Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Movies watched at home last week, from favorite to least.

The better of the two Fox Searchlight films from 2007 to prominently feature "I'm Sticking With You." I'm not sure why The Savages opens with elderly dancers and slo-mo wide shots of sterile suburbia, other than that it's a Fox Searchlight film from 2007 that prominently features "I'm Sticking With You," but the sub-Kubrickian aloofness of this Wes Anderson era doesn't hang around long. Instead, the portrait of neurotic intellectuals dealing with a familial crisis is done in the equally familiar but infinitely preferable style of sitcom-verite.

This isn't the first stifled, overburdened woman sleeping with a married man while trying to hold a family together that Laura Linney has played, but I'm glad indie directors are playing to her comic skills. I didn't even know they existed when she was pooping parties like Congo and Primal Fear in the 90s. As an unathletic older brother trying to make living writing while dealing with the increasingly evident reality that my parents aren't going to get any younger, I enjoy watching Philip Seymour Hoffman do the archetype justice. It's a miracle he hasn't gone K-Pax after winning that Oscar.

This story of a father's quest for revenge after his son is the victim of a hit-and-run is allegedly a political metaphor, but Mark Ruffalo's fear and regret doesn't humanize terrorists so much as hit-and-run drivers, and Joaquin Phoenix's anger is only believable when it isn't monstrous. It would be worth noting that two Oscar winners are stuck playing suffering wives/supporting roles if the Oscar winners weren't Jennifer Connelly and Mira Sorvino, who actually do a decent job. Had writer/director Terry George not burdened the cast with TV-movie contrivances and a mano-e-mano climax - had he found an actual case and given it the Billy Ray treatment - all four might have been nominated again. Maybe even him.

For some reason, everyone stops shrieking and hopping in the last third, and the finale consists of lifeless crane shots of the group performing the not-gay-enough theme song in sequins, joined by middle aged women. It's still a camp classic if you stop it after "YMCA." Leila couldn't stop saying "he turned down Superman for this" every time Bruce Jenner appeared on screen, but would he have gotten to wear daisy dukes and a midriff-baring shirt as the Man Of Steel? And how did Valerie Perrine get to be in both?

Expected a clumsier Crank, got My Dinner With Andre 3000 instead. Imagine Smokin' Aces with fewer gunfights and more passages from The Art Of War. A lot more. SPOILER!!! The film, which sat on the shelf for two years, ends with documentary footage of Deepak Chopra discussing the perils of ego. Oh, the irony.

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