An energetic male lead of the late silent and early talkie era, and one of MGM's most bankable stars, actor William Haines used his boy-next-door looks and charm to play young collegiates or military...
The trailers for Hope Springs might lead you to believe it's a romantic comedy about a couple trying to jumpstart their sexless marriage but it causes more empathetic cringing than chuckles. Audiences will be drawn to Hope Springs by its stars Meryl Streep Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell and Streep's track record of pleasing summer movies like Julie & Julia and Mamma Mia! that offer a respite from the blockbusters flooding theaters. Despite what its marketing might have you believe Hope Springs isn't a rom-com. The film is a disarming mixture of deeply intimate confessions by a married couple in the sanctuary of a therapist's office awkwardly honest attempts by that couple to physically reconnect and incredibly sappy scenes underscored by intrusive music. Boldly addressing female desire especially in older women it's hard not to give the movie extra credit for what writer Vanessa Taylor's script is trying to convey and its rarity in mainstream film. The ebb and flow of intimacy and desire in a long-term relationship is what drives Hope Springs and while there are plenty contrived moments and unresolved issues it is frankly surprising and surprisingly frank. It's a summer release from a major studio with high caliber stars aimed squarely at the generally underserved 50+ audience addressing the even more taboo topic of that audience's sex life.
Streep plays Kay a suburban wife who's deeply unsatisfied emotionally and sexually by her marriage to Arnold. Arnold who is played by Tommy Lee Jones as his craggiest sleeps in a separate bedroom now that their kids have left the nest; he's like a stone cold robot emotionally and physically and Kay tiptoes around trying to make him happy even as he ignores her every gesture. One of the most striking scenes in the movie is at the very beginning when Kay primps and fusses over her modest sleepwear in the hopes of seducing her husband. Streep makes it obvious that this isn't an easy thing for Kay; it takes all her guts to try and wordlessly suggest sex to her husband and when she's shot down it hurts to watch. This isn't a one time disconnect between their libidos; this is an ongoing problem that leaves Kay feeling insecure and undesirable.
After a foray into the self-help section of her bookstore Kay finds a therapist who holds week-long intensive couples' therapy sessions in Good Hope Springs ME and in a seemingly unprecedented moment of decisiveness she books a trip for the couple. Arnold of course is having none of it but he eventually comes along for the ride. That doesn't mean he's up for answering any of Dr. Feld's questions though. To be fair Dr. Feld (Carell) is asking the couple deeply intimate questions so if Arnold is comfortable foisting his amorous wife off with the excuse he had pork for lunch it's not so far-fetched to believe he'd be angry when Feld asks him about his fantasy life or masturbation habits.
Although Arnold gets a pass on some of his issues Kay is forthright about why and how she's dissatisfied. When Dr. Feld asks her if she masturbates she says she doesn't because it makes her too sad. Kay offers similar revelations; she's willing to bare it all to revive her marriage while Arnold thinks the fact that they're married at all means they must be happy. Carell's Dr. Feld is soothing and kind (even a bit bland) but it's always a pleasure to see him play it straight.
It's subversive for a mega-watt star to play a character that talks about how sexually unsatisfied she is and how unsexy she feels with the man she loves most in the world. The added taboo of Kay and Arnold's age adds that much more to the conversation. Kay and Arnold's attempts at intimacy are emotionally raw and hard to watch. Even when things get funny they're mostly awkward funny not ha-ha funny.
The rest of the movie is a little uneven wrapped up tightly and happily by the end. Their time spent soul-searching alone is a little cheesy especially when Kay ends up in a local bar where she gets a little dizzy on white wine while dishing about her problems to the bartender (Elisabeth Shue). Somewhere along the line what probably started out as a character study ended up as a wobbly drama that pushes some boundaries but eventually lets everyone off the emotional hook in favor of a smoothed-over happy ending. Still its disarming moments and performances almost balance it out. Although its target audience might be dismayed to find it's not as light-hearted as it would seem Hope Springs offers up the opportunity for discussion about sexuality and aging at a time when books and films like 50 Shades of Grey and Magic Mike are perking up similar conversations. In the end that's a good thing.
In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Claire is an attractive CIA operative and Ray is an M16 agent who simultaneously leave their Governmental spy activities in the dust to try and profit from a battle between two rival multi-national corporations both trying to launch a new product that will transform the world and make billions. Their goal is to secure the top-secret formula and get a patent before they are outsmarted. While their respective egomaniacal CEOs engage in an unending battle of wills and one-upmanship Claire and Ray start out conning and playing one another in a clever game of industrial espionage that is even more complicated due to their own long-term romantic relationship.
WHO’S IN IT?
Reuniting Closer co-stars Julia Roberts (as Claire) and Clive Owen (as Ray) turns out to be an inspired idea. They turn out to be the perfect pair oozing movie-star charm and electricity in this elaborate con-game that might have been the kind of thing Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant might have made in the '60s (in fact they did in Charade). Roberts with that infamous hairstyle back the way we like it and Owen looking great in sunglasses prove they have what it takes to navigate us through this ultra-complex plot in which no one is sure who they can trust at any given moment. They play it all in high style and the wit just flows as the story skirts back and forth during the period of five years. The supporting cast is well-chosen with juicy roles for Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti (out of their John Adams duds) as the two CEOs going for each other’s throats. Giamatti who sometimes has a tendency to overdo it is especially slimy here and great fun to watch.
Big-star studio movies today rarely take risks and often talk down to the audience but in Duplicity writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton) has crafted a complicated con-comedy that requires complete attention at all times just to keep up with the dense plot’s twists and turns. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a New York Times crossword puzzle and Gilroy and his top-drawer production team deliver a glossy beautiful-looking film that’s easy on the eyes hitting locations from Dubai to Rome to New York City.
Like any good puzzle it sometimes can be frustrating putting it all together and Gilroy’s habit of taking us back in time and then inching forward gets a little confusing even with the on-screen chyron pointing out where we are at any given moment. Stick with it though and you will be well-rewarded.
A scene near the end where the formula must be found scanned and faxed in a matter of minutes is sweat-inducing edge-of-your-seat moviemaking and it provides the ultimate opportunity for Roberts and Owen to take the “con” to the next level. Another where Roberts uses a thong to try and trick Owen into admitting an affair he never had is also priceless and gets right to the heart of the game-playing.
GO OUT AND GET POPCORN WHEN ...
Never. Stock up during the coming attractions. If you miss a moment of this entertaining romp you might never figure it all out.
Ran William Haines, Inc., an interior decorating firm
Ran away from home at age 14
First talking film, "Alias Jimmy Valentine" (part-talkie)
Signed with newly-formed MGM
Breakthrough role, "Brown of Harvard"
Was subject of the documentary "Out of the Closet, Off the Screen: The William Haines Story", produced and directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato; aired on AMC in 2002
Was attacked by anti-gay lynch mob, along with 15 other gays living in Manhattan Beach, California
Last MGM film, "Fast Life"
Signed with Goldwyn
Worked as bookkeeper for SW Straus
Last film, "The Marines Are Coming" (Mascot Studios)
An energetic male lead of the late silent and early talkie era, and one of MGM's most bankable stars, actor William Haines used his boy-next-door looks and charm to play young collegiates or military recruits in a number of successful pictures. Haines first made his name in a number of supporting roles in the mid-1920s with movies like "Three Wise Fools" (1923), "The Gaiety Girl" (1924) and "Circe, the Enchantress" (1924), before becoming a star in his own right with his breakthrough picture, "Brown of Harvard" (1926). His brash, wisecracking persona proved to be a big hit and Haines went on to star in a series of movies like "Spring Fever" (1927), "West Point" (1928), and "Telling the World" (1928), where he was often paired opposite Joan Crawford or Anita Page. Haines transitioned over to talkies with "Alias Johnny Valentine" (1928), but like so many of his silent era contemporaries, he failed to last long in the sound era. Making matters worse was his refusal to hide his homosexuality, which at the time was a major taboo and proved to be his ultimate downfall. After making his last movie with "The Marines Are Coming" (1934), Haines was effectively banished from making movies by censor William Hays, but soon launched a highly successful second career as an interior decorator with lifelong partner, James Shields, who was with him up till the very end.<p>Born on Jan. 2, 1900 in Staunton, VA, Haines was raised in a wealthy family by his father, George, a cigar store owner, and his mother, Laura. He became fascinated with movies as a child and spent a great deal of time watching silent films at his local theater. Recognizing his homosexuality as a young teenager, Haines ran away from home with a boyfriend to Hopewell, VA, where the two worked at a local factory and opened up a dance hall. He remained in the town until most of the place was burned down by fire in 1915. Haines moved briefly to New York City, until he was forced to return home following the family business filing for bankruptcy and his father's nervous breakdown. A few years after his father had sufficiently recovered, Haines returned to New York, where he worked a variety of odd jobs while settling comfortably into the gay community in Greenwich Village. While working as a bookkeeper for S.W. Straus, Haines started to model and was eventually discovered by a talent scout for Samuel Goldwyn. He was signed by the studio for $40 a week.<p>In 1922, Haines made his film debut with an uncredited bit part in the comedy "Brothers Under the Skin," and went on to play small credited roles in dramas like "Lost and Found on a South Sea Island" (1923) and "Souls for Sale" (1923). He soon attracted the attention of the newly-formed MGM studio and found his star beginning to rise with supporting roles in "Three Wise Fools" (1923), "The Midnight Express" (1924), "The Gaiety Girl" (1924) and "Circe, the Enchantress" (1924). Haines next portrayed an Irish cop in the Mary Pickford vehicle "Little Annie Rooney" (1925) before becoming a star in his own right with "Brown of Harvard" (1926), his breakthrough movie. The role established his brash, wisecracking but ultimately good-natured screen persona, which carried him through the remainder of the silent era. His films were enormously popular with the public at this time and often teamed him with either Joan Crawford in "Spring Fever" (1927), "West Point" (1928), "The Duke Steps Out" (1929) or Anita Page in "Telling the World" (1928), "Speedway" (1929), and "Navy Blues" (1929).<p>One of Haines' best films, and one of his best-remembered, was King Vidor's delightful comedy set in the world of Hollywood filmmaking, "Show People" (1928), in which his slapstick clown teamed memorably with Marion Davies' aspiring ingénue. He made the transition to talkies with "Alias Jimmy Valentine" (1928), and made a number of them with MGM, including "The Girl Said No" (1930), "Way Out West" (1930) and "Just a Gigolo" (1931). But as was the case with many silent actors, Haines found that his popularity waned with the advent of sound. He made his last picture with MGM, the romantic comedy "Fast Life" (1932), and his Hollywood career was near an end. Assisting his departure from the movie business was a 1933 arrest at a YMCA after being caught with a young sailor. Studio head Louis B. Mayer gave him the choice between entering into an arranged marriage of convenience with a willing starlet or continuing his relationship with Shields. Haines made a couple of Poverty Row pictures, including his last film "The Marines Are Coming" (1934), before being blacklisted for his lifestyle by Hollywood censor, William Hays. Meanwhile, Haines and Shields started a successful interior design business that catered to a number of celebrities throughout the years, including Gloria Swanson, Carole Lombard, and Ronald and Nancy Reagan. The business flourished until Haines died from lung cancer on Dec. 26, 1973 with Shields still his companion. He was 73 and had never made another film, but because of his refusal to compromise his true self during such a less-than-progressive era - not to mention the professional price he paid to do so - he became a something of a heroic figure in the LGBT community long after his death.<p><i>By Shawn Dwyer</i>
George Adam Haines Jr
born in 1908
Ann Fowkes Haines Langhorne
born on February 3, 1906; died in July 1986
Lillion Juliet Haines Stone
born on December 11, 1902; died on September 29, 1993
born c. 1874; married Haines' mother in 1896; died on September 22, 1950
born in 1878; married Haines' father in 1896; converted to Christian Science before her death on July 17, 1932
together from c. 1925 until Haines' death; committed suicide on March 6, 1974
Robert E Lee High School
In his lifetime, Haines always claimed to have been born on January 1, 1900. While no birth certificate exists, biographer William Mann found his baptismal record at the Trinity Episcopal Church in Staunton, VA where the date of birth was entered as January 2, 1900. Social Secuirty records also support this date.
On his most famous role: "I didn't have to act. I was just myself. Brown was the sort of fellow I am...kind of lazy, good-natured, wise-cracking." --William Haines, quoted in newspaper interview from the late 1920s
"After establishing a reputation for wise-cracking it isn't hard to keep it up. I don't have to do homework by reading joke books. People just laugh at anything I say from force of habit." --Haines quoted in newspaper interview, c. 1930
On his retirement from acting: "It's a rather pleasant feeling of being away from pictures and being part of them because all my friends are. I can see the nice side of them without seeing the ugly side of the studios." --William Haines, quoted in 1949 newspaper article