Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Romantic Comedy Round-Up

The weekend was eventful enough that the weekend HBO report got shoved to Tuesday. I guess I was in a comedy/romantic comedy mood this weekend (or else that's what was on).

I started with Definitely Maybe on Thursday night, which I liked better than I expected, but still not enough that I would have been willing to pay for it in a theater. The plot structure is similar to I'm With Lucy, being mostly told in flashback and with the person the main character ends up with in the present part of the story a mystery until the end. This one involves a divorcing father whose young daughter asks to hear the story of how he got together with her mother. Her hope is he'll remember why he loved her mother and then won't want to be divorced. He tells her about the various women he's known, changing their names and details so she can't tell which one ends up being her mother, going back to right after college. It was an okay movie that could have been a good one with a different leading man. Ryan Reynolds is pretty to look at, and in interviews I've seen, he seems to be a nice, funny guy, but he bothers me as an actor because he doesn't really seem to play characters. He expresses emotion, but he's pretty much the same in everything I've seen him in, even though the characters as written have been really different. I never believed him for a moment in this movie, and he was really outclassed to an embarrassing degree by his co-stars -- including the kid (okay, so that was Abigail Breslin and she's a prodigy). It's already borderline inappropriate for a father to be telling some of that stuff to his young daughter, but since I never really believed him as a father, it came across as some random 30-something guy talking about his love life to a little girl, which got kind of skeevy. This was also one of those films that puts a bizarre emphasis on smoking, to the point it came across as stealth product placement, with no specific brands shown, but with the characters talking about enjoying smoking and bonding over smoking (that, or Hollywood screenwriters are among the last "smoking makes you look cool!" holdouts). On the up side, this was a romantic comedy in which the leading man was theoretically a man, not an overgrown manchild being forced to grow up by a demanding harpy. I say "theoretically" because the character was written as the kind of guy who was probably an adult in third grade when he already had his life planned, but the actor never really conveyed that.

Then I caught Juno, and I have to agree with the critics who say that some of the dialogue was a wee bit too self-consciously hip, but Ellen Page definitely deserved her Oscar nomination because she totally embodied that character, enough so that the self-consciously hip dialogue almost even worked, coming from her. I guess it's a factor of my age, but I identified far more with the childless adoptive couple than with the teenager.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day was on after that, and even though I have it on DVD, I couldn't resist at least leaving it on while I did other stuff.

Tom Jones was the "Essential" movie on TCM Saturday, and I'd never seen that version. I think I still like the A&E miniseries better, in part because the longer length allowed them to dig a little deeper and in part because I preferred that version of Tom. I love Albert Finney in so many other things, but as Tom Jones he sounded kind of like a newscaster, and the miniseries guy really captured that impishness that's essential for making us like him, in spite of his bad behavior (I think it helps that the miniseries actor is apparently more of a rock musician than actor, since Tom does behave a lot like a rock star). However, this movie is beautifully visceral and earthy and has a lot of splendid moments.

Finally, there was Run, Fat Boy, Run, which on the surface comes close to that overgrown manchild forced to grow up cliche, but I think it avoided the cliche, for the most part, and I would have liked it a lot better if I could have enjoyed it as an underdog kind of story without all the surrounding cultural trends that make half the movies be about men who desperately need to grow up so that I'm sick of immature men. The movie is the story of a man stuck in arrested development, whose life has pretty much gone nowhere since he got cold feet on his wedding day and ran away, leaving his pregnant fiancee at the altar. Five years later, he still hasn't done much with his life, is still in debt and irresponsible, but then he discovers that his former fiancee is dating a pretty much perfect man -- one who's responsible and disciplined and who runs marathons for charity. Our hero gets the idea that he'll run a marathon and that will be what he needs to outclass this guy and prove to his former fiancee that he's worthy. Never mind that he's overweight, out of shape and totally undisciplined. But he has an odd support system in his young son, his landlord and his best friend (who's hoping to use the race to pay off some gambling debts). The movie starts veering toward cliche toward the end, because of course the other guy has to be revealed as a jerk, and All Must Seem to be Lost, but it doesn't wrap everything up in a pretty bow. Fortunately, the woman is never portrayed as a demanding harpy, and she never demands anything from him other than that he honor his obligations to his son. He decides for himself to try to be a better man. It's a nice little feel-good movie.

I think I have the NaNo book re-plotted, and I've even seen the movie of the first couple of scenes in my head, so I'm back on the writing horse today. There was a ballroom dancing class I was thinking of going to tonight since I don't have ballet, but my ankle is still twinging, so it might not be a great idea. It's foxtrot and swing, and while the foxtrot is pretty gentle, swing would be bad on an iffy ankle, and I want to avoid really injuring myself. I think it would help if I could learn to sit like a normal person. All the odd positions I tangle myself into seem to put strain on that ankle.

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