Sunday is travelling day…back to NYC and Brookline, where my son Jett is ceremoniously graduating from high school, so no posts until late tomorrow, at best. And maybe none at all…we’ll see. It’s 9:48 pm in Paris and still only dusky so far…good night and good luck.
Okay, I’m eating my words about the goddam Break-Up tracking (i.e., what I wrote about it being toast) during the Cannes Film Festival. I was wrong and intemperate and rash, and I made an effing mistake, and I hope I’ve learned a lesson from all this. It’ll sink big-time next weekend, of course (50% or 60%), but from today’s perspective this is a very impressive, based-on-an-almost-total-bullshit-ad-campaign opening (the Tonya Harding joke notwithstanding)….
The Break-Up is a bigger hit than expected, so let’s hear it for Universal’s Big Con marketing! The Vince Vaughn-Jennifer Aniston drama-with-laughs is projected to do about $37 million this weekend, having done about $13.7 million last night. It’ll be off about 50% to 60% next week once the word gets out that it’s not hah-hah funny, but that was the plan all along. X-Men 3 is off radically. Last night’s take was down 77% from the Friday before…a huge drop. The experts are projecting $34.9 million for the weekend, which will amount to roughly a 60% to 65% drop from last weekend’s haul. (People may have liked it okay but weren’t through the roof about it.) Over The Edge is looking at an $18 million dollar weekend, off about 32% from last weekend. The DaVinci Code is looking at roughly $15 million, down about 53% from last weekend. Mission: Impossible III will take in about $4.3 million, off 40%. Its expected to eek out $125 to 130 million total. It’s basically dead at this stage and a fairly big disappointment. Poseidon will take in about $3 million, off 45%…a disaster with an expected cume in the low 50s.
“Although Pauline Kael knew comparatively little about how movies got made, she was unbeatable at taking off from what she had seen. But beyond that, she would take off from what she had written, and there was a new theory every two weeks. A lot of her theories had to do with loves and hates. She thought Robert Altman was a genius. He can certainly make a movie, but if it hasn’t got a script, then he makes Pret-a-Porter . That’s one of the most salutary lessons of this book: what makes the movie isn’t just who directed it, or who’s in it, it’s how it relates to the real world. That principle really starts to matter when it comes to movies that profess to understand history, and thus to affect the future. Several quite good critics in various parts of the world knew there was something seriously wrong with Steven Spielberg’s Munich, but they didn’t know how to take it down. If they could have put the lessons of this book together, they would have found out how. Munich might have survived being directed by someone who knows about nothing except movies. But it was also written by people who don’t know half enough about politics.” — Clive James reviewing “AMERICAN MOVIE CRITICS: An Anthology From the Silents Until Now” — edited by Phillip Lopate (Library of America) in Sunday’s N.Y. Times.
Not Half Bad
The Break-up, which I saw yesterday in Paris under the title of La Rupture, is a much better film than I heard and read it would be, and one of my thoughts as I left the UIP screening room is that Universal has lied its ass off by selling this film the way they have.
Deceptive ads and trailers are respected, of course, because they tend to sell tickets. Last Thursday’s figures projected that The Break-Up would earn about $25 million or so domestically, a drop from an earlier projected figure of $30 million. But that turned out to be wrong — the film will earn a rocking $37 million by Sunday night.
Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Aniston in The Break-Up
The Break-Up isn’t a great film or one you could even say to a friend with an enthusiastic straight face, “It’s exceptionally good and nourishing…definitely go see it!” But it’s not that bad and is by and large a decent effort. It has some problems here and there, but relatively minor ones — I was never doubled over in pain.
The story could have used some more depth (i.e., not just at the end) and could have used stronger secondary characters and a bit more plot texturing. It would have been way better, actually, if someone had said, “Let’s really toss out the idea of satisfying the emtional-formula date crowd and try to make an Ingmar Bergman movie…let’s make Scenes from a Break-Up!”
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But even as is, The Break-Up deserves a measure of credit for being a somewhat ballsy drama by having gone “real”, especially given the date-movie demographic and the escapist expectations that star-cowriter Vince Vaughn, director Peyton Reed and screenwriters Jeremy Garelick and Jay Lavender obviously knew were out there.
It’s about a break-up, all right…just not a breakup and then a reconciliation. Not a whole lot transpires except for some typical Mars-and-Venus mis-readings between a Chicago couple (Vaugh, Jennifer Aniston). This leads to a relationship meltdown that gets worse and worse, and finally peters out just as their defenses come down. Too bad.
But the film gets thoughtful and grounded towards the end, and the ending is half-decent. And not the ending they reportedly re-shot, with Vaughn and Anistonrunning into each other months later with new opposite-sex partners who look almost exactly like they do. It’s something else.
Vaughn delivers some zingers here and there (especially in the beginning) and a playful tone kicks in every so often, but despite Vaughn’s Wedding Crashers rep and the ads and trailers indicating that The Break-Up some kind of comedy, no one but those full-of-shit Pinocchio-nose Universal marketers is ever going to call it one.
Accept this and you’ll be okay: there are no laughs after the first third of The Break-up, and there’s no bouncy comic energy or pacing in any of it. Not by the standards I know and suscribe to, at least. (I definitely regard Some Like It Hot as a comedy, but The Apartment as a relationship drama with schtick…okay?)
The Break-Up isn’t funny because it’s not intended to be. It’s a decently made, reasonably mature, well-acted relationship drama with humorous punctuation from time to time (i.e., mostly in the early portions). Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston do well by their roles, given the material. Take no notice to any critic who says they bomb out in this thing because they absolutely don’t. They’re just not going for the Big Laughs.
Vaughn does his mouthy-guy schtick for somewhere between two-thirds and three-quarters of the film, but then the movie turns solemn and introspective in the final quarter, and Vaughn follows suit in what I felt was a dug-in, rooted way.
The only thing bothersome is that Vaughn is really packed it on prior to shooting this film. (Incessant partying over the huge success of Wedding Crashers?) He’s just physically not the same guy he was last summer, and I don’t mean to sound weird about this but I was disturbed by the inevitable metaphor that sits astride any character with a bull neck and a bloated puffy face. (He is somewhat slimmed down in the final scene, which Aniston remarks upon.)
I was also seriously taken with Aniston’s performance. I was moved, convinced, persuaded — I believed her all the way. For me her work in this film signifies the end of her losing streak, whether The Break-Up makes big moolah or not.
My supporting cast favorites are the always on-target Jon Favreau as Vaughn’s easy-rolling but perceptive best-buddy, who brings the film into a bottom-touching mode in the third act, and Vincent D’Onofrio as his older worry-wart brother (Favreau, curiously, is also hugely bulked up in this thing.)
I won’t run a humiliating, side-by-side comparison photo showing how these guys looked when they made Swingers eleven years ago, but….
Joey Lauren Adams and Judy Davis have vivid if under-developed roles as, respectively, Aniston’s good friend and a neurotic threatening employer.
This is a non-mainstream mainstream movie that’s taking a Big Risk. It’s obviously much more of a fall movie than a summer movie, just as it’s clearly a dramatic Anti-Date movie being sold as a comedic Date Movie in a cynical attempt to attract Wedding Crashers fans.
Hats off to Vaughn, Aniston, Reed, Garelick and Lavender…not for making a wonderfully fantabulous film, but for at least taking a stab at something relatively honest and real-life-ish, and for not copping out to the usual romantic-comedy formula crap.
And…well, I’m not exactly saying thumbs-down to Universal marketers for peddling a Big Effin’ Lie so the studio could earn a massive $37 million pot this weekend. Good for them, I guess, even if it stinks.
But defiitely a big task-tsk also to Universal publicity team for not reaching out early to critics who might have understood what the film was really about and might appreciate the integrity that went into it, which could have generated some thoughtful buzz early on.
Patrick Gagne and Elena Timofeeva, waiters at Cafe qui parle who’ve been very kind and gracious in letting me sit and work in their free wi-fi establishment for hours on end — Saturday, 6.3.06, 3:40 pm.
(a) A couple who sat next to me and producer Tricia van Klaveren last night at Safari, an Indian restaurant on rue Risseau — Friday, 6.2.06, 10:05 pm; (b) At a local vegetable-fruit market this morning — Saturday, 6.3.06, 9:55 am; (c) ditto.
Catch-a-Fire director Phillip Noyce has attracted the ardent interest (if not the actual signatures on a contract, piece of paper or napkin…yet) of Heath Ledger and Rachel Weisz for the eventual filming of an Autralian-based marital discord drama called Dirt Music. The film will be adaptation of Tim Winton‘s novel by Pip Karmel and respected playwright Justin Monjo. Variety‘s Michael Fleming is reporting that the financing hasn’t been quite put together either, but with Ledger and Weisz on-board that shouldn’t be much of a problem. Noyce is also reportedly working on a sailing-race movie called Sydney to Hobart with producer Lynda Obst.
I’m getting blasted by readers for revealing an alleged fatherhood angle in Superman Returns. All I did was link to a Roger Friedman Fox 411 column that was up for all to see, and then a guy wrote in and said the son was the sire of Lois Lane and James Marsden ‘s Richard White character (which may be the case…haven’t seen the film), so I ran a commment from a guy who claimed to have read the Superman Returns script and who said the Friedman item was accurate. I wouldn’t have revealed the possible paternity issue on my own, but when a well-read columnist has written about someting it’s out there and that’s that.
It’s not “Page Six” editor Richard Johnson‘s DUI charge as much the fact that he was driving at all in Manhattan that surprises me. There is no point in driving your car around Manhattan…none. It’s one of the greatest places in the world to keep your weight down from walking your ass off all the time, or at least for highly-absorbing people-watching in the subway. Cars are bad for the soul because they insulate the senses and amplify the ego. If you don’t walk you’re not living a Manhattan-type life…it’s that simple.
“As a generation of top critics move into their 50s and 60s, newspapers are chasing the same young demographic as advertisers and studios. Just as film distribution and marketing are adapting to the rise of digital delivery, the internet is altering the face of film criticism. [As] daily newspapers are losing circulation, [so are they losing] Hollywood advertising and their influence over moviegoers. As publishers struggle to hang on to their readers via online content, blogs and podcasts, some are replacing experienced critics with younger, less expensive models.” — Anne Thompson in yesterday’s (6.2.06) “Risky Business” column, which obviously captures a portion of what’s happening, although a moviegoing world without the usual array of older, seasoned and richly expressive print brahmins would be extremely distressing to me personally. The older dug-in writers can be 91 or 79 or 66 years old…age being immaterial unless the writer for emotional or biological reasons decides to start thinking and behaving like a somewhat older, less-open-to-the-here-and-now observer. Obviously the general ad-bucks swing away from Old Media towards New Media is real, etc., but the older writers can get into the groove if they want to…just start writing more, forget for the most part about “deadlines” (except when it comes to serving the print versions) and just keep it coming on a daily-hourly-nonstop basis….whatever feels right, whenever it surfaces.
Anne Thompson‘s article is one of a string of pieces along these lines. A couple of days ago I spoke to New York magazine’s Stu VanAirsdale about pretty much the same subject, which I gather will be online on Sunday or Monday. VanAirsdale had an idea that somehow Manhattan-based critics, who are presumably more in thrall to the aesthetic legend and criteria of NYC-based critics like Pauline Kael, Andrew Sarris, Stanley Kaufman, James Agee and Otis Ferguson than, say, critics from New Mexico or Iowa might be, are somehow being affected more profoundly by the incursion of New Media writers and the aesthetic downgrading, editorial malleability and youthifying of cineaste culture that is apparently happening here and there.
“The man is a liar and a murderer, and I say that with all due respect.” — a line from Woody Allen‘s Scoop (Focus Features, 7.28.06), in which Hugh Jackman (to go by the trailer) appears to be the above-described, which seems like a red herring. The descriptive term that applies to the film seems to be “ frothy comedy“. Costarring with Jackman are Scarlett Johansson, Ian McShane, James Nesbitt, Jim Dunk and Allen himself. The trailer tells it, but the plot’s about a London-visting college journalist (Johansson) who happens upon “the scoop of a lifetime.”