As a brief disclaimer about movies, let me just say that I have two hopes when it comes to watching movies. 1) I want it to be well done. No thanks to cookie cutter comedies or that hackneyed story of the teacher/coach who comes in and inspires the kids to look at the subject/sport and even their lives in a different way changing the school/community. There needs to be something intelligent and original. And, as I mentioned last time I reviewed movies, the sequence of events, and particularly the climax and resolution should be believable. There should not be some big change in the situation that makes no sense. This is Story Writing 101, yet somehow movies are constantly coming out that would have been hacked to pieces during the first classroom critique in my Fiction Writing courses. 2) I want it to be entertaining, which is, of course, a matter of opinion. I am never entertained by "thrillers" because they cause me entirely too much tension and, to me, the point of watching a movie is to unwind. At least a little bit, I hope to laugh. And I need to be able to like or care about the characters. So "entertaining" holds a lot, I know. But the point is, I am likely not going to enjoy a very artfully done tragedy. Because it's tragic. And that's not entertaining. Okay, those are my disclaimers. So if I think a movie leaves me feeling, more than anything else, awkward or angry or sad, while I realize that that is often the goal and does not mean that it was not well done, I still don't like the movie because I don't want to be manipulated that way.
Bella. Have y'all seen this? Why hasn't anyone ever talked about this film to me? It is hard to say what it is about without giving the whole story away. It's a beautifully redemptive, pro-life story (which may answer why the media wouldn't have talked about it) that is artfully done. I promise, you will love it. Or we did. It won some awards, but it is hard to tell exactly which ones are the most prestigious. But, in any case, people besides us liked it. See this.
Marley and Me. It's no secret that I am a huge Owen Wilson fan. I think he's hilarious. And I tend to enjoy Jennifer Aniston. But George sort of groaned when I brought this home from the Redbox. He thought it would be a silly dog movie that ended in contrived tragedy, as many animal movies do. However, even he really liked it. It was sweet, but not sappy; sad, but not heartbreaking. It was just a tender and humorous story of a family and their dog. We actually felt sad for Owen and Jennifer after it was over, that the story wasn't their story, that their lives aren't as rich and full of the joys of family as the characters they played. Who knows, maybe they are a little sad about that too. I wondered if they would be able to pull off a married couple with three children. And if it is true what they say about the difficulties of acting with kids and animals, they must have really had a tough job filming this. But it didn't show; they both played their roles well. It was always going to be funny, but I was glad to see how uplifting it was, how pro-family it was. Wilson's friend is a sort of philandering bachelor (Grey's Anatomy's "McSteamy") who, in the end, is definitely depicted as the one missing out. They do well to show the struggles of marriage and raising children, but are just to show how the rewards outweigh the costs. You are shown, not told, that this is a loving, happy family.
Bedtime Stories. Think of an Adam Sandler film that is not chock full of disgusting seventh grade boy humor. I know, it almost doesn't exist. There is Spanglish. And in Spanglish, we saw why we really do like Adam Sandler. I mean, I laughed until I cried the first time I saw him rip the shirt off and then punch that guy on the golf course in Happy Gilmore, and his Halloween costume bits on Weekend Update are among my favorite quotable SNL skits. He always plays a real sweet guy, but he can be so gross, you know. I will never understand why he insists on casting Rob Schneider in everything he does either. 50 First Dates would have been absolutely delightful and worth owning if not for Rob Schneider (well, and "Alexa"). Anyway, Adam Sandler. Besides his endearing roles in Spanglish and 50 First Dates, his other noteworthy performances are as the lovable (and laughable) 80s musician, Robbie Hart in The Wedding Singer (feel free to disagree with me on this one, but this role was the one in which he took the first step away from being the screw up that you had to learn to like to being a likable and not overly immature human being- and then he did The Waterboy and Little Nicky...), the strange, sad but sweet Barry Egan in Punch Drunk Love, and the lost and alone Charlie Fineman in Reign Over Me. If those films were somehow isolated from his Happy Madison fare (and only 50 First Dates of these is a Happy Madison production), he would be a lot more distinguished. Bedtime Stories is a Happy Madison film though. It is also a Disney film, however that works (evidently, Disney distributed it?). I'm not going to say it's great. It's not great. But if you like sweet and silly Adam Sandler but wish that he would leave the potty humor, the eccentric supporting cast, and sexual innuendo at home, then you've got your wish. The tagline is "what if the stories you told came to life?" It is a story about an uncle (Sandler) who keeps his niece and nephew for a week and tells them bedtime stories after the fashion of the ones his father told him. He is co-sitting with Kerri Russell who plays Jill, the teacher friend of the children's mother, played by Courtney Cox. It is pretty predictable, so you have probably guessed part of the plot already. And it could have been done a whole lot better. But it was Adam Sandler that I felt like was okay for my kids, and when has that ever happened? I'm not telling you to run out and rent it, but if you were thinking about it anyway, yeah, it's alright.
Rachel Getting Married. This is a movie I wanted to see because I liked the previews, I like Anne Hathaway, and it had great reviews. But it was strange. I knew that Anne Hathaway played a sort of messed up sister of the bride who was released from rehab just in time for the wedding weekend. So I was prepared for sadness and dysfunction. But the wedding part is weird. There is a really long, embarrassing rehearsal dinner scene in which people are making toasts that are just as awkward and all around mortifying as real rehearsal dinners. Snaps to the writers for getting it so right, but it's too true to be entertaining, and too long no matter what. A lot of the movie is this way- real to life arguments where people are sidetracked or off the point completely, real to life conversations that are distracted or fragmented- people say what people would really say and do what they really would do. One positive example is a scene where the groom and the father of the bride get into a friendly little disagreement over the loading of the dishwasher which sparks a contest to see who can do it the most efficiently, and the whole wedding party is gathered in the kitchen for this impromptu competition. This scene is flawless- true to life, but true to life's quirky joys and not life's little agonies (except that the scene does, at the very end, go back to the agonizing). Bill Irwin (besides his stage credits, most popularly Sesame Street's Mr. Noodle or that guy that did the Vaudeville act with Rudy and her friends on The Cosby Show) plays the father of the bride and her messed up sister and is precious. I was so touched by his performance as this sensitive and protective father, a man who has been through horrible grief but is everyone's cheerleader, dotes on all of them, particularly his troubled daughter, always offering food and making sure they're all okay in the moment. He's just this sweet, broken hearted man who has done the hard work of not becoming bitter. Most of the cast does a good job, even the obnoxious friend who thinks she should be the maid of honor. It is painfully human in so many places, an awkwardness I'm sure was intended, but that makes it hard to enjoy. The other thing that makes it hard to enjoy is that it isn't at all redemptive. I can see why these people, in real life, would be living as they are and that there would not be a whole lot that could redeem their stories. For Rachel, she is married now, so perhaps there will be a happily ever after for her. For Kym, the messed up sister/main character who Anne Hathaway plays, there is only trying to move on, though she states in one of her Narcotics Anonymous meetings that she can't believe in a God who would forgive her for the things she has done. So wow, yeah, sort of sad. But, like I said, very well done, though extremely uncomfortable with a bizarre Indian themed wedding. It's pretty over the top in that regard, even Lost has less collision of different cultures at one place! Rotten Tomatoes has it as 87% fresh, so people seem to be more impressed with it than I, though I wasn't really disappointed, just unsettled.