Tag Archives: kevin kline

Darling Companion

Beth is feeling a bit like a neglected wife; her husband Joseph is a workaholic surgeon and her kids are grown. So it’s kind of perfect timing when she finds an injured dog by the side of the road. Nursed back to health, the aptly named ‘Freeway’ becomes her loyal and constant companion. When Freeway’s vet marries Beth’s daughter, the whole family comes together for the happy occasion – until Joseph manages to lose the dog and suddenly the family is down one very important member.

Beth (Diane Keaton) refuses to leave until she’s searched every corner of the back woods where Freeway was last seen. Her sister-in-law (Dianne Wiest) chooses to stay by her side, as does her new beau (Richard Jenkins), and her son (Mark Duplass). Finally feeling the guilt of his inadequacy, Joseph (Kevin Kline) stays back too, and the search party is more like search couples therapy.

It’s co-written and directed by the fabulous Lawrence Kasdan so I wonder how on earth that name paired with this cast could have sailed past me. What was I doing in 2012 that I couldn’t make room for a little Diane Keaton in my life? And the thing is, who better to relate to her character than myself, a woman who would most assuredly go full Billy Madison should any of my dogs ever go missing.

Alas, this is the least successful of Kasdan’s films and it’s not just for the lack of light sabers. I get what he’s trying to do: there’s a fraying marriage, a freshly minted marriage, and new romances for both the young and not so young. It all revolves around this missing dog, but it’s a lot to handle for a film with such a sweet and simple premise and the tone is sometimes a little too “family movie” for my taste or perhaps anyone’s. But dogs have such an uncomplicated relationship with us, in comparison. They like to cuddle and to be fed. They are never not 110% bowled over to see you come, whether you’ve been away 5 minutes or 5 days. Kasdan was inspired to write the script after he adopted a dog himself, and promptly lost him.

This is Kasdan’s first indie film and the cast, featuring three Oscar winners and two more nominees, were so moved by the story they agreed to work for scale. Even if it wasn’t his most successful, Kasdan lists it as his most gratifying, and I suppose in a long and lustrous career, that’s worth something too.

Advertisements

Last Vegas

I wish movies about seniors weren’t so goddamn awful and condescending. I know people over 65 who are robust, interesting, engaged. I know seniors with rich social lives and sharp minds, who may suffer from bladder issues but manage to keep from talking about for hours, even days at a time. Apparently screenwriter Dan Fogelman does not. Hollywood seems to think that the only thing worth noting about seniors is their doddering foolishness, and that’s too bad, because I think they’re finding that there’s a bigger and bigger senior audience, and someone’s got to start writing for them – perhaps even a senior citizen him or herself. Wouldn’t that be novel?

Last Vegas assembles a foursome of our favourite old guys – Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Robert DeNiro, and Kevin Kline. Michael Douglas faces down his own mortalityMV5BMjIzODA5ODA4OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzQxMzE1MDE@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_ at a friend’s funeral by proposing to his very young girlfriend in the middle of the eulogy. His friends congregate in Las Vegas in order to throw him a bachelor party wild enough to pay tribute to a man who’d managed to stay one for over 70 years. Morgan Freeman has to escape from his strict and overly concerned son, DeNiro has to be coaxed out of apartment where he wallows in widowerhood, and Kevin Kline is all too eager to escape Florida, basically death’s waiting room.

But you know what? These old guys still have some life left in them. Director Jon Turtletaub waters the whole thing down though, like it’s the 38th sequel to The Hangover, and nobody thinks old people deserve or are capable of their own wild and crazy antics. Instead we’re treated to a litany of bad hip jokes. This quartet is quite charming, and even the cringe-worthy cliches they’re forced to deal in don’t completely negate that. But I know a 90 year old who danced with Elvis and did shots at my wedding. That’s not a script, that’s real life. Now well into her 90s, she still travels the world and paddles her own canoe. Not everyone is lucky to be in such good health but there’s a whole spectrum when it comes to aging, one that Hollywood seems loathe to explore. I think these venerated actors deserve better, and so do the people buying the tickets, whether or not they’re claiming a senior’s discount at the box office.

Beauty & The Beast

One word: underwhelming.

This movie is production-designed within an inch of its life. Like, literally it’s clogged with lustre and decadence. I find no fault with how it looks; a good faith effort was made to pay tribute to the original, to remind us of the classic animated movie from 1991, while still forging its own little identity, diverging enough from the already-trodden path to inject it with a life of its own.

Unfortunately, none of the new material really lands. Is this just me, loyal to the film of my childhood? Sadly not. But it does pale in comparison. No matter what Bill Condon does, this film inevitably fails to capture the magic of the first.  This is hardly surprising since it beautyandthebeast-beast-windoweschews the magic of animation. Well, traditional animation. The truth is, “live action” or not, Belle is the only human being in that castle. Yes, Ewan McGregor danced around in a motion capture suit to play Lumiere, and Dan Stevens waltzed in steel-toed 10-inch stilts for the ballroom scene, but they’re both playing CGI characters. Why hire greats like Emma Thompson, Ian McKellan, and Audra McDonald, only to hide them behind computer graphics, appearing “live” only in the last 20 seconds of the film? It seems a waste. I rather liked the live action remake of Cinderella, but then, that was always a story about humans, wasn’t it? Jungle Book  (which already has been) and Lion King (which is about to be) turned into “live action” films have little to no humans in them, so what’s the point? They were MADE for animation. Let’s leave them be.

Emma Watson, as Belle, is brilliant casting. She was originally cast in La La Land but left the project to do this instead. I think it was the right choice for her. Her voice is lovely and pure, and she reminds us that Belle isn’t just beautiful, but also smart and brave. Ryan Gosling was originally cast as the Beast and left this movie to do La La Land, and I think that was the right choice for him. Dan Stevens took over the role of the beast, and he’s okay. Director Bill Condon had hoped to create a beast look out of prosthetics, and he did film it that way, but in the end he was overruled and a CGI beast face was superimposed. Kevin Kline as Belle’s father, Maurice, is a wise choice. He’s older and less of a buffoon than in the animated film, but they don’t quite make sense of the character despite adding some back story. Luke Evans has the pleasure of playing everyone’s favourite cartoon narcissist, Gaston. No longer roughly the size of a barn, he’s still the cocky, selfsure Gaston we remember. It’s his sidekick who’s less recognizable.

The animated Le Fou is nothing more than a clown. In the 2017 version, Disney is proud to proclaim him their first openly-gay character, to which I say: hmm? This was maybe the movie’s biggest let down. Le Fou does not strike me as gay. He’s the kind of closeted gay that you only know about because it was issued in a Disney press release. What little humanity he shows already makes him too good for Gaston, but no real motivation is ever ascribed to him. It’s a Disney movie, so of course there is no real sexual tension, but nor is there even the slightest hint of romance or passion. There are more lingering glances between a young girl and a horned beast than there are between these two men. Nice try, Disney, but I’m not buying it. And it’s probably not the greatest idea to tout your first and only “gay character” as this bumbling idiot who languishes with an unrequited crush on a real prick, whom he helps to hook up with women. That’s pretty condescending.

But I take it back: Le Fou is not the most disappointing thing about the movie. In my little batb-02422r-2-a7172c76-a61b-423e-a41b-5965b3fef116girl heart, the biggest disappointment was The Dress. To me it looked cheap. And I’m sure it wasn’t: I’m sure that a dozen people toiled over its construction. I’ve heard it used 3,000 feet of thread, 2160 Swarovski crystals, and took over 12,000 designer hours to complete. Not worth it. The dress is disenchanting. In the original version, the dress is luminous, we believe it is not merely yellow, but spun gold. The one Emma Watson wears seems like a poor knock-off. It feels flat. And what’s with her shitty jewelry? In the cartoon, Belle’s ht_belle_beauty_beast_kb_150126_4x3_992neck is unadorned; why ruin a perfect neckline with even the most impressive of baubles? But Emma Watson’s Belle accessorizes her ballgown with a shitty pendant on a string. I can only assume this is blatant product placement and this cheap trinket will be sold en masse in a shopping mall near you, but it’s so incongruous it’s a distraction. For shame.

 

And for all the little changes this movie makes, tweaks to the back stories and the plausibility, one glaring detail remains pretty much the same. In the 1991 movie, the wicked witch condemns the prince to live as a beast until he can love and be loved in return; if he fails to do so before the last petal falls from the enchanted rose, he will remain a beast forever, and his household staff will remain household objects. In the animated classic, we know that the beast has until his 21st birthday to make this happen, and that this has been a period of 10 years. Therefore, the curse bestowed upon him befalls him at age 11, and for what? Because he didn’t let a stranger inside the house while his parents were away? He’s ELEVEN! And his servants are blameless. It always struck me as an extremely cruel not to mention unfair punishment. In this recent film, the role of the witch is expanded, but this only makes her motivations murkier. We see how harshly she has condemned a young prince, but she seems to overlook much worse transgressions. If this is hard for me to swallow, I imagine it must be even more unsettling for children who need to know that rules and punishments are meted out fairly, at least.

I could not have skipped this movie, the pull was too great. But there was no childhood here to be relived, just a fraudulent imitation that had lost its sparkle.

My Old Lady

Mathias (Kevin Kline) is a middle-aged with almost nothing to his name after several unhappy marriages and a serious problem with alcohol. He inherits no cash at all when his father dies, but does get willed an apartment in Paris, so he scrapes together his last pennies for a ticket to France, and off he goes to solve all his problems.

Except there’s an old lady living in his apartment – Mathilde (Maggie Smith). myoldlady1And her daughter Chloe too, as it turns out (Kristin Scott Thomas). His father purchased the apartment some 40 years ago, but bought it en viager, which means he got a pretty good deal on the price, but he had to agree that not only could the current owner keep living in it until she died, he’d have to pay her for the privilege. So for 40 years the father has been paying this old lady to keep living in a home that he technically owns, and now Mathias has inherited a property he can’t sell, and which is actually a debt, with a monthly reverse-rent that must be paid or he forfeits ownership altogether.

It sounds like something that could only happen in a movie but the life lease is a real thing in the cuckoo real estate market of Paris. It’s a crazy gamble, and it doesn’t always pay off. One man who made such an investment paid and paid on a property until the day he died, and then his widow took over the payments for another 32 years because the original owner, Mme Jeanne Calment, lived to be 122! You can’t predict how long someone will live, and you’re effectively betting on their death when you strike such a deal. In the film we learn that Mathias’s father may have been otherwise motivated, but Mathias is in a tight spot, and Mathilde is looking surprisingly robust for a 90 year old.

My Old Lady is interesting for more than just its quirky real estate. It’s a tale of family strife, narcissism, childhood trauma, intergenerational sin, and forgiveness. Kline reveals his character’s damage and distress in small doses, and the 3 leads together have great chemistry, although it’s a bit difficult to watch Smith be the bad guy. Nobody looks good beating up on a nonagenarian. Director Israel Horovitz puts forth a straight-forward film that plods along a little slowly to its inevitable conclusion, but I was nevertheless charmed by 3 actors doing solid work in the beautiful city of light.

 

 

 

Tribeca: Dean

Demetri Martin is one of my all-time favourite comedians so when I saw his directorial debut, Dean, was premiering at Tribeca, of course I snatched up a couple of tickets, and it was only when that initial adrenaline rush had dissipated a bit that I started to wonder how the hell his comedy would possibly translate into film.

Demetri Martin is a comedic genius, but his stand-up is mostly one-liners, funny drawings, and some jokes set to an acoustic guitar, and sometimes his harmonica for good measure. Not remotely narrative. And this movie didn’t look much like a comedy anyway – the blurb mentioned death, grief, and existential angst.dean-original-1

Dean (Demetri Martin, of course) has recently lost his mother. He and his father (Kevin Kline) are grieving very differently, and growing slightly apart because of it. His dad is ready to sell the family home but Dean can’t imagine the loss of the place where his mother was last alive, and happy; it’s full of good memories for Dean, but sad memories for his dad. Naturally, instead of sticking around to help with the transition, Dean flees to L.A. ostensibly for business, but we know differently. And he finds lots of distractions in California but starts to learn that he’s not the only walking wounded.

Does Demetri Martin pull it off? Yes, he does. Surprisingly well, as both actor and director. Dean is an illustrator, so not only do Martin’s drawings fit in, they illuminate his inner thoughts. His trademark one-liners are there too but they never feel slotted in. They either feel organic or they’ve been left on the cutting room floor – if you know his stand-up at all, you can’t help but feel that Martin has wisely shown restraint here. And there are visual gags, very subtle, but they add a layer that knock down the seriousness just a tad (like you never doubt how genuinely bereft Kevin Kline is, but you keep a half-smile for his terrible dad jeans). For a movie primarily about loss, you’ll laugh out loud an awful lot.

The first and maybe only misstep I felt was when he arrives in L.A. and meets his love interest, played by Gillian Jacobs. Gillian Jacobs is not really a problem, except that I know her through the Judd Apatow-produced Netflix series, Love (in which she co-stars with Paul Rust, the dude who cowrote the new Pee-wee Herman movie). Sean and I watched the whole sea8244bc3f1c65436son even though we detested both leads. Not the actors, per se, but the characters are just awful human beings and it’s hard to forgive the actors for that. So I’m carrying around this chip on my shoulder for Gillian Jacobs and was not super happy to bump into her in this movie. But clever Demetri Martin won me over by writing a love interest for Dean who did not exist solely for his pursuit. She had back story. She had depth. She was a person. This sounds weird, I’ll grant you that, but so often in movies the love interest exists solely to be adored and consumed and nothing else. She has no job or apartment or opinions. Gillian Jacobs had scenes without Demetri Martin. She was independent of his lust. It was refreshing even if it did make me confront my hostility toward the bitch from Love.

Eventually Dean returns to New York, to his widowed (widowered?) father and the ghost of his mother. Demetri Martin lost his own father 20 years ago, so he knows grief, but he didn’t quite know how to approach the father-son relationship between two grown men. If he struggled with the relationship on paper, it doesn’t show on screen. The moments of  quiet reflection between them are some of the film’s most satisfying.

I enjoyed this film very much and it turns out I wasn’t the only one – it won Best Narrative Feature at Tribeca from a jury including Tangerine’s Mya Taylor and funny lady Jennifer Westfeldt, who commented: “We have had the great privilege of seeing ten accomplished and ambitious films over the last seven days here at Tribeca. But we all fell in love with this film. It manages the near impossible task of breathing new life into a well-worn genre, balancing humor and pathos with an incredibly deft touch, and offering a unique perspective on the way we process loss.” Even more excitingly, it was bought! CBS films picked it up, which means this little indie will soon be making its way to a theatre near you.

 

 

 

Ricki And The Disappointment

For better or worse, I hold Meryl Streep movies to a higher standard than the rest. Meryl Streep has become her own synonym for being a superb, kick-ass actress. She’s really the best we’ve got, and so you naturally want her to be good every time, and for the movie she’s in to be an appropriate vehicle. This one’s not.

On paper, it sounded almost promising: a young woman is devastated by the breakup of her marriage, and so her estranged mother who left the family to pursue a life of rock and roll is called in for back up. Might be fun to watch Meryl rock out, be a bit of a badass. We’ve heard Meryl sing show tunes (Into the Woods), disco (Mama Mia), country (A Prairie Home Companion) and the blues (Postcards from Reality). Why not rock? And why not throw in some stuff on aging, motherhood, second chances, redemption. Cast Meryl’s real-life daughter, Mamie Gummer (what a name to be saddled with!) and 80s pop relic Rick Springfield, and voila: a movie that practically makes itself. Right?

In reality: kind of a bore, kind of a chore.

We need to talk about Diablo Cody. She’s the wunderkind who gave us Juno, the hyper-verbal, weirdly anti-abortion, high school pregnancy film that took Hollywood by storm. But that was so 2007. Her attempts to replicate success have been…well, lackluster: Jennifer’s Body, Young Adult, and now this. I know it’s hard to let go, Hollywood, but like the only Rick Springfield hit you can name (Jessie’s Girl), it’s time to call Diablo Cody what she is: a one-hit wonder.

I kind of liked Meryl as Ricki, but I didn’t like Ricki, and nobody else should have either. Not her family, certainly. Rick Springfield (of all people) tells her early on: “It doesn’t matter if your kids love you or not. It’s not their job to love you. It’s your job to love them.” That feels like a full-circle moment – you know, that little piece of wisdom in a film that will eventually come back to our protagonist at the moment of truth so we can see how far she’s come. Yeah, someone should tell Diablo about that. Because what actually happens is: Ricki leaves her kids, again. Wallows in self-pity. Comes back only when someone else extends an olive branch and someone else makes a sacrifice, and even then, she manages to make someone else’s special day all about her. Character development? Growth? Um. Not here. But what we do get is a scintillating Diablo simile in which a human heart is compared to a Big Mac – you know, because neither ever spoils (?).

Meryl is great, and I enjoyed Kevin Kline as the ex-husband and Audra McDonald as the new wife and replacement mother, though found her criminally underused. Nothing against Meryl, obviously, but Audra’s a huge Broadway star so it felt a little odd to have her in a non-singing role in such a song-heavy movie. But the songs are only there to attempt to bring some cohesiveness to a movie that otherwise feels like a bunch of random scenes that felt like good ideas but had no real raison d’etre. The tone is…I’m waffling between inconsistent and non-existent. Am I feeling generous? Enh, not really.

I was bored, and I was frustrated. Is it an adequate time-waster? I suppose. It’s minimally offensive, although now that I think of it, Ricki is a Bush supporter, ostensibly because she “supports the troops” (there’s something to that, but we never really find out what – my hunch: cutting room floor) and opposes gay marriage (because people who abandon their children are paragons of family values) but in fact she also complains about the unlivable minimum wage which means she can’t afford to shop at the grocery store she works at. How and why is an aging rocker who dresses like a hooker at night court so goddamned conservative? Your guess is as good as mine. But is it all worth it just to hear Streep cover both Springstein AND Lady Gaga? Just maybe.

Life As A House

MV5BMjA1MDkzMTI4OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzgyNTU0NA@@__V1_SX640_SY720_This movie is as emotionally manipulative as my mother-in-law, and just like any number of  Thanksgiving dinners at her table, I need wine and tissues in equal measure to get through it.

George (Kevin Kline) has an aggressive, sadistic kind of cancer that aims to kill him quick, leaving him just enough time to trick his distant, alterna-punk teenaged son into loving him just a tiny little bit. Hopefully, at least.

Hayden Christensen, reviled for his turn as Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones, gets the hulking task of playing the repugnant teenaged son. You know he’s bad tumblr_md5dmlfa8d1qb9pa3o1_500  news because he’s got piercings, and may wear eye shadow. This makes parents uncomfortable!

His parents split up when he was young and even though they both seem like happy, loving people, this messed him up bad. Bad enough to listen to Limp Bizkit and dye his hair blue! Is he irredeemable? George hopes not, so with his remaining days, he decides to engage in a little restorative demolition to tear down the piece of shit house he’s always hated, and erect a new one in its stead.

With every nail hammered into a two-by-four, lifeash1a tiny hole in his heart is healed.

I’m poking fun, because it’s very pokable, but there are some fine performances here. Kevin Kline in particular elevates the syrupy material, but I can’t help but feel bad for him when he’s forced to deliver very obvious speeches about all the themes the director doesn’t trust his idiot audience to have picked up on ourselves. Um, dude, it’s called Life As A House. That’s a pretty heavy-handed hint.

You know about 20 awkward mihch-haus_am_meer_113nutes in that the ending’s going to come with a neat bow wrapped around it, everything resolved so fucking tidily, but there are real moments of truth between the globs of mawkishness. If you can bear it, you should.