Michael Hoffman (Restoration, Soapdish) directs Michelle Pfeiffer and George Clooney in a beautifully contrived romantic comedy with a Manhattan setting that’s exploited to the utmost. A veritable anthology of the perils of single parenting–demanding jobs, cellular phones, busy schedules, transportation hassles–this works a lot better than most Hollywood fluff because the leads are so good (and so well-defined, in Terrel Seltzer and Ellen Simon’s deft script), and because Hoffman is a pro at keeping everything in motion. With Mae Whitman, Alex D. Linz, Ellen Greene, and Charles Durning. Biograph, Esquire, Ford City, Gardens, Golf Mill, Lake, Lincoln Village.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): movie still.
Writer-director Andre Techine appears to be on a roll; after the revelations of My Favorite Season (1993) and Wild Reeds, here’s a picture that’s in some ways even more exciting and serious. Jumping between characters in order to see the same events from different vantage points, as in a Faulkner novel, the story involves a family of thieves based in the French Alps. The plot centers on an abortive car heist, but the thriller elements are secondary to the explorations of character. The younger brother (Daniel Auteuil), in rebellion against both his older brother (Didier Bezace) and his father, has become a cop in Lyons; there he gets sexually involved with the troubled sister (Laurence Cote) of a thief (Benoit Magimel) in league with his brother. To complicate matters further, the sister is a former mistress of the older brother and is currently also involved with a philosophy teacher (Catherine Deneuve). Auteuil and Deneuve costarred as brother and sister in My Favorite Season, and it’s remarkable how different they are here. Cote, best known in this country for her work with Rivette (The Gang of Four, Up Down Fragile) and Godard (Nouvelle vague), is equally sensational. An exquisite, haunting movie for grown-ups about love and family ties. Gilles Taurand, Michel Alexandre, and Pascal Bonitzer all collaborated with Techine on the powerful script. Music Box, Wednesday and Thursday, December 25 and 26.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.
It’s somehow characteristic of director Milos Forman that his 1979 version of the prohippie musical Hair bordered on being a conservative attack on the counterculture, whereas, in these conservative times, his tragicomic all-American saga about the life and times of Hustler publisher Larry Flynt (1996) borders on being a piece of hippie irreverence. Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski’s script may in spots be as much of a skim job as their one for Ed Wood, but it’s almost as sweet and as likable, and if the movie can’t ever practice what it and its hillbilly hero preachthe only beaver shot in the movie involves a corpseits heart is certainly in the right place. Woody Harrelson plays Flynt with energy, and Courtney Love does at least as well as his wife; others in the capable cast include Edward Norton, James Cromwell, Crispin Glover, and James Carville. 127 min. (JR)
I walked out halfway through Alan Parker’s bombastic 1996 version of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1978 musical about Argentina’s national heroine Eva Peroncoscripted by Oliver Stone, who also teamed up with Parker on the lurid fantasies of Midnight Express. I figured if I stayed longer I’d only become angrier, which wouldn’t do anybody any good. In what I saw, Madonna in the title role tries bravely not to buckle under the weight of Stone and Parker’s sense of Stalinist monumentality and fails honorably, while the Lloyd Webber music goes on being nonmusical. Antonio Banderas plays a character serving as chorus and emcee, Jonathan Pryce is the heroine’s totalitarian husband, and Jimmy Nail is on hand as the tango-singer lover who enabled her to move to Buenos Aires. Parker’s Argentina between the 30s and 50s bears a close resemblance to his Midnight Express Turkey and his Mississippi Burning Mississippi. I’ve rarely felt so liberated as I did when I escaped from this torture engine, and I’m eagerly waiting for all the critics who called Nixon Shakespearean to explain why this equally inflated companion piece is Brechtian. (JR)