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Everybody Wants to be Us

Graduate Student at Loyola University Chicago. Check out the blog for what I'm currently obsessed with in film and culture. Michael Fassbender, Leonardo DiCaprio, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Winslet, Christian Bale, Jesse Eisenberg, David Lynch, David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, Martin Scorsese, and Daniel Radcliffe are regulars here.

#romantic comedies

Day 44: “People do belong to people” BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S

Everything in the love story comes back to and relies on character, choice, and finding the something real over selling out for something fake.  The ending of the film beautifully recalls beginning scenes between Holly and Paul to show how Paul and Holly have grown beyond that first meeting and set the stage for the final confrontation. 

Paul comes into Holly’s apartment, transformed from a barren room with a halved out tub and empty bookcase to a garish, cramped place with oddities hanging from every wall. All that remains the same is Holly’s nameless Cat.  Instead of being half dressed when Paul first met her or in one of her stylish black dresses, Holly is casual in a sweater, slacks, and flats (still fabulous).  Holly, like her apartment, has gone overboard with the delusions Paul warned her against: selling yourself to marry rich and powerful.  Holly holds on to her fantasy, but Paul, retaining his leading man presence and working as a writer, pokes holes into it while referencing his feelings for her.

Paul Varjak: [about Holly and Jose] So you’re getting married, then?
Holly Golightly: Well, he hasn’t really asked me, not in so many words.
Paul Varjak: Four you mean?
Holly Golightly: Huh?
Paul Varjak: Well that’s how many it takes: Will. You. Marry. Me.

Paul’s warnings come true once Holly is arrested and Jose dumps her to avert public scandal.  Instead of admitting Paul was right and turning around, Holly rebounds with anger, wanting him to give her a list of the 50 richest men in Brazil and committing herself to finding a rich sap.Audrey Hepburn expertly shows us the ugliest side of Holly’s ambition and convinces us she is a lost cause. 

Paul returns with equal anger at Holly’s stubbornness and George Peppard nails one of my favorite movie recriminations.

Paul: You know what’s wrong with you, Miss Whoever-You-Are?

You’re chicken, you’ve got no guts. You’re afraid to stick out your chin and say, “Okay, life’s a fact, people do fall in love, people do belong to each other,” because that’s the only chance anybody’s got for real happiness.

You call yourself a free spirit, a wild thing, and you’re terrified somebody’s going to stick you in a cage. Well, baby, you’re already in that cage. You built it yourself. And it’s not bounded in the west by Tulip, Texas, or in the east by Somaliland. It’s wherever you go. Because no matter where you run, you just end up running into yourself.

I’ve been carrying this thing around for months.  I don’t want it anymore.

Holly seems unmoved by Paul’s speech, staring straight ahead, until he tosses a ring into her lap, the ring from Tiffany’s. 

In that moment, Tiffany’s and all it stands for becomes real in the person of Paul and her abandoned Cat.  We see Holly make the right choice in running after Paul and searching for Cat.  The final kiss is a bonus to the happiness you see in Hepburn’s eyes at the sight of Cat.  We rejoice more in Holly changing her mind and rejecting her cynical scheme.  Paul too, is worthy of Holly now and we can leave that rainy New York alley with faith in them and perhaps in ourselves to be brave, hopeful, and lovely.

FIN

Day 57: MORNING GLORY

Intro: MORNING GLORY was a movie I loved, but audiences and critics seemed tepid on last year.  I found many pleasures in the relationships between Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford, and Diane Keaton on screen.

Plot: MORNING GLORY makes a strong impression right out the gate with our heroine Becky Fuller getting sacked due to budget cuts at her small New Jersey morning show.  She’s plucky, high energy, and a favorite among her colleagues, but lacks the age and business degree that could have spared her job. Becky quickly rebounds and zealously applies to producing jobs until she gets a call from IBS, the least watched, least funded, and least respected outfit. At the helm of Daybreak, the AM chat show,

Becky shakes things up immediately by hiring a churlish newsman, Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford) to co-host with queen of talk Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton). Becky idolizes Mike, but he makes her job a personal hell refusing to take stories, banter, or show interest. Yet, Mike and Becky are kindred spirits, dedicated to their jobs and always in pursuit of creating great television. As they come to realize their strength together, the show rebounds.

Likes: Even though McAdams is romantically paired with the amiable and delicious Patrick Wilson, I was drawn in more by the relationship between McAdams and Ford.  Mike intractably protests Becky’s every move, but silently admires her dogged efforts to save the show.  But Becky never gives up on him and pushes him to let the audience see beyond his tough newsman exterior to a man with wide ranging interests and talents: the perfect host for a network morning show. They end the film as partners and friends committed to making a great show that delivers substance and entertainment. Also, Diane Keaton is a riot as the snappy anchor who is energized by Becky’s ideas. 

MORNING GLORY sneaks up on you with funny and heartwarming takes on work, ambition, and building community.  Becky takes the job she’s offered and through diligence and faith in others, makes it her dream job. 

Day 60: QUEEN TO PLAY

Intro: An fun and light look at class and gender as an ordinary maid and housekeeper learns chess.

Plot Summary: Sandrine Bonnaire plays Hélène a hotel housekeeper and cleaning lady to a hermetic American expat Dr. Kröger (Kevin Klein speaking French) on the gorgeous island of Corsica.  Hélène happens upon an elegant couple playing chess on the balcony of the room she’s cleaning and becomes enamored with the game.  She stays up late into the night playing on an electronic set.  Her husband Ange and daughter Lisa start wondering where and why Hélène’s attentions are diverted from their needs to chess. 

Running out of patience playing against a computer, she asks Kröger to teach her.  The isolated Kröger and introverted Hélène spark together playing chess.  Hélène enters an amateur competition under Kröger advice and changes the minds of her family, friends, and stuffy men scoffing at her.

Likes: I enjoyed Bonnaire and Klein’s relationship evolve into a nice friendship that draws them both out.  Bonnaire’s usual stone cold stare lighten during the chess games. However, I wanted more chess action.  During the game scenes, the camera rarely pans to the board.  We’re left to read the game on people’s faces and without knowing the advancement of the game between them.  The energy bleeds out of the scenes and makes the film drag.  The film succeeds though as a story of female empowerment in watching how her family lovingly adjusts.

Day 61: Mistakes are part of the game: STARTER FOR 10 (2006)

Intro: I may have stumbled into coaching our high school’s academic quiz bowl team.  Unfortunately, I’m less of a Ken Jennings and more of a Brian Jackson, the protagonist of STARTER FOR 10.

Plot Summary: The gauche, small town Brian leaves home for Bristol University to read English literature and join the University Challenge quiz bowl team.  Brian loves thought, writing, and small random facts.  He expects to find scholarly companions in the palace of learning, but feels ostracised by his cross-dressing roommates and snotty students.  

His interests in school and quiz bowl are diverted by Alice (Alice Eve), a beautiful blond on the University Challenge Team.  Even though he’s infatuated with Alice, he feels more anchored and comfortable with Rebecca (Rebecca Hall) campus socialist and protester against everything from Apartheid to wage discrimination.  Whether Brian will win University Challenge, reconcile his friends from home with his college activities, and be with the right girl fuel the action of this funny 80’s period piece. 

Likes: I love this film and James McAvoy in it.  McAvoy brilliantly brings humor and awkwardness to Brian.  His small interests and ambitions are electrified by McAvoy’s charm and openness.  His scenes with the bubbly Alice Eve and poised Rebecca Hall are fun to watch.  I love seeing how the film lets our hero fail miserably.  His rebound and new confidence is great fun.  The 80’s soundtrack of Tears for Fears, The Cure, The Smiths, and even Wham makes STARTER a fun flashback for 80’s enthusiasts. For Brian, preparing for college is more than buying books and furniture, it’s finding out what kind of person you want to be and having the courage to be it. 

A great romantic comedy and celebration of the 80’s, STARTER FOR 10 is great fun.

Day 65: In a sea of frauds, something real: LILA, LILA

Intro: A decent romantic comedy may be impossible to find here in the US, but not so in Germany.  Alain Gsponer’s film LILA, LILA is the brightest, funniest, loveliest, and most entertaining romantic comedy I’ve seen in years. 

Plot Summary: David Kern (Daniel Brühl) has a problem.  Hundreds of people are waiting to hear him read from his best-selling novel LILA, LILA, yet he would rather jump out of a bathroom window to escape.  Why David shuns his fame and fears the public reading ahead of him is revealed in a flashback to when David is merely a hard-working, shy, and awkward waiter at a posh bar.  Marie (Hannah Herzsprung), the girl he likes, is a beautiful literature student attracted to writers and oblivious to our hero.

By luck David finds and reads an unknown, but moving manuscript of unrequited love and a life cut short. David hatches a plan to get Marie to notice him by repackaging the novel as his own.  His small romantic gesture gets way over his head when Marie sends the novel to a publisher eager to make David a literary sensation.  With Marie by his side, success of being a hit writer seems easy until David meets Jacky, a gluttonous, brute claiming to have authored the piece, with a copy to prove it. 

Verdict: In a word: Wunderbar! Watching the adorable bumbling Brühl try to hold on to his unraveling lie, tame the interloping Jacky, and keep Marie from finding the truth is dazzling to watch.  Brühl is charming and carries the humor well.  Hannah Herzsprung is a confident and enticing romantic heroine.  She basically strong arms David into publishing the novel and as his star rises, she refuses to be his arm candy and demands to be recognized on her terms.  She defends David against Jacky’s mad attempts to profit from his success and is hurt by her love because of his secret.  The comedy of the situation is compounded with jabs at hyperbolic lit critics and jaded book publishers.

Duplicity for love is common in romantic comedies, but LILA LILA smartly gives us a young man who needed to live a lie in order to become his true self. The film also explores the permeable nature of good literature.  It flows into our souls, mixes and agitates our reality, and for some of us, it flows out again in a new story.

Ich liebe diesen Film and i think you will too. 

 Tschüss!

SOMETHING BORROWED *Day 83*

Intro: I thought everyone knew the code of friendship that all boyfriends, crushes, and exes were totally off limits. SOMETHING BORROWED is full of  beautiful, rich, New Yorkers who tear this principle to shreds.  With all so many characters betraying their friends and significant others, it’s hard to know who to root for and who to hate. 

Plot: Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin) heads to another surprise party thrown by her oldest friend Darcy (Kate Hudson), not surprised to find Darcy taking center stage.  We meet Darcy’s fiance Dex (smoldering Colin Egglesfield) and Rachel’s the wise cracking confidant Ethan (John Krasinski).  Rachel accidentally admits she’s been pining for Dex since law school and the two fall into bed together.  All this happens before the title card. 

From there, we get a sort of love pentagon with Dex and Darcy on the fast track to marriage, mansion, and kids; Dex and Rachel exploring their attraction and why they never got together; Rachel confessing to Ethan the whole sordid affair while he may have more that friendly feelings for her; and Dex’s friend Marcus trying to seduce every women in his sights including Rachel and Darcy.  Will Dex follow his heart?  Will Rachel assert herself?  Does Dex deserve her?  Is Darcy the worst friend and fiance ever?  These questions and more get poked at over lush South Hampton brunches, rooftop bedrooms, and sandy beaches. 

Verdict: SOMETHING BORROWED is not great, but it has its charms.  There are two plots running through the film, but only one of them succeeds.  Darcy and Rachel’s friendship never felt real to me.  When everything comes crashing down on their relationship, I did not feel a loss or hope for reconciliation.  Goodwin is pretty good at playing the sidekick, but Hudson always seemed to intentionally sidestep Rachel’s feelings.  The second story of Dex and Rachel’s missed connection coming together worked fairly well.  The flashback scenes of their friendship in law school are some of the best scenes in the film. 

However the real hero of SOMETHING BORROWED is John Krasinski.  He’s witty, charming, and sardonic as Ethan.  He serves as the audiences’ megaphone yelling at Rachel to do something about her situation or walk away. Krasinski makes much of a small plot point: pretending to be gay to evade an overeager female friend.  Unfortunately he disappears when every one’s secrets come out in the end and we miss his cooler head in the chaos.

I would probably watch SOMETHING BORROWED again while cleaning my apartment or making oatmeal.  Certain scenes have a spark but the film never really catches fire.   

I’m hoping BRIDESMAIDS will be better.

What’s in a name: ONLY YOU (1994) *Day 85*

"Do you believe in destiny?"

Against the magical setting of Italy, director Norman Jewison casts a spell with a story of two romantics finding each other and following their true destiny. Marisa Tomei plays Faith, a hopeful English teacher who has searched for a man named Damon Bradley since adolescence and jets to Italy two weeks before her wedding to a dull podiatrist. 

With her best friend and sister in-law Kate (Bonnie Hunt) in tow and through some hilarious international stalking, Faith finds herself meters away from Damon Bradley in a crowded square in Rome.  Losing him in the streets of Rome, she almost gives up when an American stranger returns her lost shoe and says he’s Damon Bradley (Robert Downey Jr.). Faith and Damon spend an incredible night walking the bewitching streets of Rome, sharing their souls, and finding a common connection they have only seen in the movies. Their accelerated romance gets a hard brake when he reveals his name is actually Peter Wright. Faith turns on him, shattered by his duplicity but more in the realization that Peter, despite the name, may actually be her soul mate. Peter fervently pursues Faith with grand gestures to our comedic delight.

Robert Downey Jr. and Marisa Tomei have a connection on screen that invites us to fall into lines like, “I was born to kiss you.” They can also bring lovely fun to winding sequences like this:

Peter: The truth is you came here looking for something and you found it, its right in back of you and now you’re frightened. That’s understandable.  I mean come on, I couldn’t even sleep last night!

Faith: Peter, Stop! Last night was an illusion. You weren’t who you said you were, so I wasn’t who I thought I was, so neither of us were there.  It wasn’t real. It didn’t happen. I don’t know you.

Peter: Get to know me

Faith: We’re not supposed to be.

Peter: Yes we are. Don’t throw your life away on someone you don’t love!

I love how the film cleverly plays with its lovers and us, showing that prophecies may be real in their prompting us to act boldly.  Damon Bradley, the barrier to Faith giving in to Peter, turns out to be the one thing that brings our lovers together.  ONLY YOU lets us revel in the beauty of the Italian setting and caters to cinema lovers.  Downey Jr. and Tomei make a great screen pairing and in re-watching it, I longed for this breed of romantic comedy.

Funny Story: BRIDESMAIDS (2011) *Day 88*

In college, when ever someone started a story with, “So, Funny Story” we knew the coming story would likely be a horrific tale of embarrassment due to inebriation or awkwardness.  While you never wish misfortune on your friends, hearing the “funny story” made your day and cemented your friendship.  Paul Feig’s hilarious and heartwarming BRIDESMAIDS brought me back to those “funny story” moments with a perfect combination of vulgar jokes, gross humor, and a true picture of friendship. 

Plot: Annie (Kristen Wiig) has lost her business, lives with two weirdos, and is “dating” a really hot jerk.  When her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) gets engaged Annie’s frustrations with her life grow as she sees how stable and posh Lillian’s life is becoming. Honored to be Lillian’s Maid of Honor, she feels greater pressure to be the best friend as Helen (Rose Byrne), Lillian’s new friend, upstages Annie’s humble efforts.

Verdict: I loved this movie.  It goes for every joke and cuts deep.  Melissa McCarthy has my deep and unending respect for her performance particularly in the bridal shop scene.  When she perches on the sink yelling, “Look away, Look Away” I was doubled over laughing.  The ladies don’t hold back in these scenes and make the sequences strangely ladylike.  Kristen Wiig’s freak out at the bridal shower was also perfection.  Seeing Helen’s outlandish interpretation of Annie’s sweet idea made me boil with anger.  When Annie starts her rant you cheer and cringe because she’s right, but is risking her friendship with Lillian. 

There lies the beauty of BRIDESMAIDS.  The tension between these women recalls the cutting barbs of Bette Davis’ Margo Channing in ALL ABOUT EVE like, “You can always put that award where your heart ought to be” and the real fears we all feel of being replaced by prettier, fancier, and younger people.  I don’t relate to women cat-fighting over a humorless schmo, wedding locations, or jobs.  I do know that over a few things, I am the queen.  When someone tries to take over, the fight comes out.  So, everything Annie does for her friendship feels real and grounds the comedy. 

Kristen Wiig was perfect as the comedic heroine. Annie has the intelligence, talents, and charm to turn things around.  As indignities and troubles compound she remains completely aware even of bad choices and never sells herself out completely.  I ultimately liked Rose Byrne’s performance as Helen.  She smartly calibrates her over enthusiasm for Lillian’s wedding with a sad longing to have the kind of friendship Annie and Lillian share.  Both ladies reinforce the value of a good friend and make the movie incredibly rich. Lastly, the romance between Chris O’Dowd’s Rhodes and Annie felt like an awesome bonus because it strengthened Annie’s personal story and never supplanted the friendship-centered plot. 

BRIDESMAIDS is a must see for a gut-achingly funny comedy and genuine story.

Urbanophilia: MIDNIGHT IN PARIS (2011) *Day 94*

When you go to Paris with Woody Allen you are bound to see all the sights, even ones from the 1920’s.  

Plot: Restless Hollywood scribe Gil (Owen Wilson) and his fiancé Inez (Rachel McAdams) find their travel interests diverging during a trip to Paris.  Inez is more interested in dining, shopping, and listening to dull American friends while Gil wants to absorb the whole city and inject that magical energy into his first novel.  A little drunk and alone on the streets at night, Gil is intrigued by a vintage car stopping to take him for a ride.  The car becomes Gil’s portal to a Paris of the past where he can drink with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, discuss writing with Ernest Hemingway, and complain about his love life to Salvador Dalí while Cole Porter jams in the background.  Gil meets the enchanting Adriana (Marion Cotillard), a Parisian paramour of artists, and dreams for being a bohemian genius to win her.

Verdict: MIDNIGHT IN PARIS is a love story for urbanists like me who believe in the majesty of cities.  Owen Wilson’s Gil expounds on the city’s ability to express beauty, tell history, and explore the human condition over anything in art, music, or literature. The wonders of Paris get displayed in an extended opening scene and through Gil’s nightly walks. Even at night, the city and characters seem to be glowing with the energy of Paris.

The film also explores the wistful desire to live in another age and imagine the better person you could be among your idols.  Gil worships Paris in the 1920’s and gets to convene with famous thinkers and writers on his book.  The parade of famous intellectuals and artists made for great erudite humor.  The laughs arise from the performances which keeps the film open to people with even a cursory knowledge of Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds, and Dalí.  Gil behaves as most of us would in the presence of an intellectual hero; not asking them about their artistic inspirations, but imploring each to weigh in on his book and love life.  All this makes the film fun and rich.  

★ ★ ★ ★

Friendship is the Benefit: FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS (2011) *104

Will Glucks Friends With Benefits is exactly what you think: funny, sexy, sometimes quirky comedy pairing two impossibly gorgeous people with an incredible chemistry in Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake. Friends also follows the exact plot of the Natalie Portman/ Ashton Kutcher flick No Strings Attached of two attractive friends who have their own reasons for being single and liking it, deciding to have a lot of sex until the feelings they swore off creep in. Theres a halt in the steamy love making until one character has a revelation to declare their love, which happens to be the thing the other character most wants to hear.

However, Friends comes out swinging where Strings is barely in my memory. Kunis and Timberlake make believable buddies, not just people who have some naughty fun. This film, I predict, will be the 20 some things having shallow sex and fall into a relationship film you remember (if that means anything) because here its the friendship that matters.

The film gives Kunis and Timberlake plenty of time to show off their sculpted and bronzed figures.  Yet between these horizontal scenes, they get to show of their comedic skills. Kunis has an incredible lightness and charisma, which she uses as Jamie to draw out the more reserved Dylan.  She can give plenty for Timberlake to bounce off of with just a look.  Timberlake is quite good here too.  A lot less cool than his pitch perfect portrayal of Sean Parker in THE SOCIAL NETWORK, his Dylan seems likable, smart, and fun.  When Jamie teases his fondness of Kris Kross, Timberlake jovially sings along with the song.  Not with the professional polish of a performer, but the sincere awkwardness of a fan. 


Friends With Benefits really surpasses its twin toward the end when Dylan takes Jamie home to meet his family played by Richard Jenkins and Jenna Elfman. Jenkins plays Dylans once great writer father who suffers from Alzheimer’s.  A fact he never shared with Jamie, she starts to push him and forces him to be a real friend and share his fears around his fathers illness.  Elfman, an actress I never really liked, has shed her quirky “Dharma” energy and appears here like a regular person concerned for her family, yet meeting these challenges with humor. 

As Dylans sister, Elfman pushes Dylan to face his growing feelings for Jamie. Instead of telling the truth, Dylan covers and insults Jamie, while shes in earshot.  Jamie exits and puts up the cold shoulder to unsuspecting Dylan. Seeing Kunis and Timberlake fight and call each other out was actually more fun to watch. Tensions build up and with help from his dad, Dylan makes the grand gesture: apologizing to Jamie by recruiting a dance mob to perform to Kris Kross and Closing Time by Semisonic- a song the figures prominently in the film.  The last scenes sort of plateau, but theres still enough to enjoy when you leave the theater.


Another standout is Patricia Clarkson who like in Glucks Easy A plays the bonkers but lovable mom to Kunis Jamie.  She actually says I dont want to twat block you. Mother of the year, indeed.  I enjoyed Friends With Benefits and can see revisiting it while cleaning my apartment one afternoon.  Far above the dreadful No Strings Attached with much more likable characters than the morally compromised Something Borrowed, Friends With Benefits has the advantage of Timberlake and Kunis who make believable friends as well as lovers.

"I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out.
I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich.
I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes.
And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night.
And it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve.
I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible. “

"When Harry Met Sally" 

Written by Nora Ephron

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