Tag Archives: Alicia Silverstone

Book Club

Four smart and accomplished ladies have a friendly book club to “stimulate their minds.” But this month, frisky businesswoman Vivian (Jane Fonda) is suggesting Fifty Shades of Grey, which promises to stimulate something else. Sharon (Candice Bergen), a judge and voice of reason doubts it even qualifies as a book, but she is overruled and pretty soon they, along with Diane (Diane Keaton), recently widowed, and Carol (Mary Steenburgen), the only one who is happily married (or married at all, I suppose) are actually reading this month’s selection, which is apparently a pretty rare thing (sorry, Wild).

Fifty Shades of Grey offends me on many levels. Likely not on a prurient one. I can’t be sure though, since I’ve never read it. It offends me because it started out as porn fan fiction about Twilight, which is a book that already offends me for infantilizing MV5BMTU2MjYzMjY2MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTYyNjM0NTM@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,743_AL_literature. But fan fiction should likely stay in the darkest corners of the internet, where it belongs. Instead, easily titillated people with low standards encouraged the author to change the names and publish it as a “book,” which I avoided on principle. Ditto when the movie(s) came out, and you know there aren’t many I miss reviewing, even the stinkers.

When I first heard about this one, I loved it immediately for the terrific ensemble cast, but I was really disappointed about the subject of their book club.  I think older women, and indeed all women, should be free to explore and own their sexuality, but it’s insulting and belittling that it’s come to this. Luckily, the toxic erotica is only the jumping off point, followed by a pretty harmless rom-com. Not a great one, but thanks to fabulous leading ladies, it can’t go completely wrong can it?

And it’s sort of nice to see these ladies getting to live, getting to flirt and travel and nurture friendships, getting to be things others than mothers and grandmothers, which are wonderful things of course but not the only thing. Aging is a sin in Hollywood, and women over 40 are largely viewed by the camera’s lens as sexless. Producers routinely cast young actresses in “old” roles (ie, a 28 year old Angelina Jolie playing 27 year old Colin Farrell’s mother). The year Meryl Streep turned 40 she was offered THREE different roles for a witch. In The First Wives Club, Goldie Hawn’s character explains “There are only three ages for women in Hollywood; ‘Babe’, ‘District Attorney’, and ‘Driving Ms. Daisy.'” In real life, women continue to be interesting, complex human beings at every age, and the stories we tell should reflect that. Book Club is not the answer we really need; it feels more like an extended sitcom episode. But I won’t deny that Bergen, Keaton, Steenburgen, and Fonda are thrilling to watch; they remain magnetic as ever. If I have to put up with a “lethargic pussy” joke I will, but I will continue to hope for better next time. Like maybe a little less glaring whiteness, for starters.

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The Tribes of Palos Verdes

Medina’s parents, Sandy and Phil Mason, have recently moved their family to Palos Verdes, California, for a fresh start. Phil (Justin Kirk) has always wanted to be a surgeon to the stars, but Sandy (Jennifer Garner) doesn’t fit the real housewives of Palos Verdes mold. Instead of fixing things, home only becomes more volatile, and Medina (Maika Monroe) and her twin brother Jim (Cody Fern) seek solace in the surf outside. Or in anything else, including the kind of trouble teenagers will always get into.

Wowza do parents fuck up their kids. Although to be honest, having treated myself to Incredibles 2 this weekend, it’s this messed up depiction of fatherhood that feels more MV5BY2JiZWVlZDYtZmQ3YS00YzA4LTljM2QtNDBkYjE1OTEyNjY1XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjUxMTg4Mzk@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1353,1000_AL_familiar to be, more comfortable: the leaving kind. The not caring kind. There is no Hollywood gloss on this depiction of family. The father is worse than useless, and the mother’s grief borders on insanity, and the children are forgotten in their wake.

And then a plague descends. Because things always get worse. This is what breaking points are made of. But movie wise, while it achieves a lot of separate pieces of despair, it struggles to stitch them together into something cohesive. The tone and pace are meant to be melancholic, yet it needs to be building toward something. The actors all do their thing rather admirably, but it always seems like the scene lets them down. Jennifer Garner, as the desperate housewife, is really something to watch, in a role I for one haven’t seen from her before. Her eyes flash with crazed rage, then go blank with hopelessness. I only wish the circumstances allowed a little more sympathy toward her.

The beautiful setting and cinematographer are gentle and constant reminders that the trappings of success are no inoculation against life’s disappointments.

Catfight

Sandrah Oh and Anne Heche play old college frenemies.

Veronica (Oh) is the wife of a wealthy businessman. She drinks too much and spouts dream-crushing advice to her teenage son. The marriage is unhappy. Ashley (Heche) is 1200an artist who can’t sell her stuff because it’s bleak and full of rage. The two meet up years and years later, as Ashley is passing hors d’oeuvres for her caterer wife (Alicia Silverstone) at a fancy event Veronica attends with her husband. They are immediately hostile. Things escalate to the point of – you guessed it – a catfight. It’s pretty fucking brutal and it has some life-changing consequences.

One of these women is entitled and superficial while the other is entirely self-obsessed. There will be no chance of sympathy for either. They’re awful people. And it’s hard to enjoy a fight when you’re not really rooting for one person over the other. I took an instant dislike to the film because the characters felt so unrealistic to me and I hate to see women portrayed so unfairly.

This is supposed to be a black comedy and it IS black (and blue) but not very funny. It mostly felt degrading. I even object to the title, which is a sexist piece of shit term that I do not condone. And a bright spot provided by Titus Burgess as a physical therapist isn’t near enough to make this thing bearable (nor does he approach the fabulous heights he achieves regularly on The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt). There is no character arc to redeem them. The only real takeaway from this film is that perhaps misogynist director Onur Tukel should be sent into therapy for a very long time. He sets their fight to circus music, making the women a sideshow, their pain a farce.

 

King Cobra

When I was a kid, Alicia Silverstone was the It Girl. When Sean was a kid, it was Molly Ringwald. King Cobra probably didn’t set out to make us all feel old, but it did cast both Silverstone and Ringwald as the oblivious mothers of gay porn stars.

Cobra is the chat room name of Stephen (Christian Slater), a guy who happens to troll around for very young men, and likes to entice them into gay porn in between steamy, illegal, against-the-wall sessions. That’s exactly how he meets Sean (Garrett Clayton) (porn name: Brent Corrigan) and Brent immediately rockets to fame. The bad news is, Stephen is also a greedy fuck. He pays Brent very little and buys himself a Maserati, and is still surprised when Brent walks. And worse than walks, he flags Stephen to the police. Things get ugly; Stephen may go to prison, but he’s still stopping Sean from performing as Brent.

franco-king-cobraEnter James Franco. You knew that was coming, didn’t you? Smelled it from a mile away, probably. Franco plays the has-been half of a porn star duo who work under the name “Viper Boys.” They hope to revive their flagging porn career by incorporating Brent into the mix; there’s only the inconvenient matter of Brent’s name being trademarked by a pedophile.

It turns out pornographers aren’t exactly businessmen on the up and up. King Cobra is alarmingly based on a true story, but be prepared for far more hairless chests than characterization. They’re porn stars, what else do you need to know? It gives Franco ANOTHER chance to do his scary-funny-psychotic thing and yell some pretty incendiary dialogue, but there aren’t many other compelling reasons to watch this movie, unless you’re really, really curious to know what kind of deals porno kings make behind closed doors (hint: it’s messy).

Movies Based on Classic Literature (No Poems, No Plays)

TMP

Thursday Movie Picks seemed tough this week at first. How many adaptations of really great books come close to doing their source material justice? I’m just proud of myself that I was able to come up with 3 without any Jane Austen.

grapes of wrath

The Grapes of Wrath (1940)– Probably my all-time favourite adaptation of a novel, director John Ford is just the right amount of faithful to Steinbeck’s classic. Screenwriter Nunnally Johnson was smart enough to know when best to let scenes play out nearly word for word as it did in the novel just as well as he knew when to let the movie when changes were needed. In 10 Movie Moments That Took My Breath Away, I listed Ma Joad’s burning of the old family photos as one of my all-time favourite scenes but now wish I had used the penny candy scene. There are so many perfect scenes in one of my favourite movies based on one of my favourite books.

apocalypse-now

Apocalypse Now (1979)– Francis Ford Coppola put his career and sanity on the linein his re-imagining of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness set during the Vietnam War. With all the script and cast changes that plagued the production, it’s a Hollywood miracle that Apocalypse Now is even watchable, let alone an American classic. Even the Marlon Brando part works for me.

clueless

Clueless (1995)– It’s easy to forget that Clueless is a modern adaptation of… damn. Okay, I guess I couldn’t completely escape Jane Austen. It’s supposed to be an adaptation of Emma, the only book of my three picks that I have not read, so I’m not sure how faithful it is. I’m guessing not very. But it is hilarious, quotable, and one of the few teen comedies I can think of that encourages us to learn a new word every day. It also features a young Paul Rudd (who has barely changed), an adorable Brittany Murphy, and a scene-stealing performance by Dan Hedaya.