Having just watched this yesterday for the umpteenth time (is that an actual number?), I'm ready to review it. This movie is both a refuge for beleaguered vinyl freaks (like my husband, whom Rob--John Cusack's character half defines in one scene, in which he describes his customers: "men who spend all their time looking for original--NOT re-released--Frank Zappa records"), AND for romantics, like me.
Though I'm romantic enough to have a vested interested in the outcome of Rob's relationship with Laura (Iben Hjiele) and its demise, John Cusack (as always) makes the most of whatever material comes his way. I was much more seduced by his relationship with his two employees, Barry (Jack Black--the spazz!) and Tod Louiso, the sensitive guy) than anything else.
As director director Stephen Frears says in the DVD commentary, I was pretty much uninvolved in the music, with the exception of Louiso's claim about Green Day owing most of their influence to the Clash (HUH? Really? I'd like to ask St. Jimmy's opinion here) and other tidbits. And that's as it should be, since it allows one to gloss over the TOTALLY UNNECESSARY inclusion of Lisa Bonet as Marie de Salle singing "Peter F***ing Frampton" in a club, and her self-adoration! THAT was some casting that should have been re-thought! In a way, she is more self-involved and revolting than Cathering Zeta-Jones' "Charlie" (Rob's most celebrated ex).
But the real story is NOT the music (great as most of it is), but the characters. I LOVE "character-driven" films and this is one of the best. How often do you get a guy so messed up yet so enlightened that he can ADMIT he's messed up??!
And only Cusack could pull that off. He out-Robbinses Tim Robbins' sensitive, earthy-crunchy guy, which is quite a feat! Of course, he then counteracts it in his several fantasy sequences involving the murder by air conditioner of Robbins' character, Ian, who has "stolen" his girl.
Even my bete-noir (Catherine Zeta-Jones as the over-erotic, yet vapid "IT" girl, Charlie) is appropriately cast here, since she basically plays herself...or what Hollywood has made her into. Just for the record: I loved her in "Chicago" but that's it. I have a poll on Yahoo Answers proclaiming Kate Winlset the REALLY sexy British actress. Zeta-Jones just reminds me of Captain Quint's description of a shark before it attacks, in "Jaws". ("Lifeless eyes, like a doll's eyes")
Once again, as in Nick Hornsby's/Frears' "About a Boy", character and dialogue triumph and the anti-hero (in this instance, Cusack's fallible Rob) is sort of set free.
Like Hugh Grant's layabout guy, Rob is redeemed by love...only this time it's NOT love for a 13 year-old boy! That's what we call progress, I suppose.
This was the film that really got me hooked on the Merchant-Ivory phenom, though I'd already seen "A Passage To India". Something about this film, even when in Florence, Italy, is so COZY, so English, that it's almost impossible to describe, as so many of the characters (except George Emerson [Julian Sands] of course!) have trouble doing.
Aside from the sumptuous costumes, perfect scenery and accurate interiors, the acting is simply stunning. Helena Bonham-Carter is incandescent as the luscious, confused Lucy, both enamored of wild George, but too frightened NOT to settle for the close-minded prig, Cecil (Day-Lewis).
Though the plot is rather serious, there are so many moments of fun and hilarity, such as Mr. Beebe, the vicar (Simon Callow), Freddie Honeychurch (Rupert Graves) and George "having a bathe" in what Lucy later dubs "The Sacred Lake", a pond formed mostly by rain. They doff their clothes and for a few brief minutes are like satyrs in an ancient forest, until Lucy, Cecil and Mrs. Honeychurch stroll toward them and chaos ensues. Only George refuses to be humbled or embarrassed (well he IS bare-assed!) and darts out in front of them, waving his arms and shouting wildly.
What girl would NOT fall for that? But then, she'd already been kissed by him amidst a field of flowers in Tuscany. This guy seems to REALLY know how to woo a girl!
Still, Lucy obstinately sticks to her guns and eventually, "Lies to everybody" (about her feelings) and we're never exactly sure why, nor is she.
Only George's father, Mr. Emerson (the wonderful Denholm Elliot) is able to call her out and say "You love the boy, body and soul!" and urge her not to give up such a feeling to maintain propriety.
Maggie Smith is beguilingly annoying as "Poor Charlotte", a cousin of Lucy's, who constantly preys on the Honeychurch's good will, borrowing money and asking to stay with them when her pipes are broken. She is at once infuriating and pathetic, as only a single woman of dubious conscience could be, I suppose.
Judi Dench (not yet "Dame") does a giddy turn as the sleazy, gossip-mongering Eleanor Lavish, who (deliberately?) takes Charlotte's confidence about the Lucy-George kiss and puts it in a book. If only we could ALL get published so quickly!
The final scene, with George and Lucy in a Florentine window, with a view, is so sensuous, it makes all other love scenes seem superfluous. Except for those two kissing scenes!
I LOVED this film, and like "Forgetting Sarah Marshall", (my first Judd Apatow film!), it surprised me and the surprises were the funnier for being caught off-guard, as when Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston) strolls into a meeting to "audition for his job" with efficiency experts and under the remnants of a hypnotic state from the previous night, lackadaisically clowns around with lines like "I'd say that in a given week, I do about 15 minutes of actual work." or later, with his next door neighbor, Lawrence (Dietrich Bader), saying that, if he had a million dollars he would "do absolutely nothing".
When he finally comes to work after sleeping all weekend (despite being told to come in by his "soulless, evil" boss, Bill Lumbergh (Gary Cole), he saunters around in a t-shirt, jeans and flip-flops, to the tune of "Damn, it feels good to be a Gangsta", using a cordless drill to remove an annoying door handle and dismantling his hated office cubicle.
Soon, Peter's "dream of doing nothing" is almost contagious, as his growing relationship with Joanna (Jennifer Anniston) , a waitress who also hates her job, is almost forced to wear "pieces of flair" (buttons) and begins to rebel, and his friends at Initech, Michael and Samir, whose heads are on the chopping block, devise a a scheme to pilfer money from the company using a computer virus.
At first, all seems smooth, until the three "criminals" realize that they have no idea how to launder the money. Not only that, but their plan goes awry and they end up stealing over $300,000 in one day.
Peter decides to confess to the crime but is saved at the last minute by the vengeance of his bumbling, fellow office mate, the "squirrelly" Milton Waddams (Stephen Root), who is obsessed with his red stapler.
I especially love where Peter ends up--not in a cubicle, but outside "getting some fresh air, making some dough", with Lawrence, doing manual labor.
This film is a spot-on view of the average office worker's boring, miserable life, at least while on the job, and offers some interesting alternatives to not being part of the corporate "grind".
It's recurring jokes, such as Lumbergh's ever-present coffee mug and his "Yeahhh...hiiii", and the perky mail-lady's "looks like someone's got a case of the Mondays!", complete the squirm-worthy world of poor Peter and his cohorts. It makes anyone with a brain, who has ever endured such a job, wonder WHAT the F*** they were doing!
I think this is the best of the Bourne trilogy (so far) and likely to stay that way, even if more films are made. The first one was good but somehow, kind of formulaic. This one, with Bourne remembering more and closing in on his "creators"/enemies, is sharper, more focused and intense.
The main gripe I have is due to my own sensibilities; the scene in which Marie is shot and Bourne desperately tries to rescue her underwater. It's so sad!
Other than that, I love all its elements: the fight sequences (Damon reminds me of John Cusack's free-style martial arts in films like "Grosse Pointe Blank", but faster), the computer hacking, identity switching and routine outwitting of his "handlers" as well as the assassins they dispatch.
It's utterly cool that the baby-faced Matt Damon is SO believable as a highly trained killer! Remember him in "Good Will Hunting"? Who would have thought it? (Same goes for Cusack!).
Also usually uncredited is Moby's excellent techno music--so apropos to these films.