Showing posts with label rom-com. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rom-com. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

robert downey jr. and only you

Robert Downey Jr. has become associated with some iconic characters, real and fictional: Charlie Chaplin, Sherlock Holmes and Iron Man. But there was a period in his career (late '80s, mid '90s) when he was also doing fresh-faced romantic comedies, like The Pick-up Artist, Chances Are, Heart and Souls, and Only You.

Only You is mostly Marisa Tomei's film — until Downey shows up about halfway through and steals her heart and the audience's attention. Downey, even then, was always a bit of a fractious, acerbic presence on film. Undeniably attractive, he still couldn't play just a bland romantic lead. His character in the film, Peter Wright, must lie and trick his lady love into realizing that she has just met her, well, Mr. Right. This all takes place against the beautiful backdrops of Venice, Rome, and Positano, Italy.

La Bocca della Verità has played apart in many a movie romance
This beautiful white dress with cut-outs takes the film to another level

A very funny Bonnie Hunt and glammed-up Billy Zane both add to the proceedings as support staff for the romantic leads. Tomei has has never looked more doe-eyed. What also stands out about Only You is Marisa Tomei's fantastic wardrobe (designed by Milena Canonero) when she gets to Italy. She has three stand-out outfits, in red, white, and black that are as enchanting as the rest of the film. Between Marisa Tomei's gamine looks and flowing costumes and Robert Downey Jr.'s smart-alecky lover, Only You is one of the better romantic comedies out there.
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Thursday, March 14, 2013

looking for a good rom-com? try wimbledon

Romantic comedies get a bad rap, probably because there are so many mediocre ones. But a good romantic comedy, done right, can be very good indeed. Wimbledon, a film starring Paul Bettany and Kirsten Dunst, from 2004, uses a lot of standard rom-com tropes — the mis-matched couple, the meet-cute, the misunderstanding, the seemingly insurmountable obstacle to their eventual couplehood — but somehow makes them all work, thanks to a winning cast and the exciting back-drop of the championship tennis matches.

Bettany plays Peter Colt, an British tennis player who was once ranked 11th in the world. He is now 119th and finds himself at what he is sure will be his last Wimbledon tournament as a wildcard. He is sad about his status and eventual future as a tennis instructor, but he also seems to be making peace with himslef, thanks in part to his friendship with German tennis player Dieter Prohl (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, of Game of Thrones fame), who is in a similar position. But everything changes for Peter when he meets American rising tennis star Lizzie Bradbury (Dunst), whose frank admiration and take-charge manner pull him out of his self-pitying rut. The two hit it off instantly:
Lizzie, "Where do you come down on the whole 'fooling around before a match' issue?"
Peter, "Well, that's a very intriguing question ..."
Lizzie, "'Cause I think a little fooling around can be really good for your game. You know, help you relax."
Peter, "Um, I'm not sure I've done enough reasearch to have a definitive opinion."
Lizzie, "That's very sad."
Peter, "Yes, it is, isn't it."
Lizzie, "It is ... very sad ..."
Peter, "Don't get me wrong, I'm ... very interested in doing the necessary research. Very intered in in doing the necessary research. Are you?"
Lizzie, "I'm interested."
Peter is not only swept away by Lizzie's magnetism and his new romance; her pragmatism and confidence about the game of tennis have an effect on him too, and he starts winning matches. The course of their affair does not run smooth however, as Lizzie's celebrity attracts a lot of media attention and her coach/manager/father (Sam Neill) wants the two to call a halt to things as he suspects that this relationship may not be one of Lizzie's usual "tension relievers" and might distract her from their main goal — to win Wimbledon.

Tennis fans will be thrilled to see cameos of some of the sport's biggest stars. John McEnroe, Chris Evert, Mary Carillo, and John Barrett all play match commentators, while Vikas Punna, Beti Sekulovski, Murphy Jensen, Alun Jones, and Rebecca Dandeniya also play small parts. Peter's loving but distant family also provides a good deal of comic relief — Eleanor Bron and Bernard Hill as his parents, and James McAvoy as his brother Carl, who rushes to place a bet against his brother at match time. Filling out the cast are Celia Imrie, Jon Favreau, and Robert Lindsay.

Wimbledon flips our expectations by having Lizzie the aggressor and then flips them again and then again as their relationship proceeds. What at first seems like a standard A Star is Born set-up turns into something else. Who is in power? Does anyone have an agenda? Can two athletes really fall in love during a tournament? The film also ramps up the excitement in its filmed tennis sequences — the ultimate victory match is both intense and involving — a real nailbiter. But what really makes Wimbledon work is the chemistry between its two leads and their off-kilter romance. Definitely worth a look.
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Friday, February 15, 2013

hope springs (no, not the one with meryl streep)

Romantic comedies get a lot of flack, but when they're done right, they can truly be a lot of fun. An example of a nice little rom-com I caught recently on cable is Hope Springs, a 2003 British film directed by Mark Herman (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Brassed Off, Little Voice), and set in a a New England town of Hope, Vermont — one of those quirky little towns populated by friendly eccentrics that only seem to exist in the movies.

A British artist named Colin (Colin Firth), after a traumatic dumping by his long-term fiancee Vera (Minnie Driver), decides to move as far away as he can from the source of his pain, to America. He choses the town of Hope as a good omen of a fresh start in a place with a positive name. He checks into a hotel where the proprietor, Joanie (Mary Steenburgen) thinks she might have just the cure for what ails him — she goes about trying to set him up with her best friend, a home nursing aide named Mandy (Heather Graham). The stuffy Colin is at first put off by the free-spirited Mandy, but the two soon fall for each other and all is hunky-dory until Vera decides that she wants Colin after all and shows up in Hope, determined to get him back.

Colin woos Mandy with a butterfly ring.
"You can't smoke on the golf course."
Being a romantic hero requires some heavy lifting.

Colin tries to describe Vera to Joanie:

Joanie, "And she's English?"
Colin, "Welsh. Well, half Welsh."
Joanie, "Half Welsh and half ..."
Colin, "Monster."

Hope Springs is a very gentle-humored movie — it's main running joke centers around Vera being told by everyone she meets, whether indoors or out, that she can't smoke — but it is all so good-natured that it's hard not to like the film and its cast of characters. Also on hand are Frank Collison (Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Big Year), as Fisher, Joanie's loving husband, and Oliver Platt as Hope's locally ambitious mayor.
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Monday, January 14, 2013

another little gem of a movie: jack and sarah

Jack and Sarah is the kind of pleasant surprise of a movie that happens when you have a pretty basic and familiar rom-com script, but populate it with fabulous actors. Originally released in 1995, it was written and directed by British television director Tim Sullivan (The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, Coronation Street), and it is apparent that it was a labor of love:
"It took Sullivan four years to make Jack and Sarah, which germinated from an experience he had when working as a director at Granada TV. 'A friend of mine's childcare arrangements broke down and his wife was away, so he brought his six-month-old baby into work,' he says. 'Until that day he had been just an ordinary bloke, but suddenly he was the centre of attention — particularly with the women. And of course, one of the first things they did was take the child off him, as though he couldn't cope. 
Jack works out how to bathe Sarah
"It just amused me — as did the fact that he immediately seemed to become more attractive to women. If you start from the basis that all men are inherently shits — which many women believe and I do myself — when you see one with a baby, he seems more vulnerable and almost like an exception to the rule. Which he isn't." — The Independent
As the story begins Jack (Richard E. Grant) and Sarah (Imogen Stubbs) are about to have a baby. Jack is a rather self-absorbed lawyer who is thrown for a loop when Sarah tragically dies in childbirth. He goes on a bender, leaving his judgmental and disapproving mother (Judi Dench) and harried father and Sarah's mother (Eileen Atkins) to care for the baby. The grandparents team up and practice some tough love, soon leaving the baby with Jack and forcing him to step up to the plate, which he does, for the most part. But when bringing little baby Sarah (who he couldn't help but name after her mother in his grief) to work with him proves problematic, he begins to search for a nanny. Enter American Amy (Samantha Mathis), who knows nothing about childcare, but forms an immediate bond with the baby girl — and maybe her father, too. Rounding out the stellar cast are Cherie Lunghi as Jack's boss and Ian McKellen as an ersatz local wino turned butler/best friend/babysitter.

Amy (Samantha Mathis) changes Sarah's diaper as her two grandmothers (Eileen Atkins and Judi Dench) and William (Ian McKellen) supervise

Sarah and Amy
The London setting adds another dimension to the story. Jack may be a lawyer, but his flat and neighborhood are artsy — full of light and space and in an interesting area. I felt like I wasn't just watching a story but spending time with some people I like, much like the Notting Hill (where some of this film was shot). Jack and Sarah is not your typical romantic comedy, and that's very good, indeed.
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