Today we turn our microscope on a drunken romp through Cuba, a buddy cop movie with an Irish accent, and a film by a woman who as a director makes a great pop icon. And away WE go!!!!!!!!!
W./E. - Oh, Madge....
It is SO predictable to draw unflattering comparisons to a music video while reviewing Madonna's great foray into the world of directing period art pictures, but I'm going to indulge myself shamefully anyway. Be warned.
W./E. (Wallis & Edward) tells the story of the infamous love affair between King Edward of England and divorced American commoner Wallis Simpson and how he eventually abdicated the throne to marry her. It is told in parallel to the story of a modern woman obsessed with her. If the film sounds a bit derivative of Julie and Julia, you are overestimating it. It is incredibly derivative of Julie and Julia, embarrassingly so.
Of course, Julie and Julia had actual scenes with some degree of dramatic progression. While it does look as if there might have been some good acting in the original footage somewhere, the movie is edited in such a sporadic onslaught of quick cuts, montages, voice overs, and flashbacks that you never get a chance to really see it. At one point, I believed I could hear an actress being directed to stare straight at the camera for no apparent reason and vogue (I mean, mug) for all she was worth. In a music video, techniques like this are used to mask the fact that the musicians can't act. In a feature film it completely masks that the actors can.
Madonna is the ultimate talent when it comes to reinventing herself as a pop star, but this newest attempt to relaunch her professional life may be a bit misguided. Most does not always mean best in cinema. Even the Oscar nominated costumes had antlers at one point. I kept waiting for Kurt Loder to pop in with a news flash. I love to be pleasantly surprised, so I officially invite Madonna to come back and prove that she can fill that little fold up chair. W./E., however, was no one's Lucky Star. Available on DVD. 1 of 5*
The Rum Diary - This film is the long awaited adaptation of the Hunter S Thompson novel produced and campaigned for by Johnny Depp. In tone, it is much like Fear and Loathing, but a little less "trippy". Depp's performance as journalist Paul Kemp (long believed to have been written as sort of an "alter ego" for author Thompson) is also very similar to his Thompson imitation in the previous film. If you left "Fear" just craving for more of Depp playing this character, your thirst may finally be sated.
Myself, I think I'd had just enough already. It's not that Rum Diary is a bad film. It is watchable, fast-paced, and quite amusing in places. It just doesn't really go anywhere. Other than a very minor bit of soul searching on Kemp's part over the plight of the natives, it falls sort of thematically flat as well. If you are a Hunter S Thompson (or Johnny Depp) nut, then by all means you should see this movie. If not, its entertaining for a night when there's nothing better in the rental kiosk. 3 of 5*
The Guard - On the surface this seems very much like the standard black partner/white partner buddy cop movie popularized in American cinema in the 80's and 90's. Think Beverly Hills Cop with a lot of Irish accents. And it is a little bit derivative of those films, particularly the Lethal Weapon series. And yes, Don Cheadle's acting talents are a little wasted playing Danny Glover, Jr. However, this film does have a couple of things going for it that elevate it beyond mere redux.
The first is that, while writer/director Michael McDonagh's basic story premise has been done to death, his dialogue is quite witty in places, with subtle zingers you don't really catch immediately. This is especially true in his writing of Sgt. Gerry Boyle and the three bad guys who argue over philosophy constantly.
The other thing, the thing that really sticks with you, is Gleeson's performance as Boyle (the unconventional white buddy cop). This is a seasoned veteran delivering his best. Every punch line is perfect. Not only is Gleeson not winking at his audience, but Boyle (who knows how clever he is) isn't winking at his either. But Gleeson is not just effectively comedic. He creates a fully realized human being, rare in both comedy and action films. Cheadle's character Everett remarks of Boyle, "I can't tell if you are really smart or really stupid". He's both, and completely at ease with that fact, and it's brilliant. If only the concept of the film as a whole had been as much of an original. Available on DVD. 3 1/2 of 5*