John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum
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I was very underwhelmed by this film as I had expected to see a classic that made me laugh and feel slightly disturbed at once but instead what I got was a mildly amusing film that was too slight to have real impact. The ‘dark humor' of the film was either so subtle that it was lost on me when it wasn't hitting me over the head or it just made occasional appearances that didn't leave me giggling but occasionally elicited a half smile from me. Part of the problem might be that I have never really connected with the work of the Coen brothers as I don't think that A Serious Man (2009) or No Country for Old Men (2007) are masterpieces and their humor often irritates more than amuses me. Considering the fact that this is seen as one of their best films I did have higher expectations however and even my parents, tough critics, liked this film so I assumed it would be brilliant, it really was not.
Jerry Lundegaard, William H. Macy, decides to organize the kidnapping of his wife in order to extort his wealthy father in law and solve his financial problems. His plan quickly spirals out of control as the kidnappers he hires, Carl, Steve Buscemi, and Gaear, Peter Stormare, accidentally shoot a police officer and his father in law complicates the exchange of the money. Investigating the case is well-meaning police officer Marge Gunderson, Frances McDormand, who uses her sensible nature to solve a difficult case and in the end even Lundegaard receives his comeuppance.
The plot was vaguely entertaining as a farcical series of events in which people's lives became more and more complicated as the stress piled on. The plot wasn't enough to keep me engaged though as I suffered through long scenes of Gunderson going on what was meant to be a funny awkward date with an ex-classmate who lies to her face. The humor sometimes felt like it was getting in the way of what could have been an interesting plot as we cut from interesting scenes of the kidnappers shooting a police officer to Marge and her husband having lunch and speaking in the annoying over the top dialect that the Coens fetishize. I wish that they had settled on a tone or chosen to fully go one way or another because as the film is it's an unsatisfying experience.
The screenplay frustrated me because it's laugh lines felt so self congratulatory and the moments at which we get darker elements felt so contrived. I don't like how they write because so often you end up spending time with characters who have one joke to them that Coens play out over and over again until you just want the film to end. For example, in this film every character says "You, betcha!" at one point and although it was initially a fun little quirk I quickly became tired of hearing it and wanted to see something new on screen despite the film's short length. A movie like this should not feel tiring but the Coens as both writers and directors do not have a handle what film they are really trying to make. There may be a great film buried in here but the Coens don't have the ability to draw it out and at this point I doubt they ever will.
As for McDormand's performance I dispute the idea that she is a leading actress because I felt that she was a supporting character when compared to Lundegaard. I don't think she earned her Academy Award, especially when considering the fact that Emily Watson and Brenda Blethyn were nominated in the same year. She is funny enough and brings a certain warmth and strength to the part but she is not enough to save the film from itself and is clearly being pushed to give a broader performance than is necessary.
For a film that was called one of the greatest of all time I found very little to appreciate and I don't think that modern viewers will either. This is one of those where I truly cannot understand where all the hype comes from and I don't think I will ever watch this film again.
This feels like a spiritual successor to A Man for All Seasons (1966) in that it's a long, ponderous, boring British period drama in which great actors give wretched performances. I really disliked this film if you can't already tell as I found it to be absolutely tedious and it didn't even satisfy the requirements of a traditional costume drama because it's themes are not weighty or meaningful and the whole thing is a soap opera episode dressed up as prestige cinema. I can see why this film was director Anthony Harvey's only real hit because he doesn't manage to make the film feel like it's not a filmed play and draws the worst out of his talented cast. If you want to see a great period drama watch The Bostonians (1984), it's an underrated gem.
The imprisoned Eleanor of Aquitane, Katharine Hepburn, is allowed out of her cell on Christmas day to visit her philandering husband King Henry II, Peter O'Toole, as they try to decide which of their sons will become King. Henry favors the lovable but unintelligent John, Nigel Terry, while Eleanor sides with the manipulative and secretly homosexual Richard, Anthony Hopkins, which causes a lot of conflict as the announcement is yet to be made. Complicating things further is the fact that Eleanor and Henry still have feelings for each other even as he wants to annul their marriage to marry his young mistress Alais, Jane Merrow. Richard's lover King Philip II of France, Timothy Dalton, attempts to manipulate the situation and the brothers all eventually turn against their father but the film has a melancholy ending that suggests better times are ahead.
The biggest sin that the film commits is thinking that it is actually saying something. All of the verbose, flowery language that the actors spout as though it's the most important thing in the world serves as a sort of smokescreen to just how empty the film really is. The most exciting parts of the film came when Richard's homosexuality was revealed and his secret lover turned against him and when John almost killed his son but these are all plotlines handled with more grace and sensitivity in real soap operas like The Bold and the Beautiful. I didn't feel the passion and often felt like we spent heaps of time with situations that were fun for a few minutes but when dragged out just seemed ridiculous. If you want some trashy fun this isn't the film that will give it to you because it stretches out the camp for too long to be truly entertaining.
The performances are also shameful as Hepburn, O'Toole and Hopkins all disappoint me with performances reminiscent of Robert Shaw in A Man for All Seasons. In short, they are all pretty awful. In each scene they seem to be competing against one another to see who can chomp on the scenery more aggressively, this is not pleasant to watch. Hepburn is wonderful in The Philadelphia Story (1940), O'Toole is at his best in Venus (2006) and Hopkins is at his repressed British best in The Remains of the Day (1993). I would suggest you watch all of the films before you venture to watch this film that allows them all to indulge their worst habits as actors with Hepburn's irritating accent only becoming stronger as the film progresses and O'Toole relying too much on his eyes.
I find it laughable that this film received a Best Picture nomination in 1968 over 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and it's representative of all that was wrong with the Academy's tastes. They value the names attached to the film more than the quality of the film itself and it's sad to see people who have done much better work in other films be rewarded for this tripe. If I were Barbra Streisand I would be offended that somebody had equated her spirited, entertaining performance in Funny Girl (1968) to Hepburn's awfulness in this shameful picture. People deserve better from historical period dramas and it's a shame that this film is one of the most famous examples of the genre when it's such a poor representation of what can be brilliant when done right.
Was this the best movie of 1997? No, The Sweet Hereafter (1997), The Ice Storm (1997) and even Wag the Dog (1997) are better films and they should have been nominated for Best Picture over this film but this is still a decent romantic comedy. I love James L. Brooks' feature film debut, Terms of Endearment (1983), but I was disappointed by How Do You Know (2010) and Spanglish (2004) which tempered by expectations for this film and I felt that this film was just OK. I was also aware that this film earned Jack Nicholson his second Academy Award and he was not worthy of it but I did appreciate the work of Helen Hunt in this film and I wish she had been a bigger star.
Misanthrope Melvin Udall, Jack Nicholson, terrorizes waitress Carol, Helen Hunt, who he is attracted to but fails to communicate with because he suffers from OCD and is generally ornery. The two grow closer after his gay artist neighbor Simon, Greg Kinnear, is assaulted and loses his passion for painting which forces Melvin to take care of his dog and pushes him to reach out. He ends up paying for her son's medical care which causes her to feel indebted to him and allows him to pressure her into going away with him and Simon as Simon tries to get money from his estranged parents. While there Melvin and Carol admit their attraction to each other but he sabotages himself again and the two only reconcile when back in New York City.
The sweetest moment in the film came when Carol angrily confronts Melvin in the middle of the night and tells him "I am never going to sleep with you." Their was an oddly palpable sexual chemistry between Hunt and Nicholson that adds an extra layer to the scene but her tireless attempts to find the goodness in everybody made me love her character. The whole scene works so well because Brooks is aware of the comedy of the moment but plays it just right so it doesn't feel like it's part of a John Cleese movie but instead like it's a mixture between Nora Ephron and Norman Jewison. I love scenes like this and I wish that there had been more in the movie because that would have elevated it to a higher level in my view.
Where the film loses me is how quickly the relationship progresses and how creepy some elements of the relationship feel, particularly the age difference and the fact that he essentially pays for her company. Their flirtation scenes are sweet but they are far too brief and we jump from him telling her that she is ugly to him trying his hardest to compliment her. I was also creeped out by how her mother, who would have been an age appropriate love interest, was cheering on their relationship as she seems to be looking for a father figure in him more than a real boyfriend. One scene in particular, divorced from the romance, also irks me as we see Melvin, who ironically writes romance novels despite not understanding the women he actually interacts with, condescend one of his fans. This felt to me like Brooks, who is a man making female oriented entertainment, mocking the women who enjoy Broadcast News (1987) and Terms of Endearment which is unfair to the people coming to watch the film.
Hunt did charm me as a kind, relatable romantic lead who nonetheless settles for a man who is not good enough for her. She really sells the early scenes as she plays a stressed out but devoted mother struggling in her day to day life but later shifts into being an attractive, desirable woman who wants a man in her life. Of the two actors she was more deserving of her Academy Award and while I prefer the performance of Julie Christie in Afterglow (1997) I don't begrudge Hunt's win.
You should watch this film because it has it's moments but be prepared for moments that may annoy or irritate you and if you go in expecting a great romantic comedy this will not fit the bill, it's no Sleepless in Seattle (1993).
This is not one of the best romantic comedies of all time but it's still a lovely little film that makes good use of the chemistry between it's leads and an entertaining script. I am slightly confused by the fact that this film earned a Best Picture nomination in a world where When Harry Met Sally… (1989) and Sleepless in Seattle (1993) didn't but it's better than nothing. Cher's performance is also overrated when considering the fact that Sally Kirkland and Glenn Close were also nominated in 1987 for Anna (1987) and Fatal Attraction (1987) respectively. This is obviously a film that I would recommend people see because it's a really fun movie to watch and you laugh and occasionally feel emotional, the aim of a romantic comedy.
Italian-American widow Loretta Castorini, Cher, lives in Brooklyn, New York with her mother Rose, Olympia Dukakis, and philandering plumber father Cosmo, Vincent Gardenia. Loretta becomes engaged to Johnny Cammareri, Danny Aiello, not out of love but out of desire to escape her ‘bad luck' which she believes caused her first husband's death. The two cannot get married until Johnny's mother dies so he travels to Italy to be with her for a few weeks and asks Loretta to track down his estranged brother Ronny, Nicolas Cage. She and Ronny quickly fall in love when they meet but her fear of having bad luck and engagement to his brother prevents them from really being together. Rose explores having an affair of her own but ultimately decides to reconcile with her husband while Loretta and Ronny end up together after Johnny returns and Loretta realizes she loves Ronny.
The best scenes in the film come when Loretta and Ronny are together which is essential to a film that rests on it's central romance. There is immediate chemistry as we see two people who are passionate meet and complement one another perfectly. I found the "wolf without a foot" speech cringe worthy but Cage's overacting as he pushes the table over immediately after this speech was joyful to watch and there was real heat in the kiss between the two characters. When they find one another at the opera after she has gone to so much effort to look nice for him and he has been so nervous thinking she won't show up we want to see their eyes meet and a sense of relief and unbelievable affection to wash over them. This happens, of course, and we are completely in love with them from this point on as the "get in my bed" monologue is wonderful as we fall for this unexpected romance.
The acting in the film is all quite charming but it has a touch of the stage from which this screenplay was translated and that stops it from feeling like a very cinematic experience. Cher is giving a competent performance in the lead role and she has a solid grip on humor but she doesn't inject her performance with the same spirited excitement of Meg Ryan or Marsha Mason. Cage is giving the sort of campy, over the top performance that he has made his name on and his manic energy gives the film a standout element that it needs. Dukakis and Gardenia are pleasant as the warring parents and Gardenia is particularly funny when attempting to woo his mistress but is John Mahoney who steals the show as Rose's would be lover. He is fantastic at describing what he sees in his young pupils as romantic partners in just one scene and we believe in the connection between his professor and Rose because of his restraint. Did either Cher or Dukakis deserve their Academy Awards? In my opinion, no, but they do justice to the material they are working with.
I would call this one of the best 100 romantic films of all time, not one of the top 10 or even top 50, because while it has a nice central romance it's a slight story with none of the depth of Annie Hall (1977) or Out of Africa (1985). Despite how overpraised it is that does not mean it's not a good film, it's just not a great one despite what Roger Ebert might think.
I am shocked I had not learnt about this film until recently because it's really quite something with it's fearsome performances and intelligent writing. This is one of those movies where you can tell it's based on a play, just from the way that some of the characters speak and the lack of movement out of a single location, but the play is so good that you forgive the film the sin of feeling like a filmed play. I was not aware of the work of director Daniel Mann before seeing this film but I will definitely be watching BUtterfield 8 (1960) and The Rose Tattoo (1955) in future so his competent direction of this film gives me hope. Of course I knew who Burt Lancaster was, having seen From Here to Eternity (1953) and Seven Days in May (1964), but it's Shirley Booth who is the real revelation of this film and I may try to seek out the television production of The Glass Menagerie she appeared in the 1960s after being so impressed by her.
Recovering alcoholic Doc Delaney, Burt Lancaster, mistreats his devoted but lonely wife Lola Delaney, Shirley Booth, who still mourns the death of her dog Sheba months after the event. As Doc goes through a mid life crisis his attention is captured by a pretty young student Marie Buckholder, Terry Moore, who boards in the front room of their house. His fixation on her and her relationships with Turk Fisher, Richard Jaeckel, and Bruce, Walter Kelley, puts further strain on his relationship with Lola who is sinking into depression. Things come to a boiling point when Doc begins to drink again and unleashes all of his anger on his wife before being institutionalized and later coming back as a mellow husband ready to change for his wife.
I simply cannot state enough how brilliant Booth is in this film as a warmhearted little woman who embodies all of the problems with the domestic lifestyle forced onto women in the 1950s. Her husband complains about how attentive she tries to be to his every need and yet does not appreciate that she has nothing to do while she is trapped in the house all day and is trying her best to live up to the ideal of a 1950s woman. We see her attempting to derive pleasure out of music and treating Marie as a surrogate daughter figure as she tries to bring some sense of excitement into her life but all of these attempts fail as she is cut down by her husband. The scenes in which they discuss why they were married as she got pregnant at a young age are so depressing because it is clear she wants assurance that he loves her and he is so unwilling to give it. The characterization went so much deeper than most female characters in 1950s movies get.
We do get the usual, man who is desperate to be young becomes attracted to a woman who is too young for him trope, that can be seen in American Beauty (1999) and even Poison Ivy (1992) but Lancaster's performance makes us feel for this character. When he worries about her being ruined by having sex with Turk we know that he is really thinking about himself as a youth and is confusing sexual desire for her with desire for youth. It is a wonderful moment when he is able to accept the mistakes of his past and recognize how lucky he is to have a supportive wife willing to stay with him despite his alcoholism and occasional outbursts.
This isn't a perfect film and I have not seen Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) but I can't see that film improving on how this film deals with it's subject matter in any major way. I really loved this film even as I expected to be relatively bored going in and I found that despite it's brevity the film moved me, a unique feat considering how many ‘emotional' films I have seen recently that have left me cold. If you already love Booth through watching the popular television series Ethel then this is a much watch film because it allows her to give a more serious performance.