Jan

21

Wes Anderson--director of Fantastic Mr. FoxAVATAR

Are you kidding? Who cares what I or anyone says? As a flick 12 years in the making, by the director of the budget-busting TITANIC, Jim Cameron made a $500 mm movie most everybody regards as must-see –-and you will see it even if we all unload a truckload of bovine manure over the darn 23rd century sci-fi thing.

It’s 3-D! It’s exactly what you and your darkness-loving chums hanker for on a holiday week with gravy and giblets still dense in your tummies. Heavy-duty futurism, slim animatronic females with substantial breastage! La la la. Be on the lookout for Cameron’s signature anti-American jabs, here in the form of American military stand-ins coming in for disrespect and unwarranted opprobrium.

IT’S COMPLICATED

Streep can read the Blimpy recipe guide to the dispossessed and you’d stick around for her to finish up. Steve Martin has that whole expectancy thing going, where you expect him to flop into the wild ‘n’ crazy guy. But he’s nerd central throughout, except where he slips up during one sequence and dances in his usual jackrabbit on speed wackiness. Alec Baldwin gamely bares more than this viewer cared to see, threatening to let some of us revisit our lunch. Last week’s lunch, to be more specific.

To be sure, there are funny bits and LOL sequences.

In the main, however, it’s a cynical and condescending bid for the Boomer bunch now heavily divorced, re-dating again, and impaled on the slippery scree of finding their footing anew among a dazzling array of electronics.

Meryl’s divorcee, however, is about as realistic as the current health monster in the House: She’s wildly popular, fantastically successful in her restaurant, money is no object (there’s a realistic note, huh?), close to her three adult kids, setting up to spend a bundle on a house addition to die for (though with all her kids out of the house and no mate underfoot, and a current kitchen gorgeous enough to hock both your liver and pancreas for—why? Why build a second house not onto but next to the first totally adequate and salivation-inducing first Calif-mansion?–and frantically attractive to her near-stalker ex, Alec, re-married to a rhymes-with-witch hottie of the statuesque school of no-way! As well as the near-perfect available man, her architect, Steve Martin’s understated swain: diffident, appreciative, longing for recommitment.

Sure: This is e-x-a-c-t-l-y the story of millions of 40-ish and 50-ish divorced women in California today, right? It’s Boomer envy. Like as not, there is possibly the plot point that people actually hunt for ‘easy viewing’—give the peeps the predictable pat answers. Be in other words predictable.

We found it too long by a half hour, indulgent, repetitive, annoying and unrealistic. OK, it’s supposed to be a fantasy? So what. It reads like a heartbreak-grad-school HEARTBURN (Nora Ephron’s more affecting, and more honest, dramedy of rocky marriage/successful divorce, starring the ever-steadfast Streep and the cheating Jack Nicholson in the naturalistic Mike Nichols episode of once-great marriage gone terribly Tiger Woods). Even the score evokes that earlier film. Scenes in COMPLICATED ring hollow and absurdly wrong, as when all three grownup offspring learn of the affair their divorced parents are having, and take to (one!) bed in childish retro petulance. Their mother owes them no apology or even explanation. Yet there it goes, as if she hadn’t learnt what being a liberated adult is all about. This is a small but irritating Dr. Spockian infusion into what one has the right to consider a modern story. It is not: It is Carrie and her girls, 15 years later, tossed salad with a few post-coital afterglows, and an anemic starter romance without evidence conducted with a near-catatonic Steve Martin.

FANTASTIC MR. FOX, story by the inimitable Roald Dahl, is Wes Anderson’s hilarious animated adaptation of the children’s fable of a wily fox outfoxing a local farmer with the able and arch amusing assistance of other barnyard creatures. Take the kids if you must—they’ll delight in its silliness, dazzling movement, color and animated imagination—but you will enjoy it far more than even they. A fun-filled delectable hour and a half for everyone.

PRECIOUS. It will probably sweep the awards shows. It has already swept up 29 noms, 3 Golden Globes, and numerous Best of the Year Top Tens. But this grim narrative of an overweight, illiterate Harlem teen unwillingly pregnant with her second child enrolled in an alternative school so her life might head in a better trajectory is tough and ugly slogging. It is probably one of the most under-lit films of the decade. But it offers a script that is scathing and blue with harrowing filth and invective against its protagonist, poor, obese Precious. Hailing from a novel by Sapphire, PUSH, this prize-capturing documentary-feel story is plain hard to sit through, despite staggering performances by the entire cast, especially stars Mo’Nique as a plug-awful jealous mother; Precious herself, played by newcomer Gabourey (Gabby) Sidibe; and tamped-down, de-glammed rock-star Mariah Carey, as a no-nonsense, sensitively played social worker; and luminous Paula Patton’s warmly beautiful guardian angel, Ms. Rain. Though you leave feeling virtuous for having eaten your broccoli-and-spinach of movies, it’s hardly going to send you out clicking your heels, Mr. Kelly.


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