After languishing indoors for most of the fall movie season, I am finally catching up with all the lovely holiday releases...
First up was Atonement which I find myself shrugging off a week later. It IS good--the acting is impeccable, it's beautifully shot, it's elegantly historical and yet the ending is so galling as to just make me despise the entire film. I know that has more to do with the book than the movie, but it is enough to strip the romance from it entirely. Do NOT go looking for a happy ending, or even a bitter sweet ending. It is a kick to the gut, jaw-clencher of a finale.
Keira Knightley seems to be drawing mixed reviews. For every glittering accolade and award nomination, someone else is calling her a talentless anorexic. Personally, I thought she was very good, so subtle as to be easily blown off. She has become polished and mature, miles away from Elizabeth Swann. It's a stark contrast to her doppleganger, Natalie Portman, who still comes off like an uncertain little girl in the majority of her roles (yes, even Closer). I wouldn't have bought Portman in this role, but Knightley carries it off. It's obviously a matter of confidence and comfort.
I still find myself wondering where Romola Garai's early promise went. She's completely blank in this, as she has been in every BBC adaptation. She seems to think just changing from stunningly pretty to dowdy is acting enough.
James MacAvoy is utterly heartbreaking. There must be something in the Scottish water that churns out these men with strong chins and beautiful, tear-filled eyes.
The next night, I caught Blade Runner: The Final Cut. It was stunning. It's a shame Warner Bros. didn't do a wider release as this would have benefited from enormous screens and top notch sound. Seeing it in a small art house theatre simply didn't do it justice. I only wish The Final Cut didn't come with all that "Deckard is a Replicant" baggage. Ridley Scott, leave that kind of garbage to George Lucas.
December 21st found me making a tough call between Sweeney Todd and P.S. I Love You. Not surprisingly, my future husband won out, as did a desire to avoid the unwashed Johnny Depp crowd. I've had my fill of smeared eyeliner on weedy boys and girls, thank you.
I liked it, but I was hoping to love it.
P.S. I Love You suffers from a lack of Butler. I say this not because he's the love of my life, but because he is practically the title character. There needed to be some illness between life and death--perhaps not a deathbed scene, but at least the shock of a diagnosis. (I personally longed for his deathbed scene but I'm a glutton for anguish.) We needed to see him make the travel arrangements for Holly. (A heartwrenching scene in the book.) We needed more letters.
When adapting the book, they needed to make one of two choices: make it the provincial Irish story or relocate it completely. Trying to do both hampered the entire story. Had Ms. Ahern not been the Prime Minster's daughter, they probably would have set it in America.
Ahern's book was also problematic in that the characters were so very young. Butler and Swank are both older and more mature than the original Gerry and Holly, so it seems unlikely that neither would have a decent job or life plan at this point in their lives. In the book, Gerry was a professional of some kind and made good money, this needed to be kept in rather than youthening him via unemployment. It would also have explained Holly's perpetual unemployment, which just seems rather lame in the movie.
No matter how you adapted the book or who you cast, Holly Kennedy was always going to be problematic. Ahern herself is very young, and she always writes heroines who have no real independence. They have no schooling and vague fantasy jobs. Holly had neither, was utterly dependent on Gerry, and has to scramble to make a life for herself. That is never going to be swallowed by a film audience. (Though I know plenty of girls my age who are in precisely the same boat.) Hilary Swank's Holly is a curious blend, managing to be both responsible and helpless. While it's entirely believable that she lost track of herself just trying to make ends meet, she never quite seems lost or poor enough. And giving her a troubled family history just seems unnecessarily cruel. Unlike a lot of reviewers, I think Swank was a solid choice, it was just that her character needed to be tightened up. Holly Kennedy should have been stronger to make her collapse that much more devastating.
I am sounding quite cruel. It's a sweet film, it really is, and I got choked up numerous times. (Variety says this is because I am an emotional cripple. Ah well.) It was mostly because I want to wake up to a Gerry (Butler) of my own, even if that would mean an early death by one of us. (Preferably me, a'la Rachel Weisz.) There are also some very funny moments--I think Butler should make a point of referencing his balls in all his films. And the shots of Ireland are breathtaking. If Sweeney Todd is sold out (or jam-packed with stinky Hot Topic kids), you could do worse than seeing this. Go just for the strip tease.