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Entries in Rachel McAdams (3)

Thursday
Oct312013

About Time

We all wish we could go back in time. Remember that time you said something stupid and hurt someone’s feelings? Or that time you stumbled over your words while talking to the prettiest girl you’ve ever met? Or when tragedy struck a friend or family member? What if you could go back and do it all again, changing those moments for the better? That’s the premise behind “About Time,” the latest film from Richard Curtis, the writer and director of 2003’s romance hit, “Love Actually.” What’s explored here isn’t exactly new ground, but the way it’s handled is positively exquisite. If 2009’s “The Time Traveler’s Wife” is an example of how not to tackle similar themes, “About Time” is the exact opposite. It nails it to a degree few films that explore life and love do, making it one of the best and most emotionally affecting movies of the year.

Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) has just turned 21. Aside from the expectations the monumental birthday brings, his life seems pretty normal, but his father (Bill Nighy) is about to change it drastically. It turns out that all men in his family have had an extraordinary ability. They can actually go back in time. All it takes is a dark, secluded room and some concentration and they can be whisked off to any place they’re thinking of, with a couple caveats: they can’t go forward in time, only back, and they can only revisit places they’ve already been and change events they’ve already experienced. This unique ability gives the otherwise timid and introverted Tim a chance to try new things without consequence. Eventually, he ends up in London working a boring job at a law firm, but one night, he meets Mary (Rachel McAdams) and he immediately falls in love.

The story that follows is one of both utter joy and inescapable sadness. It’s one that explores the craziness of life and the hopelessness that one finds when they realize that some things simply can’t be changed. Even with this power, Tim finds that when one thing is fixed, another is broken. It’s a movie that acknowledges that life is messy and it sometimes isn’t going to play out the way you want it to, but it also stops to see its beauty. Throughout his time twisting journey, Tim realizes that happiness isn’t in fixing life’s stumbles, but in embracing them. But perhaps more than anything, he learns that the true key to happiness is simply in living and not taking for granted this wonderful and magical ride we’ve all been granted, in noticing the little things and not letting precious moments pass you by.

While these life lessons are hardly revelatory, they’re handled with the utmost care, turning what could easily be an overdose of cheese into something that’s truly beautiful and easy to embrace and understand. All but those who have led the easiest of lives will be able to connect to the raw emotion presented here. Much of this success comes from the technical expertise in its crafting. “About Time” is a beautiful film to watch, with one of its few downsides being an unnecessarily shaky camera. The camera is so uncomfortable wonky at times that it’s difficult to even see the emotion on the character’s faces, particularly in an early scene when Tim’s walking home after meeting Mary, his elation barely registering because of it. While such shakiness can add to a more hectic movie, it doesn’t fit this film’s generally calm demeanor.

But what really makes “About Time” work is its performances. Bill Nighy is as charming as ever and Domhnall Gleeson proves his chops after working in side roles in films like “Dredd” and “Harry Potter,” but it’s the lovely Rachel McAdams that really shines here. She’s one of the most likable and beautiful actresses working today, but she is normalized here. Her hair is occasionally off kilter, her dresses a bit nerdy and her overall beauty is toned down, but it’s her charisma that makes it work. When Tim runs into his first love, who by all accounts is a much prettier and physically desirable woman, one night in London and she invites him to her place, he turns her down and rushes back home to Mary. There’s an unexplainable connection he feels with her, but we get it. McAdams creates in Mary the girl all guys want to bring home to their parents.

“About Time” is admittedly a little rough around the edges, particularly in its clumsy handling of its numerous side characters like Tim’s perpetually unhappy playwright friend, Harry, played by the criminally underused Tom Hollander, but those rough edges are minor when compared to the joy that encompasses them. This film is relatable to anyone who has ever made a mistake they wish they could fix, anyone who stumbled over their words when trying to explain to their crush how much they cared for them and anyone who has lived through life’s sad inevitabilities. “About Time” may be too sentimental for some to handle, but the romantically inclined won’t want to miss it.

About Time receives 4.5/5

Friday
Feb102012

The Vow

The Vow plays just like a Nicholas Sparks book adaptation. Two characters fall in love, but are then torn apart by a terrible event. That idyllic love is shattered and needs to be rebuilt, but there are numerous factors prohibiting that from happening. Even the ending, albeit in a less manipulative way, seems like something a sap like him would dream up. The only thing it’s missing is an actual Nicholas Sparks writing credit. It’s not surprising then that early word of mouth has been good among fans of movies like The Notebook. The stories are identical—a man tries to help the woman he loves reclaim her memory so she will love him again—and it features the same passion that this demographic loves. It’s not quite as good as The Notebook, but it’s better than every other Sparks adaptation (if that means anything at this point). It’s no prize winner, but The Vow is a serviceable romance for the upcoming Valentine’s Day crowd.

Leo (Channing Tatum) is married to Paige (Rachel McAdams). They love each other dearly, but one night, a truck rear ends them and Paige is thrown through the windshield. After waking up from a weeks long coma, Paige doesn’t remember anything in her recent life, including Leo. Her parents (Sam Neill and Jessica Lange) show up to comfort her, hoping to reclaim her love after years of separation for unknown reasons, but Leo insists Paige stay with him. He needs to remind her how much she loves him because he simply can’t live without her.

Yes, it’s true that The Vow is yet another sappy, ridiculous romance movie that occasionally manipulates viewer emotions with contrivances and silly screenplay love talk, but it has its heart in the right place and it doesn’t pound you over the head with prophetic nonsense about the value of love and how it can save a life, ad nauseam. It’s simply about a man who loves his wife unconditionally and will do anything to get her back. It’s a respectable road to take in a cinematic world where love is unrealistically portrayed with impulsive exaggeration, creating a false view of it for females everywhere.

But where The Vow shines is in the chemistry of the two leads, which comes as a surprise given Channing Tatum’s poor track record in romance films (or any other films, for that matter), but he’s good here and creates a sympathetic character. Any man in the audience need only think how awful it would be to be in his shoes to understand his feelings, even if we’ve never personally felt them before. A lot of this is, of course, due to Rachel McAdams who is once again radiant. She’s so lovely and warm that it would seem insane for Leo to not go to the great lengths he does to win her over again. Her amiable screen presence lends credibility to the tale at hand and does more than enough to make up for the film’s flaws, of which there are many.

Despite likable leads and a love story that doesn’t get too gushy, it’s hard not to criticize just how dumb this movie can be. The characters, though played well, aren’t the brightest people in the world and you’ll stare in amazement as they ignore important information and end up in preposterous situations. Take for instance when Paige first wakes up. The doctor is hopeful that she’ll regain her memory, but doing that means getting back into her daily routine. The sooner she gets back to her normal life the better, but Leo doesn’t help her do that. He simply takes her home and finds it to be sufficient. Sure, he explains that the first thing she does in the morning is make coffee and check her emails, but that’s hardly an effort at all on his part. Instead, he heads off to work while she’s stuck in a place she doesn’t remember and feels uncomfortable in.

Once at this point, the screenplay starts to treat Paige like she lost her intelligence rather than just her memory. Despite not remembering anything, including where she is, she ventures outside (without a cell phone), turns a few corners and gets herself lost. It’s a scene that exists solely so she can call her mother to pick her up, beginning a string of events that couldn’t be more manufactured if you tried to make them so. The writers seem to have profound disrespect for the characters they’re writing about, but the performances pull it through.

The Vow doesn't reinvent the romance genre, but it at least tries, which is more than can be said for most other romances these days. I’m sure some guys will bicker and pout to their girlfriends in an attempt to get something in return after being forced to sit through it this Valentine’s Day, probably to decent success, but what the ladies won’t realize is that the guys secretly liked it.

The Vow receives 2.5/5

Wednesday
Nov102010

Morning Glory

As far as satirical films on the news media go, nothing beats Sidney Lumet’s brilliant Network, a movie about sensationalism and how we as a society eat it up. In that picture, a man named Howard Beale announced his plan to kill himself on the air and interest in the television station shot up. As he stood in front of a giant audience, mentally ill from the emotional torment of losing his job, nobody stepped in to stop him. The popularity meant ratings and nobody batted an eye at what they were doing to the man. While not as in-depth, interesting or clever as that film, Morning Glory explores similar sensationalist territory while upping the comedy and giving us a few fantastic performances.

Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams) lives in New Jersey. She’s a producer at a small television station on the local morning news show. Things seem to be going fine until she is suddenly fired, finding herself frantically searching for a new job. After many e-mails and phone calls, she finally lands a gig at IBS as executive producer of their daily morning news show, Day Break. Their ratings are suffering and her new boss hopes she will be able to raise them. So she sets out to do just that, though she’ll have to get through her testy anchors Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton) and Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford) first.

Morning Glory is a good movie; there’s no questioning that. It’s funny, it’s sweet and it has something to say, featuring a commentary on public consumption and how we are more drawn to fluff than news that matters. But it could have been so much more. There’s a great movie hidden here somewhere, but it loses itself at certain points along the proverbial line.

Where the movie succeeds is in Becky. She’s a strong, smart, independent woman who is determined to earn the respect of those around her and bring the ratings of Day Break out of the gutter. It’s a character we don’t see much in movies these days. In a cinematic world where women are normally the helpless ones in peril or treated like an object, it was a breath of fresh air. However, it seems there can’t be a woman onscreen who inhabits these personality traits because she is quickly given a sexual interest and the film falls into the same romantic comedy routine as so many others.

But luckily, it never gets too weighed down by it. Every time it looks like the writers are going to force Becky to succumb to the pressures of society, it quickly switches gears and shows just how tough she can be. Her first order of duty when she arrives at the studio is to fire one of her anchors for the rude, obnoxious oaf he is and begin to pursue a new one in the form of Mike, a seasoned anchor veteran who touts his numerous awards and refuses to do any piece on something he doesn’t consider newsworthy, which is pretty much anything.

He’s a pompous, sarcastic man with a thick shell that Becky has to break and, even though it’s as predictable as the presence of beer at a sporting event, it’s a testament to her character that she can and does. Although she finds love, she doesn’t abandon her career for it. I suspect powerful women all across the country will find something to like in her and it doesn’t hurt that the radiant Ms. McAdams is in those shoes.

There’s a great supporting cast in Morning Glory that includes Patrick Wilson, Jeff Goldblum and a hilarious cameo from 50 Cent, but it’s the script that really shines. It’s rare to find a movie this funny, intelligent and timely that also makes a valid point about the news industry. It may be a more comedic, less important version of Network, but Morning Glory is entertaining all the same.

Morning Glory receives 3.5/5