Something’s Gotta Give-the fuller review

This is a movie that goes well with french toast. The characters keep eating sweet things, Diane Keaton’s character Erica loves Paris, pancakes were prepped. Eggs are in her house, so I start feeling peckish and wonder what can be done with the ones in mine ūüėÄ . Honestly, just starting this review made me start thinking of all the sweet things I’d like to eat while writing this.

french toast
I like mine with lots of honey.

 

Well, so the movie. Erica Barry is a successful, divorced, 50 something playwright. She has one adult daughter (Marin), a lovely beach house where the main action is set, and slightly younger sister (Zoe) who teaches Women’s Studies at an appropriately educated sounding university and “was in the Israeli army.” Marin invites Harry Sanborn (Jack Nicholson) to the beach house and just when they’re about to have sex, Harry amusingly enough has a heart-attack. Well, it was funny in the movie. His relationship with Marin is toast, and having to admit to his doctor in front of her that he used viagra that night is just the cream cheese frosting on top of it. We move on from what might have been (predictable and controlling and negative) to a new relationship that emerges between the hapless Erica and Harry,¬† as he needs to recover in her home and can’t travel back to the city. She doesn’t “enjoy playing nurse to [his] bad-boy patient” and she doesn’t really. Instead, while chatting with him between times she goes out with the 36 year old doctor played by Keanu Reeves. #womensrights #weshouldallgooutwithkeanureeves #feminism

Keanu Reeves
Does the french toast look as good as Keanu? (I think it’s equal.) Also shout out to how he handles his role. He is just one long, evenly played, beautiful note all through out.¬†

 

Their relationship develops as Harry shows us unsuspected depth to his character and Erica discovers that charming is charming. Unfortunately, Harry Sanborn still plays to the old rules, and as per usual he dumps Erica after sleeping with her.¬† (It’s like he didn’t watch the new movies.) Of course, the dumping was with her permission which makes it worse. She doesn’t want to rock the boat so badly, that when he says he isn’t “good at monogamy” she just nods along, without wondering what she wanted. Which means – she falls for it too, right? Like the 30 year olds she was castigating.

ERICA

          You just like to travel light? Oh,
          please, what the hell does that mean?

                    HARRY

          Now see a thirty year old gets that.

                    ERICA

          You mean falls for that.

                    HARRY

          I mean, accepts it.

                    ERICA

          If that's what you want... a non
          threatening woman, who won't get your
          number, you get to run the show...

From there on Erica starts to own the story. She thinks she’s fine, runs into Harry out on the town with someone unrealistically (for him) good looking¬† and has an absolute melt down, which forces Harry to deal with her feelings over how she was treated, instead of conveniently brushing them aside. The first few times I saw this movie years ago, I didn’t understand why when she tells Harry that she “just wished it had lasted longer” and he responds “me too”, she says “that is a terrible thing to say.” And then I got it this time. If you pour your heart out to someone you deserve more than polite rejoinders. Erica then rushes off to the beach house to recuperate by writing her new play, and she makes it about Harry.

 

Nicholson’s muted indignation on receiving a literary-dramatic cutting down is chokingly funny.

KN9
Obfuscation

There are many lovely moments in this scene my own favourites are:

KN10
You tell ’im, Diane.
KN11
I loved her hissy-eyed, cobra-strike face here as she spat out that line.

It ends beautifully.

 

Watch it with some french toast on your plate. It ends happily once Harry realises all his flaws.

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Spanglish

“Deborah Clasky: Mother, I need to say something to you…You were an alcoholic and wildly promiscuous woman during my formative years so I’m in this fix because of you

Evelyn Wright: You have a solid point dear, but just now the lessons of my life are coming in handy for you.”

Nearly everyone in Spanglish,¬†even almost everyone with screen-time, has a backstory or at least a richly detailed, clearly delineated personality. The equations between the cast are finely modulated, through action and reaction etched into their faces (Evelyn Wright in the scene quoted above) or through the dialogue that prompts a fresh unlooked for response from the character such as this soft-spoken response from Adam Sandler’s John Clasky when talking to his daughter, Bernice:

Bernice Clasky (reading the review of her father’s restaurant aloud): Eating at this perfect, smaller, passionate restaurant inspires one’s own abandonment of caution. To wit…John Clasky is the best chef in the United States.

John Clasky: Look how great you read it.

The whole group seems to be thoroughly sympatico (that was a dialogue reference) with each other. A review I read somewhere took issue with the movie’s dependence on stereotypical characters (drunken mother-in-law, I think it said, and maybe problematic wife, attractive housekeeper?). On the other hand Roger Ebert seemed taken aback by the range of Tea Leoni’s Deborah, though Deborah seemed eminently understandable to me. Her emotions flare-up to delight and spiral downwards into self-absorption and personal misery that crushes every unfortunate in her vicinity, but especially her daughter and her husband. Inappropriate remarks tumble out her mouth every time she talks, and¬† she waits with a disarming vulnerability for a crushing put-down, because she’s aware of all the words,

John¬† Clasky: I think that’s a little…

Deborah Clasky: What? Insensitive? Elitist? Narcissistic? Irresponsible? Perverse? Dizzy? What?…

Open-handed and direct, she remains incapable of shifting her own perspective the slightest bit, paralyzed (one can only assume) by her own feelings and thereby unable to accommodate someone else’s. At one point she congratulates Flor (played by Paz Vega) on her daughter’s appearance, and tells her she could make a fortune at surrogate pregnancy. A joke between similarly situated people, but I was wondering if it could be casually flipped out like that to someone not as mainstream as one was oneself.

I did wonder if the movie set out to contrast two visions of womanhood, through Deborah and Flor’s characters. Each seemed to be beauty worked to the highest possible pitch from two different cultures. The movie does explicitly call out the contrast in the lines (and juxtaposed scenes of Flor and Deborah) about how “dieting, exercising American women” suppress desire for style and become afraid of “all that is good in life” including motherhood. With a lack of self-critique the movie personifies motherhood through the curvaceous Flor, economically vulnerable since her divorce, and now working as a housekeeper. Fortunately, Deborah Clasky’s character does not remain a catch-all for all that is bad in life. She is “infuriated” when John Clasky squeezes her breast to get her to stop talking (perhaps constantly and wrong-headedly, but also sincerely and expressively). Her angst, which if you ask me, is the angst of the contemporary woman terrified that accommodation might mean losing out,giving in or not existing on her own terms, unsure of herself because she has set herself a new, unperformed script to play. It’s hard to do what hasn’t been done before. If she has a chip on her shoulder it’s because it was placed there.

The movie swings more in favour of self-possessed and principled Flor, than the uncertain and destructive wreck that Deborah becomes, and so maybe it seems that women must choose between diametrically opposed paths. But fortunately it is also about other things. Communication is a key theme in a movie about family dynamics and employer-employee relations when the help can’t speak the language. Flor is always certain of herself, but as she experiences challenges she wasn’t expecting she remains sure-footed and even learns how to speak in a new language and take care of herself in a new culture. Three of the adults in the film, John, Deborah, and Flor are concerned with elaborately fine-tuning their communication. Deborah remains the most insistently reliant on vocabulary, expecting words to give new life to a relationship, yet Sandler’s and Paz Vega’s characters achieve the fullest comprehension, despite “communicating in apologies” and not having a large number of mutually understood words between them.

Spanglish packs in a great deal of perspective into two hours. It is a warm and credible look at cultural values, relationships and communication.

 

“Things are never what they seem with the women in this family”

Ha ha!! Rumour Has It is finally looking up. The best scene is the comic escalation of emotion between Shirley MacClane and Jennifer Aniston’s characters, when Aniston is back from her own tryst with the man who slept with her grandmother and her mother 30 years previously.

The next moment is equally golden with a screamed-out phone conversation conducted by Aniston’s grandmother and father, with Aniston a bubbling mess on one end and her sister an emotional, streaky-eyed mess, flipping out over being newly married on the other end of the line.

I thought Rumour Has It would be a dull homage to The Graduate’s misogyny towards women older than 40. It does begin with Aniston sleeping with a 30 years older Kevin Costner, who -despite not being exactly grizzled- doesn’t have a youthful spring in his step either. He surrounds himself with toys for adults -cool cars and personal planes- name drops through all his conversations, and has photos of himself meeting world leaders in his bedroom. A movie made today would’ve called that out for the obvious shtick that is. If I had met Castro and was proud of it, I wouldn’t decorate my bedroom with the photograph. Maybe an office space, to let people know it had happened. One could argue that because in general 50 to 60 year old men are not desirable to women decades younger,they need to be decked out to make it seem possible in a movie. But I saw zero chemistry between Costner and Aniston, and a lot more between her and the guy playing Costner’s son.

Which brings me to another sore point. Why does she have to freeze him out, like he’s a lower life form, like an amphibian in a dinner suit? I mean, why is Beau Burroughs (Kevin Costner) glamourised while sleeping with three generation of women from the same family, and Aniston as the protagonist has to maintain a “Don’t touch me!” vibe when talking to a very cute man who turns out to be his son?¬† She is clearly portrayed (at exactly 10 years older, I checked their birth dates) to be vastly above this gorgeous man, sporting an identical brand of flippy-haired, blonde good looks. I mean, simply in terms of life experience, and of course there’s all that knowledge of the world garnered through her job of writing obituaries for news papers.

But when Shirley MacClane finally screeches out, cursing Burroughs for being a “horny bastard”, I finally laugh and laugh because something shifts and the perspective changes. The minor meltdown of the sisters on either end of the phone, and the collective family effort to hold things together is the crystallising moment where the movie¬† departs from The Graduate. I guess that movie was other things too, but too many reviews and short summaries sum it up as “vampy, predatory older woman sleeps with college graduate”. Where is Costner’s vampiness?See!? You find it hard to associate the word with him! No shots gliding up and down his legs and focusing on a toned, glistening torso, I see. When he is attractive, his attractiveness has strength, it does not make him vulnerable to censure or consumable, the way I remember Anne Bancroft. So f- off Mr.Costner, because I do not believe you for one second.

I have watched this movie before, and I think I remember him being dumped. I hope that’s what happens. I think this movie would’ve been interesting if he got back with Shirley MacClane. Why should she be beyond romantic illusion? But women (non-heroines) begin with hope and end with cynicism . The heroine begins with prudence and thus keepth her balance dancing on the edge of sanction just above the descent into censure, in this world.¬†Ha!

Edit: I guess I can forgive Beau Burrough after all, because of the proactive karma that led the father character to be the one who accidentally rendered him sterile in a football game 40 years prior. Also, the movie makes space for MacClane’s angst over being passed over by a younger person, when she was “13 years younger” then he is currently in the movie when she faces up to him. All the same, do you think life has that finality to it? Do you think people IRL feel dateable until they meet their Beau Burroughs, and then read the writing on the wall? It seems to me that there is a range of taste that can be accommodated, though not portrayed. What I mean is, I think you can feed on stereotype after stereotype, and listen to instruction every day, and then surprisingly enough your own mind will betray you. Like I read somewhere, about the force of a blade of grass pushing its head through a slab of concrete, you discover an untaught reaction. You know something else.

One Fine Day (Now a bi-annual post!)

I think I have mentioned this movie before. I am now slightly more critical of it. It’s probably impending older age that makes me disagreeable but the interactions between Clooney and Pfeiffer seem to be presented as a “battle of the sexes” which I find childish. If a complete stranger started weighing in on your life (even if you messed up their day) and got really personal wouldn’t you think they were rude or mad? Of course it would take great strength of mind to take exception to George Clooney (and M. Pfeiffer by that standard) merely on a point of etiquette and in the cause of breaking through gender stereotypes but I’m a rock star like that. But should we cut the movie some slack since this was the early nineties? The¬†very early nineties when your male boss/top clients (also male) could say of you (to your delight), “She’s quite the little discovery, isn’t she?” and apparently actor/writer/director heads did NOT roll for NOT conveying the least hint of humour, irony, sarcasm or a trace of self-awareness.¬†

But noticing other things lends and retains a vernal charm to this movie. For example, I have never, not once, in the past 18 years noticed that although it’s called¬†One Fine Day it was actually cloudy and rainy all through. Except for the brief moments (splashing through the puddle to get to Sammy’s soccer game) when the romantic leads connect with each other, the sun never peeps out. I love the poetic truth of the title: it was¬†a fine day because the leads met each other and fell in love. Unless it’s ironic because as pointed out above the weather was terrible. Or may be it refers to that story telling phrase, “And one fine day… such and such a thing happened/ this is what she did/ this is what happened.”¬†

 Ha, ha. With the right perspective you will never run out of food for speculation.

Spanglish

Here’s a quote: “Deborah, you are going to lose your husband… if you don’t stop what you are doing. And you will never find someone as good. There’ll only be men who you know are cheap and shallow… and have no real warmth in their souls. You may have gotten by on those surfaces once but now… you have been spoiled by a good man. If you do not act quickly… you will soon cement an awful fate for yourself…”

(Emphasis as in the movie and many thanks to script-o-rama.com)

Kind of reaches out and grabs you, huh?

Movies written by Adam Sandler are sometimes just embarrassing in parts.

Remember Barrymore’s slob of a brother in 50 First Dates? He must have been meant to make Adam Sandler look like George Clooney. Never gonna happen. But in Spanglish Sandler wins back his self-respect (it could never have been intact) as an actor and major props from Me. He plays genuine and decent so well . Also requiring mention are the other actors – Sarah Steele -Paz Vega – Cloris Leachman – Tea Leoni.

Casting directors should be credited first for all the satisfaction afforded.

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