Wednesday, September 15, 2010

NonBook Reviews: 'The Deal' & 'Couples Retreat'

The Toronto International Film Festival is in full swing.

As always, there is much nuanced analysis about which pic having it's world premier (or almost premier) will be the next Oscar darling (odds favor 'Black Swan'). As always, the closest Apprentice Writer will get to the screenings or megawatt stars will be perusal of the daily snark celebrity photo spreads.

Memo to A-listers: Hey, we know we're not Venice or Cannes. That does not mean it is cool to wear tees and jeans for your walk down the Toronto red carpet (looking at you, Ewan McGregor), frocks fit for library browsing (Helen Mirren), or outfits that could double for duty as a bank teller (too many to mention). At least we can rely on Nicole Kidman to demonstrate how glam lipstick and really well-groomed eyebrows are done.

In the spirit of cinema, some thoughts on two comedies. Yes, AW is aware that these are one and two years old respectively, and yes, that is the promptitude with which she typically sees films. Deal with it. She has.


2008, Directed by Steven Schachter

AW had never heard of this little gem before stumbling across it late one night when she had rare monopoly of the remote control. She's been a fan of William H Macy ever since 'Fargo' ("You're darn tootin!"). Comprised of 2 parts rumpled mess, 2 parts guileless blue eyes, and six parts chutzpah, he is perfectly cast here as the formerly famous movie producer who is so far down and out that he has nothing to lose when a screenplay and news of an action star's religious conversion almost literally fall into his lap on the same day.

As a lark, he sets out to see how far he can work the Hollywood system in creating a movie out of nothing. Playing off anything and anyone who comes his way, including studio exec Meg Ryan, he makes the viewer continually question how far off from reality many of the 'behind the scenes' scenes really are. AW had no expectations going in and ended up really enjoying it, with the exception of a bit that smacked too strongly of men casually exploiting the power of female sexuality for their own purposes.

Who should see it? Fans of quiet humor, quirk, people who liked the idea of 'Get Shorty' but thought it was too over the top.


2009, Directed by Peter Billingsley

AW is not a big fan of Vince Vaughan or Jon Favreau. She is, however, a big fan of Jason Bateman and Jean Reno (Gentle Reader, if you have not see 'The Professional', please: stop reading and go do it now). Throw in geography that is probably on the bucket list of the majority of people (AW cannot believe that she is alone in this), and the interesting premise of 'How do long married couples stay together?' in contrast to the usual 'How do couples get together in the first place?' and the balance tipped in favor of watching. Was it worthwhile?

The answer to that question can probably be divided along gender lines. For AW, the gymnastic extremes to which suspension of disbelief needed to be stretched, the ludicrous difference between the ultra fitness of all the women in the movie (MUCH displayed) contrasting with the average fitness cross-section of the men, the broadness of the humor, the unneccesarily cutesy details (each couple wearing different colored Mao suits during counseling sessions - Why????), the shallow/juvenile quality of several solutions to arising challenges - all combined to eclipse the blissful daze of looking at French Polynesia. Mr. AW on the other hand didn't seem to have a problem.

Who should see it? Fans of loud humor, people who like Vince Vaughan or Jon Favreau films, viewers who don't demand too much plausibility from their stories.

But does it make you laugh?
The Deal: YES
Couples Retreat: NO for AW, YES for Mr. AW


Rachel said...

"the ludicrous difference between the ultra fitness of all the women in the movie (MUCH displayed) contrasting with the average fitness cross-section of the men"

This rampant and (apparently) not-soon-to-be-rectified issue on screen has now become a deal-breaker for me. I'm so sick of this that I and my dollars now assiduously avoid anything without Hotness Parity. I've said it before and I'll say it again: if the women be hot let the men be hot, too!

M. said...

'Hotness Parity' - ha!
I think I'm going to adopt that now as my new favorite phrase.
But where pray tell have you seen it? Maybe 'Troy'? 'Up in the Air'
? 'The Thomas Crown Affair'?

Loni said...
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Loni said...
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Loni said...

I don't know if I'll ever see Couples Retreat. My interest went from a 2 to a 0.

By the way, thanks for recommending The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie for me. I'm excited to read it.

Loni said...

PS: Sorry about the extra comments. My computer was being weird and posted my comment 3 times. Alas, technology...

M. said...

Loni - Hi! No worries about comment woes - so long as its not spam (I've been getting a lot in some Pacific Rim alphabet or other) I don't mind.

If you end up reading SATBOTP, I'd love it if you told me what you think, here or at goodreads (Maya)

Loni said...

Absolutely! I'm not sure when I'll get it, but once I do, it'll be near the top of my to-be-read list.

Am I the only book blogger who doesn't have Goodreads? It seems like I am.

Rachel said...

re Hotness Parity... off the top of my head...

Princess Bride
Children of Men
The Ugly Truth (am including this as objective vote as am - apparently - the only heterosexual woman ON THE PLANET not attracted to Gerard Butler)
The Proposal
Bad Boys
Far and Away
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

So they do exist but they are such a minority (and barely in existence in straight up comedies) and often the good-looking woman is much less of a fully-realized character than the good-looking man. *sigh*

M. said...

Princess Bride! Gladiator! How I loved them! I'm going to assume you mean CliveOwen and Julianne Moore in terms of Children of Men, with which I agree but I am sorely tired of that woman dying in so many of her movies. And I was disappointed with the second half of The Proposal after really liking the first half, but yes, hotness parity achieved.

I think of Gerard Butler sort of like Russell Crowe - it's not that they have looks, it's that they have such sheer force of personality.