At the moment there are few greater clichés in the media than the freaking out single woman on the cusp of 30. Of course clichés are clichés for a reason worth exploring even through the lens of just one or two women as in Lola Versus. Unfortunately while the intention behind Lola Versus isn't that we should all be happily married by the age of 30 it still fits into the same rubric of all those "Why You're Not Married" books.
Lola (Greta Gerwig) has a gorgeous fiancé Luke (Joel Kinnaman) and they live in a giant loft together the kind of dreamy NYC real estate that seems to exist primarily in the movies. Just as they're planning their gluten-free wedding cake with a non-GMO rice milk-based frosting Luke dumps her. It's cruelly sudden — although Luke isn't a cruel man. Lola finds little comfort in the acerbic wit of her best friend the eternally single Alice (Zoe Lister-Jones) who is probably delighted to see her perfectly blonde best friend taken down a peg and into the murky world of New York coupling. Lola and Luke share a best friend Henry (Hamish Linklater) a messy-haired rumpled sweetheart who is kind and safe and the inevitable shelter for Lola's fallout. Her parents well-meaning and well-to-do hippie types feed her kombucha and try to figure out their iPads and give her irrelevant advice.
Lola Versus is slippery. Its tone careens between broad TV comedy and earnest dramedy almost as if Alice is in charge of the dirty zingers and Lola's job is to make supposedly introspective statements. Alice's vulgar non-sequiturs are tossed off without much relish and Lola's dialogue comes off too often as expository and plaintive. We don't need Lola to tell Henry "I'm vulnerable I'm not myself I'm easily persuaded" or "I'm slutty but I'm a good person!" (Which is by the way an asinine statement to make. One might even say she's not even that "slutty " she's just making dumb decisions that hurt those around her just as much as she's hurting herself.)
We know that she's a mess — that's the point of the story! It's not so much that a particularly acerbic woman wouldn't say to her best friend "Find your spirit animal and ride it until its d**k falls off " but that she wouldn't say it in the context of this movie. It's from some other movie over there one where everyone is as snarky and bitter as Alice. You can't have your black-hearted comedy and your introspective yoga classes. Is it really a stride forward for feminism that the clueless single woman has taken the place of the stoner man-child in media today? When Lola tells Luke "I'm taken by myself. I've gotta just do me for a while " it's true. But it doesn't sound true and it doesn't feel true.
In one scene Lola stumbles on the sidewalk and falls to the ground. No one asks her if she's okay or needs help; she simply gets up on her own and goes on her way. It's a moment that has happened to so many people. It's humiliating and so very public but of course you just gotta pick yourself up and get where you're going. In this movie it's a head-smackingly obvious metaphor. In one of the biggest missteps of the movie Jay Pharoah plays a bartender that makes the occasional joke while Lola is waiting tables at her mom's restaurant. His big line at the end is "And I'm your friend who's black!" It would have been better to leave his entire character on the cutting room floor than attempt such a half-hearted wink at the audience.
Lister-Jones and director Daryl Wein co-wrote the screenplay for Lola Versus as they did with 2009's Breaking Upwards. Both films deal with the ins and outs of their own romantic relationship in one way or another. Breaking Upwards a micro-budget indie about a rough patch in their relationship was much more successful in tone and direction. Lola Versus has its seeds in Lister-Jones' experience as a single woman in New York and is a little bit farther removed from their experiences. Lola Versus feels like a wasted opportunity. Relatively speaking there are so few movies getting made with a female writer or co-writer that it almost feels like a betrayal to see such a tone-deaf portrayal of women onscreen. What makes it even more disappointing is how smart and likable everyone involved is and knowing that they could have made a better movie.
The 65th Annual Cannes Film Festival is officially in full swing, with nearly everyone in Hollywood transported to the prestigious French fest for a week and a half of wheeling and dealing. Catch up on all the goings-on with Cannes Chatter.
The attendants of Cannes are set to get their very own screening of the recent James Bond/Skyfall trailer, with Bond Girl costar Berenice Marlohe on hand to unveil the teaser. Marlohe will present the new spot at the Cinema de la Plage outdoor screening of From Russia With Love, as part of the Cannes Classics programming honoring the 50th anniversary of the series. No word if shaken-but-not-stirred martinis will be poured out at the event. [MI6 News]
The biggest issue at this year's festival? The inclement weather. Rain and general disgustingness has been forcing screenings (like Gonzalo Tobal’s Villegas, which failed to play due to the Salle du Soixantième theater's leaky roof) and the general wheeling and dealing of the fest (“I just cancelled all of my meetings," a distributor told a Deadline reporter) to be put on hold. There's some luck: many of the big films, including Robert Pattinson's Cosmopolis, Kristen Stewart's On the Road and Brad Pitt's Killing Them Softly, won't play until later in the week, giving hungry filmgoers plenty of time to wait out the rain and catch great cinema. [Deadline]
The Weinstein Company, which continues to make headlines thanks to head honcho Harvey Weinstein's usual (and tactical) larger-than-life presence, paraded early looks at his 2012 releases for critics and media types. The presentation included the trailer for Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master (which we were blown away by earlier today), David O. Russell's The Silver Linings Playbook and the eagerly-anticipated Django Unchained from Quentin Tarantino. While none of the films were screening in full at the festival, Weinstein got the ball rolling on buzz for three sure-to-be-awards-contenders — and the calculated move worked like a charm. The footage wowed audiences, Django in particular. Tweeted reactions from to the slavery Western trailer ranged from "safe but solid" to "ridiculously fun" to Twitch's boiled down, "plenty of blood, plenty of laughs." When it comes to working the Cannes hype machine, Harvey is the true master. Did you hear about Sapphire, the next Artist? [Criticwire]
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
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[Photo Credit: Weinstein Company]
In the cinematic desert that is the January-February movie-release schedule one gains a greater appreciation for mere competence. And that’s precisely what you’ll get with Man on a Ledge a mid-budget thriller with modest aspirations and genuine popcorn appeal. Sam Worthington (Avatar Clash of the Titans) stars as Nick Cassidy a former New York City cop wrongly convicted for the theft of a prized diamond. After exhausting all judicial avenues for exoneration he takes the unusual and seemingly desperate next step of planting himself on a ledge outside the penthouse of midtown’s Roosevelt Hotel and threatening to jump. An NYPD psychologist (Elizabeth Banks) is summoned to talk him down unaware that Nick harbors an ulterior motive. From his perch above midtown he is secretly orchestrating a scheme to take revenge against the corrupt corporate chieftain (Ed Harris) who engineered his demise and prove his innocence once and for all.
Director Asger Leth making his U.S. feature-film debut with Man on a Ledge keeps the pace brisk and never allows the tone to stray into self-seriousness which is crucial for a movie whose premise is so devoutly ridiculous. The script from Pablo F. Fenjves provides enough feints and twists to keep us engaged. Jamie Bell and Genesis Rodriguez aren’t the most believable of couples but there’s a screwball charm to their comic routine as amateur thieves charged with aiding Nick’s scheme. (Leth can’t resist inserting an entirely superfluous – but nonetheless greatly appreciated – scene of the criminally gorgeous Rodriguez stripping down to a thong in the middle of a heist.) Worthington makes for a likable populist protagonist even if his Australian accent betrays him on copious occasions and Harris’ disturbingly emaciated frame lends an added menace to his devious plutocrat villain.
The Tourist is about as difficult to get through as spotting the vowels in the name of its director. Florian Henckel von Donnersmark was last seen receiving a Best Foreign Film Oscar in 2007 for The Lives of Others which was about a couple living in East Berlin who were being monitored by the police of the German Democratic Republic. Its positive reception made way for the assumption that Donnersmark would continue to populate the USA with films of seemingly otherworldly and underrepresented themes. But his current project is saddening in its superficiality and total implausibility.
The film’s only real upside is its stars: two of our most prized Americans. Johnny Depp plays Frank Tupelo a math teacher from Wisconsin who travels to Europe after his wife leaves him presumably because of his weakness and simplicity. While en route to Venice he meets Elise Clifton-Ward (Angelina Jolie) who situates herself in his company after she receives a letter from her criminal lover Alexander Pearce (who stole some billions from a very wealthy Russian and the British government) with instructions to find someone on a train who looks like him and make the police believe that he is the real Alexander Pearce to throw the authorities and the Russians off his track. Elise picks Frank and after they are photographed kissing each other on the balcony of Elise’s hotel everyone begins to believe Frank is the real Pearce and so begins the chase.
While Donnersmark could not have picked two better looking people to film roaming around Venice his lack of faith in the audience is obvious. Every aspect of the characters is hammed up again and again as if Donnersmark felt burdened with the task of making us see his vision. Doubtful that we’re capable of getting to where he wants us he has crafted a movie completely devoid of subtlety. Elise’s strength and superiority over Frank are portrayed by close-ups and repeated instances of men burping up their lungs upon seeing her (as if her beauty is in any way subjective?). And in case we forgot that Frank is the victim in this story -- even though he’s been tricked chased and shot at - Donnersmark still felt the need to pin him with a lame electronic cigarette to puff on. Frank and Elise somehow manage to lack mystery even though we get very few factual details about each of them.
Nothing extraordinary comes to us in the way of the film’s structural elements either. There is very little of the action that The Tourist’s marketing led us to believe and the dialog is often painful. The plot itself is almost shockingly unbelievable especially when we’re asked to believe that Elise falls in love with Frank after a combination of kissing him once and her disclosed habit of swooning over men she only spent an hour with (yes that was on her CV).
The Tourist is rather empty and cosmetic. It’s worth seeing if you’re a superfan of Jolie or Depp but don’t expect to walk out of the theater with anything more than the stub you came in with.
The Berlin International Film Festival, one of the top three festivals in Europe, kicked off Wednesday with a homegrown film by German director Tom Tykwer. Heaven stars Cate Blanchett as an English teacher who tries to kill a heroin dealer who has been selling drugs to schoolchildren by planting a bomb in his office, killing four innocent people. Filmed before the September 11, it received scant approval from the 1,000 journalists who saw the press screening, Reuters reports.
Despite leaving the show in December, Eriq La Salle may still be making the rounds in ER. The actor, who plays the role of Dr. Benton on the NBC medical drama, will reportedly appear in a late-season story line. No details about the episode content have been revealed, USA Today reports.
Influential writer Norman Mailer told Britain's Daily Telegraph Wednesday that patriotism can go too far, calling America "the real religion in this country." Mailer added that if anyone had benefited from the attacks on Sept. 11, it was America's right wing. "If I were still a conspiratorialist, I would believe they'd done it," he said.
Nicolas Cage, 38, and Lisa Marie Presley, 34, ended their 10-month relationship two weeks ago, USA Today reports. According to their reps, the two "hope to remain friendly."
In the Bedroom and Memento have been ruled ineligible for Writers Guild of America honors because the writers weren't members of the WGA at the time the films were made. The WGA contends that while it it's difficult to pass up wonderful screenwriting, their objective is to protect writers.
CBS will air a two-hour special March 10 featuring exclusive video shot inside the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. According to The Associated Press, the material was caught on tape by French filmmakers Gedeon and Jules Naudet, who were in lower Manhattan shooting a documentary on New York City firefighters.
As NBC begins its coverage of the Salt Lake City Olympics Friday, the red, white and blue on-air peacock--changed after the Sept. 11 attacks--will go back to its original clear hue, Variety reports. Network executives didn't want to keep such a visibly pro-USA symbol on the air during an international event that's meant to promote global unity.
Director Frank Oz (The Score) has signed to shoot his first TV pilot for ABC, Variety reports. The pilot for The Funkhausers, which revolves around an eccentric yet tight-knit family, was written by Emmy-winning writers/producers Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein (The Simpsons).
Nathan Lane, who is currently starring in the hit Broadway comedy The Producers, has signed on to a project at CBS. Party, a comedy about a passé TV star who wins a seat in Congress, is expected to get a pilot order from the network once it finalizes a deal with 20th Century Fox TV. Lane's contract with The Producers is up in March.
Singer James Brown testified Tuesday that he never touched a former employee who is suing him for alleged sexual harassment and wrongful termination, reports Reuters. The plaintiff, Lisa Agbalaya, 36, has accused Brown of making unwanted sexual advances and then firing her when she filed a complaint about his behavior. She is seeking $1 million in damages.
1980s pop idol Tiffany will appear in the April issue of Playboy. According to Reuters, the spread was designed to change her image from that of a 15-year-old performer to a 30-year-old wife and mother.
Singer Johnny Cash, who is currently in Jamaica working on a new album, turns 70 on Feb. 26. To commemorate his birthday, many album releases are in the works including, The Essential Johnny Cash, a retrospective look at his career, and the American Milestones series, which will release five classic Cash albums from 1959 to 1967.
Singer-songwriter Graham Nash celebrated his 60th birthday Saturday at the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, CNN reports. More than 150 guests attended, including Stephen Stills, David Crosby and Bette Midler. Midler, along with a dozen other women, presented a musical tribute to Nash with "As Time Goes By." Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's three-month Tour of America is slated to begin Wednesday in Detroit.
Rock 'n' roll legend Little Richard will be inducted into the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Hall of Fame on Feb. 23, Reuters reports. The Hall of Fame Award is given to artists who have excelled throughout their careers and have been creative and innovative forces in their respective fields.
Cult sci-fi actor George Nader, best known for his starring role in the kitsch sci-fi classic Robot Monster, has died at the age of 80 from pneumonia at the Motion Picture Country Home, near Los Angeles. Nader was also well known as one of the inner circle of late actor Rock Hudson.
Arnold Schwarzenegger and AOL Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday, to promote the launch of his new action drama Collateral Damage. The film opens nationwide Feb. 8.
The good, bad and the ugly on the tube this past week:
"ER"'s familiar farewell
I don't usually criticize ER. Usually, I don't have to. But Thursday night's episode, in which Eriq La Salle said goodbye to the show, was just a bit too similar to another classic ER farewell, which cheapened La Salle's closing moments.
In 1999, when George Clooney parted ways, his character, Dr. Doug Ross, was speaking with Anthony Edwards' Dr. Mark Greene alongside the Chicago River. A few words were said and Clooney was history.
This past Thursday, just before the screen faded to black, La Salle's Dr. Peter Benton said some words to his former apprentice, Noah Wyle's Dr. John Carter, alongside...the Chicago River. Then Benton was history.
It beats riding off into the sunset, but....
WB going to the "Dogs"
What? WB cancelled Men, Women & Dogs? How could they?
Well, they did. And no, I'm none too disappointed. After all, it did come in at #111 a couple times in the Nielsens. Actually, it wouldn't hurt the Frog Network to clear out some more of its Sunday lineup.
Late night fight persists
Well, we're through with week five of the Oprah/Letterman dispute. She simply won't let him on her show. He's more than willing to have her as a guest on The Late Show, but she's resolute. It's quite amusing watching Dave adding page after page in his nightly "Oprah Log" segment--in which he jots down his thoughts on the situation--but come on already, Oprah: just for five minutes, let the man have a seat next to you.
Ironically, it would probably be Oprah's highest-rated show in months.
Compared to 2000, what ad-supported cable network posted the highest gains in viewership in both kids and adults this year? Disney? Nickelodeon? Animal Planet?
Nope: it's Cartoon Network, which masterfully altered its programming this year to cater to all demographics. If you haven't caught their Adult Swim block of mature programming on both Sunday and Thursday nights, give it a look. Very good stuff.
She's just telling it like it is.
Gillian Anderson spoke publicly this past week about her thoughts on this season of The X-Files, addressing the show's plummeting ratings. Did she defend the series that made her a star? Not a bit. Instead, she said she wants the show--not extra-terrestrials--to disappear at the end of the spring season.
Sometimes all these special events during sweeps months just get in the way. They drive a wedge between you, the viewer, and your favorite shows. But, then again, if it wasn't for the May sweeps, there'd be no season finale cliffhangers. And if there were no season finale cliffhangers … Well, we'd rather not even think about a world that bleak. Instead, let's get ready for some quality time with our favorite shows before the summer reruns start… It's season finale week! But first, some special events:
-- After months of soul-searching and hard prayer seeking a solution to ABC's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," CBS may have just found the answer in "Jesus" (9 p.m. EDT/PDT, Sunday and Wednesday). Produced by Lorenzo Minoli, who has brought a slew of Old Testament-themed movies to TNT, "Jesus" promises not only a lavish production, but also a more-modern take on the subject, focusing more on Christ's humanity. Jeremy Sisto ("The '60s") stars along with Gary Oldman as Pilate, and Jacqueline Bisset as Mary. Meanwhile, believing that there may be a chance for a weekly series here if they could just rework the ending a little, a certain CBS executive has been negotiating with Jesus in the desert somewhere for the story rights.
-- Okay, one more special event … and it's a good one. Monday night at 8 p.m. (EDT/PDT), NBC brings you "25 Years of Hits: Arista Records Anniversary Celebration". Lots of "live" (the show was taped months ago) performances from cross-generational superstars such as Carlos Santana, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Sara McLachlan, Annie Lennox, Toni Braxton, and many more. Say no more? Okay then…
-- As for the season finales: Let's start with an inspired effort from "The Drew Carey Show" (9 p.m. EDT/PDT, Wednesday, ABC). Hoping to draw attention to the fact that his show has never won an Emmy, Carey offers up a wheelbarrow load of the things that tend to catch the voters' attention in Very, Very, Very Special Episodes. Every cliché in the book is carted out and thoroughly spoofed. The concept alone is funny enough, as we'll see such time honored award-friendly subject matter as illiteracy, bulimia, and latchkey kids. The cast is truly exceptional, too. Just watch Ryan Stiles (also a standout performer on "Whose Line Is It, Anyway?") as he battles his inner demons.
-- Also on Wednesday, "The West Wing" (9 p.m. EDT/PDT, NBC) wraps up its first season. The series already has been renewed for the fall, so creator/writer Aaron Sorkin uses his considerable powers to leave you wanting more for next season. Highest recommendation, here. It's our favorite show (after "Smackdown!" of course).
-- Knowing where the muscle is in their still-potent Thursday line up, NBC cuts the fat for the sweeps, and serves up a solid three-hour block of "Friends," "Frasier," and "ER."
This is NBC's proverbial kitchen sink, so look for the head-to-head with Regis Philbin to be a battle for the top of the ratings heap. In the lead-off spot, is a special one-hour "Friends" (8 p.m. EDT/PDT, Thursday) brings us a serious pothole for the ongoing saga of Monica (Courteney Cox) and Chandler's (Matthew Perry) impending engagement as Richard (Tom Selleck) returns. It seems Richard is really in love with Monica and (even as Chandler fumbles for the engagement ring in his pocket) wants to offer her everything. That would make Chandler the one hanging from the cliff until next fall.
-- Shocking revelations and wacky misunderstandings abound (what else is new?) in an hour-long "Frasier" (9 p.m. EDT/PDT, Thursday). On the night before her wedding, Daphne (Jane Leeves) longs to confess her love for Niles (David Hyde Pierce) to someone. Unfortunately, she picks Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) as her confessor and, well, you can just imagine the Shakespearean confusion and farcical antics that follow.
-- And finally, looking to regain its No. 1 overall rating one more time, "ER" pulls out the stops to conclude its sixth season. Benton (Eriq La Salle) and Kovac (Goran Visnjic) are flown in to render medical aid in the midst of an ongoing grade school shooting incident, while Carter (Noah Wyle) confronts the staff with a shocking ultimatum. The whopping 23.6 rating garnered for the May 2 "celebrity edition" of "Millionaire" is the number to beat for May. This "ER" might just pull it off.
The name's Travolta. John Travolta.
And the Hollywood superstar might soon be ordering his own gizmo-weapons and specialty drinks as a Bond-like superagent in MGM's "Quiller Solitaire." Daily Variety says the studio's hot on the project, with an eye on turning it into another action-adventure franchise.
The story's based on a series of books by author Adam Hall about a top-flight British spy. Travolta's participation in the mission is said to be contingent on two factors: director approval and the status of his other (many) assignments. Travolta's projected immediate workload includes the dramas "Travel Agent" and "Steinbeck's Point of View"; the biopic "Standing Room Only"; and the sequel to this summer's "Battlefield Earth."
Travolta's set to hit theaters next in director Nora Ephron's Paramount project "Numbers."
TUBE OF 'TERRORS': Aidan Quinn is game for one bizarre trip in the pilot for Fox's "Twilight Zone"-esque anthology "Night Terrors." The actor will play a transportation official who starts to lose his mind while investigating a plane crash. It turns out that he's one of the passengers on the doomed flight. Like any good Rod Serling victim, he does his darndest to warn the pilot before it's too late.
The Hollywood Reporter says the series will feature a different cast each episode, with an actor of Quinn's caliber headlining every show.
'ER' DOC IN 'DANGER': Eriq La Salle's no stranger to emergencies. Now he's ready for 'Danger,' a low-budget thriller he'll direct for Platform Entertainment and his own Warners-based Humble Journey Films. According to the Reporter, shooting begins in May in Los Angeles.
The script by Joe Singer and Jason Squire involves a severe case of mistaken identity. The hero finds himself being chased after sitting on a plane next to a serial killer. La Salle last helmed the 1996 HBO TV movie "Rebound."
FEELING NO PAIN: Laura Dern's the latest to make her dental appointment in the Artisan comedy "Novocaine." She'll join co-stars Steve Martin and Helena Bonham Carter on the project, set to shoot in mid-April with "Arizona Dream's" David Atkins at the helm.
The story has Martin playing a dentist who gets into all sorts of mischief after a mysterious patient (Bonham Carter) cons him into prescribing her drugs. Dern's cast as Martin's dental hygienist/girlfriend.