Bridget Jones’s Diary

renee zellweger bridge jonesBased ever so loosely on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, this 2001 British romantic comedy directed by Sharon Maguire is full of hits and misses.  The hits are all punches thrown between the two men who seek Bridget’s attention and the misses are all those single women who wish they had a choice between Colin Firth and Hugh Grant.

Adapted by Helen Fielding, Andrew Davies, and Richard Curtis from Fielding’s popular novel of the same name, the movie tells the story of Bridget Jones (Renée Zellweger), a single woman in her early thirties looking for love. She works at a publishing house in London, under the direction of Daniel Cleaver (Grant), a real hottie that she’d like to get her hands on.  Over Christmas, her mother tries to set her up with former childhood neighbor Mark Darcy (Colin Firth). Get it? Darcy. Firth. Nudge nudge wink wink. Of course, he very aloof and disdainful and she dislikes him immediately.

Right from the beginning, you know it isn’t going to be anything like Pride and Prejudice. Bridget is drunk half the time, smokes constantly, burbling, bumbling, and making a fool out of herself every five minutes. NOT Lizzy Bennet.

Setting her sights on her boss, she begins wearing short skirts and see-through blouses and exchanging flirtatious emails with him. He, of course, responds. When they see Darcy at a party, Daniel tells Bridget that Darcy once stole his fiancée from him. Wickham, eh? They go away for a weekend and there’s that darned Darcy again. On the verge of meeting Bridget’s parents, Daniel abandons her, explaining that he has important work at the office. Not so. He’s actually having an affair with a woman from the New York branch of the publishing company and Bridget finds the woman at his flat.

She dumps him and there is Darcy, immediately interested.

Parts of the movie are quite funny, but most of the humor depends on Bridget’s putting herself in embarrassing situations, which she does over and over. Personally, I don’t care for that kind of humor, just as I don’t care for novels that depend on the stupidity of their protagonists to make a plot. It was hugely popular for a variety of reasons, but mostly for the sophomoric humor and the beautiful people. It didn’t win any major awards, although Zellweger was nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award. (It’s funny that British actors routinely play American roles without getting props for how expertly they handle the accent, yet when a Texan plays a Brit everyone makes a big fuss about it. Frankly, I didn’t find it as believable as everyone else. Kind of like Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie, there was something that just didn’t completely ring true.)

The supporting cast is wonderful. I loved Gemma Jones and Jim Broadbent as Bridget’s parents. Embeth Davidtz, Shirley Henderson, James Callis, and Lisa Barbuscia are all excellent and add to the fun.

There is one other carry-over from the great BBC Pride and Prejudice besides Colin Firth: the screenwriter for that masterpiece, Andrew Davies, collaborated on the script for Bridget Jones’s Diary.

At 98 minutes, it’s a funny, entertaining evening, without having to exercise the brain at all.

The First Annual Amy Adams Film Festival

When I finished the fifth draft of my novel Walk Against Time, I was suffering a bit of post-partum depression and decided to fill the void with Amy Adams movies, so I decided to create the First Annual Amy Adams Film Festival. Okay, it was a low-key affair, just me and a bowl of popcorn, but it was great fun.

I must confess right from the beginning that I love Amy Adams unconditionally.

There, it’s out in the open. A friend recently asked me what I love about Amy and I’ve got to confess that it’s pretty much the whole package.  Red hair, green eyes, a cute little pixie nose.  What’s not to love?  She’s not emaciated, but not overweight, either (okay, maybe just a tiny hint of baby fat).  Inside that perfect shell, there is a personality that just radiates optimism.  Don’t blame her, she can’t help it.  It’s how she is.  She’s like the Tom Hanks of female actors.  There’s just something that will never, ever give up on humanity and our potential.  Finally, you crinkle in a moderate dash of vulnerability that brings tears to my eyes.  Please, Amy, DON’T CRY!  I admit it freely.  I am besotted.

The film list below contains links to my reviews for each of the movies.  Just click on the name or photo to read the full review.

The First Annual Amy Adams Film Festival

Day 1

Leap Year

amy-adams-leap-yearAmy plays an Irish-American girl who travels to the auld country to propose to her sweetie on February 29th, when she believes he can’t refuse. Along the way, she meets an Irish pub owner that just might change her mind.  This is easily the worst of all the films in the festival.  It is a romantic comedy that is not entirely successful.  Read the review to find out why.  It’s a good film to begin the festival with because every movie will get better from now on.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

amy adams miss-pettigrewOne of Amy’s most adorable roles as nightclub singer Delysia Lafosse, a flibbertygibbet who is bouncing between three men. It takes a wonderful performance by Frances McDormand to help her realize her true love and find happiness.  A wonderful comedy!

American Hustle

amy_adams american hustleAmy does some real acting in this hilarious comedy about two con artists in the 1970’s who get into something over their heads. Christian Bale is unbelievably good in this movie and frankly he steals the show, but Amy is great, too.  In fact, everyone is good.

 

Enchanted

amy-adams encxhanted

This is an amazing Disney film containing both animation and live action with great music and some incredible songs. Yes, Amy sings again!  She is at her delightful best as Princess Giselle who is thrown out of her cartoon kingdom into downtown Manhattan by the evil queen Narissa, played by Susan Sarandon.  It’s joyful and funny and one of the best Amy Adams films ever.  A personal favorite.

 

Day 2

Sunshine Cleaning

amy adams emily blunt sunshine cleaningThis is kind of a dark comedy about two down and out Albuquerque sisters, played by Amy and Emily Blunt, who start a business cleaning up crime scenes. It is both funny and touching and features a great performance by Blunt.  Alan Arkin appears as their father.

 The Fighter

amy_adams the fighter

A great film on so many levels! Again, Christian Bale is over the top good and won a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his role as Dicky Eckland, the older brother of Amy’s love interest, Micky Ward, played by Mark Wahberg. Amy plays a smart bartender who helps Micky to escape his family’s bungling of his boxing career. She’s really good in this movie and creates a real regular girl-type character (except that she’s like totally gorgeous, as usual). This is a must-see movie!

 

Trouble with the Curve

Amy-Adams-in-Trouble-with-the-Curve-What more could one possibly ask than to have Clint Eastwood as Amy’s crusty old baseball scout father? She’s at her most vulnerable here in a movie that combines some subtle comedy with a deep hurt that she suffered in her childhood.  She and Clint are dynamite together and when you add in Justin Timberlake as her love interest, you have a wonderful, feel-good movie that just can’t be resisted.  Wonderful!

 

Julie and Julia

 

amy adams julie and juliaThe festival ends, appropriately enough, with Julie and Julia.  The first time I actually remember seeing Amy Adams in anything, it was this and I fell for her really hard as Julie Powell, a talented wannabe writer in a post 9/11 world who decides to cook her way through Julia Child’s legendary cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  Although they have no scenes together, Meryl Streep’s endearing performance as Julia Child is a perfect counterpoint to Amy’s vulnerable, lovable Julie.  This is a film that I can literally watch over and over and love more each time.  As a writer, two scenes touch me the most.  First, when Julia receives the first printed copy of her book, and second, when Julie gets a call that a publisher is interested in publishing her blog.  I’m still waiting for the magical moment in my own life, but these two women are wonderful in their own joy of publication.  LOVE—LOVE—LOVE this movie!

 

 

And so the festival ends. An empty bowl of popcorn.  A little wetness about my eyes.  And a hope that the Second Annual Amy Adams Film Festival will be just as enjoyable as the first.

I hope you all like my reviews, please feel free to subscribe to my web site to enjoy all of the reviews I write in the future.

Until then, as Julia Child would say, Bon Appetit

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Miss PettigrewLondon in 1939 was a hodgepodge of pre-war jitters. Depression era soup kitchens operated down the block from posh nightclubs for the rich and the middle class worked to scratch out a decent living.

Miss Guinevere Pettigrew (Frances McDormand), a middle-aged spinsterish daughter of a vicar gets fired from her job as a governess. Rushing up the street with her suitcase, she bumps into a man just getting out of prison, Michael Pardue (Lee Pace).  Frightened, she runs away, leaving her suitcase in the street.  Standing in a soup kitchen that night, she sees fashion mogul Edythe Dubarry (Shirley Henderson) kissing someone in an alley. When Edythe sees she’s being watched, she takes her lover and leaves.

The next morning, Miss Pettigrew goes to her employment agency, but they turn her away because she’s lost every job they sent her on. She steals the business card of American nightclub singer Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams) from her agent’s desk, hoping she can arrive first and steal the job. Delysia is in a state.  It’s nearly ten o’clock in the morning and she must get a producer’s son, Phil Goldman (Tom Payne) from her bed before her sugar daddy, Nick Calderelli (Mark Strong) arrives. She hopes that bedding Phil will get her the lead role in his new West End musical.  She’s using him, just as she’s using nightclub owner Nick for her wardrobe and apartment.

Jumping into action as Delysia’s new social secretary, Miss Pettigrew manages to gently evict Phil and stall Nick because Delysia must attend a fashionable lingerie show. At the show, Delysia introduces her to Edythe, who doesn’t recognize her right away.  She also meets lingerie designer Joe Blomfield (Ciarán Hinds) who has been engaged to Edythe.  Delysia and Edythe give Miss Pettigrew a complete make-over.  Recognizing her at last, Edythe blackmails Miss Pettigrew into smoothing things over with Joe, even though she had been unfaithful to him, threatening to reveal that she knows Guinevere is actually penniless.

When they get back to the apartment, Michael is there. It turns out that he is the pianist that accompanies Delysia in her nightclub act.  They are in love, but Delysia persists in using the other men to further his career.  Michael gives her one last chance.  He has tickets on a boat to America and is leaving the next morning.  He begs her to join him and take their act to Manhattan.

This is just the beginning of a rip-roaring comedy filled with delightful performances. Directed by Bharat Nalluri, the film was adapted by David Magee and Simon Beaufoy from the 1938 novel by treasured British novelist Winifred Watson.  Scandalous when it was first released, the movie is quite tame by today’s standards, but still very amusing.  Nalluri shows a very deft touch in the directing, mixing tracking shots with steady cam to create a beautiful and tight movie.  In addition, the music is truly special, capturing the feeling of the time perfectly.  The art direction is fantastic, using upscale art deco side by side with the bleak depression era streets.

Frances McDormand, is, as usual, brilliant. She remains one of our finest actresses and infuses Miss Pettigrew with both restrained priggishness and down-to-earth humanity.  In spite of her upbringing, she is open to the friendship that Delysia gives to her.  Amy Adams is wonderful as the flibbertygibbet Delysia and she bonds with McDormand very well.  They make an amazing comedy team and yet both display great emotion with a restrained script.  The two of them make the movie, but all of the male co-stars are also terrific.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is a truly entertaining movie that fans of McDormand and Adams will be proud to own. It can be watched over and over with a deepening level of enjoyment.  I highly recommend the film!

Silver Linings Playbook

“The world will break your heart ten ways to Sunday. That’s guaranteed. I can’t begin to explain that. Or the craziness inside myself and everyone else. But guess what? Sunday’s my favorite day again. I think of what everyone did for me, and I feel like a very lucky guy.”

Cooper and Lawrence Silver Linings PlaybookThis delightful comedy/drama was written and directed by David O. Russell, adapted from the book The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick.  Centered around two quirky people, both at a crossroads in their lives, the film presents bi-polar disorder as a condition that can be overcome.

Pat Solatano, Jr. (Bradley Cooper), a former high school teacher, is held in a Baltimore psychiatric hospital for an episode in which he beat another teacher after finding him in the shower with his wife Nikki (Brea Bee). After serving his court-ordered eight months, his mother Dolores (Jacki Weaver) gets him out.  In the parking lot, a fellow inmate, Danny (Chris Tucker) jumps in the car, announcing that he has been released, too, but Dolores gets a call from the hospital asking that Danny be returned.  Arguing with his mother, Pat grabs the steering wheel and almost gets them in an accident.

Returning home, Pat stops by the library to pick up all of the books in Nikki’s literature syllabus, intending to read all of the books. He is determined that their marriage can be saved, even though Nikki has moved and taken out a restraining order against him.  Pat’s father, Pat, Sr. (Robert De Niro) has recently lost his job and is supporting the family working as a bookie, although he intends to open a restaurant so that he can look legitimate.  Family and neighbors are all passionate Philiadelphia Eagles fans and Pat, Sr. is hopelessly superstitious about wearing the right jersey, putting his remote controls in certain positions, and rubbing a green handkerchief so that the can bring good luck, “juju” to the Eagles.  He also has a temper and is barred from actually attending Eagles games because of his violent behavior.  His friend, Randy (Paul Herman), is a Cowboys fan and tries to make money in bets off of Pat, Sr. by gaoding him into making foolish bets.

Pat stays up all night reading Ernest Hemmingway’s novel A Farewell to Arms and then blows up at 4 AM because it doesn’t have a happy ending.  He throws the book out the window and harangues his parents.  Pat believes that the key to overcoming his illness is to find a silver linings in his every day life.  He tries to live by the motto Excelsior (ever upwards) and shares this vision with his therapist, Dr. Cliff Patel (Anupam Kher), who replies that he must get a strategy to live with his illness.

His friend, Ronnie (John Ortiz), invites him to a Sunday dinner. Married to a beautiful girl, Veronica (Julia Stiles), and with a baby, Ronnie is a broker who is suffering anxiety from fluctuations in the market.  Veronica’s sister, Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), whose cop husband was recently killed, shows up at the dinner and she and Pat find that they can talk about their various medications.

Tiffany agrees to deliver a letter to Nikki if Pat will dance with her in a competition and he reluctantly agrees. They begin to rehearse, but the dance competition takes on a new meaning when Pat, Sr. and Randy make a parlay bet that the Eagles will beat the Cowboys and that Tiffany and Pat can score at least a 5 in the dance competition.

The story is completely engaging. Even though the film runs nearly two hours, every single moment is compelling and one doesn’t notice the time.  Cooper and Lawrence are both really terrific, portraying characters that are complicated and yet disarmingly simple.  Lawrence won Best Actress for her role as Tiffany.  DeNiro is at his very best as Pat, Sr. and Jacki Weaver gives wonderfully believable and warming performance as Dolores.  All of the supporting cast are terrific.

Russell’s script and direction are spot on. The editing is amazing, as is the use of music and sound.

It is a movie that deserved all of its nominations and it should be seen by everyone. It is funny, full of pathos, and very moving.

Warm Bodies

WARM-BODIES_510x317There are few films that boast a truly original premise, but Warm Bodies is one of them.  What genre is it?  Well, it’s the only zombie romantic comedy I’ve ever seen.  Written and directed by Jonathon Levine, it was adapted from a Young Adult novel of the same name by Isaac Marion.  I haven’t read the novel yet, but the movie carries that “first person present” feel to it that is omnipresent in YA dystopian books.

The movie is narrated by a teenage zombie, R (Nicholas Hoult), who knows there’s something missing in his death, but just can’t figure out what. He lives in an abandoned airplane that he has appropriated for his use and stocked with lots of stuff that he has collected, including a stereo with a turntable and an impressive collection of disks, because he values the purity of the sound.  By day, he shuffles around the airport groaning, occasionally grunting with his “friend” M (Rob Corddry) and going out to eat with him.  The food, of course, is human and R cherishes human brains because they allow him to vicariously experience life by re-living the memories of the deceased.

Ultimately, the zombies turn into living skeletons called Boneys. Although the skeletons leave the zombies alone, they also exist by eating humans and they are extremely deadly.

In a city within the city, protected by towering walls, humans live under the authoritarian leadership of Colonel Grigio (John Malkovich). The Colonel’s daughter, Julie (Theresa Palmer), her boyfriend, Perry (Dave Franco), and her best friend, Nora (Analeigh Tipton) volunteer to go outside the walls to search for medical supplies and this expedition coincides with a search for human food by R and M (the initials are all they can remember of their former names) and some of their zombie friends.

During the fight that ensues, R is attacked by Perry and kills him. As he eats the boys brains, he relives memories of Perry’s time with Julie and he develops a soft spot for her, so when the raid is over, he rescues Julie and brings her back to his airplane.  Unsure what to do next, he plays music for her and rescues her again when she tries to escape.  As he attempts to talk to her and finds a few human words, she wonders why he keeps saving her.  During the next few days, they talk, play games, and listen to music, but finally she convinces him that she must go back to her father.  When M and the other zombies see them holding hands, they begin to develop feelings, too, and allow them to go.  The zombies are beginning to regain their humanity.

If there are a few things here that seem a little familiar, it’s because there are some similarities to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  Yes, R and Julie suggest that.  So does the story of “two houses divided” in a great city.  And yes, there is even a balcony scene, but that is where the similarity ends.  There is nothing tragic in this “feel-good” dark comedy.

Hoult and Palmer are splendid as the young lovers. Hoult’s voice and narration are both hilarious and oddly touching at the same time.  It’s the only zombie movie where you will find yourself identifying with the zombies.  Hoult is English and Palmer is Australian, yet they are perfectly believable American teens.  Palmer is beautiful and sexy, yet very down-to-earth.  They should both have terrific film careers.

Malkovich is a little one-note as Colonel Grigio, but the role was written that way. Tipton may be the big surprise in the film.  Although her role is fairly small, she seems consistently to get the best lines not given to Hoult and she is laugh-out-loud funny in places.  Corddry gives a very restrained and heart-felt performance as M.

It’s hard to do the movie the credit it deserves in a short review, but it is the kind of film that should have a big crossover audience. The characters are well-drawn, the situation bizarre and hilarious and the film-making is first rate from the beginning to the end.  At 91 minutes, it is the perfect length and that shows that director-writer Levine was really in tune with the material.  Many other directors might have cluttered up this charming film with all kinds of nonsense or overplayed the comedy, but he hits the right note in every scene.  The cinematography, art direction, costume, and make-up are all spot on.

I highly recommend this movie!