Sunday, September 25th, 2005
Sunday Cleaning – Volume 7
A couple movies this weeks – flicks I saw on the ship. Coincidentally, both London-set, period pieces about the theatre. I haven’t had any time to get to the Guilt Pile of CDs lately, and it’s just gotten bigger in my absence.
I remember Being Julia screening at the TIFF last year to considerable buzz, almost exclusively thanks to Annete Bening’s performance as Julia Lambert, an aging, mercurial 1930s stage actress going through a bit of a midlife crisis, taking a younger lover and fending off an ambitious ingenue rival. As it turns out the praise was well-deserved, as Bening dives right into the role, combining just the right balance of over-the-topness and vulnerability, by turns full-on diva and neurotically insecure. It all fits perfectly with her character, though, and never crosses the line into scenery-chewing. The supporting cast is also quite good, managing to hold their own even when Beining is “on”. I particularly liked seeing Jeremy Irons in a non-creepy role as Lambert’s cluelessly cuckolded husband.
It’s a light, breezy period film that doesn’t overstay its welcome and has an excellent final act that really allows Bening to shine. It even took my mind off of being seasick at the time, no mean feat.
Okay, at the risk of sounding like a total grump, I don’t understand the rapturous praise surrounding this film. It’s not BAD, but is so treacley and sentimental that it was a little embaressing to watch. It’s the I’ve-no-idea-how-accurate story of J.M. Barrie’s creation of the Peter Pan (a story for which I also have no great affection – just indifference), and the single mother whose brood who inspired him to write it. Johnny Depp is the playwright and Kate Winslett as the doomed-from-the-beginning matriarch. While I applaud his Scottish accent, I thought Depp was kind of vacant and came off as kind of overly naive, even for a daydreamer playwright, while the trio of moppets who play Winslett’s clan are almost unbearably precious. That actually goes for the whole film – too bloody precious. I liked Dustin Hoffman though.
I don’t really like using that as a basis for criticism – it makes me feel like I’m saying there should have been car chases or ninjas or something to make it worthwhile. Not at all – I think I just dislike anything that makes such a blatant and clumsy grab for the heartstrings, because if it fails (as Finding Neverland did in my case), it’s just awkward and uncomfortable for everyone involved. Now when I left the theatre, I saw people in the audience crying, but keep in mind that these were all senior citizens. Old people cry at everything.
np – American Music Club / A Toast To You