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Entries in Christina Hendricks (3)

Friday
Mar222013

Ginger & Rosa

In this time of political turmoil, in a world where fear dictates much of our actions and motivations, a movie set during the nuclear scare of the 1960’s like "Ginger & Rosa" should be relevant to today. We should share the character’s sadness and fear for what often seems to be a waiting game to our inevitable self-destruction. "Ginger & Rosa" has all the ingredients to do that, but, unfortunately, doesn’t mix them together very well. Its approach is unfocused and halfhearted and it lacks a reason to care. The film always feels like a film rather than an insight into a turbulent time, so the viewer always feels detached from what’s happening. It’s like when your leg starts tingling after seeing someone break theirs. You know what it feels like, but it’s not quite the same.

The story takes place in London in 1962 and follows Ginger (Elle Fanning), a 17 year old girl who is best friends with Rosa (Alice Englert). They live a pretty happy existence, but they’re becoming increasingly worried about all the talk on television about these new nuclear bombs, which, if detonated, would be powerful enough to make the Hiroshima bomb look like someone kicking over an anthill. Eventually, they start to join groups who protest the bomb. Ginger’s father, Roland (Alessandro Nivola), finds this to be a wonderful thing, as he was also an activist when he was younger. However, he and Ginger’s mother, Natalie, (Christina Hendricks), are about to go through a separation, which leads to a relationship between Roland and Rosa. Now Ginger has to deal with an unyielding fear of nuclear annihilation and a personal life that seems to be spiraling out of control.

Like many British dramas, including the good, but slightly overrated "An Education," "Ginger & Rosa" is slow paced. Although not an inherently bad thing, the film runs for less than an hour and a half, which makes the plodding narrative work counterproductively to the issues the film is trying to address. It simply doesn’t provide itself enough time to adequately explore both the personal story at hand and the threat of global extinction. Instead, it spends a minimal amount of time on both and neither really work.

Also like many British dramas, the acting is mostly terrific, particularly from Elle Fanning, who is proving herself to be quite the talent, even if she hasn’t quite gotten to the point where she can carry a movie. Much like her sister Dakota, her talent always shines through with each performance without ever nailing that “wow” factor that would make her stand out. Unfortunately, the buzz surrounding this movie isn’t due to its overall quality, but rather solely her performance. This focus on performance over story relegates the movie to merely admirable rather than truly entertaining.

Considering the fact that "Ginger & Rosa" has to coast by almost entirely on Fanning’s performance, the film quickly finds itself in bad shape. It’s a shame because the few times it does get interesting is when it explores, however briefly, its themes. Ginger’s father, for instance, isn’t a religious man and tries to explain to her that God is a construct of the mind, not an inherent trait or belief we’re born with, but rather an idea that is planted there by those who created it. Nevertheless, Ginger’s fear of worldwide catastrophe drives her, at least in some capacity, to religion—the innate fear of death is what drives everyone to religion. Of course, a real transition never fully takes place, once again ignored by a screenplay that doesn’t know where it wants to go. What could have been timely and necessary viewing for today’s generation instead becomes another forgettable, unworthy addition to an increasingly underwhelming cinematic landscape.

Ginger & Rosa receives 2/5

Monday
Sep122011

I Don't Know How She Does It

I don’t know how she does it, Sarah Jessica Parker that is. I don’t know how she can manage to star in Did You Hear About the Morgans?, Sex and the City 2 and Failure to Launch and still have a career. Her latest, titled, you guessed it, I Don’t Know How She Does It, is a decided step up from those films and even though it’s not quite recommendable, at least it’s tolerable.

Parker stars as Kate Reddy, a financial executive who for years has been able to juggle the responsibilities of her job with those of her family. However, when she lands an account with New York big shot, Jack, played by Pierce Brosnan, she finds herself traveling more often than she would like, much to the dismay of her husband, Richard, played by Greg Kinnear, and her two young children. Because of this, her life begins to unravel and, although she loves both her job and her family, she ultimately realizes one needs more attention than the other.

I Don’t Know How She Does It has one thing going for it: a strong central character. Kate isn’t defined as just a mother or a wife or a businesswoman or a friend as many females in movies are. She’s all those things and more. It’s a refreshing sight, especially given Parker’s last few gender degrading roles. She takes this mostly well written character and creates a real person out of her, exuding more charm here than she has in perhaps her entire career. You’ll come to love Kate, even when she messes up, which makes the obligatory sappy ending a bit more bearable.

Where the film falters is not in its depiction of Kate, but rather in its overall style. I Don’t Know How She Does It never decides on one way to tell its story. At times, it tells it in a traditional style. At others, it takes a documentary style approach where talking heads address someone just off camera. Sometimes, it goes a step further and breaks the fourth wall, but this only happens in a few instances and comes off as very sudden and jarring. This is a movie that doesn’t know how to approach itself, never satisfied with establishing one narrative framework, but if it isn’t satisfied with itself, how can it hope to satisfy its audience?

More troubling than its indecisiveness is its animosity towards men. Most of the hatred towards the gender comes from testimonies from Kate’s best friend, Allison, played by Christina Hendricks, and, although she may have a point when it comes to workplace discrimination and the perception of females as opposed to males, the way the movie goes about it is all wrong. Aside from one extraneous character played by Seth Meyers, all the men in this movie are understanding, loving and patient, even the bigwig moneymakers who most expect to be greedy and corrupt. The film talks and talks of how terrible men are and how unfair it is that women are seen as differently in their eyes, especially when it comes to working and raising children, but it never shows it. This isolates the guys in the audience and comes off as pathetic pandering to the ladies. It’s little more than a feminist rant in an inappropriate context.

If anything, that’s what keeps it from having a good heart. Its narrative intentions are noble and the love that Kate has for her family is clear and true, but these hateful moments displace the heart. Regardless, there is plenty to like in I Don’t Know How She Does It, but not quite enough.

I Don’t Know How She Does It receives 2.5/5

Friday
Oct082010

Life as We Know It

How do you defend the indefensible? I know, thinking from the movie critic part of my brain, that Life as We Know It is a bad movie and other critics will scoff at its trite, ridiculous, formulaic story, but there’s something about it that drew me in. I’m aware of its faults—it’s a sloppy movie from top to bottom (including one very noticeable blurry shot that is downright inexcusable for a major motion picture)—but I liked it. Although I never want to see it again, it’s a major step up from the onslaught of other 2010 romantic comedy dreck.

The story begins in 2007 and Holly (Katherine Heigl) is about to head out on a blind date with Eric Messer (Josh Duhamel). Both are friends with Alison (Christina Hendricks) and Peter Novak (Hayes MacArthur) and were set up to meet each other. However, from the moment their eyes meet, they hate each other. In fact, they don’t even get to the restaurant before calling it a night. Holly then angrily tells Alison that the only way she can make it up to her is if she promises she’ll never have to see Eric again. So naturally, they cross paths again. As the montage during the opening credits shows, they run into each other many, many more times at events thrown by the Novaks, but after tragedy strikes and the Novaks pass away, Holly and Eric are forced to bond because they are left with their one year old child, together named the guardians of little Sophie (Brooke Clagett) despite not being a couple.

Life as We Know It is manipulative and the filmmakers know it. It takes an easy emotional target (killing off two beloved friends) and then ups the ante by tossing in a now orphaned child. That’s one contribution to its inevitable critical hatred. Another is the predictable story where it’s obvious that by the end (spoilers!) the two leads will fall for each other and live happily ever after, raising the kid as if it was their own.

To toss another cliché into the fire, before that final resolution, there’s even an airport chase scene where one character rushes through the terminals to stop the other from leaving. Because of these factors, I understand why people will hate it, but the movie going experience is just as much about emotion as it is the technical aspects and only the coldest of souls (and the not so easily fooled film critics) won’t have their heartstrings pulled. I pitied Holly and Eric as their lives were turned upside down, having not only lost their best friends, but also dumped with the important responsibility of raising their child, a task neither of them were prepared for.

It’s an unlikely real life scenario, but not unheard of and the two leads do a fantastic job of showing the hurt and pain they’re going through with the uncertainty and reluctance of raising a kid. Heigl, who has appeared in nothing but trash since Knocked Up (like 27 Dresses, Killers and The Ugly Truth, all equally awful), redeems herself here, even if only slightly. An early emotional breakdown shows that she isn’t all looks. She actually has some talent somewhere behind that pretty face and Duhamel, a wonderfully charming and handsome man if there ever was one, perfectly complements her.

You may see where the story is heading from the start, but it feels believable and that’s what matters. It’s even pretty funny, with some sly references to Slumdog Millionaire and Speed, and it features a supporting cast full of faces you’ll recognize, but won't be able to put a name to.

I don’t want to come off as a defender of this film because, from its messy direction to its been-there-done-that script, it’s pretty bad. But sometimes emotions trump those technical aspects. While not overwhelming, there was something in Life as We Know It that got the best of me.

Life as We Know It receives 3/5