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Entries in Greg Kinnear (3)

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

Thursday
Apr012010

The Last Song

If you're like me, a lot of movies have lost their zest to you. After seeing and writing about hundreds of films on this website, I've gotten to the point where the majority of films are so predictable I could tell you what happens in them scene by scene based soley off the trailer. They all follow a formula set by the dozens and dozens of precedents before them. Nicholas Sparks book adaptations are perhaps the easiest to decipher. If you've seen The Notebook, A Walk to Remember, Nights in Rodanthe or the recent Dear John, you're familiar with the endings. As I watched his latest, Miley Cyrus helmed feature, The Last Song, I couldn't help but continually ask myself: who's going to die in this one?

Cyrus plays Ronnie Miller, a rebellious teen on her way down south to live with her father, Steve, played by Greg Kinnear, for the summer. She's a hardened person, already convicted of shoplifting, and she has a "down with authority" attitude. You can tell because she has a nose stud and wears leather boots. Watch out Lindsay Lohan! You may have some competition.

Ronnie has a little brother named Jonah, played by Bobby Coleman, who is accompanying her on her stay. While he is excited to see his father, a person he has spent little time with since the divorce, she can't wait to go home. She hates her dad because he left her, but while there she meets a strapping young lad named Will Blakelee, played by Liam Hemsworth, who starts to turn her world around. Through him, she becomes happier and starts to reconnect with her father, but with only the summer to spend there, will she be able to find true happiness?

If you take the time to really think about what happens at the end of these movies, you'll realize that all of them, with the exception of The Notebook, end without the relationship lasting. It almost seems like Sparks is a jaded lover, pessimistic from bad experiences brought on by past flings.

Without saying how, The Last Song ends in a decidedly different way, not closing the book on the story for good, but rather implying future events. While it may not reach the height of The Notebook (and is barely recommendable by any standard of quality filmmaking), it's a sweet story with an ending that really works, sans the cheese.

The biggest problem with Sparks' book-to-movie adaptations is that they never know when to quit. Instead of letting the emotion pour through naturally, they shove it in your face and try to force you to feel sadness. This is no deviation. I cared about all of these characters. Their performances were good and their chemistry was excellent. Cyrus and Hemsworth seem like naturals together (as they should since they are dating in actuality) and the father/son relationship between Greg Kinnear and little Bobby Coleman is as precious as can be. When tragedy struck (as was inevitable), I cared. I didn't want the events to play out this way. The movie had done its job. It had me in its grasp, so why so maudlin? Why take the emotion you've just spent the last hour and a half building and crush it under the weight of schlocky sentimentality?

What started as a somewhat uneven, but still solid little tearjerker went the way of Nights in Rodanthe and A Walk to Remember. At the end, when I was supposed to be sad, I was fighting back laughter solely so I wouldn't ruin the experience for any of my movie going patrons who may have been tricked by its overemotional gushing.

As the credits rolled and the lights came back up, however, I still found myself content with giving it my stamp of approval. It's funny, it's sweet, it's meaningful and it goes to show that you must learn to forgive those who have hurt you before the chance passes. It's nothing special, but there's something in The Last Song that keeps its heart beating despite its problems.

The Last Song receives 2.5/5

Friday
Mar122010

Green Zone

I have a philosophy of not judging movies based on what they're about. Whether I agree or disagree with the subject matter, I try to look at it on its own artistic merit. With that said, I'm only human and am naturally drawn to things that reinforce my beliefs. But sometimes, a movie arrives too late to the party to have any real significance and I find myself distanced from the message despite my agreeance with it. Such is the case with Green Zone.

The film takes place in the early days of the Iraq war, in March of 2003. Matt Damon plays Miller, a soldier in charge of finding weapons of mass destruction. Despite the intel that tells them where to go, he and his squad have come up empty handed multiple times. He begins to get frustrated going on these wild goose chases that are putting him and his men in danger only to find nothing, so he confronts Clark Poundstone, played by Greg Kinnear, head of Pentagon Special Intelligence, who assures him that the weapons are indeed out there and they will find them. Nevertheless, something seems fishy and he begins to suspect the war in Iraq was started unjustifiably. With the help of CIA chief Brown, played by Brendan Gleeson, he hopes to uncover the true reason he is there.

Iraq war movies are no strangers to the film community. Stop Loss, In the Valley of Elah, and the recent Best Picture Oscar winner The Hurt Locker all have explored the war in different ways, some delving into the manipulative ways our government can keep our soldiers active despite their military term ending while others have explored the affects war has on those fighting. They are focused, meaningful and bring up important issues that the public may not be aware about. Green Zone is the opposite. It's a two hour Bush bash with the oft-heard message, "America entered into Iraq on false pretenses," thanks to our inability to find WMD's. Anyone familiar with the goings-on of the world already knows we were unable to find the weapons, so this becomes little more than an exercise in the blame game that tries to remind us how we got involved to begin with. I feel much about this the way I did about the economic downturn. Some blamed President Clinton, some blamed President Bush, but whose fault it was seemed unnecessary to me. Let's just fix it.

The message, however important it may be, is too late to the game. Had this been released three or four years ago, its impact would be hard to ignore, but now it seems like a childish indictment of a man many conservatives have even come to dislike. It is necessary to know how we got to Iraq, what mistakes we made along the way and how we can avoid them in the future, but dwelling on how we got there isn't as important right now as focusing on how to get out.

Director Paul Greengrass, the man behind The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, directs this in a similar style, the nauseating 'can-you-not-hold-still-for-one-second?' shaky cam style. As solid as his film's are, he has a tendency to go a little overboard with it and by the end, I was queasy and my head was pounding. It felt like somebody had been chipping away at my skull with a chisel for two hours. There's a fine line between using the shaky cam technique for realism and overdoing it to the point where you remind your audience they're watching a movie. When you cut to a man typing at a computer and the camera is still shaking back and forth like its mounted on somebody's shoulder, it's doing the opposite of its intended purpose.

I have many a problem with Green Zone, but in the end I'm still going to give it my seal of approval. Regardless of its relentless shakes and the message arriving a few years too late, it's often exciting, always entertaining and Matt Damon, as usual, is rock solid as the lead, giving another award worthy performance. Unfortunately, it's too worried about further crippling Bush's reputation to be bothered with saying something relevant.

Green Zone receives 2.5/5