Apparently it’s true. The answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything really is 42.
A couple of weeks ago my father called me to ask when the season finale of Castle was going to air, because he wanted to avoid it. His reasoning was that every year the show ends on a cliffhanger and it has so annoyed him that he was going to boycott the episode; he would worry about what happened sometime in September. I can sympathize with my father’s feelings. It does feel as though many television shows feel as though it is essential to end every season so as to provoke an, OMG! What happens next?! response. In her recap of last night’s episode of Scandal, Liane Bonin Starr wrote, “it’s always good for an episode to end on a cliffhanger.” But I’m not convinced that is necessarily true.
Cliffhangers have been around since the days of the silent movie serials in which a young woman would be tied to the train tracks with a locomotive steaming toward her or the hero would literally be dangling from the edge of a cliff. And then the screen would fade to black with the words … To Be Continued, in hopes that this would encourage movie goers to return the next week to see if the heroine was saved or how the hero got himself out of his predicament. I imagine modern television writers and producers have much the same motivation. They work in a market that is thoroughly saturated with other products that compete for their audience’s time and money, thus the impulse to leave the audience wanting more. And the cliffhanger is a tried and true gimmick in order to do just that.
Because the cliffhanger has become so well-used, perhaps even abused, I feel like shows should use it with care. The type of endings that I’m referring to are ones in which: someone is shot, a building blows up with one of the main characters in it, there’s marriage proposal but we don’t get to hear the answer or a major secret is revealed that will fundamentally change the dynamic of the show, and then, roll credits. There are very few shows that can end every season in such a manner without it feeling forced. Such endings can be genuinely exciting, but because the cliffhanger is so commonplace much of the element of surprise has already been taken away. As an alternative I’m certainly in favor of unresolved issues. It’s nice when we get to the end of the season and there is some closure to the story-lines that have been plaguing various characters, but it’s nice when not everything is tied up with a pretty bow; when we are left still wondering how some things will turn out. But that is very different from the catastrophic impact of the cliffhanger.
I realize that there are many good shows out there. Trust me. I am painfully aware of this fact. But if you write a quality show week in and week out, people are going to miss it when the season is over and look forward to it when it returns. You don’t need to resort to crazy gimmicks.
FYI: This review may contain spoilers.
Spring is a time for big moments: prom, graduation, new jobs, and new beginnings. These are times we are told will be with us for the rest of our lives. Landmarks where we declare we are no longer children but adults, we are no longer the person we used to be but an improved version of ourselves. The funny thing about growing up or changing at any age is that it never seems to happen on those big occasions. It’s in the moments in between when nothing is supposed to be happening that we find out who we really are and how far we have come. The Sapphires is about four young women on the cusp of some of the biggest moments in their lives, but the changes they long for don’t come in quite the way they expected.
In 1968 the Civil Rights Movement is sweeping across the United States, and in Australia the indigenous people likewise struggle for the rights afforded white citizens and simply to be recognized as human beings. Gail (Deborah Mailman), Julie (Jessica Mauboy) and Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell) have been singing together since they were kids. During a local talent competition, the girls meet Dave (Chris O’Dowd), a down-on-his-luck talent scout who they convince to help them make it to Vietnam as part of a USO touring group. Along with their estranged cousin Kay (Shari Sebbens) they form a Mo-Town quartet, and through music and war they learn about life, love and themselves.
I recently expressed my disappointment at a comedy’s inability to balance quality humor with a thoughtful exploration of more meaningful issues, but this film is anything but a disappointment. Each of these young women is given a distinct personality and their own story arc in which we see how they grow and develop over the course of the narrative. Gail is the oldest; it has always been her responsibility to look after the others, but now she has to learn not only to let go and allow them to make their own mistakes but also how to let someone else take care of her, which is no easy task for someone who is used to being in control. Cynthia has recently been jilted at the altar, and responds by throwing herself at every guy who takes an interest in her as a means of dealing with her humiliation and anger. Kay is one of the Stolen Generation; a fair skinned Aborigine who was taken from her home to be raised to reject her ethnicity. Being reunited with her others forces her to confront her perceptions of her own identity and the woman she can choose to be. Julie is the youngest. She is also the most talented, and the one everyone says could really go places. But she has also has a child of her own to think about, and is torn between fulfilling her dreams and being with her son. Each of these characters is given her due, and yet the seriousness of their dilemmas, and the wartime setting, does not hinder the film’s humor but acts as a wonderful counterpart enriching both its drama and comedy.
As far as the humor is concerned, Chris O’Dowd may in fact be one of the funniest, most lovable human beings on the planet. Not that he is the sole source of comedy in the film, but he certainly is the standout. In many ways his character is pretty stereotypical—the drunken, irresponsible Irishman, but O’Dowd does make the most of it. Much like the other characters in film, Dave has his own growing pains as up to this point in his life he has just drifted by but now finds himself responsible for four young women in another country, which happens to be in the middle of a war zone. By and large the film tends to askew the horrors of wars, but this is actually a smart decision. The war time setting provides an important cultural and historical context while also providing dramatic tension. But the film’s limited focus on the war prevents it from becoming a kitchen sink movie, i.e. including so many dramatic, historical events that it collapses under its own weight. The limitation also keeps the drama from overshadowing the humor, and the film is first and foremost a comedy. With such great characters, delightful humor, and fabulous music this is a tremendously entertaining film.
Apparently it’s true. The answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything really is 42.
It’s 1945. The war is over, Hitler has been defeated and the world has changed. But not everyone is ready for the fact that things cannot go back to the way they used to be. The US set out to defeat evil in other lands but failed to recognize, or simply chose to ignore, the evil within its own borders. Here hatred had become so institutionalized that it seemed acceptable, it was taken for granted that this was just how things were. It would take a great deal of courage to make change a reality, and that courage should never be underestimated, and is not often given its due.
Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) has a mad, crazy idea. Motivated by business savvy and not a little guilt, he has decided to bring a Black player to Major League Baseball. Finding the right man won’t be easy, though; he needs to be someone who not only can play but also has the strength of character to endure the hostility his presence will create. Among the possible candidates emerges one Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) of the Kansas City Monarchs. Robinson is not the most gifted player, not to mention he has a history of challenging authority in the face of racial discrimination, but something tells Rickey that this is his man. As Robinson works his way from the Montreal Royals and eventually to the Brooklyn Dodgers, he faces racial intolerance on the field and off, making his successes professionally and personally even more worthy of admiration.
I cannot even begin to imagine the amount of courage, will and determination it took Jackie Robinson to accomplish what he did, but watching his story brought to the screen and seeing how the audience responded to what they saw was one of the most joyous experiences I have had in a theater in a very long time. It would be a daunting task for any actor to step into those shoes. In Hollywood’s first biopic on the player, The Jackie Robinson Story, Robinson played himself. But Boseman was more than up to the task of embodying the strength, resolve and even humor that was essential in bringing this legend to film. I think one of my favorite moments came when Robinson’s wife Rachel (Nicole Beharie) says to her husband, “If they knew you they would be ashamed.” While the film only scratches the surface of the racial prejudice that Robinson and his family suffered, one of the reoccurring themes is that as people began to see beyond the color of his skin to the kind of player and kind of man he was the more they accepted and respected him. Many people at least, but not all. That’s an ending not even Hollywood could honestly sell.
Apart from possibly boxing, no sport makes for better movies than baseball. Even those who find the prospect of watching an MLB game akin to watching paint dry can’t deny the drama that it can afford the screen. Using quick editing and creative camera angles, the filmmakers brilliantly recreated why Robinson led the league his rookie year in stolen bases, and why he must have given pitchers nightmares. There isn’t much not to love about this movie. And if it doesn’t get you angry, make you laugh and make you want to cheer, I strongly encourage you to check your pulse and see if your heart is actually still beating.
I read a magazine article once on the best advice expectant parents received, and one of these bits of wisdom has always stuck with me. A wizened father told his daughter, Our children usually turn out alright in spite of ourselves. I feel like there are a number of realities about adulthood wrapped up in that statement that all of us need to accept. First, our parents are not perfect. They are people, and despite our childhood certainty that they have all the answers, they don’t. Eventually we have to forgive them their mistakes and accept them for who they are. And despite the best efforts of parents not to make the same mistakes that their parents did with them, they will make mistakes that are uniquely their own, because just like the generation before them, they are human and occasionally they are going to screw up. Finally, becoming an adult, becoming a parent, does not endow a person with all the knowledge of the universe. Again, part of us seems to retain that naivete that once we are adults things will be simpler because we’ll know everything we need to, which leads to much frustration and confusion later in life when in fact nothing is simpler. All of these interconnected truths lie at the heart of Admission.
Princeton admissions officer Portia Nathan (Tina Fey) has everything she could ask for in life: she loves her job and is in line to become the new head of admissions; she lives with her stable English professor partner (Michael Sheen); her life has settled into a quiet routine and she is perfectly content with that. But things begin to unravel when her steady professor leaves her for one of his colleagues who he has gotten pregnant. Then, a high school principle shows up (Paul Rudd) claiming that one of his students, a bright but unconventional young man named Jeremiah (Nat Wolff), may be the child she gave up for adoption. Oh, and let’s not forget her struggles with her feminist, 60s wild child mother (Lily Tomlin) who cannot understand her daughter’s conformity. To maintain some sense of control in her life she clings to what she knows best and focuses on helping Jeremiah with his application while trying to determine if he really is her biological son.
First and foremost I will say that this is a rather sweet movie. Tina Fey and Paul Rudd are every bit as adorable as you could ask for, and Lily Tomlin is wonderfully eccentric. My disappointment I think is that the film does not delve deeply enough into its more serious issues, nor is it funny enough to satisfy as a lighter treatment of life’s complications. It is neither one thing nor the other. The film does touch on some really poignant topics, like the repercussions of giving up a child for adoption and the relationship between parents and their children, but it only dips its toe in the water; it is as though the filmmakers were afraid they would alienate people who came to see Tiny Fey comedy by being too earnest. But for a movie starring Fey and Rudd, it is surprisingly low on laughs. There are certainly some very amusing bits, especially for anyone who has gone through the pains of the college admissions process, but it is far from being a laugh-out-loud comedy. It is a nice film but I probably would have enjoyed it more if the filmmakers hadn’t been so wishy-washy.
Many people who know me will find it surprising that I am even writing this, because over the years I have been quite vocal in my disagreement with Roger Ebert’s criticism. But even I cannot deny the impact he had on how people watch movies. He was the last of the big name critics to emerge out of the 1970s and separated himself from the rest with a very different approach to films. Unlike Pauline Kael or Andrew Sarris, his criticism was more populist, and I don’t mean that necessarily as a negative thing; he brought criticism to the everyday movie goer. And I have an incredible amount of respect for the fact that despite his failing health, he would not allow anything to get in between him and his love of the movies. Not even cancer.
While I may not have agreed with his opinions, I will admit that the man did have a way with words. There is a reason why Ebert was the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize. He once wrote, “One of the reasons we go to the movies is because the great ones help us treasure the gift of life. Artists are like priests. They share our mortality but are closer to the mysteries.” Last Thursday, Roger Ebert embraced those mysteries and joined this long-time partner in cinematic crime, Gene Siskel. He concluded his blog simply and with what may very well be the most appropriate final words ever written: “I’ll see you at the movies.”
If you are looking for a fabulous short film to watch, Cargo (dir. Ben Howling and Yolande Ramke) is one that you should check out. This 7 minute finalist at Australia’s Tropfest is smart, poignant, and very, very well performed. That last part is especially remarkable considering the almost non-existent dialogue and the fact that the lead’s supporting cast consists of a zombie, a baby, a pink balloon, and a bag of bloody, dripping, animal guts.
It is, as it has appropriately been described by Social News Daily, what the “Walking Dead should be,” full of bittersweet “emotional drama and humanity” underscored by the constant threat of one’s own mortality, never before portrayed so delicately as in the quest of a father to save his daughter’s life, even from himself. It is simple, it is powerful, and it is beautiful.
Oh, and it’s a zombie flick.
For The Birds
I remember seeing this for the very first time. One of my all-time favorite Pixar shorts. So simple in story, but so beautifully executed.
FYI: This post may contain spoilers.
When asked if the film Rebecca was a faithful adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s novel during his famous 1955 interview with Francois Truffaut, Alfred Hitchcock replied:
Yes, it follows the novel very faithfully because [David O.] Selznick had just made Gone with the Wind. He had a theory that people who had read the novel would have been very upset if it had been changed on the screen, and he felt this dictum should also be applied to Rebecca. You probably know the story of the two goats who are eating up cans containing the reels of a film taken from a best seller. And one goat says to the other, “Personally, I prefer the book!”
Even one of film’s greatest directors appreciates the inevitable pitfalls of making an adaptation of a popular novel. But the film is a success as both an adaptation and a stand-alone work. There have been at least five television productions based on the du Maurier novel, but none can rival its first and only big screen appearance. As Hitchcock’s first American production, it is a beautiful marriage of the classic Studio Era production and British tradition. The resulting film, which stunningly is the only one of Hitchcock’s works to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, maintains his unique voice, and achieves a fidelity to its source material without being a slave to it.
In the interview, Rebecca’s director admits that it is not really a “Hitchcock picture,” namely because it is lacking in humor, nonetheless he is able to bring his own distinctive aesthetic to the story. It is curious that the director known as the “Master of Suspense” should be closely associated with humor, but it is one of the trademarks of his films. In Rebecca, he does what he can, including scenes such as Maxim de Winter singing in shower and the couple forgetting their marriage license, not to mention the casting of foppish Nigel Bruce as de Winter’s brother-in-law, but it is otherwise a rather humorless affair. However humor isn’t the only quality associated with his style; after all, what would a Hitchcock film be without a love story? While du Maurier’s novel concerns the relationship between Maxim and the second Mrs. de Winter, it would be a stretch to call it romantic, but the film undeniably is. Laurence Olivier’s Maxim is charming and sophisticated, and while he maintains the brooding mystery found in his literary counterpart, he is not so remote and forbidding. Joan Fontaine is an innocent Mrs. de Winter who adores her husband, and honestly who can blame her. Add in Franz Waxman’s lush score and you have all the ingredients to make audiences swoon.
Humor and romance give Hitchcock’s films a certain amount of appeal, but it is his technical superiority and manipulation of plot and character to build a climate of suspense that hold audiences captive. Only Hitchcock could turn something as innocent as a couple watching a home movie of their honeymoon into a moment filled with sinister implications. But the film’s menace is most potently delivered by Judith Anderson’s Mrs. Danvers. As Truffaut points out in the interview, Rebecca “wasn’t a thriller, there was no suspense. It was simply a psychological story, into which [Hitchcock] deliberately introduced the element of suspense around the conflict of personalities.” Mrs. Danvers is responsible for keeping Rebecca alive. She carefully maintains her things as if Rebecca were about to walk through the door. Her obsession with her former mistress causes her to resent the new Mrs. de Winter with a homicidal intensity. Danvers dogs her at every step, and Hitchcock deliberately de-humanizes her to such an extent the housekeeper takes on almost demonic proportions. Her presence in a scene is not only unsettling for Mrs. de Winter but also for the viewer. The audience shares the heroine’s constant dead and fear, which proves to be not entirely irrational.
Despite Selznick’s philosophy, the film does depart from the novel in some rather significant ways, which are necessary both in translating the novel into cinematic terms and meeting the different demands of a film audience. The second Mrs. de Winter is the novel’s first-person narrator, which is one of its most distinctive features. There is very little plot to this story and even less action, because most of what the novel relates is hypothetical. Much of what Mrs. de Winter expresses is speculation about what she thinks people would have done and said, and, which she devastatingly learns , has little basis in reality. Apart from the voice over which delivers the novel’s famous opening line, “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again,” it simply is not practical to attempt the interiority of the literary work. Fortunately for the film, this works to its benefit as it makes for a far more likeable protagonist. Mrs. de Winter’s constant speculation and her total passivity make it difficult to find her character appealing. Fontaine’s character is no less naïve or insecure, but her arc is slightly more self-motivated. In the novel, the narrator has been rendered paralyzed by the image of Rebecca that she has created in her mind. She is unable to break free from this hold until Maxim reveals the true nature of his relationship with Rebecca. In the film, after Danvers confronts Mrs. de Winter in Rebecca’s rooms, the heroine finds the courage to stand up to her. She orders Rebecca’s things to be removed; she organizes the Manderley ball, and declares, “I am Mrs. de Winter now.” Such independence is totally lacking in the literary character; she remains dependent on others to do things for her because she lacks the conviction to do them herself. Absent the novel’s insight into Mrs. de Winter’s thoughts, the character would be tough to sell to a cinematic audience. The film remains faithful to the novel in its presentation of her timid personality but giving her room to grow and making her slightly more assertive allows the audience to become invested in what happens to her.
The film’s plot follows that of the novel with remarkable accuracy and manages to alter only a few points. One of the differences lies in how Rebecca died. In the novel, when Maxim finally reveals what happened between Rebecca and him, he confesses that he shot her after she goaded him into it. Regardless of how ugly a person Rebecca may have been, Maxim is still guilty of her murder, and he goes to great lengths to conceal that fact. All the pains Hitchcock has taken to make the audience want this couple to be together would be undermined by this fact. So the decision was made to play a little fast and loose with the details. Instead of shooting Rebecca, Maxim hits her and as she back away from him she stumbles and hits her head, which kills her. For all intents and purposes the outcome is the same, but it was an accident. Maxim lives in fear of the truth being discovered while perpetually being haunted by Rebecca; however, the impact on the audience is worlds apart. The novel makes Maxim into a murderer while the film makes him into a victim of circumstance, which is much easier for a viewer to accept.
After all that Maxim and Mrs. de Winter have gone through, the novel ends in rather anticlimactic fashion. As the two are driving toward Manderley, smoke in the distance and a light on the horizon are meant to indicate that the house is on fire with the implication that it has been set by Mrs. Danvers as punishment for what Maxim did to her beloved Rebecca. But we never see any of that. Hitchcock couldn’t end a film like that, though. The image of Manderley in flames is the most dramatic of the entire film, and by leaving Maxim and the audience in doubt as to whether or not Mrs. de Winter is still inside increases the tension and provides a more satisfactory conclusion when the couple is reunited. The house fire also permits the audience to see Mrs. Danvers killed by the conflagration, which in the world of the film is a suitable punishment for her abuse of Mrs. de Winter. However, it is the film’s final image that is the most evocative. The camera closes in as Rebecca’s omnipresent monogram ‘R’ is consumed by the flames. In the novel, Maxim is utterly devoted to Manderley. It is a point that is underscored repeatedly, so its loss would presumably devastate him. He may live freely but the loss of his family home is the price for Rebecca’s death. The Maxim of the film does not appear to have the same affection for Manderley, and as he is not responsible for her death, the fire does not have the same meaning as it does in the novel. The fire on screen is an electrifying scene that provides for a sensational climax in which the true villain meets her end. In spite of Mrs. Danvers wickedness, it is Rebecca who is the film’s real antagonist. From the opening moments, Rebecca has cast a shadow between Maxim and Mrs. de Winter. As along as her presence endured there is no possibility for these two to be happy. The image of that ‘R’ being destroyed conveys to the audience that what remains of her has gone up in smoke, and despite her best efforts, Rebecca has not won.
Rebecca is everything that a screen adaptation of a literary work should be. It is faithful to Daphne du Maurier’s novel in terms of its overall plot, characterizations and themes but does not sacrifice its own artistic integrity in order to do so. It is not dependent on the novel but is respectful of it, and Hitchcock wisely makes decisions that elevate a simple story to a memorable cinematic experience. Both novel and film have their own merits, and make for an interesting comparison without the necessity of tearing one or the other down. It is the best of both worlds.
Despite several new releases this past weekend, Oz: The Great and Powerful finished in first place at the box office again. With a domestic total of $145 million and counting, the L. Frank Baum prequel has already proven to be immensely profitable for its Disney overlords, and boy do the overlords know it. With word out that screenwriter Mitchell Kapner has already begun working on a purported sequel, questions of the Oz franchise’s direction have gotten mixed into the half-furor of movie blog-dom. Which characters might return? Is Sam Raimi coming back? What’s even left to tell?
That last question might be the most compelling of all, since the Oz franchise seems to be setting itself on a trajectory similar to the Star Wars Prequels. And that’s probably not a good thing.
Dear. God. Please. No.
FYI: The following review may contain spoilers.
I did something this weekend that my partner-in-cinematic-crime just does not understand. I was running errands on Saturday and realized that I had reserved a Zipcar from campus for far longer than I needed it.
So what to do with my free time?
Why, see a movie, of course.
I could fit in a two to two-and-a-half hour movie with time to spare for grocery shopping. So I headed to the local AMC cineplex, walked up to the ticket desk, and took a good hard look at the movies starting in the next few minutes.
Sure, I had some preferences over what I wanted to see. But the God’s honest truth? I would have seen anything that fit into my limited time frame. Okay, anything that wasn’t a horror movie.
Luckily, one of the movies near the top of my To-See list was just about to start, and that’s how I saw Oz the Great and Powerful this weekend (review below this anecdotal story explaining how Kerry and I have very different philosophies about life that can be summarized through our relationships with the cinematic world).
This sort of haphazard, willy-nilly, what-have-you would drive (does drive) Kerry insane. She just doesn’t understand going to a theatre without a plan of what to see. If Movie A is sold out, she won’t go see Movie B or Movie C for the hell of it. (Trust me, it’s happened.) That’s the end of the adventure.
Me, though, I’m one of the “well, we’re already here” types. I get how sometimes you just want to see a movie, or do something, and let the specifics fall where they may.
Granted, sometimes letting the specifics fall where they may turns out biting you in the ass. Whatevs. It’s a learning experience.
Yeah, I kind of got bit in the ass with Oz the Great and Powerful. It wasn’t a big bite, but still.
When the news of this movie first broke, and then the info on casting was released, I was excited. I like James Franco generally, and I loved him (Oscar host experience aside) in 127 Hours, so hearing that he was to play the Wizard appealed to me. And the casting of Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams, and Rachel Weisz seemed smart—three talented women who don’t generally get as much appreciation as they should. I was excited to see how the movie would turn out.
And then I saw it.
A few things about this movie absolutely clicked. First, the genuine attempt to produce an homage to the beloved classic The Wizard of Oz. In that respect, I think the movie was a success. Certainly the technology behind the movie has advanced, and the movie relied heavily on CGI to produce its special effects. But the wondrous other-worldliness of the original Oz movie was present in Sam Raimi’s production as well. While color is no longer revolutionary to us as the use of Technicolor technology was to Victor Fleming’s 1939 audience, the bright and bursting color, the over-saturation of color in this movie helped to recreate that sense of awe that must have filled the hearts and minds of the very original Oz viewers.
Of course, Sam Raimi being Sam Raimi, he straddled the line between classy and campy for a good portion of the movie, but that’s what you get when you hire the guy behind the Evil Dead franchise and a whole she-bang of campy mid-90s television shows (i.e., Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Cleopatra 2525, and Xena: Warrior Princess). Some of the campy may have been caused by the fact that I saw the movie in plain old 2D, and some of the effects were clearly meant for the 3D audience.
Where Raimi excelled, as far as his homage through effect to the original Oz, was in the black and white introductory period. Like The Wizard of Oz, the first part of the movie, pre-Land of Oz, was entirely in black and white. [If you were in my theatre, some of the sweetness of the reference was lost due to the toddler behind me breathing on my neck and loudly asking every three seconds (I timed it) “when the color will come.”] But if you could block that out, or if you were in a toddler-free theatre, you instantly recognized what Raimi was doing, and you appreciated it.
And Michelle Williams, too, I believe, really gave a performance that recalled and honored the 1939 movie. Her scenes as Annie, the country farm girl in black and white, so echoed the performance of Judy Garland as Dorothy that I was taken aback. She gives off a sense of pure and unadulterated innocence with her soft, breathy voice, and delicately upturned face, staring up at James Franco with an expression of soft love. Later, in her performance of Glinda, she retains the amused and knowing smile of Billie Burke, who sees through to the good in all.
However, that is where my singing of praises must end. As far as the rest of the movie is concerned, I was fairly disappointed. Most of my criticism focuses on the acting of the other three leads. James Franco, for example. I spent the entire movie wanting to punch him in the face. Since the desire dissipated as the movie neared its ending, perhaps my reaction ought to be directed more toward his characterization and the script (and oh, I’ll get to that), but I’m not willing to let him off the hook too easily. He plays Oz as manipulative, certainly, but I believe he adds a certain element of smarm that just seemed out of place.
Rachel Weisz was just under-utilized in this movie. Again, perhaps that isn’t her fault, but given her lauded performance in, say, The Constant Gardener, her background performance here was unexpected. Certainly she did not have the largest part amongst the leads, but there was no rational reason for her to be so forgettable in this role. Unless, of course, she knew how the movie would turn out, and wanted everyone to forget she was even in it. Hmmm.
And finally, Mila Kunis. I love Mila Kunis. I thought she was the perfect combination of bitchy and loveable in That 70s Show. I love her as Meg in Family Guy. She made me laugh in Ted, Friends with Benefits, and Date Night. And I was in awe of her performance in 2010’s Black Swan. But in this movie, she was just laughably bad. She performed her character so one-dimensionally, that any sort of dialogue beyond what the weather in Oz was going to do that day seemed ridiculous. I spent two hours rolling my eyes at her.
Honestly, the script could have used either a few more (better) editors or a few less. I’m not sure if this movie suffered from having too many hands in the pot or too little editorial control over the drive of the film. Either way, it was mostly a disaster mitigated by just a few moments of success. Really, it was just kind of a mess.