Love Actually (2003)

Standard

Director: Richard Curtis. Universal/Studio Canal/Working Title/DNA Films. (15).

COMEDY


 


Producers:
Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Duncan Kenworthy.
Writer: Richard Curtis.
Camera: Michael Coulter.
Music: Craig Armstrong.
Sets: Jim Clay.

Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Laura Linney, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Keira Knightley, Martine McCutcheon, Bill Nighy, Rowan Atkinson, Gregor Fisher, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Andrew Lincoln, Kris Marshall, Martin Freeman, Joanna Page, Sienna Guillory, Rodrigo Santoro, Edward Hardwicke, Billy Bob Thornton, January Jones, Claudia Schiffer, Shannon Elizabeth, Denise Richards.

SYNOPSIS

The love lives of eight very different couples in London are chronicled in the run up to Christmas.

REVIEW

Largely successful, Brit-portmanteau picture that could have been titled Luvvies Actually given how much of Equity’s register has been emptied to fatten up the cast list.

Right at the top of the bill (and that has never been an indication of quality in such star-studded pictures) is Grant as a love-lorn and single Prime Minister chasing clumsy new tea-girl McCutcheon. This is a gormless and charmless pairing, Grant’s aggravating, stuttering bluster by now a cliche, a cinematic short-cut of performance. McCutcheon is a chirpy ‘cockernee’ sparra’. Well, what else would she be? Her post- Eastenders debut was never going to push expectations.

Such ego-heavy productions groan at the seams with performers ecstatically trying to out act each other. Oddly though, the turns that stick in the memory here are those that don’t try too hard. Neeson trying it on with thinly veiled supermodel Schiffer (ignore the awful child crowing them on), Rickman contemplates a mid-life affair encouraged by nice friend Thompson and there is a heartbreaking threesome in Knightley, Ejiofor and Lincoln. The denouement to this particular thread of the story is literally a wrench, brilliantly and shockingly delivered by these actors.

There are still more powerful turns. In terms of comedy, Nighy and Fisher score most strongly in the entire film. They feature as a washed up eighties pop star and his long-suffering manager, trapped forever in a sexually unfulfilling bromance. Nighy is given one last shot at music immortality with a fairly ropey Christmas single. There can be no greater satisfaction for a cynical British audience, in this part of the story at least, to hear him refer (to Fisher’s horror) to Ant and Dec as “Ant or Dec” and note to their audience of largely under 15 year olds: “Kids, don’t buy drugs. Become a rock star and people will buy them for you”. This has to be the best line that Curtis has ever dropped into a motion picture screenplay. Thank you Richard!

For drama though, take a bow Ms Linney. One of the handful of visiting foreigners in this film, she can hold her head up high that, on celluloid at least, she juggles a difficult storyline perfectly as a woman trying to placate a mentally unbalanced brother and maintain the interest of horny Brazilian colleague Santoro. She deserves an Oscar for managing to keep her hands off him. This is the most impressive straight performance in the whole film.

Atkinson, who shares Curtis’ love of the extended similie and that certain Oxbridge humour (they both worked together on the Blackadder TV series) ties elements of the movie together as an obsequious Department Store sales clerk in some ill advised pantomime, but the film still scores because the humour and feel-good factor are nicely balanced with believable festive angst.

Advertisements

American Reunion (2012)

Standard

Directors: Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg. Universal/Practical/Relativity Media/Zoe Pictures

COMEDY

Producers: Chris Moore, Craig Perry, Chris Weitz, Warren Zide. Writers: Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg. Camera: Daryn Okada. Music: Lyle Workman. Sets: William Arnold.

Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Tara Reid, Seann William Scott, Mena Suvari, Eddie Kaye Thomas, John Cho, Jennifer Coolidge, Eugene Levy, Natasha Lyonne, Dania Ramirez, Shannon Elizabeth, Chris Owen.

SYNOPSIS

The original characters from the first three American Pie films reunite for their High School reunion. But all is not well. Jim and Michelle (Biggs, Hannigan) are married with a young son, but are having bedroom issues. Oz (Klein) is a successful sports news anchor with a gorgeous, but too wild, girlfriend. Kevin (Nicholas) is a put upon office man with an adoring girlfriend, but who hankers after his first love (Reid). Finch (Thomas) is a free-spirit troubled to be back in his home town. And party man Stiffler (Scott) is a temp who hasn’t grown up. It’s going to take a big, lad’s only weekend to sort them out.

REVIEW

It’s been 14 years since the first American Pie and yet the cast of now mid-30 something’s have hardly aged a day, though perhaps they seem younger because these characters are so firmly established in some teenage hinterland of only-just yesteryear.

Despite the gross out tone of the comedy with these films, they certainly struck a chord with movie audiences worldwide (each instalment has grossed over $200 million at international box offices), though it was perhaps with wildly halcyon eyes that the Evening Standard’s David Sexton eulogised so excessively over this new addition to the series.

Reunion looks set to do similar bumper business and, with a creeping sense of over-familiarity coming over this reviewer, it’s easy to see why and to identify with Sexton’s take on the proceedings. All of the original cast return (though, curiously, Lyonne appears only very briefly at the very end of the film. A shame, as she was a total joy in the first film), a similar team behind the camera (though original director Weitz is now only producer) and the set-up, though not revolving around teenage boys trying to get laid, involves their older versions…trying to get laid.

The only other thing that this has in common with its filmic forbears is a laugh out loud sense of humour. You can always rely on these movies to do exactly what it says on the pie box’s cooking instructions – literally scream at the funny moments. Only in American Pie will you see, within the first three minutes of screen time, a man masturbating with a sports sock, bleeding penises and women getting off with a shower head.

It’s a sign of the highest, impurest gross-out comedy genius, of course. And thankfully it continues as Scott (who became a huge star in the intervening years) manages to soil some horrible teenagers beer cooler and Levy (another casting joy, as Biggs’ unflappably frank and educational Jewish father) discovers partying and Stiffler’s lubricious mother (Coolidge).

Some scenes struggle to raise a laugh (trying to get drunken teenager Cara back into her bed is a laboured, limp adventure; too much is made of Klein’s apple-pie good looks; Suvari is a sour garnish, but she always was).

But, whither goest thou American…whatever? Well, despite this being a very welcome reunion, it leaves the feeling that a longer period should elapse between this and the next hook up. Perhaps American Alzheimer’s with the boys joining forces in a retirement village to dodge their meds, chase the nurses (without their elderly wives finding out) and swig shots to toast their youth. Stiffler’s Mom could be preserved in formaldehyde, forever winking suggestively at handsome young geriatricians. The future possibilities for this series are endless!