The Upper Darby of Silver Linings Playbook

I liked Silver Linings Playbook, but I also saw it in the best possible circumstances: in suburban Philadelphia, surrounded by suburban Philadelphians, a couple of miles down the road from the Llanerch Diner that had such a starring role in the movie, among other locales of my high school life. A week later, details of the movie’s plot have subsided in my memory, but David O. Russell’s careful habitation of the setting remains.

There’s an inevitable “Where’s Waldo” feeling when watching a movie filmed on familiar territory, and my Silver Linings Playbook audience didn’t overlook mistakes — Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper should have gotten flattened by near-expressway traffic as they walked across the street to the diner; when they leave, they sometimes manage to turn the corner to a movie theater several towns away. But those shortcuts happen even when movies film on their industry’s home turf. (I remember almost nothing of Something Borrowed, except that somehow Ginnifer Goodwin and John Krasinki managed to walk the three miles from the lobby of my financial district office building to the Madison Square Shake Shack in a few seconds.)

What Silver Linings Playbook got right more than anything else was the feeling of the suburbs and the houses where Cooper and Lawrence’s characters live with their families — a little cluttered, a little cramped, light-blue collar neighborhoods with yards and sidewalks that usually get overlooked next to the elegant Main Line of the better-known Philadelphia suburbs. Like Cooper’s character, I went jogging through that area last week, and Russell managed to reflect it well — it’s not glamorous, but it’s comfortable and real. Whatever other light flaws I found with the movie, it managed to convince me that the characters were truly at home in a place that was once mine.

"Don’t underestimate how much antagonism there is toward women and how many people wish we could turn the clock back. One of the things people always say to you if you get upset is, don’t take it personally, but listen hard to what’s going on and, please, I beg you, take it personally. Understand: every attack on Hillary Clinton for not knowing her place is an attack on you. Underneath almost all those attacks are the words: get back, get back to where you once belonged. When Elizabeth Dole pretends that she isn’t serious about her career, that is an attack on you. The acquittal of O.J. Simpson is an attack on you. Any move to limit abortion rights is an attack on you — whether or not you believe in abortion. The fact that Clarence Thomas is sitting on the Supreme Court today is an attack on you."

Nora Ephron’s commencement speech at Wellesley College in 1996 (via rachelfershleiser)

Something about this resonates particularly deeply for me, in this week of “Internet Girl" and "I’m taking you shopping." And yes, she was talking about much weightier issues than overscrutinized HBO shows about navel-gazing journalists. But I think she would agree that the small stuff matters as much as the significant things on the world stage. RIP, Nora Ephron.

(Source: malindalo, via elisabethdonnelly)

Not the next room: Tanya Wexler’s Hysteria

I really wanted to like Hysteria, Tanya Wexler’s period comedy about the invention of the vibrator. I wanted to like it even more when Wexler herself showed up unexpectedly at City Cinemas on the night that I saw it, to introduce the film to the eight people in the huge room and to thank us for coming out.

Unfortunately, after the third romantic speech about how women can be whimsical and logical and emotional and intelligent — all at once! — I had to like it less. The movie has a lot of issues: the editing and pacing was way off, and Maggie Gyllenhaal was doing her best exaggerated Katharine Hepburn to Hugh Dancy’s under-caffeinated Hugh Grant, and why was Dancy the main character instead of Gyllenhaal, anyway? But what bugged me most of all, given Wexler’s thinking-woman-director bona fides, was how sloppy and retro Hysteria was about its gender-role rhetoric. Aren’t women lovely and crazy and unpredictable and deserving of respect and equality, especially when they regularly decide that the best way to get what they want is to go around screaming at their fathers in public and punching policemen?

Gyllenhaal’s character is supposed to be the heroic, blue-stocking free spirit who fights for what she believes in and inspires Dancy to be a better man (of course), but she comes off as kind of nuts and/or dumb. (I also loved the subplot of her looking for a series of loans to support her charity work, when her father refuses to support her and the school she runs has no apparent way of making any sort of revenue to repay those loans. So she takes out a loan with no apparent means of repayment, to help buy coal and other consumable goods that will soon have to be bought again … yet she somehow not only thinks this is sustainable, she’s hoping to buy the property next door. Maybe it’s my business-reporter bias, but it’s hard to root for a heroine that stupid.)

And yet I feel like I’m letting down the sisterhood by not liking this movie. It’s directed by a woman, its titular topic is female sexuality (and antiquated views thereof), and, well, I missed the (better-reviewed) Sarah Ruhl play on the same subject. I just couldn’t get around the movie itself.

Putting on my Joss Whedon flak jacket

Whedon’s written some good women characters, but for someone who calls himself a feminist, he’s wildly inconsistent. Yes, he gave us the powerful blonde cheerleader vampire slayer, but he also gave us the rape fantasy of Dollhouse, not to mention the regular slut-shaming of Firefly.

I discovered Buffy the Vampire Slayer early — thank you, Starlog magazine! — and introduced all of my high school friends to it. But while most of them fell into longterm relationships with “Joss,” I soon grew antsy. This Movieline post was the culmination of lots of frustrations with Joss Whedon television shows that I really wanted to like, and arguments with true-believer friends, and yes, quite a bit of onetime fannishness for Buffy and other Whedon shows. Call me a woman scorned … or at least not a convert to the wondrous miracle of Firefly.

Old Faithful: 6 Joss Whedon Stand-Bys Revived For Cabin in the Woods (Movieline)


dduane:

playfullyevil:

http://www.rockpapercynic.com/index.php?date=2012-04-13

I did try not to kill him in The Lost Future, but I think we lost him in the rewrite. Must check.

Ha. Well, he did get a special resurrection scene in Mirror, Mirror, does that count as progress?

dduane:

playfullyevil:

http://www.rockpapercynic.com/index.php?date=2012-04-13

I did try not to kill him in The Lost Future, but I think we lost him in the rewrite. Must check.

Ha. Well, he did get a special resurrection scene in Mirror, Mirror, does that count as progress?

Snow White-Wash: Hollywood’s Failures of Diversity, and Imagination, in Post-Modern Fairytales

Mirror Mirror is about as postmodern as a postmodern version of a fairytale gets these days – “It’s been focus-grouped!,” the prince protests, as the princess defies tradition and sets out to save him. So why is it so very white?

It’s kind of sad when you go see a movie in 2012 and you come out comparing it slightly unfavorably to Ever After. I mean, I loved that movie, Lorena McKennitt music in the trailer and everything. But that was fourteen years ago, and I was just excited to see any sort of lip-service to feminism at all in the retelling of a very tradition-bound story. 

I went to see Mirror Mirror pretty much hoping it would be another Ever After, and I’m not sure it even lived up to that. Over at Movieline I write about its weird lack of diversity, in a post that was largely inspired by its jarring Bollywood finale and the prospect of even more hordes of angry white dudes in the upcoming Snow White and the Huntsman.

The Fairest of Them All: How Postmodern Fairytales Fail at Diversity (and How to Fix It) (Movieline)

Manic pixie dream girls and the miserable ending of Once

I saw the Broadway musical version of Once this week, which I mostly enjoyed, and which offered a couple of fascinating peeks into the nuts and bolts of putting on a musical adapted from a beloved indie movie. The set revolves around a working bar that, pre-show and during intermission, sells $13 Sam Adams in leaky plastic cups to the audience. And yes, it is really cool to buy beer on the stage of a Broadway theater, to turn around in center-stage and look out into the audience, seeing the rows of seats fade into the darkness and the balcony barely visible. I never really had any theater ambitions beyond sixth grade, but it was a thrilling moment.

I was disappointed that female lead Cristin Milioti didn’t show up for a Thursday night performance so soon after the show had opened, apparently due to having performed that day on the David Letterman show. But it was fascinating to watch her understudy, Andrea Goss, step in for what I suspect was the very first time. (Giveaways: flubbed timing in her first scene, roses from her co-star at the end.) Goss really sold me on the role — except for every time she had to sing, unfortunately. Her voice wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t confident, and the weird jukebox-nature of this musical adaptation of the film and its Oscar-winning songs meant that every time she sang, she had to compete with the memory of the last time I heard Marketa Irglova on my iPod. The male lead, Steve Kazee, did a very convincing Glen Hansard impression, and I wonder if Milioti is just better at imitating Irglova’s voice or if she’s able to put her own spin on the songs. 

But most of all, the musical reminded me of how much I hated the film’s ending. I know, I know, it’s a bittersweet, unconventional, indie love story that doesn’t tie up all the loose threads for a Hollywood happy ending, which is supposed to be admirable. I just wish it had found a better way to do it.

Once gives its hero a happy, promising future at the expense of the heroine who’s been cheering him on for the entire story, telling him to get out of his rut and make something of his life. He has to leave his family and fight for his future while she — well, she has a duty and an obligation to remain with her family, turn her back on her dreams, and stay in a dead-end city with a dead-end job and a dead-end marriage. She spends the entire story telling him to fight for what he wants, but heaven forbid she take some of her own advice. It’s the worst combination of two tired tropes for women in fiction and film: the woman in the refrigerator, who suffers in order to spur the male hero into action, and the manic pixie dream girl, who suddenly appears in the hero’s life to be wacky and cute and to inspire in him a renewed zest for life without any apparent interest in her own hopes and dreams.

But hey, at least the heroine of Once gets a piano out of the deal. So that’ll help her feed her family, raise her daughter, and reconcile with her husband.

Susan Cooper, Suzanne Collins, and Hollywood’s successes and failures with YA fantasy novels

“She sent a letter requesting changes to the film’s script, but she’s not sure any alterations were made.” Could a sentence be any sadder? The Dark Is Rising’s Susan Cooper was kept at arm’s length from what became The Seeker, a much-maligned, unfaithful, and ultimately unsuccessful adaptation of her great books about magical British schoolchildren. (Cooper has since reportedly begged friends not to see the film.)

Ever since Diane Duane posted this great Salon roundup of young-adult authors assessing Hollywood, the story of Susan Cooper begging her friends not to see The Seeker has haunted me. I never saw it; I loved her Dark is Rising books and their many different characters, the Welsh names and the spin on the Arthurian legends I was reading so much about at that time. I’m glad I didn’t see it; sitting through the gutted, glossy Hollywood version of The Golden Compass was depressing enough.

Suzanne Collins got much luckier with the Hunger Games film. Over at Movieline I tried to figure out what she did right, like Stephenie Meyer and JK Rowling, and what Cooper and Pullman and all the other authors ill-served by Hollywood did wrong.

Hunger Game-Changer: How Suzanne Collins Made the Most of Hollywood’s Young-Adult Obsession (Movieline)

ajhan:

If other filmmakers directed the Hunger Games.
Some of these are stupid, some of these are clever, but I kind of wish this one was a real poster that I could hang up on my wall.


The Garry Marshall one also makes me laugh a lot. And Nancy Meyers. And Terrence Malick.

ajhan:

If other filmmakers directed the Hunger Games.

Some of these are stupid, some of these are clever, but I kind of wish this one was a real poster that I could hang up on my wall.

The Garry Marshall one also makes me laugh a lot. And Nancy Meyers. And Terrence Malick.

Friends with Kids: Step away from the poop jokes

I wrote for Movieline today about things I liked about Friends with Kids. It’s not perfect — boy, I wish Jennifer Westfeldt hadn’t done whatever she did to her face, and it’s strange that, as a writer, she gave her male protagonist a lot more agency and character development than she gave to the female protagonist she played — but it’s not Apatow or Heigl, which is major progress.

Four Things Friends with Kids Can Teach Hollywood About Adult Comedy (Movieline)