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Entries in Sarah Jessica Parker (3)

Friday
Dec092011

New Year's Eve

There are lots of different aspects of a movie that can make or break it. One of the most important is focus. When a movie meanders too much or introduces too many characters or tries to juggle multiple stories in its short runtime, it almost never works. The exception to that rule is 2003’s Love Actually, a delightful, though still certainly flawed romance that now ranks among many people’s must watch love stories. Last year’s Valentine’s Day attempted to recreate that movie’s charm and scraped by on the skin of its teeth. Now that film’s director is attempting to recreate his own recreation with New Year’s Eve, an unwise decision. The small amount of luck he had with Valentine’s Day is all but gone and most of the joy that comes from watching it is due to how bad it gets as it draws nearer to its conclusion. New Year’s Eve takes cheese to an entirely new level.

The film is told through a number of vignettes featuring characters on December 31st, 2011 as they prepare for what the new year will bring. There’s Claire (Hilary Swank), the person in charge of the New York City ball drop, Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer), an unhappy record company employee who has just quit her job, Paul (Zac Efron), the young delivery boy Ingrid buys for the day to help her meet a list of goals before midnight, Stan (Robert De Niro), an old man dying in the hospital, Aimee (Halle Berry), his nurse, Tess (Jessica Biel), who is close to giving birth but is trying to hold out with her husband Griffin (Seth Meyers) until midnight because the first family to give birth in the new year gets a large cash prize, and Grace (Sarah Paulson) and James Schwab (Til Schweiger), the competing pregnant couple across the hall.

Believe it or not, I haven’t even come close to naming off all the film’s characters. Not mentioned in the above synopsis are Cary Elwes, Alyssa Milano, Common, Carla Gugino, Katherine Heigl, Jon Bon Jovi, Sofia Vergara, Ashton Kutcher, Lea Michele, James Belushi, Sarah Jessica Parker, Abigail Breslin, Josh Duhamel, Ludacris and more. The film leaves no celebrity unturned, even going so far as to give Yeardley Smith, the voice of Lisa Simpson on The Simpsons, a supporting role. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy playing “spot the celebrity,” but it doesn’t make for the most structured movie. Rather than introducing them organically through the needs of the story, they are introduced just as they are, as celebrities. It becomes distracting.

But in a movie with so little going for it, that hardly matters. As expected with a film that crams so much in a small amount of time, none of the individual stories are given room to breathe. Most are sped through so as not to make the movie five hours long, which gives little time for characterization. The two or three interesting stories are either overshadowed by a dozen other lousy ones or undermined by poor writing, where conflicts are thrown in arbitrarily in a desperate attempt to build emotion by the end, like the scene where Paul stands alone in a room with Ingrid and talks to his pal on the phone about how pathetic she is, as if she can’t hear him while she’s standing a few yards away. Moments like these derail New Year’s Eve from what is already a pretty wobbly track.

But hating the film is not easy. It’s cheery and optimistic, even if that optimism borders on annoyance. It knows its audience and it panders to them. The simplicity of its story is exactly what the people who go to see this will want, so in a strange way, you could almost call it a success. Luckily, however, its simplicity doesn’t carry all the way to its end. There are a few legitimate surprises in store for its viewers, a twist or two that actually manage to create some intrigue as the clock strikes midnight for the characters, even though the film’s window for emotion is long gone by then. Still, getting to those clever twists is a chore. New Year’s Eve is only two hours long, but its gooey amounts of cheese and hilariously awful song numbers will make it feel like you’re watching the whole stupid day unfold.

New Year’s Eve receives 1.5/5

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

Wednesday
May262010

Sex and the City 2

There’s a term we movie reviewers like to use to describe certain films, those that already have an existing fan base and will make loads of money regardless of what we write. That term is “critic proof.” Now I’m aware that I’m the last person whose opinion you’d ask for when it comes to Sex and the City 2, but duty calls nevertheless, so here it goes. I hated this movie.

The story takes place sometime after the first movie. Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) is married to her dream man, Mr. Big (Chris Noth), but they are in the middle of a slump. Big wants to stay home and relax while Carrie pushes for outside interaction. Eventually, Carrie gets an invite to attend a movie premiere with her friend Samantha (Kim Cattrall) and her young boy toy. Meanwhile, the other two girls are dealing with parenthood. Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) loves her husband and her child, but is unhappy at her job and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) is finding it hard to deal with a constantly crying baby and a beautiful nanny (Alice Eve) who she fears may lead to her husband’s infidelity.

Meanwhile, Samantha gets invited to spend a week in Abu Dhabi, all expenses paid, but she refuses to go alone and drags her three friends there with her. Besides, they are all having problems and need to get away for a while. But while there, Carrie runs into an old flame, Aidan (John Corbett), which threatens to throw her marriage further off track.

Again, I know nobody cares about my opinion on this movie, but I fear you may consider it even less valid when you hear this. I have never watched a single episode of Sex and the City. I’ve seen chunks of it here and there, but never found it tolerable enough to sit through an entire episode. I’ve always found the characters insufferable, people I would never want to hang around with. Materialistic and shallow only begin to describe them. Take an early scene, for example, where Big and Carrie have a warm, romantic evening together where they hold each other and watch an old black and white movie, the classic It Happened One Night. For their anniversary, Big buys her a television for their bedroom because he wants to recreate that night. He thought the idea of wanting to be with him would trump any material possession, but Carrie misses the romantic gesture and insists that a piece of jewelry would be better.

Maybe it’s because I’m a man and my ignorance of the female mind plagues me, but I found myself siding with Big most of the time. Soon after the above events, Big comes home from a terrible workday and wants nothing more than to spend a quiet evening in, but still he humors Carrie and accompanies her to the aforementioned movie premiere. Yet she still isn’t satisfied. Eventually he goes a little overboard and asks for two days a week away from her, which any woman would understandably scoff at, but she actually goes along with it. Carrie's problems are all self inflicted, but they are all blamed on outside factors. I wasn't buying it.

The writing, if not already understood, is fairly bad. The story meanders, the dialogue is boring, consisting of scenes where the four sit around a table and talk about food, fashion, clothes and shoes (as well as the obligatory "man hate" speech where they insist men in America don’t want them to "have a voice")—and the humor is mostly pretty lame. The opening of the film sees our protagonists at a homosexual marriage and they drop more gay jokes than MacGruber. It’s all pretty trivial, really.

Like the original Sex and the City movie (which I have seen), this thing goes on and on with no signs of letting up. It spends two and a half hours throwing the girls into random, contrived predicaments that come off as over-the-top and cartoony, including a late scene where Samantha shows off her condoms while thrusting around a group of Middle Eastern men who find her sexuality offensive.

These are not the type of women that should be idolized. Yes, they have some redemptive qualities and yes, they are strong, powerful and independent, but that doesn’t mean they are exemplary. They’re sex crazed materialists who are, at times, quite selfish. I bring up their unfortunate influence for one reason. At one point in the movie, a prominent character cheats on her significant other, something that is clearly wrong, but struggles over whether or not she should tell him. The girls sitting behind me, talking amongst themselves, argued that she shouldn’t, agreeing with another character onscreen. Sex and the City 2 is daft, and that’s fine, but when that daftness translates to the audience watching, something is clearly wrong.

Sex and the City 2 receives 1.5/5