10.25.2006

It's time for the Be Careful What You Wish For Edition of Ticket Stub:

* Little Children - What if both Peter Pan and Wendy stayed young forever, had a torrid adulterous affair, brushed with death and destruction, then came to their senses? If it were directed into a 2.5-hour psychodrama by Todd (In The Bedroom) Field, it would be this movie. Fine acting carries the story along, despite the pungent unlikeability of nearly every character, and the dreamy summer-in-New-England mood is laced with tension, reinforced by a recurring train whistle sound that portends doom. Kate Winslet glows as Sarah, an ambivalent mom and frustrated wife (to a dull older man with a raunchy secret), who throws herself into an affair with hunky dad Brad, played with bronzed melancholy by Patrick Wilson. They risk toppling their children's idyllic lives and (at least) Brad's chilly marriage to the stunning Jennifer Connelly, but are sucked into a Romeo & Juliet fantasy of running off in the middle of the night...almost. The parallel tale of a paroled sex offender moving back in with his mom, and the unstable ex-cop who harrasses him, is so convoluted it pushes the movie into cynical American Beauty territory (coincidentally, that film was directed by Winslet's real-life hubby, Sam Mendes). But for all the soap opera twists and surreal set-pieces, there is something compelling about these characters that keeps you involved, and mostly squirming. The inescapable theme of adult immaturity (enhanced by an omniscient voiceover by the Frontline guy) leaves you feeling sour and superior, by turns. It's a bit grueling. I said to Kim at the end, "I feel like I lived a year in these people's lives!" Heaven forbid. (B+)

* Marie Antoinette - Anarchy in La Republique! Sofia Coppola presents a lavishly anachronistic story, either of the ill-fated French queen or of her own gilded Hollywood youth, or possibly both at the same time. It's a pastiche of formality and slang, intimate emotion and remote tableau, poofy silk gowns and a much-maligned Converse sneaker. The opposite of a historical opus like Amadeus or Gandhi, the film dispenses with accuracy, narrative, and even consistent accents -- Kirsten Dunst uses a generic post-Valley Girl Amerispeak, which somewhat trivializes but also humanizes Marie. She and her husband, the nerd-king Louis XVI played to nepotistic perfection by Jason Schwarzman, are sheltered teenagers wed to seal a political pact, and their marriage is unconsummated (though conducted entirely in view of dozens of courtiers) for seven years. This innocence eventually fades to a delicate ennui, then adultery, and then comes the revolution -- oddly truncated here, with the film fading out as the royal family flee Versailles. They were imprisoned for several tumultuous years after that, and eventually guillotined in the Reign of Terror -- I guess if Ridley Scott had made this movie, Sofia's version would be condensed to 40 minutes and the remaining 85 would be all action, action, action. I think Kirsten Dunst could've handled it, but that is so beside Coppola's point here -- it's a selective, evocative portrait, not a documentary. Like a courtly portrait painter, she selects flattering angles and poses and backdrops for her subject, but manages to convey something essential, maybe brutal, about her too. Marie is utterly unworldly even as she sits atop the world, with no concept of money, work, or even time, as hers is filled only with the pursuit of pleasure. And it's pleasurable to watch, with sumptuous costumes, locations, and towers of champagne and pastries. Apolitical to a fault, Coppola examines this rare bird so closely you don't even notice the bars of her cage, or palace gates. Extra points for an unabashedly bizarre supporting cast, including Rip Torn, Judy Davis, Molly Shannon, and Marianne Faithfull as Marie's mum, Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, who doles out guilt-tripping advice on seduction in her letters. Oh and, of course, the soundtrack rocks. (A for effort, C+ for achievement, but that's overrated anyway)

3 comments:

Nathaniel said...

I know you go to the movies a lot, but don't forget to review The Illusionist...

emily said...

Oh honey, don't ruin it -- once we see 'The Presige' I'm going to do a "Magician's Battle Royal" edition! :)

emily said...

Duh, I mean "presTige."