WANK OR WATCH | Love & Other Drugs
It is incredibly rare that the lead actress goes topless in a romantic comedy. Unless you’re Charlize Theron or another serial boob-barer, ladies tend to keep their breasts in their shirt until they are in a role that people respect so that, by extension, they will be respected for getting naked. So, while Hathaway hasn’t been one to shy away from a topless scene, what possessed her to get naked repeatedly in Love & Other Drugs?
While this is a film about a guy falling for a girl, there is far more unexpected drama in this movie than most. Jamie (Gyllenhaal) is a drup rep who, while shadowing a doctor, meets Maggie (Hathaway) who has been diagnosed with an early on-set of Parkinson’s. This is not What Happens in Vegas! It is a peculiar piece and one that encouraged me to check out the trailer because how do you sell this movie to the masses? Ultimately, they opted to include scenes from almost every sequence that doesn’t involve her condition and then two that do, all the while never actually mentioning what she has. Reason why? Parkinson’s is not a good time.
As it is, Anne Hathaway delivers a strong, compelling performance that, while not Oscar-worthy, exceeds what would be expected in a movie of this sort. Did she need to get naked? I personally do not think so, but having as much sex in the movie without nudity might have been a little strange. Her nudity offers nothing to further the plot or emphasise anything at all with regard to her condition. Sadly, this feels a little bit like a TV special with a bigger budget and better acting, but a TV special nonetheless.
My Verdict: Wank
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WANK OR WATCH | Brokeback Mountain
The second film in 2005 in which Anne Hathaway agreed to go topless is a very different proposition to the first, Havoc. Released a few months after, Brokeback Mountain had a highly and widely regarded director in Ang Lee, two leads who had just started to reach their potential in Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger, a main character from a recently ended, internationally loved teen drama in Michelle Williams, and a pre-packaged marketing angle of ‘the forbidden love between two cowboys’. Hathaway is no longer the main character, but instead gets the opportunity to work in a movie that will get a wide cinematic release while also attracting the attention of the Academy and casting agents. Regardless of her performance (as long as it’s piss poor of course) this is a statement of intent for her, a declaration of the direction she wants her career to go in.
I remember, despite being twenty-one at the time, having to take a fair bit of banter-based stick from even my normally liberal friends for saying that I not only saw this in the cinema, but that I liked it. On this, my first viewing since, I would say it resonates even more. It is a little cheesy in the beginning, and there are moments that seem unrealistic to me (the moment downstairs when Jack (Gyllenhaal) first comes to visit Ennis (Ledger) seems passionate but unlikely in the circumstances), but this is all just setting up a gut-wrenching final forty minutes where Ledger really takes the movie by storm. Even beyond the story, this is a truly beautiful film and some of the photography is just insane. Seven years after seeing it I still remember the scene where Ledger confronts the two tossers at the firework display and it is shot from his feet looking up as fireworks explode in the sky behind him. On second watch, that shot slayed me even more.
Was this movie worth Hathaway getting topless for? While she plays fourth string, her performance on the phone towards the end of the movie was worth her agreeing to get topless for alone, even if her character was never quite fully realised. I love this movie and will be sure not to wait another seven years before returning to it. And, as a final thought, for those fellas who still rib their male friends for watching this, you never see a dick in focus and yet do see both Hathaway and Williams topless.
My verdict: Watch
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MUMBLESPUNK STREAMER | Puffy Chair
Currently available via Netflix US
This was the feature debut of the Duplass brothers in every possible way. It was the first time that they had both written and produced a movie as well as the first time Jay had directed and Mark had acted in one. In this way it reminds me ever so slightly of Bottle Rocket, a film that launched the careers of Owen Wilson as an actor, Wes Anderson as a director and them both as writers. The films are comparable in other ways too, they both feel as though they are featuring lovable and yet slightly effected characters that the film-makers are not afraid to show everyone their flaws because they paint them with such affection. They both also have this energy, this excitement that even in the slower scenes somehow simmers below the surface. Basically, it is obvious that each set of film-makers have a desire and message that they want to convey in film and that pulsates through their respective movies.
That’s where the comparison ends. The Puffy Chair, in true mumblecore fashion, is weak on plot. Josh (Duplass) travels across the country with his tightly-wound girlfriend (Aselton) and his hippy brother (Wilkins) to pick up and deliver a chair that he bought from eBay to his dad for his birthday. The majority of the ‘action’ takes place in the town where they are meant to collect the chair from but this largely revolves around killing time and an unlikely romance. Where this movie differs from regular mumblecore is in the technical aspect. This feels like a properly plotted movie, with a higher level of either equipment or competence in the cinematography and direction, and far better acting. Duplass feels comfortable on screen and the film seems anchored by his performance, while Wilkins for me steals the show with his soft comic touch.
This reads like a glowing review and perhaps it doesn’t quite deserve the level of praise that I’m bestowing upon it, but this was my second viewing of this movie in the last three months and, unexpected to me, it actually managed to improve second time round. If you like Mark Duplass as an actor then I definitely think that this is worth your time.
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REVIEW | Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
There are not enough movies about regular people at the end of the world. Not sons of scientists (Day After Tomorrow) or amateur astronomers (Deep Impact), but everyday people who can have fuck all impact on the outcome. That’s what we get here when Dodge (Carell) and Penny (Knightley) decide to join forces to live out their final wishes. Unfortunately their relationship often descends into typical faux-indie romance territory and they rely on the audience to keep reminding themselves of the tragic backdrop to elevate it in any way. To reinforce the situation we are treated to an incredible supporting cast along the way and it is when it becomes the world’s last ever road movie that it is at its most entertaining. Whether it be Rob Corrdry and Patton Oswalt rejecting all social and sexual etiquette at a party, Derek Luke attempting to prepare for surviving the apocalypse in military fashion or the excellent TJ Miller and Gillian Jacobs exploring a hippy, free-love lifestyle at a roadside diner, these characters explore the concept of dealing with the end of the world in a far funnier but also realistic fashion.
And this is the movies major flaw, we are forced to stick with these two leads and their relationship when we really want to explore these additional characters and, to an even greater extent, the central concept of normal people reacting to their impending doom. It is telling that the shots of people holding lawn sales or mowing grass are more moving than almost anything that happens between the two leads with the exception of a phone call that Penny has at one point.
The premise of this movie far outweighs the final outcome but that’s not to say that this isn’t an above average movie, because it is. If ever a film deserved to be remade in a few years, this is it.
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REVIEW | The Five Year Engagement
The Five-Year Engagement is a typical Apatow comedy and it made me laugh. It didn’t make me laugh loads but I chuckled a fair few times and I was in hysterics once. This is not too bad. The Five-Year Engagement is also a drama and it moved me. It didn’t move me loads but I had some genuine concern for our leads and it made me ask questions of them and myself. The fact that it is both of these things is its first problem and the problem from which all future problems stem. Of course dramas can be funny and comedies can be moving, but here the crass humour does not sit well with the somewhat sweet story of life testing love. We get Chris Pratt being Seth Rogen and doing it well, but a Rogen-character is as welcome in this film as he would be in The Notebook. We get two additional male characters for Segel to interact with who are both boring as fuck, and, due to the level of drama created, it ends with the comedy elements lacking conviction.
Instead, this is a comedy that should have made Blunt’s character the lead, ditched the crude, laddy jokes, and accepted that this is a more traditional rom-com. With The Five Year Engagement we have the first Apatow movie written for a predominantly female audience, it’s just a shame that the makers are not aware of it.
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