Saturday, September 8, 2007

In Brief

America Psycho
On DVD, 2000, Rated R
Although critically acclaimed at the time and still loved by many, I could never get into this fiercely dark satire on American consumerism, contemporary masculinity, and wealth. Christian Bale is dynamite as the title character—an under-thirty VP in New York City. He takes exquisite care of his physique, dines in the finest restaurants, beds the social elite and prostitutes, and is increasingly ruled by serial-killer tendencies. The most effective moments are those between he and his friends as they compare business cards, suits, and dinner reservations. Still, Fight Club covered the same ground the year before to much better effect without reducing its title character to a vacuous shell. It is fun to see the stellar cast, though, which includes Wilem Defoe, Reese Witherspoon, Josh Lucas, Chloe Sevigny, and Jared Leto. B.

Music and Lyrics
On DVD, 2007, Rated PG-13
I love Hugh Grant, but I’d hoped he’d learned the lesson of About a Boy—namely that he’s too old for this crap. As the other half of eighties pop-duo “Pop” (and nice send-up of Wham!, complete with music videos anyone that from the era will agree are spot-on), Hugh makes his living at state fairs and theme parks when a Shakira wannabe enlists him to right her a new song. Problem is, Hugh only writes music, not lyrics. Hugh bumps into literary type Drew Barrymore, and chemistry and lyrics ensue. Every cheesy angle is played up. Grant does what he can with C-material, but this film has no soul. C.

On a side note, Grant would have been great working with Hitchcock (as the other Grant was at this stage in his career), but I’m not sure who directing today can really help him turn the page he needs to turn in his career. Thoughts readers?

Walk the Line
On DVD, 2005, PG-13
Joaquin Phoenix is solid as John R. Cash in this bio-pic, nailing the competing light and blackness that made Cash a compelling star, but Reese Witherspoon’s Oscar-winning performance as no-nonsense, straight-shooting June Carter makes the film. The story traces Cash from his young days, through his first marriage and early fame, through his icon-making concert at Folsom Prison, up to the moment he is engaged to June Carter in 1968. Although the acting is great throughout and the story is compelling, the plotline is the standard Behind The Music arc: early fame, partying, addiction, divorce, rock-bottom, recovery, and new relationship. You’ve gotta make sense of lives somehow, but I was disappointed they weren’t more creative and chose to leave out the religious awakening that lead to Cash’s decision to come clean. Religion is a part of the American experience, and is certainly a part of the contradictions that are Johnny Cash. He’s a member of the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame, and he vacationed every summer with Billy Graham. That’s worth exploring. B+


Lawyer said...

American Psycho is a B+ for me. Fiercely dark is, unfortunately, my specific subgenre. I love the desperation in Bale's performance.

I love Walk the Line (A-). I have been watching it over and over lately on HBO, and it just gets better. Its my kind of love story, with great music.

Music and Lyrics....I hope she was good looking if you went to see that.

Lawyer said...

As for which director could help Hugh, I think the Coen brothers. He has shown depth before, and they are perfect for him to make a substantive film.

Doctor said...

I'm with Priest for American Psycho (B) and Walk the Line (B+). I've been able to avoid Music and Lyrics to date.

Grant deserves better. In addition to the Coens, I bet Soderbergh could pull a compelling performance out of him.