28 August 2008


With Philip Roth, you basically know what you're gonna get. There will be a devastatingly attractive younger woman. Against all odds, she will fall for an older man, who will be an aging Lothario who whines a lot and is incapable of thinking of anyone except himself. He will have some kind of brush with death that will lead him to reflect on mortality and the way of all flesh, and in the process, he might learn how to be considerate of others. That's the Roth way. This film, adapted from one of his novels, is no different. So it's a variation on the theme, and it has, within this category, some unexpected strengths (a well rendered older woman character, an entirely decent side-plot with the son) and some predictable weaknesses (the descent into maudlin sentimentality), but overall, if you know what you're getting into, it's an enjoyable film.

What truly sets the movie apart is the acting, which is absolutely magnificent. Everyone - Ben Kingsley, Penelope Cruz, Dennis Hopper, Patricia Clarkson (god I love her) and Peter Saarsgard - are phenomenal. Really fantastic.

There have been some complaints that Kingsley and Cruz have absolutely no sexual chemistry, which is true, but I think this actually contributes to the film. The Onion review claims that this  highlights the fact that they were never meant to be together, but I don't think that's right. Rather, it emphasizes that such relationships, between older men and younger women, are never actually just about sex, no matter what either of them may say. It also makes some scenes vaguely uncomfortable in a really interesting way.

What the film does particularly well is depicting tenderness, affection and comfort. If ever my heart should break again, I want Dennis hopper to make me scrambled eggs and choo choo train them into my forlorn mouth. These various loving moments are some of the best in the film, and they go a long way towards overcoming its weaknesses - weaknesses that, in my opinion, are amply compensated by the superb acting.

All in all, an enjoyable movie. Recommended, albeit in a forewarned fashion.


Anonymous said...

The actors in this film are amazing. Its’ a film I could watch again and again just because of the performances. Dennis Hopper is great. I wish the others would take a leaf out of Hopper's book and get their voices recorded Navtones so I could have them on my GPS. I just got Hopper's voice and other cool celebrities as the voice on my GPS at Navtones.com. It's awesome and I recommend it, just like this film.

culture_vulture said...

Please tell me that there's some kind of secret option you can unlock for the Dennis Hopper GPS so that it occasionally barks POP QUIZ HOTSHOT! RIGHT OR LEFT? IF THE BUS DROPS BELOW 50, IT BLOWS UP. WHAT DO YOU DO? WHAT DO YOU DO?

But yeah, I absolutely agree - the acting is stellar. I dunno if I could watch it again and again, but nonetheless, they really are excellent.