I would like everyone to know, as a preface for this episode, that I watched Pretty Little Liars on Tuesday night at 8 PM instead of the Olympic Trials for swimming on NBC. I have been a swimmer my entire life, but I just love the Liars that much. I’ll accept your gifts of gratitude via carrier pigeon. I’d prefer Taco Bell gift cards.
The scene opens on a finished piece of chocolate cake, and I was really hoping that it was Hanna binging alone in some Rosewood restaurant over the crack in Mona’s sanity. Unfortunately, all of the Liars are together, discussing Melissa’s questionable miscarriage and the still-unidentified Black Swan from last season’s masked ball finale party. Jason DiLaurentis storms in, screams at everyone, reveals that he is offering $50,000 for a clue to Ali’s remains. New A sends the Liars a bad text about how great $50,000 would be. This new A needs to take notes from old A. Everyone would love $50,00! Like, EVERYONE. Remember the days when A (Mona) would lock Spencer in a carnival and paint “SHUT UP OR I’LL SHUT YOU UP” on the wall in dayglo paint? I miss that.
The funniest subplot from this episode is Aria creating an online dating profile for her mother. This actually happened. And most of the scenes are genuine comedy, which is a really enjoyable shift for the show. But I have a bone to pick first: Aria’s Mom is still teaching Hedda Gabler to her students, even though they had a test on that already; can we get these high school seniors a new book already? I don’t understand how this classroom works. Aria finds that her dad is dating Meredith (evil whore grad student), hence this dating plot. Aria originally looks for guys on the scariest dating site ever, where everyone is old and bald except for one man with a unibrow. Even Hanna says, “Why are you looking at pictures of bald fat men?” Hanna also says, “She’s divorced, she’s not desperate.” 873 points for Hanna.
It turns out that Hanna’s pornstar-looking mother also uses online dating, and recommends MEETMYMATCH! That’s a good name for online dating! I’m glad Pornstar Mom is back because she knows how to have a good time and never take anything too seriously, which includes stealing money from people and hiding it in a lasagna box. Aria decides to write that her mom is a gourmet chef and that she is athletic and that she likes to tango. Even I want to go on a date with this woman after those profile details. Hanna decides the profile name should be… HotMama. I want to kiss Hanna on the lips. This story takes forever but basically Aria’s Mom already knows about her ex-husband’s love life and about her MEETMYMATCH profile and loves her daughter and still wants the profile online and basically her daughter is trying to get her laid but they are both having fun?
NEXT: Who’s the Black Swan?Speaking of mothers, Mariska (Spencer’s Mom, for the initiated) enters the episode by spreading every single piece of paper about Ali’s murder that has ever been printed across the kitchen table/counter. Mariska is doing a trick that every single college student knows very well: If you spread your papers across a table, you look like you are working hard! Mariska was probably perusing the Facebook app on her smartphone. Mariska is a bad lawyer. What is Mariska’s reason for taking on Garrett case? What happened with Melissa’s baby? The answers are connected!! The Liars decide that they need to figure out the identity of Black Swan, and hope Melissa’s apartment in Philadelphia can give them answers. The Liars enter Melissa’s apartment with Spencer on the lookout, but for the first time ever they do not have their phone on them; our three ladies miss the notice that Melissa had to return for her forgotten wallet. Yikes. The Liars hide in Melissa’s super nice closet. The Liars find a rental bag from a costume shop, with a feather inside that matches the Black Swan feather Hanna found at the ball. Also, Hanna does not know what car insurance papers look like. Also, Melissa buys casual $900 boots.
Spencer is supposed to wait for the other Liars to confront Melissa about the missing baby and the feather, but Spencer decides that the best time to blurt everything is while Melissa cuts veggies. If Melissa killed Ali, why would you question her while she was chopping something? Spencer is losing some of her intelligent edge; I’m worried. Anyhoo, the breakdown: Melissa lost the baby the day after Ian’s body was found, so she kept it a secret. Someone blackmailed Melissa, with info about the lost baby, into going to the ball to distract Jenna. Mariska is Garrett’s lawyer so prevent the private investigator hired to track Melissa from taking the stand, as Melissa would look super guilty. Because she lied about her baby and she dressed up as an evil swan woman. Sigh.
Off to our resident swimming lesbian: Emily is working at a new coffee shop, where she learns about Americanos and gluten-free biscotti. Emily has absolutely no idea what she is doing at this coffee shop, and it shows. But we get a NEW CHARACTER: Nate! Maya’s cousin! Racial diversity! Nate is maybe the only black person in Rosewood now. Nate wants to talk to Emily about Maya, but Emily is busy trying to figure out what a gluten-free biscotti looks like. Emily will meet up with Nate later.
Nate reappears wearing glasses and reading a novel, to show he is smart! He is a college student. Nate quasi-flirts with Emily throughout the episode (more on that in the next paragraph) and they bond over SWIMMING. Maybe they watched the Olympic Trials together! Nate gives Emily a shirt that Maya left for Emily; the shirt looks like a whorish cutoff with the movie poster from the I Walked with a Zombie, the movie Emily and Maya saw on their first date. This is kind of creepy, especially since my hypothesis about Ali’s empty grave means that she is a zombie!
NEXT: Nate + Emily?!Part of me wants to believe that Nate is Emily’s new spirit guide, helping her recover from her love for Maya and alcohol. But there is also this weird sexual tension because Nate is all like, “Maya was lucky to have you,” and Maya is like, “Are you flirting with me LOL I like girls LOL I am kind of boring right now because I am really sad.” I have no knowledge of the books, but if the writers at PLL make any sort of relationship occur between Emily and Nate, I will be incredible disappointed. One of the smartest things about this show is how seriously it takes Emily’s sexual identity, like with Willow on Buffy. Giving Emily a boyfriend puts her back in the awful realm that says girls like to experiment in their teens and then shake lesbian tendencies. I like that Emily has always been a real lesbian. I need empowering real lesbian Emily. Okay, off my soapbox. Hopefully that Nate-Emily never happens!
Hanna. HANNA. This episode has Hanna at the center of everything, because she is the most emotional of the Liars. Sure, I’m disappointed that Jenna was not in this episode, especially after her revelation to the Liars last episode. However, Hanna is probably my favorite Liar right now, and this episode was a big deal.
Hanna isn’t able to visit Mona after her hilariously terrifying explosion at Caleb. However, Hanna has a bunch of personal issues with Caleb stemming from the Mona thing. Caleb and Hanna get in a giant fight after the whole Mona freak-out, which is bad because Caleb had just surprised Hanna with 10th row tickets to the Bon Iver show! 10th row is just okay, and I feel like Bon Iver usually does GA gigs, but I will go along because that is still a dream date. Caleb throws away the tickets, which means they will probably not see “Holocene” performed live. I really liked the image of Caleb and Hanna crying a little and cradling each other to “Holocene.” Or “Skinny Love.”
Hanna is ready to tell Caleb everything about A. Every single detail. However, Hanna gets a picture message from A right before Caleb arrives: a picture message of an awful car accident. Caleb reveals that his mom was in an accident back home, and that she had a feeling someone was trying to run her off the road. Hanna is clearly frazzled, and decides to keep her mouth shut. However, Caleb is livid! He obviously doesn’t understand, but Hanna is just so confused. Caleb says he is done, Hanna is sobbing, and I am sobbing. Hanna and Caleb are my favorite couple on this show. This scene was really emotional. I was so gutted. I am being very serious. Spencer may be digging up the most facts this episode, but Hanna always gives me the big emotions. I watch this show for scenes of the Liars crying.
The big twists at the end of the episode come when Jason reveals to Spencer that he is pulling the ad and reward money regarding Ali’s body… but then writes a check for $50,000 when she walks away, asking someone on the phone to meet him in a parking lot in 15 minutes. That is how you get murdered, Jason! Spencer is also walking through the woods at night, which is another easy way for a murdered to find you. Spencer, please stay sharp.
Also, the cops were lurking around the entire episode. First, they visit Mona in the hospital to ask about Ali’s body. The episode ends with the detective pulling up next to Spencer on the street, and asking how long it takes to get to her family’s lake house. As in, WHEN THE LIARS RAN AWAY TO THE SAFE LAKE HOUSE. Everyone is absolutely screwed and I still don’t understand why the Liars do not just move to Florida or California or Mexico or Antarctica. They need to escape.
Cutest outfit of the episode goes to Spencer’s belted cardigan at school with those knee-high socks and straightened hair. Spencer decided that she no longer wanted to look impractical, but that she could still look cute and smart! Without wearing a vest! She is also maybe trying to bone Jason DiLaurentis, since Toby hasn’t been in these episodes. Toby is probably on vacation, and Jason has (had?) money.
The standard final “clue” shows new A hacking into the hospital system and unlocking Mona’s restrictions so that she is allowed visitors! Also, A is flying to Philadelphia and pays for his/her bar tab with a $50 bill! Cash! From Jason? From the bank? From filming a porn with Hanna’s Mom? Other questions: Do you trust Nate (I never trust new Rosewood characters)? Do you think Caleb can resist Hanna forever? Do you think Aria’s Mom will become a MEETMYMATE celebrity and meet a new HotPapa? Off to make my own online dating profile, brb.
[Image Credit: ABC Family]
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Pretty Little Liars
Take Me Home Tonight directed by Michael Dowse is a comedy about the ‘80s but its futility is timeless: In just about any decade it would be considered generic and unfunny. Set in 1988 it stars the likable and witty Topher Grace as Matt a recent MIT grad with a crippling case of post-college career-indecision. Working as a lowly clerk at a video store he has a chance encounter with his high-school crush Tori (Teresa Palmer) who to his (and our) surprise actually displays faint interest in him. But Matt fails to pull the trigger and so he resolves to make up for his lack of cojones when he sees her later that evening at a party hosted by the preppy douchebag boyfriend (Chris Pratt) of his twin sister Wendy (Anna Faris).
This sets the stage for an eventual romantic union between Matt and Tori; until then there is insecurity to overcome and wacky adventures to be had. Many of the latter stem from the increasingly unhinged behavior of Matt’s best friend Barry (Dan Fogler). The film turns on a bag of cocaine Barry finds in the glove compartment of a Mercedes stolen from the dealership that fired him earlier in the day. Cocaine is renowned for its ability to induce euphoria in even the most mundane of settings but it has arguably the opposite effect on Take Me Home Tonight. I consider Fogler to be a legitimately funny guy but he has the irritating tendency to compensate for underwritten material by wildly overacting. Throw in a bag of blow and that tendency is amplified ten-fold.
A happy standout in the film is Palmer who brings a liveliness and dignity to the stereotypical rom-com role of the Otherworldly Hottie Who Inexplicably Falls for the Stammering Schlub. (It also helps that she's the only member of the main cast who is young enough to realistically portray a recent college graduate.) She is one of the more talented young Australian exports to arrive on our shores in quite some time and has the potential to become a saucier version of fellow Aussie Nicole Kidman. That is if she finds material better than Take Me Home Tonight.
December 18, 2003 12:55pm EST
Katherine Watson (Julia Roberts) a novice professor from UCLA lands a job in the art history department at Wellesley College in the fall of 1953 and she's thrilled at the prospect of educating some of the brightest young women in the country. But her lofty image of Wellesley quickly fizzles when she discovers that despite its academic reputation the school fosters an environment where success is measured by the size of a girl's engagement ring. Besides learning about fresco techniques and physics the women take classes in the art of serving tea to their husband's bosses something that doesn't sit well with the forward-thinking Katherine who openly encourages her students to strive for goals other than marriage. Katherine inspires a group of students specifically Joan (Julia Stiles) and Giselle (Maggie Gyllenhaal) but newlywed Betty (Kirsten Dunst) feels Katherine looks down on her for choosing a husband over a career. Betty goes on the offensive and uses her column in the school paper to drive a wedge between the professor and the stuffy faculty. But while Betty puts on a happily married face her hostility towards Katherine is actually misplaced anger stemming from her miserable marriage to a cheating charlatan.
Katherine is Mona Lisa Smile's most complex and intriguing character and Roberts is a fitting choice for the part. Like an old soul the actress has a depth that's perfect for a character like Katherine who's enlightened and ahead of her time. But Katherine never emotionally connects with any of her students which isn't surprising since they're so bitchy and self-absorbed. Perhaps more time should have been spent developing the young women's characters and building their relationships with Katherine sooner but as it is the underdeveloped friendships between the women will leave viewers feeling indifferent rather than inspired. The worst of the bunch is Dunst's character Betty who is intent on making everyone around her feel unworthy. She has her reasons of course but they're revealed so late in the story that it's hard to suddenly empathize with her after having spent three-quarters of the film hating her guts. Stiles' character Joan is perhaps the most congenial but like Betty she never develops a strong bond with her teacher. The most "liberal" of the girls is Giselle played by Gyllenhaal but the character suffers the same burden as the rest: She's unlikable. Giselle's penchant for sleeping with professors and married men is so odious that not even her 11th hour broken-home story can salvage her character.
While Mona Lisa's smile in Leonardo da Vinci's famous painting has often been described as subtle director Mike Newell's star-studded drama is anything but that; Mona Lisa Smile is so heavy-handed that unlike the painting for which it was named there is nothing left for moviegoers to ponder or debate. The film plays like a montage of '50s ideological iconography: A school nurse gets fired for dispensing birth control; a teacher refers to Lucille Ball as a "communist"; Betty's prayers are answered when she gets what every woman dreams of--a washer and dryer. But the film's critical insight into '50s culture isn't as shocking as it thinks it is and the way it highlights feminist issues is as uninspired as trivial as a fine-art reproduction. Newell also spends too much time basking in the aura of the '50s era focusing on countless parties dances and weddings sequences that while visually ambitious are superfluous. The film may be historically accurate but its characters story and message will leave moviegoers feeling empty. A climactic scene for example in which Katherine's students ride their bikes alongside her car as a show of support comes across as a tool to evoke sentiment that just doesn't exist.