Hathaway's addictive in tale of love on a rocky path
Love and Other Drugs
IF you find yourself thinking about the 1986 romantic drama About Last Night... during Love and Other Drugs then it will be for good reason; both look at difficult romantic territory with a few laughs along the way. They're both also directed by Edward Zwick, who explores male-female dynamics thoroughly for only the second time.
Jake Gyllenhaal is pharmaceutical salesman Jamie, a male slapper and all-round chancer who gets by on good looks and gumption. He runs into Maggie (Anne Hathaway), a sassy brunette who has Parkinson's disease. They begin a casual physical relationship, one in which Jamie grows increasingly attached while Maggie keeps an emotional distance due to her illness.
The characters range from annoying to loathsome, and Zwick is too heavy-handed with some of his messages. Doctors accept bribes from drug companies, secretaries allow themselves to be manipulated and Jamie's brother, played by Josh Gad, is properly repulsive. About Last Night... used a similarly boorish orbit around its leads, but here even the protagonists are visibly flawed. Jamie is smug to the point of being near-punchable, while Maggie is a hot-and-cold cynic.
What is less flawed is the chemistry between the two leads. Hathaway is simply superb throughout, able to flash emotional scar tissue through her character's poise and Goyaesque beauty. Gyllenhaal isn't bad.
When the elephant in the room is finally confronted, it isn't just another tale of boy meets girl; this time, the stakes are much higher, and the ending to this thought-provoking but unrefined adult romance carries a flood warning.
Opens on Wednesday
Meet the Parents: Little Fockers
Well they do say good things come in threes. Comedy cognoscenti will agree that the enduring accuracy of that adage undergoes a rigorous stress-test courtesy of the third instalment of the popular Meet the Parents franchise -- Little Fockers. Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller reprise the same antagonistic in-law roles that anchored proceedings in the original two outings and, if the last left you wondering how low they could go in terms of the targeting the lowest common comedy denominator, the answer comes early in the opening sequence. The answer is lower. Much lower.
Comment will be limited to noting the occurrence of projectile vomiting but it's worth advising delicate types that an access-all-areas approach to mirth generation is adopted in this film, which also sees the return of Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand. Owen Wilson is also back as a Deepak Chopra wannabe while the bodacious Jessica Alba makes her debut as a drug company exec in the business of launching a Viagra-type product. Ooh er missus, as they say.
She makes cash-strapped male nurse Greg (Stiller) an offer he can't refuse with regard to promoting the product and while he's happy to accept, the situation is complicated by the arrival of the in-laws, ex-CIA operative Frank (De Niro) and Dina (Blythe Danner) for a family celebration. Frank has arrived with the intention of conferring Stiller's character with "Godfocker" status but he soon has cause to question his judgment. Cue hit-and-miss scenes that succeed among other things, in (literally) putting the toilet into toilet humour.
Director Ferzan Ozpetek has returned once again to the subject of homosexuality and the attitude to it in this his ninth solo directorial film. Set in the southern Italian city of Lecce, Tomasso (Ricardo Scamarcio) arrives back to his family home for a visit, determined to tell them that he is gay. This, he feels sure, will result in his father (Ennio Fantastichini) disowning him, thus liberating him from any obligation in the family business. He warns his brother Antonio (Alessandro Preziosi) of his intentions, only to have him steal his thunder and leave Tomasso in charge of the business he wanted to be rid of.
However, while the theme is familiar in Ozpetek's work, Loose Cannons is not just about acceptance of homosexuality, it is about the acceptance of anything outside the expected and, while it focuses on Tomasso, the perspective shifts at times to show that of different generations.
There are similarities with one of this year's other Italian family dramas, I Am Love, but it is less melodramatic. On the contrary, Loose Cannons manages to be affecting while also being light-hearted and often funny, proving there is no need to trawl misery to find depth. Scamarcio makes a very interesting lead.
Ozpetek employs gay cliche to good effect, poking gentle fun at everyone. Not exactly thunderously plotted, it remains engaging and thought-provoking without any sense of judgment or any need to bash home morals. It simply seems to say that people are whatever they choose to be, so choose carefully.
Opens at the Lighthouse tomorrow
All Good Children
After their mother dies, tweenage Irish brothers Dara (Jack Gleeson)and Eoin (David Brazil) are sent to live in France, where they struggle with their grief and newfound loneliness.
Wandering through the woods near his new home, Dara meets Bella (Imogen Jones), an English girl whose family have recently moved to a nearby home. They strike up a friendship which slides, for Dara, into a fixation that remains balanced only as long as it is almost reciprocated. But when Bella's interest wavers Dara's fixation tips out of control.
Inspired by the Sam Taylor book The Republic of Trees, All Good Children is an original and ambitious full-length feature debut for Alicia Duffy. It works on some levels, but it is a little too lost at times. David Wilmot is underused and the essential anchoring points of the story are weak. Why would bereaved boys end up in such remoteness with people they don't know? Dara's narration gets wearisome; given the tone, there is too much and this is a 12-year-old boy losing his mind -- he can't be that prescient, too.
Although atmospheric, it runs perilously close to arthouse cliche at times, especially with the ending, but then cliches have earned their stripes.
The Way Back
Peter Weir is notoriously picky about his projects and this, his first in seven years -- an account of an escape from a gulag in 1940 and the six-month walk to freedom, including through a good chunk of Siberia, the Mongolian desert and the Himalayas to emerge in India -- has been questioned on more than one occasion.
Polish army officer Januscz (Jim Sturgess) has been sentenced to a stint in Siberia after his wife is tortured for information. The prospect of years in the appalling gulag while she pines in guilt is insufferable to him so he decides to escape. With a motley crew including Colin Farrell and Ed Harris, he does just that. They are very different men, imprisoned for reasons ranging from politics to ideology to crime, their attitudes to survival are different and they must make a sort of moral common ground in order to go on. This is tested when they meet a young female refugee (Saoirse Ronan) who needs their help.
The moral common ground solidifies as the group diminishes and the individual characters emerge more. The performances are all really good and the ensemble works well together. There are beautiful shots and gruelling hardship. However, it ends up feeling just too long. The veracity of the story also partially reflect on the film for too much of its importance hinges on its being true. Worthy and well made, The Way Back is, however, an acquired taste and might just prove too gruelling for audiences as well.
Lemuel Gulliver (Jack Black) has been in the mail room of a big NY company for a decade, a large part of which he has spent in unrequited love with travel editor Darcy (Amanda Peet). But it's only when a new recruit is promoted above him after just a day and speaks some harsh truths that any disillusion starts to show. Determined to woo Darcy, he ends up on a travel assignment to Bermuda, but ends up in Lilliput.
At first tied up, he makes a friend in Horatio (Jason Segel) ,who loves the princess. When Lemuel saves the royal family from fire, then the island from the attacking Blefuscudians, he is heralded as a hero and beloved of the royal family, King Billy Connolly, Queen Catherine Tate and Princess Emily Blunt. All but the princess's betrothed, Lord Edward (Chris O'Dowd), who is suspicious of this alleged President Awesome of the island of Manhattan.
Lemuel, short and unsuccessful in his normal life, is a worshipped giant in Lilliput but he falls out of favour, reverting to the amiable loser with a penchant for rock, the market which Black has cornered. But Darcy gets shipwrecked, there's some road to Damascus light and Bob's your Christmas family movie.
And a rather enjoyable one it is too, not surprising given director Rob Stillerman cut his teeth on Shark Tale and Monsters V Aliens. Black's character is a little wearisome at times, but there is no menace or nasty undertone, there are some good lines, some clever ideas and some pretty dodgy special effects. In 3D. But the cast give it socks; it's not scary, even for little kids, or too long. We saw it in a packed cinema and there was a lot of laughter all around, both child and adult.
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