Thursday, April 7, 2011

Quick Takes: Fair Game, The Yellow Handkerchief, Love & Other Drugs

Sean Penn and Naomi Watts are fantastic in Doug Liman's engaging true-life political thriller, Fair Game (2010). Valerie Plame (Watts) is outed as a covert CIA operative after her husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson (Penn), writes a scathing op-ed report in the New York Times accusing the Bush administration of sending us off to war with Iraq under false pretenses. Fair Game does not paint a pretty picture of the White House. In fact, Scooter Libby (played by David Andrews) is portrayed as a sneering, hound dog of a Hollywood villain. I like that it's not generically bi-partisan; they defiantly take a side, pointing fingers at Bush and his cabinet members clearly stating that they were wrong. Still, all that postulating gets in the way of the emotional core of the story: Plame -- a mother and a wife -- had her world turned upside down. Would the film have been better if they focused more on her and less on the politics? I'm not sure, but for my money, I think it may have been more interesting. 3.5/5

Director Udayan Prasad assembled a sweet cast to anchor The Yellow Handkerchief (2010), a drama about three strangers who meet up in a small town and embark on a journey in which everyone finds eventual ever-lasting peace. William Hurt plays inner conflict very well. He's an ex-con who, just released from prison, wanders a bit aimlessly before searching for his true love (Maria Bello, his co-star from the brilliant A History of Violence), who may or may not be waiting for him. Kristen Stewart, an actress I'm always delighted to see, is learning a lot from the William Hurt school of inner conflict. She's a confused teen who forms a paternal connection with this older man (not entirely unlike her character in this year's Welcome to the Rileys, a better film). Eddie Redmayne, a kid with a few loose screws, tags along in the hopes to win the affections of Stewart. Despite the pedigree (Chris Menges, Oscar winner for shooting The Killing Fields, fills the screen with a lovely soft glow), this sluggishly paced film lacks potency and freshness. You've seen it all before, likely better than this one. 2.5/5

Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway are radiant in Love & Other Drugs (2010), Ed Zwick's charming, though ultimately frustrating, dramedy about a slick, womanizing pharmaceutical salesman who falls for a perky coffee shop waitress who happens to be inflicted with Parkinson's disease. Zwick, a director I've admired for many years, seems to have been influenced by studio heads to pile on cliches that prevent this relatively smart movie from becoming a great one. You've got the comic relief brother (who clearly thinks he's in an Apatow film), the saintly, sickly woman who makes the player see the error of his ways, and a script that calls for a third act conflict which breaks our couple up before they realize that, yes, they are meant to be together. It's really too bad. Zwick had the ingredients to make an edgy, fresh update for the Love Story crowd. He had two enormously appealing leads, an insightful look at the pharmaceutical industry during the Viagra boom, a great supporting cast (Azaria, Platt, Judy Greer), a fresh adult sensibility (the films earns its R rating), and features an "unconventional" disease not typically seen in romantic dramedies. I liked it quite a bit, but I'm disappointed that Zwick took it in a direction geared towards the mainstream. 3.5/5


hanes132 said...

I'm sorry, but I think the Multiple NUDE Jake Gyllenhaal scenes Clearly warrant the extra 1.5 stars necessary to make this a grade A chick-flick!!

Dave said...

Was he nude? I couldn't tell. All that boobage around him distracted me.


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