The First Time

First TimeThe very sweet teen romance written and directed by Jon Kasdan (son of filmmaker Lawrence Kasdan) is disarmingly honest, with characters that feel so real there isn’t the hint of artifice.  Centered around two teens who meet by accident, become friends, and each decide to give up their virginity to the other, this film will leave you with a warm, gooey feeling that makes it a worthwhile viewing experience.

Aubrey Miller (Britt Robertson) is a junior in high school.  Leaving a party, she sees Dave Hodgman (Dylan O’Brien), a senior at a different high school, rehearsing a declaration of love for his longtime friend, Jane (Victoria Justice).  In spite of herself, she coaches him on how to do it right, explaining several times that she has a boyfriend and that she hates public displays of affection.  When the party gets busted, he walks Aubrey home and they talk about themselves and what they want to do with their lives.  At the door, she invites him inside and he is blown away by the collages that fill her bedroom.  They have some wine and end up falling alseep on the floor curled up together.

The next morning, they are awakened by a knock on her door.  Panicked, Dave spills a wine glass on his way out the window.  Her parents (Joshua Malina and Christine Taylor) lecture her about drinking, but Aubrey convinces them that its better for her to be drinking at home than at a party or driving.  Through friends, Dave is able to get her home phone number and calls her up, wanting to see her again.  She tells him that she’s going to see a movie with her boyfriend, Ronny (James Frecheville), an older guy who is rather obnoxious.  After the movie, one of their friends invites them to a party at her parents’ house and they all go.

During the party, Ronny tells Dave that he is going to have sex with Aubrey later that night and Dave is depressed that her first time should be with such a putz.  He gets some time alone with Jane, but finds that he is no longer interested in her.  Driving around on his own, he gets a call from Aubrey, who has broken up with Ronnie.  He picks her up and they each reveal that they have feelings for the other.  At her door, they kiss passionately.  The next morning, they go out with his little sister, Stella (Maggie Elizabeth Jones), who approves of their relationship.

Aubrey finds out that her parents will be out for the evening, so she invites Dave over.  Although they are passionate at first, when Aubrey gets a condom for him, everything slows down and they both become extremely nervous about having sex for the first time, which leads to an unfortunate experience.  Afterwards, they are both depressed and when he leaves, she tells him that she will call, but they both have the feeling that it is over.  Each waiting for the other call, they obsess about their feelings for each other.

Eventually, as she prepares to leave for school, Dave shows up.  Once again, he’s been rehearsing what he wants to say to her, but it comes out simply: he likes talking to her and he wants to keep talking to her and maybe they can figure out what happens next along the way.  She asks him for a ride to school and they talk about maybe doing everything better in the future.  In spite of her hatred of public displays of emotion, she says to hell with it and kisses him passionately outside her school.

There are several reasons why the movie is successful.

One of them is Kasdan’s script, which is so incredibly simple that it really tugs at the viewer’s heart.  Many script writers of teen romances try to complicate the story by throwing in all kinds of unnecessary complications, but Kasdan relies on being a teenager as all the complication required and it works amazingly well.  His direction is also simple, very clean, with lots of long two-shots where the actors are allowed to carry the story without any gimmicks.

The other reason for the movie’s success is the performance of its two leads.  Dylan O’Brien gives us a character who is incredibly innocent, who wants so much to be in love that he targets his best friend, without realizing how different they are.  Britt Robertson creates a character in Aubrey who sees the world through cynical eyes, but ultimately wants nothing more than to be with someone who cares about her.  They are both rock-solid performances, completely believable, and ultimately very likeable, creating terrific chemistry together.

This film is short, simple, very well-made, and very heartfelt, with just enough comedy to offset the deeper emotions that it evokes.

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To Catch A Thief

To Catch a Thief 01This is Alfred Hitchcock’s most visually beautiful movie.  Filmed on the French Riviera, the gorgeous hills, dotted with old mansions overlooking the Mediterranean Sea vie with the stark beauty of Grace Kelly and chiseled features of Cary Grant to provide enough eye candy to last a lifetime.  The following review contains plot spoilers.

The story is simply an excuse for the beauty.  American ex-patriot John Robie (Cary Grant) is a former jewel thief who was known as “the Cat” before World War II.  He paid his dues by fighting in the French Resistance, killing over 70 Nazis proving his loyalty to France.  After the war, he put aside his thieving ways and lives respectably and very well, thank you, in a villa on a ridge overlooking the Mediterranean.  This idyllic life is disturbed when a copycat burglar begins stealing the most expensive jewels on the Riviera.  When the Police come calling, thinking he has renewed his life of crime, he evades them in a breathtaking car chase through some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.  Turning his car over to a woman on the street, he hops a bus and sits next to Alfred Hitchcock.

He goes to see his old friend from the Resistance, Monsieur Bertani (Charles Vanel), who runs a restaurant that is manned by head waiter Foussard (Jean Martinelli) and more of their old Resistance buddies, who are all suspicious that the Police are right about Robie.  Bertani helps him escape with the aid of Foussard’s daughter, teenager Danielle (Brigitte Auber) who has a crush on him.  She takes him across the water to the Hotel Carlton, where beautiful American tourist Frances Stevens (Grace Kelly) sees him.  He makes contact with a British insurance company representative, H. H. Hughson (John Williams), and pleads his case, that he is innocent and only wants to catch the thief to clear his name.  Caught by the Police, Robie is released due a lack of evidence and convinces Hughson to give him the names of his clients who have the most expensive jewels waiting to be stolen.  Abashed at having already had to pay out huge sums, Hughson agrees, also sharing the list with the Police to hedge his bets.

To Catch a Thief 02He begins by meeting rich American tourist Jessie Stevens (Jessie Royce Landis), mother of Frances, and posing as a rich Oregon timber man.  After a stimulating evening, he escorts the two ladies back to their rooms, but before he can depart, Frances gives him a passionate kiss and arranges to meet him the next day.  While swimming, he runs into Danielle and Frances becomes jealous.  She and Robie take a drive to look at villas and are followed by the Police.  When he asks her to drive a little faster, she speeds up considerably, taking a kind of devilish delight in tempting fate.  They safely evade the Police and find a nice spot overlooking the sparkling waters of the Mediterranean and she tells him that she’s figured out that he’s actually John Robie.  He denies it, but after lunch the end up kissing again.  She tells him to meet her in her room to watch the fireworks or she will reveal who he really is.

That night, she seduces him again, proposing that they go into business together as burglars.  He continues the façade of being a tourist, but when she goes to sleep, he keeps watch in her bedroom.  During the night, however, the burglar robs Jessie of all her expensive jewels and finally Robie reveals himself to them.  Frances calls the Police on him and he departs over the rooftops as they arrive to search for him.

Hiding out, he stakes out what he thinks is the next target, alerting Hughson and putting the Police on notice.  As he waits in the dark, he is attacked by a man dressed in black.  Struggling, he throws the man over the cliff.  The Police find the body of Foussard in the Sea and announce that he was the burglar, clearing Robie of charges.

At her father’s funeral, Danielle becomes distraught and calls Robie a murder.  Chagrined, Frances again hooks up with Robie and he tells her of his plans to capture the real burglar by attending a fancy costume ball.  The Police follow and also stake out the ball, which Bertani is catering, with Danielle’s help.  After changing disguises with Hughson, Robie waits on the roof for the burglar to show up, but when he does, it turns out to be Danielle.

To Catch a Thief 03On Robie’s hillside villa, Frances kisses Robie again, remarking that her mother is going to love the house.

From beginning to end, the cinematography is stunning, so much so that the film won Robert Burks, Hitchcock’s longtime associate an Academy Award.  Although nominated for her incredible costuming, especially of Grace Kelly, Edith Head did not win.

This film has a different feel than most of Hitchcock’s work.  Although it contains a lot of humor, the film is not a comedy.  There is certainly some mystery as to who the real burglar is, but the film lacks the tension and suspense that mark most of Hitchcock’s movies.  In truth, this is a feel-good romance, concentrating, as it does, so intensely on beauty.  This was the last film he made with Grace Kelly before she married Prince Ranier of Monaco and gave up acting and it is appropriate that she shows so well.  Stunning in an array of dazzling Edith Head costumes, the three gowns she wears are all breathtaking.

It moves at a really good clip, coming in at under two hours, and you never notice the time passing because there is always so much beauty for your eye.  It is a fun movie, something you can’t really say about too many Hitchcock films and it transports you to a time and place full of such charm that it can honestly be said to elevate one beyond the every day.

A stunning film!  I highly recommend this movie for all audiences.

French Kiss

 

Sometimes the charm of two charismatic actors with great chemistry, combined with a smart, talented director, can make even the most banal of screenplays work to perfection. Such is the case with Lawrence Kasdan’s 1995 romantic comedy, French Kiss.

Kate (Meg Ryan) is a history teacher whose fear of flying goes far beyond what most of us would think of as terror, but she has a serious problem that involves flight. An American history teacher, she is engaged to Canadian Charlie (Timothy Hutton), residing in Toronto on a Resident Visa and waiting until her Canadian citizenship comes through before they get married.  Charlie is a doctor who is about to fly to Paris for a medical convention and he begs her to come with him, even though she isn’t supposed to leave the country because of citizenship issues, but the point is moot because Kate just can’t board a plane.  When a great house becomes available, they go to look at it.  Charlie fears it will be too expensive for them, but Kate reveals that she has a considerable savings that she hadn’t told him about yet.

A few days later, Charlie calls her in a drunken stupor and reveals that he has fallen in love with a French girl, Juliette (Susan Anbeh) and won’t be coming home. In spite of her fears, Kate decides to board an Air Canada flight and go to Paris to get him back.  The guy sitting next to her, Luc Teyssier (Kevin Kline) is a French thief who is illegally smuggling a small American grape vine back into France in order to create a new hybrid wine.  However, tucked into the cheesecloth padding the root ball is a stolen diamond necklace.  Luc begins an argument with Kate to distract her from her fear of flying, plying her with little bottles of liquor he has stolen from the flight attendants’ cart.  He hides his vine in her travel bag so he can successfully smuggle it back into France.  At customs, he meets his old friend Inspector Jean-Paul Cardon (Jean Reno), whose life he once saved.  Returning from a vacation, Jean-Paul gives him a ride with his family so he can inspect Luc’s bags to make sure he isn’t smuggling anything.

Kate goes to Charlie’s hotel to find him, but a smarmy desk clerk won’t reveal his room number to her. Another petty thief, Bob (François Cluzet), tries to hustle her as she sits on a sofa in the lobby waiting for Charlie to come down.  When she sees him kissing Juliette, she passes out and Bob steals her bag.  Luc arrives, passing Bob at the door, to discover Kate passed out on the floor.  He revives her and when he realizes that Bob has her bag, he takes her, steals a car, and drives to Bob’s apartment where they find he has already disposed of everything but her bag and the vine.  Thinking he has now recovered the necklace, they leave, but have an argument on the street and separate.  Kate goes to the American Embassy to get a duplicate passport, but they stonewall her because she is a permanent Canadian resident.  At the Canadian Embassy, they won’t give her a duplicate Resident Visa because she was once arrested for possession of pot.  Alone, penniless on the street, she reluctantly returns to Charlie’s hotel.  In the interim, Luc has searched the root ball of his vine and finds the necklace is gone, so he goes back to Bob who proclaims that he didn’t take the necklace, that it must still be in Kate’s bag.

When Kate makes a scene at the hotel, the desk clerk tells her that Charlie and Juliette have gone to the south of France where they intend to get married, so she sets off for the train station. Bob arrives at the hotel to fleece more guests, but is arrested by Jean-Paul who is interrogating him trying to find a “big fish,” a more important criminal.  At that moment, Luc arrives and forces the clerk to tell him where Kate has gone.  Bob points out Luc to Jean-Paul and tells him that Luc has stolen a diamond necklace.  Jean-Paul now chases Luc to the train station where they lose him.

Aboard the train, Luc finds Kate and volunteers to help her get Charlie back, so he can buy time to inspect her bag. Over the next few days, both of their affections begin to turn toward each other as Luc tries to help her reunite with Charlie, even though he now loves her himself.  She reveals that she actually has the necklace and slowly gives in to her feelings for Luc.

Although the screenplay by Adam Brooks is certainly not a ground-breaking story, Kasdan does a marvelous job of telling it. The cinematography and editing are both terrific and they aid determined performances by Kevin Kline, who is almost always brilliant, and Meg Ryan, who, despite a few hammy scenes, is her usual charming self.  The two of them bring a lot of chemistry to the romance, which is essential in a romantic comedy and their performances take a simple story and make it memorable.  France has never looked so good on film, not just Paris, with both gaudiness and grit, but the countryside and vineyards of Luc’s birth really shine, not to mention the French Riviera.

It is a tight, fast moving film that engages the viewer constantly during the one hour and 51 minutes of length. Colorful, skillfully directed, with wonderful, engaging cast, this is one romantic comedy that should be on your shelf.  I highly recommend it!