Friday, May 1, 2015

"The Age of Adaline" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "The Age of Adaline" and DVDs "Unbroken" and "Home Sweet Hell" and The Book of the Week is "A Modern Marriage (And this is a REALLY modern marriage. Swingers, anyone?)."  I also bring you up to date on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project: Claude Chabrol's masterpiece "Le Boucher"]

 

Adaline, born in 1908, seems to have a relatively normal life until 1937, when she has a car accident and is stuck at 29 forever, never to age.

Adaline (Blake Lively) was born at the turn of the 20th century, was married, had a daughter and then was widowed.  In 1937, at the age of 29, she is on her way to meet her daughter in Northern California when inexplicably it starts to snow.  She loses control of her car and it plunges into some water.  Again, inexplicably a series of fanciful events all come into play to bring Adaline back to life, but to forever remain 29.  It takes her awhile to realize she is not aging and when the FBI turns up to take her away for some "experiments," Adaline decides she must live a life on the run and never tell anyone about her "condition."  Thus we now see her in the present day in San Francisco.

We learn all of this through an unseen narrator, and I have to say right up front that I have a problem with films with a great deal of narrative and exposition.  I believe film should be a visual medium and let the visuals speak for themselves whenever possible. You know, "a picture is worth a 1000 words?"  I not only didn't like so much narration, but the narrator was a bit overdone.  He reminded me of Rod Serling saying, "Next stop....the Twilight Zone."

And certainly there is a bit of "The Twilight Zone" in this film of a woman in the 1930's getting into a car crash, and through a series of rather fantastic events happening simultaneously, including a chemical reaction that wouldn't be discovered until 2035, waking up to discover that she will never age and remain 29 forever.

This film is a combination of fantasy, soap opera, love story, Lifetime Movie and fashion show (love Lively's clothes!), but all of that never adds up to a satisfying film.

To enjoy this film you need to not only suspend disbelief, but believe that a cop, after stopping Adaline for a  traffic violation, would see her age (45) on her driver's license (remember, she's stuck at 29 forever) and make her show him her birth certificate because she looks too young to be 45.  Aren't there plenty of 45-year-olds who look 29?  Isn't 60 the new 40 so that makes 40 the new 20?  

Also you have to believe that someone noticed she wasn't aging and called the FBI on her (to do some "experiments") which resulted in her escaping, moving and changing her name frequently, never having her picture taken, deciding she would never tell a living soul her "condition" and having a blind best friend. 

You will also wonder when exactly she realized she wasn't getting older.  I would think it would take her until at least 45 to think, "Gee, I look damn good. How lucky am I?" and then at least until 60 to think, "Mmm, wonder what's going on here."  That aspect wasn't really explained nor was it clear at what age she started researching her "condition."  You can't tell unless you calculate what year we are in, because, of course, she looks the same all of the time. And does never aging also mean you can never die?  I wasn't sure about that.  I thought it might turn into a "Lost Horizon" kind of thing. 

Another thing I wondered about, even if she has lived 100 years, why would that mean she would be good at Trivial Pursuit? She seemed to know everything about everything AND she could speak all kinds of languages.  I could live to be 200 and never master one language let alone five or beat Hubby at Trivial Pursuit.  

And finally, she works in a library in the present and was manually filing cards into a card catalog.  Not a computer in sight!  Geez, already.  Where has this director (Leigh Toland Krieger) and the screenwriters been?  Card catalogs in libraries went the way of the dinosaurs long ago.

The film gets better in the second half when we are in the present and Harrison Ford makes an appearance as, William, the father of Adeline's current love, Ellis (played by a very handsome and charismatic Michiel Huisman).  Wouldn't you know, Adaline and William were in love once back when he was 26 and she was in her 50's (though he thought she was...guess?  Right, 29).  For some reason never explained, she gave him her real name, though she said people called her "Della."  I wish they had done more with this, like have her start up the love affair with the old guy while also romancing the young one.  Something.  It needed something.

It's painful for me to not like this movie. This is the kind of film that I usually love. You know how much I like Lifetime Movies.  But the dialogue was just too cheesy and melodramatic, and I can only suspend disbelief to a certain extent.

Blake Lively, who made her fame and fortune on TV's "Gossip Girls," is certainly a lovely woman and handles this role well, but the script is just not credible even for an incredible story.  When Adaline and Ellis meet, their flirty patter is just too cutesy for real life and the fact that he lives across the way from a dance studio and they enjoy watch people dancing as if it was a TV show... Ew. That is the kind of hipster stuff I complained about last week when I reviewed "While We're Young." 

I did however like seeing Ellen Burstyn as Adaline's daughter and her calling Blake Lively Mommy. Kathy Baker is always good (she plays William's wife who is none too pleased how taken with Adaline he is). And the kid who played Harrison Ford as a young man (Anthony Ingruber) -- he had this VERY deep voice.  Not sure if he was trying to sound like Harrison or they hired him because he DID sound like Harrison.  Made me laugh.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Interesting idea but too many holes, the dialogue was too clichéd and melodramatic and the whole thing just didn't gel.  Save your dollars and watch it on DVD if I haven't completely turned you off.



***DVDS***
You Might Have Missed
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)
 



Unbroken (2014)
 
 
Angelina Jolie directed this film version of the best-selling memoir by Laura Hillenbrand that tells the story of Olympian Louis Zamperini and his 47 days adrift at sea after his plane was shot down by the Japanese during WWII and his time in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp.
 
Louis Zamperini's (Jack O'Connell) family moved to Torrance, California from Italy in 1919.  As a youth, he was a troublemaker and was bullied until his brother got him interested in track.  He started winning races and by the time he was 19 he had qualified for the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, the youngest qualifier ever in the 5000 meters.
 
In 1941 Zamperini enlisted in the Army and was a WW II bombardier on a B-24.  It was during a mission to locate a missing plane and crew that Zamperini's plane was shot down.  He and two other crew members survived and drifted at sea for 47 days.  They were then captured by the Japanese Navy and sent to a prison camp where they were beaten and severely mistreated. 
 
Written by the Coen brothers, this film would have been helped by chopping off about 30 minutes from this two hour and 17 minute film.  And clichés abounded. The sharks circling the raft thing was one.  And at the Olympics, one of the Japanese team members turned and nodded to him.  I thought that guy might end up being his abuser in the prison camp, but it was just a precursor, I guess, of what was to come, but it was an unnecessary bit of business. And when he was in the prison camp, I couldn't believe he would be recognized by the Japanese as being in the Olympics.  I mean, he finished 8th.
 
An entire hour went by and all we knew after the first hour was that our hero ran in the Berlin Summer Olympics and was now stranded in the middle of the ocean in a raft. Hardly anything happened except the usual lying around dying of thirst.  However, when a shark attacked their raft, it was so fast it made me jump out of my seat which was a good thing because I was falling asleep. Those 47 days in the boat felt like 47 days sitting there watching it. 
 
Not sure why I didn't go see this film in the theatres.  I meant to and was quite upset that Angelina Jolie did not get nominated for an Oscar for Best Director nor did the film get a nod for Best Picture.  I felt it was another one of those slights to women directors.  But now that I have seen it, I don't feel it was Oscar-worthy.
 
O'Connell's portrayal of Zamporini didn't move me. Though he was the star of the film, he didn't stand out.  "The Bird (Takamasa Ishihara), his abuser in the prison camp, was more dynamic as were a couple of the other guys.
 
It's a well-meaning film but that doesn't make it enjoyable.  However, I give Jolie props for directing a film of this scale.  I just didn't agree with many of her directorial choices.  The pace was slow and I didn't really care about Zamperini.  I think this is a case of being so in love with one's work, that you just can't cut anything out.  It would have been a better film with 30 minutes less footage.  I did like the ending where we saw what happened to all of the real-life key players but it was too little too late.
 
Rosy the Reviewer says...a well-meaning film that was kind of boring.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Don Champagne (Patrick Wilson) has a good life or he did until his wife, Mona (Katherine Heigl), finds out about his affair with Dusty (Jordana Brewster) the young, pretty woman at work.  Then all hell breaks loose.

Mona Champagne is a bit OCD.  She likes things orderly and just so. She schedules everything, including when she and Don will have sex.  Her husband, Don, runs a furniture store and he is not happy with his nagging wife.  He hires Dusty, a much younger woman, and embarks upon an affair with her. Turns out Dusty is a bit of a gold-digger. In fact, she and her boyfriend try to extort $25,000 from Don by telling him she is pregnant.  And if he doesn't pay up, she will tell Mona.

Don can't come up with the money so he tells Mona. When Mona finds out about the affair, it's not good.  In fact, it's very, very bad. Mona is determined that nothing and no one is going to mess up her tidy little life.  And what is her solution?  Why it's what every middle class suburban housewife would decide to do. Murder Dusty, of course.  Turns out Mona is a nasty, vile person who will stop at nothing to maintain her little world.

What follows is an exploration of the miserable marriages that exist behind the picture perfect suburban facades.  Murdering your husband's mistress seems like a good way to end the affair, right?  What follows is a series of silly but nasty and bloody attempts to get rid of Dusty in what I think is supposed to be a dark comedy.  It starts out that way but ultimately turns into a nasty little piece of work that doesn't sit that well.  It's not that funny and doesn't really say anything new about suburban hypocrisy.

Playing the uptight, controlling character is a familiar role for Heigl.  We've seen it before in "Knocked Up" and "The Ugly Truth."  And that's kind of funny as she is rumored to be difficult in real life too. So this is a no-brainer for her and actually is rather one-note, despite a bit of emotion at the end of the film.  I think she is an appealing actress, and I would like to see her get a really meaty role some time. Patrick Wilson plays the hapless, unhappy husband against type as this is not his usual kind of role.  He is funny at times, though corny.  James Belushi plays Don's colleague and doesn't do a very good job of it. And he looks like hell.  None of these characters are worth rooting for.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like movies such as "Eating Raoul" or "The Cook, the Thief, the Wife and her Lover," you might like this, but just a warning.  This one isn't as good as those.


 

***My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project***


265 to go! 
 

Le Boucher (1970)
 

A lonely butcher and a repressed school mistress become unlikely friends in a small French town in the shadow of some grisly serial murders.
 
Director Claude Chabrol was one of the French New Wave directors along with Godard, Truffaut, Rohmer and Rivette.  The French Hitchcock, Chabrol also specialized in thrillers and this one is considered by many as his masterpiece and some say the greatest film of all time.
 
Stephane Audran (probably better known to American audiences for "Babette's Feast") was Chabrol's wife at the time and looks like a French Kim Novak, again harking to Hitchcock. The film also has the intensity, cinematography and eerie soundtrack often attributed to Hitchcock.  But Chabrol is more of a poet and this film, despite its thriller status, also has a slow pace and many layers.
 
Why it's a Must See:  "Chabrol uses his camera as writers use a pen, and he has the grace and fluency of a master...Chabrol makes tone poems on thriller themes.  Everything in the movie is just about perfect.
---Pauline Kael, The New Yorker
 
Rosy the Reviewer says...not sure I can say this is the "greatest film of all time, but if you like New Wave French cinema, then you need to add this one to your repertoire. 
(In French with English subtitles)



***Book of the Week***


A Modern Marriage: A Memoir by Christy and Mark Kidd (2014)


Curious about "swinging?"  Then this is for you!
 
Christy and Mark Kidd looked behind a velvet curtain at a New Year's Eve party and got an eyeful.  Swingers!
 
Now most people would quietly back out, excusing themselves and high-tailing it out of there, happy to have gotten out of their with their clothes on.  But not this married couple. Oh, no. For some reason, they both thought this looked like a good idea!  Married five years, these two went home and just could not get that idea out of their minds.  They were curious.  They had questions.  So what do you do when you are curious and have questions?  Why, you jump right in!
 
This is not a cautionary tale.  Well, they didn't mean it to be, anyway.  They are still at it and feel doing this together has strengthened their marriage. 
 
If a "modern marriage" is one that includes swinging, then I guess I am in an "old-fashioned" marriage. No matter how curious I might be about this lifestyle, there is no way I would want to do this. And the Kidds' descriptions of their various encounters made me go "ick."  This is not for you if you don't like explicit descriptions of sexual acts that involve people of all shapes, sizes and age.
 
Now I have to ask myself, though, why I picked this book up to begin with.  And, let me tell you, I won't be looking behind any velvet curtains at New Year's Eve parties either.
 
Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are curious about the swinging lifestyle, I encourage you to read this book first before putting an ad in Craigslist.



Thanks for Reading!


That's it for this week.


See you Tuesday for

"A Mother's Love"

 

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