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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WANK OR WATCH | Havoc
Anne Hathaway was almost twenty-two when her second appearance as Mia Thermopolis in the Princcess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement hit UK screens. Now, while she was playing a twenty-one year-old in that film, it was obviously a children’s movie. Her only other major cinematic roles at that point had been Ella Enchanted and the first Princess Diary film and that was all I knew her for despite having seen Nicholas Nickleby in which she also appears. I had written her off, assuming that she would suckle on the Disney teat until she disappeared into obscurity and I would only ever see her face in supermarket bargain bins years later.
And then, one year later, she played the topless card twice and suddenly the world took her seriously as an adult. The first of these came in Havoc, a film centering on a gang of white upper-middle class teenagers who adopt a faux-gangsta lifestyle seemingly due to feeling unconnected to their families and heavily influenced by the music that they listen to. This film could and probably should have been amazing. Not only does the cast-list include two youngsters who have become legitimate stars in Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Channing Tatum in addition to Hathaway, the supporting cast have some excellent credits to their names and this was also written by Stephen Gaghan who won an Oscar for Traffic and was the first fictional film from Barbara Kopple who has two Best Documentary Oscars to her name. It is this team behind the scenes that disappoints me most, as Gaghan has shown that he can write gritty and Kopple has worked exclusively with reality previously. Unfortunately, neither of these things show.
What we end up with is a bunch of white kids embarrassingly talking like rappers, the guys being too dumb to notice the distinction between fighting other faux-gangs and fighting actual gangs, and girls being taught an archaic lesson about interacting with bad boys. The whole thing, on almost every level, feels cringe-inducing and, while Hathaway shows in her vulnerable moments that she was ready to make that transition into more mature roles, Gordon-Levitt’s incessant Snoop Dogg impression is reason enough to skip this.
This is an uncomfortable watch and not for praise-worthy reasons.
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WANK OR WATCH | Powder Blue
In October 2009 the film Powder Blue was released into cinemas and yet six months prior to that a clip from the movie, more than three minutes in length, hit the internet showing Jessica Biel performing as a dancer in a strip bar. The scene is ridiculously hot but is also peppered with emotion and revolves around her staring, teary-eyed at Eddie Remayne who is looking on with a mixture of bemusement and pity. She dances in a way that it is almost impossible not to find attractive but it is definitely not a vaccuous, Halle Berry in Swordfish style scene. It hurts emotionally even watching it out of context.
The clip actually sums the film up pretty well. Set in L.A., (seemingly a place with absolutely no hope of any sort) every character is damaged and the film sets about dumping more and more shit upon them, gut-punching them until they can take no more so that when the film then offers them a moment of potential joy they shun it because they can’t believe that they might deserve such pleasure. The film pivots around Biel’s stripper (with the exception of Forrest Whittaker who probably gives the best performance but is part of an entirely detached, more interesting narrative albeit still set around in this world of broken souls) and Ray Liotta as an ex-con trying to make peace, Remayne as an outcast trying to save his father’s undertaker business, Kudrow as a diner waitress who seems to be clutching to her last chip of hope wondering who or what to gamble on and Biel herself all give remarkable performances so that, even when the film is at its most unbelievable it never becomes ridiculous.
And the film does get unbelievable, whether it is the disappointing ending or a scene towards the end involving Whittaker in a church, the flaws tend to come only once the film-makers have to decide how to conclude their tale. By that point I was so invested in the characters that I found it regretable rather than annoying or jarring, but I could see others feeling all of those. This movie is dripping with the same regret and disappointment as films like 21 Grams and would be a dreadful choice if already feeling down, but it is also amongst my most affecting watches of the year so far.
Wank or Watch: Watch
p.s. couldn’t find a natural place to insert this within the piece but it needs to be mentioned that this also features Partick Swayze as the owner of the strip club and, despite being under-used, it acts as another reminder of how sadly he will be missed.
WANK OR WATCH | 2 Days In The Valley
Charlize Charlize Theron sacked her first manager after he only ever offered her roles for films like Showgirls or Species, and yet 2 Days In The Valley, her first credited role, has her nude on more than one occasion. It is an interesting and yet easily distinguishable difference for anyone familiar with these films for, while 2 Days In The Valley is shit, those others, along with the Poison Ivy series, are just exploiting ladies for soft-core porn purposes. Theron would go on to get topless in films that ranged from so bad it was hard to even get hard to right through to one that would grab her an Oscar, and she has always said that nudity is not an issue if the role requires it. But did her role as Helga in 2 Days In The Valley necessitate her boobs to make an appearance?
Simply put, no. A pretty mediocre, forgettable thriller that has four, maybe five, narrative threads that end up intertwining in a predictable fashion with almost no surprises along the way. James Spader is slightly entertaining but not particularly convincing, Jeff Daniels is fine but underused, Eric Stoltz has moments but the best aren’t explored, Teri Hatcher is as annoying as always and so it is left to Danny Aiello and his criminal who care to steal the show as he continuously berates a twat with a terrible British yuppy accent for belittling his PA, who Aiello takes a shine to. Even before the characters start to cross paths you both know that they will and are aware of exactly how they will, and so this is a thoroughly unthrilling thriller.
As I said in my opening paragraph, Theron has always shown a willingness to bare all and it is difficult to say where her career might had she refused this role entirely based on the topless scenes or asked to have those removed, perhaps the people behind The Devil’s Advocate would have disregarded her as a possibility for that movie based on its nude scenes and she might never have become the cinematic draw that she is now. With that in mind, this might have been a good decision from her even if the film is not worth watching.