Category Archives: Movie Review

Coriolanus with Ralph Fiennes

coriolanusRalph Fiennes (aka Voldemort) directed this version of the Shakespeare play Coriolanus. It’s a modern day retelling of a story about the early days of Rome. He retains the Shakespearean dialogue, which is always a must in my opinion.  Instead of fighting with swords and horses, there are guns and bombs in this one. But the play easily converts to a modern ‘Place Calling itself Rome’.

Coriolanus takes place in the days of the Roman senate, and that idea is easily transported to a modern-day Rome, that looks more like an old communist city than a world capital. The peasants are starving while the rich withhold grain to maximize their profits. Rome is under attack from the Volsci. Caius Martius (Fiennes) is a military hero, spurred to constantly prove his worth in battle by his mother, who considers military heroics to be the only honorable quality. The leader of the Volsci, Aufidius, is played by Gerard Butler.

120119_MOV_coriolanus.jpg.CROP.article568-largeThe two absolutely loathe each other. As Coriolanus says, ‘there is the man of my soul’s hate’.  They meet in battle, but neither has been able to finish the other. But you know they will try each time they meet.

But what gets in the way of all this is politics. Caius Martius is offered a place as a Senator, because of his noble sacrifices and injuries in war. In order to obtain this position (which his friends and his mother want him to have), Martius must debase himself by asking for the people’s’ approval. He must pander to them, showing off his war wounds and recounting his brave deeds in battle. His disposition is such that he can’t even stay in a room when others discuss his heroics. He also actively and completely disdains the plebeian masses.  So it doesn’t go well at all. It’s a tragedy play, after all.

I think Ralph Fiennes did an excellent job taking a play set in the B.C.E. and converting it to a realistic and comprehensible modern world. There’s something really brutal about the stark setting (it was shot in Serbia), the utilitarian violence, and the colors used, all of which gives you some insight into both of these military men. They exist, they thrive, in this harsh world, and they falter when confronted with a more nuanced and colorful and compromising world. Martius, brought up to believe only in the valor of military service and sacrifice, cannot comprehend the value of anyone who has not served and who does not perform to his best. He warns his fellow soldiers, before proceeding into battle, that if they try to retreat, he will ‘leave the foe/ And make my wars on you’.  So…go ahead and don’t sign me up for that regiment.

Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Cox, Jessica Chastain, and Gerard Butler all put in great performances. They cajole, soothe, spur, spurn, and force Caius Martius to do things their way.  It is this combined influence that leads him inexorably toward his tragic end.  But, it’s all about Ralph Fiennes. He is the focal point, almost to a fault. I remember more of the other characters in the play, and they don’t shine as brightly in this version. But it’s definitely worth watching. And worth remembering and considering, whenever the government trots out a war vet for a photo-op.

A Room with a View

I have loved Italy since I was about 13.  A friend of my grandmother had just come back from Florence. I remember she had bought this immensely large map, and the back of the map was an image of the incredible rooftops and the gorgeous Duomo. Something like this:

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I thought to myself (despite the fact that no one from my family had ever gone abroad, excepting military service), that I needed to go to Florence one day.  My life’s new mission! As is usually my luck, my high school did not teach Italian.  I had to take Spanish instead.  But I took Italian at university, and finally visited Italy in April 2009. A place that had (like England) become synonymous, to me, with personal success, cultural awareness, and being some semblance of a complete person.  I am including these details because they closely resemble the way society viewed similar trips in the 19th and early 20th century.  The ‘Grand Tour‘, as it was known, was generally a trip through France and Italy, taken by wealthy young men, or by wealthy couples on their honeymoon. Occasionally there were forays into other ‘refined’ European societies such as Switzerland, Belgium, maybe a wander through Austria on the way back.  But Florence was the destination for the Grand Tour.  Because it was the birthplace of the Renaissance, which dictated art, literature, scholarship, for centuries to come.  One’s Oxbridge education wasn’t complete until one had taken the Grand Tour. Only then could you understand true art and music–a gentle reminder that (lacking even a basic ipod shuffle or smartphone) these wealthy young men & women would only ever get this one chance to see certain art, or hear certain music that wasn’t on exhibit in Britain.

So that brings us to the book.

Room with a View

A Room with a View is E.M. Forster’s account of the Grand Tour of Lucy Honeychurch, a teenage girl.  It is 1908, and less uncommon at that time for a woman to go on the tour before marriage. She is accompanied by her matronly cousin and chaperone, Charlotte Bartlett.  She is meant to follow her Baedecker guidebook, see proper museums and listen to lectures about the masters.  She is there to hear the opinions that she will parrot back for the rest of her life. That’s how the tour goes. You see the art, you listen to someone tell you what to think about it, and then you’re in the know. People back in the UK will be able to tell that you’re of proper stock if you know the right answers. Like a password.

It doesn’t work out that way for Lucy Honeychurch.  She meets several people at the ‘pensione’ (inn) where she and Charlotte stay, and they challenge her in different ways.  Though promised a view of the Duomo and the Arno, Charlotte and Lucy are given rooms with no view.  Two gentleman, father and son, offer to switch rooms.  Charlotte declines, thoroughly scandalized by the suggestion from two strangers.  If you’re reading this 100 years later, that seems ludicrous. If they want to switch, and it will make everyone happier, why on earth wouldn’t they switch? That’s precisely what the father, Mr. Emerson, says. Rather than look at things from the perspective of stifling, repressive social conventions, he looks at the thing logically. But Charlotte, who represents those social conventions completely, thinks it inappropriate because then the two ladies would have some obligation to the two men.  That’s the sort of ludicrous rule that governed society for most of the 19th and the start of the 20th century–in high society at any rate.

The Emersons and the two ladies continue to be thrown together, and Lucy is thrust into several situations where she is forced to examine the de facto logic of life that she has learned from society, and is forced to look at the reality of life. She sees a man stabbed in the street. She is kissed in a field of violets. Charlotte, sensing something inappropriate developing, hastens her out of Florence and off to finish her tour. A girl was meant to learn painting and art from the Italians, but not their violence or their passion.

Later on, back in England, Lucy is engaged to the biggest fop that ever fopped. His name is Cecil, I mean really.  He believes and engages in the social conventions of the age. He follows propriety perfectly, and is scandalized by those who don’t.  He is pretty much intolerable.  Lucy, meanwhile, finds the people she met in Florence are continuing to interfere in her life. The Emersons end up in the same town, and Lucy is confronted with George Emerson repeatedly, though she wishes she might be free of him.

A Room with a View is really about all of society breaking free from the crushing constraints of Victorian society, but it is so perfectly wrapped up in the story of this one girl choosing a-to examine the world, b-to make up her own mind, and c-to choose what she likes regardless of social conventions.  Forster manages to make all of his characters simultaneously slightly ludicrous and very likeable. Their foibles are on display, but they are also treated with affection in the text.  I was reminded of Austen, and the way she treats characters like Mr. Bennett. I really enjoyed the book as entertainment, but it was also thought-provoking. Don’t we engage in the same struggles now? We (especially women) have to decide if we’re going to pretend really hard to be someone we’re not.  Am I going to spend an hour drying and curling my hair today? Am I going to get laser treatments to remove all the hair on my body? Am I going to whiten my teeth or get my tummy tucked? And am I going to pretend it’s all natural, and say I just drink a lot of water and love eating Kale? We can devote a lot of energy to that facade. It’s a harder choice to go the other way. To spend time on being worthwhile, whether that means being a caregiver, a scholar, a writer, a musician…whatever. The world rewards you more and more quickly for the superficial. It takes strength and a bit of ego to proceed to work on our depth. In that way, life hasn’t much changed. There are still people out there that say ‘don’t marry X, he doesn’t have a college degree’. There are still people who think the best women can do is marry before everything starts to sag, and the best men can do is make enough money so that you can get a young wife. It’s harder to walk away from all of those social conventions and live a life that’s genuine, and do what you actually think is important. Different century, different rules, same struggle.

Another great thing about this book is the movie! It came out in 1985 (nearly 30 years ago!) and has an amazing cast.  Helena Bonham Carter, looking ludicrously young, plays Lucy:

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Also rather young in these pictures, though not exactly in their teens…Maggie Smith and Judy Dench as Charlotte Bartlett and Miss Lavish. I forgot to mention Miss Lavish above. She’s not in much of the book, but her character is really important. She’s a radical, a woman intellectual, a writer.  But!  Despite these things, she is still as insipid and disingenuous as those who follow blindly in the wake of propriety. She does have courage, but she doesn’t demonstrate any kind of value or wisdom as a person. It’s a big distinction Forster is making between those who complain about the world to seem intelligent, and those who act according to their morality, regardless of how they may be perceived.

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And Daniel Day Lewis as Cecil Vyse, foppiest fop that ever fopped. Since he’s a method actor, I assume he acted like an intolerable ass for the entirety of filming.

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The Edwardian era was not kind to men or women in terms of fashion. How much starch did they put into those weird paper collars? Yikes. No wonder they were so ready to go for the roaring ’20s.

I think I’ve had enough of the Edwardian era for a bit.  Back to the indecent, thoroughly scandalous middle ages with me! But I do recommend the book and the movie!

 

the Muppets: Most Wanted

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What’s better than a Muppet movie? A Muppet movie I can discuss on my blog! And I finally have one!

First, I must say that I loved the Muppets movie that came out in 2011. Loved it!  Growing up, I was more of a Sesame Street girl–Oscar the Grouch, most specifically.  He was the misanthropic dumpster-dwelling inspiration for my misanthropic apartment-dwelling personality now. I didn’t see a lot of the classic Muppet movies that came out in the ’80s.  But I loved the 2011 Muppets movie.  And I was so excited about this sequel. I must have watched this trailer 20 times over the last 3 months, waiting for this movie:

So, naturally, I went to see the movie the first day it was out. I don’t think there was any chance it could have met my incredibly high expectations, but it came close!

The plot (as the trailer shows better than I can describe) revolves around mistaken identity.  Constantine, the world’s most dangerous criminal/frog, looks just like Kermit with a mole!  Obviously, as would happen in normal life, Constantine breaks out of the Siberian gulag where he was imprisoned, blows up several things, and trades places with Kermit.  Kermit is off to the gulag, under the supervision of guard Tina Fey,

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Meanwhile, Constantine puts some green makeup on to cover his mole, and leads the rest of the Muppets gang on a world tour–spearheaded by tour manager Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais).  It’s pronounced Badgeee. It’s French.

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Shockingly, Dominic Badguy turns out to be a bad guy! He’s in cahoots with Constantine. You can tell they are in cahoots because they wear smoking jackets and look over old maps and whatnot.

Legitimately the funniest thing I’ve seen in months is Constantine trying to change his Russian bad-guy accent into the familiar, soothing Kermit voice we know and love. Also his attempts to get the names of the Muppets correct.

I think it’s pretty exceptional that with the same small puppet, the puppeteers can provide a totally different character, just based on the facial expressions he makes. Particularly when you think that the complicated facial expressions are made with someone’s hand!

The New Yorker complied the ‘Seven Fundamentals of Great Muppet Cinema’, and this movie does have all 7.

I must say, it’s not better than The Muppets. It is good in its own right, but not as good.  I mean, ’80s Robot barely gets any screen time at all–what the hell?! And Miss Piggy, who in the previous movie was a badass Editor-in-Chief at French Vogue, spends the entire money begging Kermit to marry her.  Piggy has always been an interesting figure, simultaneously very feminine, but also very tough.  She’s one of the only female characters in the Muppets, and I wish they gave her more depth in this movie.  The fact that she identifies the correct Kermit at the end, solely by watching him hem and haw over the idea of marrying her, is kind of a sad cliche. I feel like she should move on at this point, I mean it’s been decades and Kermit is still not willing to commit.  On the other hand, I don’t ever want to get married, so perhaps my advice is not particularly sound in this arena.

I did notice one very interesting and mostly pathetic thing about the marketing for the movie.  The UK trailer (above) shows Sam the Eagle (symbol of all things patriotic and ‘Merican) and Ty Burrell (playing a French Interpol agent) comparing badge size, because that is probably legitimately something American officials would do.  In the UK trailer, it looks as if Burrell’s character has the biggest badge.  But in the US trailer, not so much:

We don’t want to see a movie where it looks like a French person might have something even slightly larger and more ostentatious than an American person might have! That’s so unpatriotic! You’re only a patriot if you don’t believe that any other country can be as good or better than the US at absolutely anything.  Otherwise, you’re a pinko commie bastard.  Obviously.

Hilariously, a lot of people are trying to relate this Muppets movie to the Putin v. rest of the world saga going on in Crimea and Ukraine right now.  That’s just silly, and probably just clickbait for journalists. Mother Jones did a good article on why it’s total rubbish. Some loons actually think that Constantine = Putin and Miss Piggy = Angela Merkel.  WTF?  Go put your tin foil hats back on and stay away from beloved children’s characters.

Good ol’ Freda

good ol' fredaBy the time I was born, the Beatles had been apart for over 10 years, and John Lennon had been dead for nearly 6 months. Based on that, I may have ended up one of those tragic teens who don’t really know who the Beatles are, and only recognize their songs from commercials.  Luckily, my mother kept me from that fate. She always played the oldies station at home, and particularly loved the Beatles and the Supremes.  She had me watch the Beatles movies (A Hard Day’s Night and Help! were the ones our video store carried).  I thought they were both truly hilarious, and I would rent them again and again and again from the Mr. Movies rental place near our house.  Really would have been smarter to buy them, but whatever. If you haven’t seen A Hard Day’s Night, you should.  It’s very funny, goofy, generally adorable.

By the time I was a teenager, the Beatles were my favorite band and my biggest crushes were Paul and John, not some guy from the football team.  I played my mom’s old Beatles records in the basement of our house.  I wished I had been born in the early 50s, so that I could go see the Beatles as a teenager, instead of the shitty concert choices that came to our city (Boyz II Men was the biggest group I ever saw there, but other choices were Amy Grant or Kenny G.  *sigh*).

When you like something that much, it feels like you’re part of it, even when you’re not.  If you’re obsessed with a sports team, you begin to refer to them as ‘us’ and ‘we’, as if you were in the locker room, center to the action.  If you’re a Harry Potter maniac, for a totally random and not at all autobiographical example, you begin to imagine how amazing it would be to have gone to Hogwarts yourself, to be a part of that world and that story.  But things like sports teams and bands are unattainable, especially once they become famous.  Hogwarts is also fairly unattainable for me, an apparent muggle.

But the Beatles, the most famous band of all time, had a young teenage girl for the secretary of their official fan club. She was not part of the action, she was not a WAG, but she got to see and meet and talk to them, work with them, joke with them, know them in ways that each of their fans would have killed to do.  Freda Kelly has never sought or accepted fame or acclaim because of her connection to the Beatles.  Which is part of why this documentary about Good ol’ Freda is so remarkable.  Freda talks about first going to see the Beatles at the Cavern Club, during their absolute beginning.  Back when they used to wear leather jackets and look a lot more rockabilly.

1961_cavernThis was before Ringo joined the group, even before Brian Epstein became involved.  Freda started to go see them every time they played, taking a long lunch from her job in a secretarial pool.  She would always sit/stand in the same area (2nd arch on the left), and she would stay to chat with the band afterward.

In the documentary, Freda mentions that someone else started the Beatles fan club, and she agreed to help out. But she doesn’t see why they really needed a fan club, because they weren’t very famous at the time.  The other girl got a boyfriend and wasn’t interested anymore. Freda took over, and when Brian Epstein signed the boys, he picked her to be their official secretary (in charge of the fan club, but also an assistant to Brian), and she quit her other job.  Freda talks about how her father was very angry at this decision, but she did it anyway.

I think this is very important to note–Freda admired the Beatles as people and as musicians, but she didn’t idolize them. She treated them like every other person, even once they became famous.  Anyone reading this who is famous, or might become famous, this is how you stay sane. Surround yourself with people who don’t give a shit if you’re famous.  Who will call you out on it when you’re being an asshole. Who won’t always give you what you want, just because you’re ‘important’.

The majority of Freda’s job seemed to revolve around answering fan mail.  When she first started out, she put her home address as the place to send mail.  Freda says she didn’t really think about it at the time, but suddenly there were hundreds and hundreds of fan letters arriving in bundles at her house. She and her father had to look through every single one to find their own mail, such as utilities bills that needed to be paid.  People would ask for crazy things.  Locks of hair, bits of clothing. One person sent a pillowcase, asked Ringo to sleep on it and then mail it back. And Freda made him do it!  I don’t think people were used to these kind of crazy demands, and how creepy some of them are.  I doubt anyone would send out Harry Styles’ hair nowadays, no matter how many times you wrote to ask.  But Freda had to answer every letter, and she did what she could to give each fan what they wanted.

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In the documentary, Freda talks about how naive she was at that time. Only 17 or just 18 when the Beatles started to take over the UK and gain real fame.  John apparently had to explain to her that Brian was gay.  Or as he apparently phrased it, ‘if you were on a deserted island with him, you’d be safe’.

If you’re wondering whether Freda dated any of the Beatles, she doesn’t answer that question.  She admits she had crushes on them all at one point or another.  Paul would give her a ride home and she’d quite fancy him, until John was in a good mood and made her laugh.  She declines to elaborate on whether she dated them, but her smile indicates that something went on with at least one of them.  But she also talked about how innocent she was at the time, so if you’re imagining a sweaty orgy or something, I don’t think that went wrong.  If she didn’t at least kiss Paul, though, she wasted her youth (in my opinion).

Freda makes it plain that Ringo was sweet, Paul was kind, and George was pensive and had the most depth.  Her discussion of John is, I think, the most interesting. She says nothing really against him, but there is a hesitation in her voice that shows that she didn’t entirely trust him.  He could ‘be quite grumpy’ as she says, but could also be funny and sweet.  Brian Epstein apparently had a very bad temper, and John once saved Freda from being yelled at by him.  On the other hand, she talks about having to watch John date women, friends of hers, while he was married to Cynthia.

I’ve loved the Beatles since I was quite young.  But as I have grown up and I stop to think about them in a more thoughtful way, I have slowly realized that John Lennon was a real asshole.  He has admitted that he used to be abusive, dealing with pain of his own by starting fights with men and by hitting women. He obviously cheated on his first wife, and more or less ignored his son Julian.  When you consider the fact that Paul wrote Hey Jude for Julian, you start to wonder why it wasn’t John writing songs for his son.  John once almost beat a man to death for joking about a gay affair between John and Brian Epstein.

Of course, later, he seemed to show some regret. He certainly treated Yoko and Sean better than he treated Cynthia or Julian.  He even wrote a great song about Sean’s birth–which was probably pretty shitty for Julian to hear. Given more time, maybe he could have made amends.

I suspect he was one of those magnetic personalities that make you feel caught up in something wonderful, only to crush your soul the next time you see them.  In my experience (taken entirely from TV/movies), relationships with those sorts of people should be avoided if possible.

When Freda talks about him, she never says anything bad, but you can sense a hesitation in her voice, in her words, that lets you know that she can’t talk freely and positively about him as she can about Paul or George or ‘Richie’, as she calls Ringo.

But she won’t say anything bad about him, or about any of them.  Her loyalty, even decades later, is really impressive.  Again, to future or current celebrities, you need people like this in your life.  People who don’t treat you like you’re special, but also don’t talk about you to the ‘media’.  Freda could have had a book deal and made a ton of money, especially if she chose (as some authors have) to focus on the outlandish stories and drug-induced craziness that the Beatles engaged in.  But I would rather watch this documentary than read a tell-all book any day, because she did know them as human beings, and she is telling her story, not their story.  She is telling us all what it is like to be adjacent to something incredibly important, and how it shaped and changed her.  I really recommend this documentary (streaming on Netflix) to anyone who likes the Beatles even a little, or anyone who has ever dreamed of being involved in something unattainable, because you do get a bit of vicarious excitement from hearing her talk about her ordinary life with the Beatles.

Burke and Hare

Burke and HareThis movie is based on a true story. Let me say that now. In 1828, two Irish men, living in Edinburgh, began to kill people so that they could sell the bodies to the medical schools that were flourishing in Scotland at the time. Autopsies were spectator events, and the medical men needed bodies to carry on with their work.

That being said, this is not an action movie, or a scary movie. It’s a comedy.  With Simon Pegg (who I love), and Andy Serkis as Burke and Hare. And there are other actors that I love, including Bill Bailey as the hangman, Jessica Hynes (Daisy!) as Hare’s lady, Michael Smiley (Tyres!), and Tim Curry, looking gleeful after sawing off a man’s leg:

burke_and_hare_movie_image_tim_curry_joblo_branded_01The doctors doing anatomy lectures were willing to pay 5 pounds for each body, because it was difficult to find people who would willingly give over their relatives.  Burke and Hare have a tenant who dies, and they stumble upon the truth that they can get paid for his body.  After that, they slide pretty easily into the act of murder in order to sell the bodies.  At first, it is only old people, friendless and without family, but they venture beyond that group when they need to.  Hare uses his share of the money to dress himself and his lady in the finest frocks.  Burke falls in love with an ex-prostitute, played by Isla Fisher, and uses his share to fund her all-female production of Macbeth.

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Boys can be very dumb sometimes.

Most of the movie is taken up with the boys luring their victims into darkened corners, or physically struggling to transport them up and down the Edinburgh hills.

Edinburgh is, probably, my 3rd favorite city in the world, and I find it especially delightful that very little had to be altered to make this movie (set in the 1830s) possible. The old town area looks mostly the same now as it did in the 1830s. The ‘new town’ area is from the 18th century.  The ‘new town’ part of Edinburgh is older than my entire country, just for some perspective. 

Everyone in this movie has great comedy chops.  I think someone other than me might find this movie hilarious.  But I couldn’t get past the fact that this was a true story about serial murder. 

I had a similar reaction to Dr. Strangelove when I saw it.  When these black comedies are about something so foul and catastrophic, I just can’t find them funny. I take life too seriously.

The movie mentions that Burke and Hare murdered an old woman, a fat man, a freed slave…a total of at least 16 murders. For pretty clothes and the affection of an ex-prostitute? A freed slave, who must have thought he’d lived through enough hell for several lifetimes, is killed in Edinburgh for 10 pounds, and then dissected in front of an upper-class audience.  I just can’t find it funny. Especially since it is a true story. Although, in reading about the true story, I see that Sir Walter Scott thought they were an alright duo: they “have cleard the streets of some of those miserable offcasts of society, whom nobody missd because nobody wishd to see them again”.  Oh Sir Walter Scott…why is there a landmark devoted to you? You seem awful. And I couldn’t even make it through the first 100 pages of Ivanhoe, so you’re really not that great. In other news that I never wanted to know, I’ve just seen that Burke, after he was hanged, was dissected in a sold-out autopsy ‘performance’. They used his blood to fill a fountain pen and write out some lines. They made a ‘leather’ calling card case from his skin.  Ew.  Also, if you’re a macabre sort of person, they have masks made from Burke and Hare’s heads in the Anatomy Museum at the U of Edinburgh. Maybe I’ll stop by next time…but I won’t be watching this movie again. 

“I Give It a Year” with Rose Byrne and Rafe Spall

i-give-it-a-yearNetflix, knowing me so well, has created a tab of British movies. I came across this one last night and, honestly, I had never heard of this movie. Was this released in the US? Google tells me it was released here last August, but I have no memory of a single commercial for it.  Anyway, I decided to watch it because a-it’s British, b-it’s set in London, c-Stephen Merchant is in it.

There are actually a lot of great actors in it: Rose Byrne (Bridesmaids) and Rafe Spall (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) play the newlyweds, Nan and Josh. i-give-it-a-year-movie-poster-11

They’ve only been dating for a few months when they get engaged, and then married. We don’t even really see them before their marriage, the movie starts with a sort of ‘first moments’ montage, and then the wedding is just finishing when we are really brought into the action.

Minnie Driver (who I love) plays that friend (who hates her husband as often as she loves him) that says ‘I give it a year’.

The action switches back and forth from the first moments of their marriage (disasters aplenty–the minister comes down with a hideous cough just as he is about to announce them man and wife, and Stephen Merchant gives one of the most horrific best man speeches in human history) to many months later, when they are beginning couples therapy with the worst therapist in the world (Olivia Colman).

There are little quibbles they have with each other. Josh is too lazy to take out the trash, so he ‘compacts’ it, so that he can wait a few more days without taking it out. Nan persistently sings incorrect lyrics to songs (We built this city on the wrong damn road, I travel the world in generic jeans, etc.)

Throughout that first year of marriage, the couple is orbited by two alternate choices. Chloe, played by Anna Faris in a bad wig, and Guy, played by Simon Baker:

I-Give-It-a-Year-Simon-Baker-and-Anna-FarisCan I just ask who came up with the names for these people? Josh and Chloe are normal enough, I suppose. But Nan and Guy? Sounds like they belong in a ’50s musical about an upcoming sock hop. But I digress.

Chloe is Josh’s ex, a relentless do-gooder with almost no other personality traits that I can remember. Guy is a business mogul who immediately develops a crush on Nan. This crush is fostered by the fact that Nan hides her wedding ring when she’s working with him.

Both Josh and Nan slip from focusing on their marriage and both come very close to an affair. But the couple are determined to make it through the first year of marriage, because someone told them that ‘if you can make it through the first year, you can make it through anything’. Josh doesn’t correct Nan when she sings the wrong lyrics, and he takes out the trash when he should.

And they do, they make it to the exact anniversary of their wedding.

And then, that very night, they split up. They are so glad to be rid of this marriage that they’re almost ecstatic to get a divorce. They both run off to find their other, better matches. And these two separate new couples ride off into the proverbial sunset.

And here’s my big problem with this movie.  It’s not that it’s a bad movie, or even particularly inaccurate about the trials and tribulations of living with one person as your partner in life.  My boyfriend bites his fingernails, and it drives me completely insane. He is also guilty of the trash smushing maneuver. He’s kind enough not to point out my annoying habits, but I’m certain there are many–like me constantly asking him not to bite his fingernails, I would guess…

This movie tries to show how marriage does not always end in ‘happily ever after’. It shows you what happens after the fairy tale wedding, when reality hits.  Okay, good, I’m in favor of that.  But, in the end, when Josh and Nan break up and immediately form relationships with other people, the implication is that if you do match up with the right person, then ‘happily ever after’ is almost guaranteed. Every relationship in real life is more like Nan and Josh’s than the fairytale relationships Nan and Guy or Josh and Chloe will have.  It really irritated me to end the movie with just a simple swap and everything is fine. They haven’t learned anything, except that they’re not right for each other?  And Chloe and Guy are pretty lacking in personality. They just wait for the other two to come around and want to be with them. And then, easy peasy, they do a swap and everyone is happy and everything will be perfect from now on.

In the end, the good acting almost saved this movie for me, but since the very end was the most disappointing, it left a bad taste in my mouth.  I wish I’d liked it more, because I like everyone in it. All the hype about it being from the same producers who made Notting Hill and Love Actually...it is nothing like those movies.

Also, I found this very strange French poster for it, i-give-it-a-year-1where the translated title is English Marriage.  Apparently the French have different problems in the first year of marriage?  Maybe there was no similar idiom in the French, and they don’t cynically predict a couple’s demise while still celebrating their creation. But if I was going to predict which country is not cynical enough for something, the French would not be my choice. And why is only one of the umbrellas the Union Jack? So many questions for whomever changes DVD posters for foreign releases..

Starter for Ten

Starter-For-Ten-1-D25UKS4LJM-1024x768This movie was recommended to me months ago, and I just got around to seeing it.  I could not believe the amount of recognizable British actors that are in this one movie.  James McAvoy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Rebecca Hall, Alice Eve, Mark Gatiss, James Corden, Dominic Cooper, Catherine Tate, Guy Henry, the list goes on.  Well, no, that’s about it, but it’s a pretty long list!

The movie is about James McAvoy, a working-class Essex boy obsessed with gaining knowledge, knowing the answers.  I can relate to that. Not the Essex boy part, the knowledge part.  He is accepted to university at Bristol to ‘read’ English literature.

He is leaving behind his 2 non-intellectual friends, played by James Corden and Dominic Cooper.

dominic cooperCooper is doing his best impression of Ralph Macchio in this movie. Or, if Ralph Macchio was a T bird:

Brian (McAvoy) has barely arrived in Bristol before he spots a poster for tryouts for the ‘University Challenge’ team. I think I remember watching a few episodes of University Challenge when I was in London.  I didn’t have a TV, so I was limited to whatever the BBC iplayer was willing to show me.  QI and University Challenge are about the only British TV I managed to see while I lived there.  Ironic.  But I digress…

If you don’t know University Challenge, it’s exactly what you would expect. Teams from a specific college go and compete in a sort of academic decathlon. Apparently it used to be hosted by someone named Bamber Gascoigne.  If that’s not a name from Middle Earth, I don’t know what is. Anyway, this movie takes place in the ’80s, when Bamber was the host. Mark Gatiss, almost unrecognizable, plays Bamber.

Brian immediately wants to audition for the team. He used to watch the show with his (now deceased) dad, who always encouraged his thirst for knowledge.

But Brian wanders off his course really quickly.  As soon as he sees Alice (played by Alice Eve) at the audition, he is smitten to the point of being pathetic.  He helps her cheat, and then she ends up on the team instead of him, because of the 2 answers he gives her.  Why are men so dumb? Luckily, the Pete Best of the team ends up injured or sick or something, and is never seen again. Brian, as first reserve, is now on the team:

starterforten1

The leader of the team is Patrick Watts (Cumberbatch) and oh my god he is annoying and so unattractive. It doesn’t help that it’s the ’80s and all the men have hideous outfits (except Dominic Cooper, because he looks like he’s in the ’50s).  No one looks good in high-waisted acid wash jordache jeans, okay? It was just a terrible time to be a human being. He wears awful sweaters and awful pants, and slicks his hair off to the side and it’s just all bad.  Worse, he’s got a really intolerable personality!

Brian falls for Alice pretty quickly, but he also meets Rebecca, played by Rebecca Hall–why do all the women in this movie have characters with the same first name? Anyway, Rebecca Hall is clearly doing her best Molly Ringwald impression.

imagesAnd she does look and act a lot like Molly Ringwald…or maybe I am just associating the two because it takes place in the ’80s, but I think if Andie Walsh had gone off to university, she probably would have been protesting nuclear power or nuclear weapons or sexual harassment, etc., etc.  That’s what Rebecca Hall’s character does.  Brian makes a joke that ‘the lady doth protest too much’.  It’s funny if you’re very familiar with Hamlet…

The movie is a bit predictable, and I did find myself relating all of it to a John Hughes movie.  By the way, if anyone reading this is not familiar with the John Hughes oeuvre, go, now.  Watch at least The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Uncle Buck, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. You’re an incomplete human person if you don’t know these movies.  Go on, get out.

Starter for 10 falls into that predictable trope of someone falls in love with the wrong person, and finally realizes at the very end that they really belong with the person that was next to them the whole time.  A bit tired, and, quite frankly, not done quite as well as John Hughes could do it.

But it was still an interesting movie, and an excellent place to spot people who are much more famous now than when they made this movie.  So I enjoyed watching it, even if it was a bit overly-simplified. If you’re not sold, you should look at this picture:

starterforten2

So many questions must be occurring to you…  Is that really Mark Gatiss???  Why has Benedict Cumberbatch been punched in the face? Did James McAvoy have a nosebleed? No, but seriously, what is up with Mark Gatiss and that wig? For all these answers, and more, just watch the movie.

Still not sold?? The movie features an amazing selection of ’80s music, including Kate Bush, the Cure, the Psychedelic Furs, Buzzcocks, Motörhead, The Smiths, Tears for Fears…come on.  What more do you need than early Morrissey?!