I am split. On one hand I understand what 'Sleeping Beauty' is attempting and admire its ambitions, on the downside this is nothing new or revealing. Seen 'Eyes Wide Shut'? If the answer is yes, one may have an idea of what to expect: cliches (oh what's that, Free Masons have weird fetishes? I would have never known, thank you 'Sleeping Beauty'!), laughably unsexy (cut-up leather outfits), and all style with a comatose lead actor. How can one defend Browning's performance in this movie, she acts like she just witnessed the most traumatizing thing a human has ever witnessed and this is helpful to her character how? 'Sleeping Beauty' is soft-core wank material for the same moviegoers that found something redeeming in 'Eyes Wide Shut' other than the technical talent.
Well, Adam Scott continues to be a likeable actor, Mrs. PT Anderson, Maya Rudolph, is still funny as is fellow SNL'er Wiig, but this Jennifer Westfeldt, who I should applaud for doing what everyone wants to do - make a movie with a good team - but cannot for she lacks the charm and wit to carry a performance in a sitcom and yet here she is writing, directing, and acting in her debut 'Friends With Kids' and it feels stale to the point I'd much prefer gulping down old milk before sitting through this bore again. Her insights into characters are horrendous on the page and worse on film. Take for instance the opening, where Scott's character is reading Dawkins's 'The God Delusion' while on the phone with Jennifer's character who is reading Hitchens 'God Is Not Great', the two most popular anti-religious novels used as character development. Lazy, lazy, lazy. Where Woody Allen's romantic comedies took pages from S.J. Perelman to Russian literature, Westfeldt is stubbornly content with being the sole person to bring the unfunny show, 'How I Met Your Mother', to the multiplexes. If 'Friends With Kids' is a comedy then so is 'Inside Job'. Jennifer Westfeldt's next project? 'Friends With Liberal Arts Degrees That Talk Like You And Me!'
Someone had to make a dark satirical John Hughes movies to denounce the teens in John Hughes teen movies, right? That's not to say 'Heathers' is banal, it presents itself in artificial packaging so it can attack the (I assume, by then) ridiculous character stereotypes while introducing pressing issues about teens in a risky (for Hollywood) way. It has a great cast of promising and not-so-promising rising stars; however, not one of them can match Ryder's charm and beauty. 'Heathers' feels contrived only because it does seem determined to slash away at pre-existing teen comedies/romances. 'Heathers' is more concerned with what the high-schooler experiences mentally despite dressing itself in bright colours - think of the movie's style as its persona, its facade. Granted not everything is as solid as the first two acts when Veronica spins everything into a moral focus as if these moral concerns just sprout up days or weeks after the fact - that's not the problem, it's Hollywood, the problem is that Veronica's always balanced approach slants 'Heathers' into a position of justifying itself (I'm pretty sure Pauline Kael had the same problem) and the fun slowly goes away - not to mention Slater's Jack Nicholson impression wears out its welcome before the hour mark. For better or worse 'Heathers' is an influential movie and after almost twenty-five-years it still feels fresh and diabolically hilarious.
The first hour is a powerful, overwhelming art project, an update on Tarkovsky and Kubrick, succeeding so well it draws you in as the visuals vibrate out - it's mesmerizing. The music and editing intense. The cinematography stunning. The story is unique, no sci-fi movie has tackled the sun before, which is interesting if you think about it. The movie feels like magic before it turns for the worst. So comes the third act. Danny Boyle's visionary ideas turn into a bad slasher movie, essentially, destroying the compelling fabric of the prior proceedings, what a bummer. The lazy third-act almost ruins 'Sunshine', a near modern masterpiece.
'American Gigolo' is yet another gritty story from Paul Schrader about loneliness this time around making the unfortunate decision to cast Richard Gere, who has a dead screen presence and is vapid as an actor. Travis Bickle as LA prositute, essentially, it's not a huge leap of logic to see the connections between Travis and Julian, both forlorn characters in a world of ugliness. In some respects this can be seen as a problem but then one would have to discredit every Chaplin movie where he plays the tramp, or Woody Allen playing a neurotic. It's Schrader's schtick, often an erudite creation, which is a useful tool for many reasons obvious in 'Taxi Driver' and less so in 'American Gigolo'. So yes, 'American Gigolo' is a fascinating character study but I cannot help but wonder how it would have turned out with a different actor.