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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Bored Movie Reviewers

And Also: Fans of The Nanny might want to check Living with Fran on Youtube. It comes off a bit like its sequel, if her marriage didn't go well and she actually married a somewhat caddish version of him years earlier. Familiar faces pop up including an actor from Drop Dead Diva. As with Fran, the voice will give him away.

The most entertaining moment of "Did You Hear About the Morgans?" came halfway through the press screening, during yet another scene of middle-aged bickering. Hugh Grant, one-half of a recently separated New York power couple, sputters an excuse for his infidelity to his estranged wife. "I'm not perfect," he says. "I'm human. I made a mistake." At which point the woman next to me cracked, "That's what Tiger said!"

A good film reviewer will find something to write about even when they are reviewing bad movies. A really good one will look past the mediocrity and realize when there is some good in even some of the ones they think are really bad. Or, something more than what amounts to a big yawn. Sometimes, when a reviewer is not really paying attention to the movie (the result are comic asides or such that actually seeing the movie would ruin), it can get a tad annoying. See, some reviews of Roger Ebert.* And, this one.

The striking thing about the review's comments is that they basically all are negative though one gets to the heart of things by saying that it actually sounds like a not bad movie if you wanted something predictable. This often is why we go to the movies, so hits an important point in a gentle sort of way. The comment is an example of reading between the lines -- the negative review actually suggests to some a conclusion not quite what was intended. It is something like when a reader of Pravada learned something critical of the government by the phrasing or what was not said.
Soon, these fish out water are doing hilarious things like milking cows. (Hey, remember when this happened on that episode of "Sex and the City" almost a decade ago? Because I do.) and falling in love all over again. (Remember that shot in "Nine Months" involving Hugh Grant, his costar Julianne Moore and a twinkling city skyline? Because I remember that as well!).

Actually, she doesn't really milk cows exactly. She basically tries to milk one cow while talking to Sam Elliott's character about her relationship, and the real joke is that she reads too much in a comment he makes about how to milk one. It's the sorta amusing joke with a point made by a somewhat annoying lead and a more pleasing supporting character that does represent the movie fairly well. And, the result is actually overall pleasing as I noted. You read this review and it sounds like one of those scenes where some city dweller spends five minutes trying to milk a cow, when actually it is not. As to standard plot devices, so? See footnote.
The movie might have had a flicker of redemptive eye candy had Grant and Parker displayed anything but what looks like utter repulsion for each other. In the moments when they kiss (oh, like that's a spoiler) they actually seem to be pushing each other away. At least old pros Sam Elliott and Mary Steenburgen, as the wise local law enforcement, have an easy, sexy chemistry. The rest of the cast, including a painfully snappish Elisabeth Moss, are ill-used and, apparently, terribly angry. "Morgans" does bear the distinction of boasting the sourest cast ever assembled outside of a Lars Von Trier production.

Yes, the leads aren't great together,** but in time, as I said, they did grow on me. I can even see them together, particularly why she would like someone like Hugh Grant. Someone like her would like a self-effacing sort that would make her laugh. It's a bit harder to consider why he likes her, though probably she does provide some sort of balance to the relationship. But, the review in passing ruins itself -- oh no! It actually says something nice about the film (the law enforcement couple). With a bit of thought, it might have to say a few more nice things about it. I disagree about Moss (from West Wing btw) and unsure where all these sour people (you mean like the giddy nurse or laid back doctor? the hint of gay agent protecting Hugh Grant in a fun throwaway?) are. And, where are all these "terribly angry" people?

It ends continuing to whine about the "this epic waste of two hours," which exaggerates not only its length but it's level of bad. I guess it helps that the previews and clip shown on Letterman were not promising, so inviting low expectations, but really now. You can think the movie is lame without all of these histrionics, can't you? Maybe not if you have to write for a publication that requires you to have a hip attitude. To be fair, as I noted, others do this as well. After awhile, you expect it as just a regular cliche in the review business, though you can still whine about it as if it a "epic waste" of your time or something.

Note: This is as much a reply to a general trend in such reviews than any one review.


* Ebert's review is bored. Oh, look the movie is full with cliches ... why did anyone make such a retread?! Darn, wish I was back in the good old days when romantic comedies were not all predictable with standard plots and supporting stars. You know when Doris Day, Rock Hudson and Tony Randall basically starred in the same movie about three times.

Lazy, Roger. The laziness is underlined by the fact that the real problem for him is not the same plot devices, but the follow through. He loved The Sure Thing, where two mismatched college students fall in love during a road trip that was standard by the 1930s. The standard plot devices didn't suddenly make the film lame. Other films aren't so good, but comfortable shoes sometime do a good enough job all the same.

** The whole adultery business is unpleasant and the earlier Tiger Woods reference hits home up to a point, except -- yeah this ruins it again -- HG's character cheats once during a period of stress, not repeatedly with a bunch of chippies. And, we later find out she too cheated on him, which sort of reminds me of the back/forth cheating of my governor and his wife.