which Mortensen fights off a series of attackers in the nude. It's a spectacular scene, although it gets a bit gorey, it's pretty intense. The rest of the movie is an interesting mystery/thriller about a Russian crime family squabble which is dropped in the lap of a London midwife (Naomi Watts, who isn't Cate Blanchett, no matter how many times I imagine each in the other's roles.) I like that it doesn't try to be all aobut the Russian mob or solve any big questions about right or wrong, but gives us a sliver of a story that you can see stretches on before and after this film.

I'm contemplating going to see "Across the Universe" right now but I don't know how I feel about a running time of over 2 hours. I would like to occupy my mind, though. Today I bought a new shower curtain, which I sorely needed, but I was putting off, thinking I'd just buy a new one for the new apartment and live with the one I had for a bit longer.

I am ignoring my wall of boxes.


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