Warner Bros. publicity ixnayed my participation in this weekend’s downtown junket for Brian Helgeland‘s 42, probably because of those raised-fist articles. But I did attend a round-table session for Ken Scott‘s Starbuck, also held in that area (i.e, adjacent to L.A. Live) and publicist Fredel Pogodin gave me this 42 hardball which somebody left around. Now I don’t feel so badly. I’ll have to wait until early April to see the film, which opens on 4.12.
My usual reason for walking out on a film is that it’s suffocating me or making me sick or poisoning my soul. I walk out in order to live again. But my reason for bailing on Paul Weitz‘s Admission (Universal, opening today) was a bit different. It’s not a terrible film — it’s a tightly structured, intelligently written comedy about bright adults involved in parenting and academia — but like so many big-studios comedies it’s broad and arch and on-the-nose and exaggerated in ways that become intolerable after a while.
“People definitely think like this,” I was saying to myself. “But they don’t talk like this with each other…and it’s driving me up the wall to sit through this clever, cloying, punch-line dialogue. Will you stop talking like this, Tina Fey and Paul Rudd and Michael Sheen and yaddah-yaddah? Will you please fucking stop?”
And yet the bullshit contrivances are handled in such a way that I was able to stand Admission for a while. For the first 30 or 40 minutes, I mean. Even with occasionally awful scenes like one in which the husband of Fey’s Princeton admissions executive, played by Sheen, confesses that he’s in love with another woman and that the woman is pregnant and that he’s leaving Fey…during a party they’re giving. And then he leaves with the woman while the guests are eating bruschetta in the next room. C’mon! The most thoughtless asshole in the world wouldn’t break the news to his/her partner that way…except in comedies like this one.
Some comedies are so bad that it’s an effort to watch them for more than ten minutes. Admission is not one of these. I wasn’t delighted but I was dealing with it…at first. But comedy is awfully difficult to get right. There’s a certain pitch or tone that “works” (like in David O. Russell‘s Silver Linings Playbook because it feels and sounds natural and believable) and there are others that just don’t. Admission is one of these. I didn’t want to shoot or strangle it or chop it into pieces with a meat cleaver. I just wanted to slip out the door without making any fuss.
Fey and Rudd are…I was going to call them appealing and tolerable for the most part, but they’ve been told to act in a “funny” way and to perform in farcical situations (like sharing tasks during the birthing of a calf) and after a while you have this sensation of the film just sitting there and feeling tiresome. Plus there’s something brittle and ungiving about Fey. She’s limited to a certain territory and I was just wanted to break out and roam free as it were.
Lily Tomlin easily gives the most engaging performance as Fey’s somewhat callous, know-it-all ’60s-generation mom. She’s almost in her own movie.
Is Admission worse than Olympus Has Fallen? No — it’s a much smarter and more self-aware film with at least some bits that work from time to time whereas Olympus is a sick, ludicrous farce. And yet Olympus has a 50% Rotten Tomatoes rating compared to Admission‘s 46%. Metacritic has given Admission a 49 rating vs. a 42 rating for Olympus Has Fallen.
Good fiction isn’t “fiction,” Mr. Roth is saying. It’s what you’ve been through plus spin. Your embroidered, jazzed-up or otherwise reshuffled history with fresh paint. For whatever reason I’ve never been into that. For me it’s always been tell the story as it happened, and then throw in your hindsight confessions and reactions but never add anything. (Or very little.) What happened is what happened. Leave it there.
For whatever reason the poster for the 2013 Cannes Film Festival throws a spotlight on a thoroughly mediocre 1963 Paul Newman-Joanne Woodward film that no one (and I mean no one) has watched since its initial release. A Paris-set romcom about the fashion industry, A New Kind of Love was a glossy confection that tried (or so I recall) to wear a bit of the French nouvelle vague attitude that had manifested most sublimely three years earlier in Jean Luc Godard‘s Breathless. Meant nothing, was nothing — check the reviews.
Woodward’s hair was blonde in the film (as it was in real life at the time) so who’s the brunette in the poster?
If the festival wanted to honor a Newman-Woodward film with a little French aroma, why not choose a slightly more respectable collaboration like Martin Ritt‘s Paris Blues (’61), which was actually shot in Paris as opposed to the phony-baloney New Kind of Love, which was mainly shot on Paramount sound stages? Or they could have paid tribute to the Oscar-nominated Rachel Rachel (’68), in which Woodward starred and Newman directed.
A New Kind of Love was advertised as having been shot “in blushing color.” It was so smug that the script actually had Newman’s character say to Woodward’s at one point, “I think maybe what we got here is a new kind of love” (or something close to that).
ANKOL was written, directed and produced by Melville Shavelson, the Gary Marshall or Shawn Levy of his time. Shavelson was mostly known for churning out coy, cutely constipated mainstream comedies like Houseboat, It Started in Naples, The Pigeon That Took Rome and Yours, Mine and Ours. (Okay, he also directed The Seven Little Foys, Beau James and Cast A Giant Shadow.)
From the festival’s website: “The poster evokes a luminous and tender image of the modern couple, intertwined in perfect balance at the heart of the dizzying whirlwind that is love. The vision of these two lovers caught in a vertiginous embrace, oblivious of the world around them, invites us to experience cinema with all the passion of an everlasting desire.”
“1963 lay somewhere between Ozzie and Harriet and Janis Joplin and A New Kind of Love was raunchy adult fare for the time…but sanitized. If you can imagine Paul Newman as a rakish cad who writes Beaudelaire verses on the bare bottoms of his nightly conquests and his real-life partner Joanne Woodward as a dikey dress-designer turned tender-hearted and vulnerable real woman posing as a prostitute after praying to St. Catherine, then you have a greater ability to suspend disbelief than I do.” — from an IMDB review.