Tuesday, December 20, 2005

More:****MOVIE RECOMMENDATIONS****"Mrs. Henderson Presents"; "The Producers"; "The Constant Gardener"

MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS: Forget all that I said in any other reviews on these pages about the need for plot. I take it back. While there is very little plot machinations iin this film, it still engaged my interest throughout. Boy meets lonely girl; boy and girl work together (developing a vaudeville theatre which transforms itself into uptown "Lido de Paris"/Vegas-showgirl extravaganzas); boy and girl clash because their personalities are very different (she is super-WASP; he is a Jewish salesmen); girl gets a crush; girl discovers boy is already married; she gets reconciled to it; they take on WW II: Nazi planes over London and the British prudish Establishment; they succeed; the war ends; he dies; she mourns--and we realize that friendship and shared goals, perhaps more than carnal love, is the most passionate, involving and fulfilling relationship of all. Character is all in this film. Character can be 'all' when you have Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins playing the boy and the girl. Not since Love Among the Ruins, with Katherine Hepburn and Lawrence Olivier, or Shadowlands with Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger has a geriatric love story been so deliciously moving to me. Maybe it's the anglophile in me; maybe it's these particular actors and their sturdy, understated brilliance of English stiff-upper-lip. Maybe it's my own aging. Whatever it is, there's something wonderful about seeing time's passage redirect the flow of blood and energy up from the groin to the head and heart.

THE CONSTANT GARDENER: I saw this film awhile ago but revisited it due to the Academy Award buzz. The story is from a John le Carre novel; which gives it a head start. It is not from a great John le Carre novel, which is a detriment. The gardener aspect to the stoty is more symbolic than integral, more illustrative than dramatic (in my eyes, always a flaw). (See The Spy Who Came From the Cold if you want to see a great--and symbolically integrated--John le Carre based film).

The director of The Constant Gardener, Fernando Meirelles is hot off directing City of God, which was a peripatetic spice of Latin American life film, precocious and talented, but a bit too hyperactive even for that subject matter. Meirelles tried to apply those energetic talents to this film, but it doesn't work, not even as well as in City of God. The fast cutting filmic style seems imposed, as if the filmmaker was trying to get something going when, in truth, intrinsically, there is little going in the film. Perhaps his need to speed things up is dictated by Ralph Fiennes, who agonizingly depresses his way through (and, unfortunately whenever I see him, my way through) another film. (Sorry...He is not a favorite of mine...Except in his wonderful performance in Schindler's List, where his natural oversensitive lugubrious self/acting provided a dramatic inner tension to his Nazi character).

Most importantly: Rachel Weisz, the female lead, is wonderful, captivating, weighty, appealing, etc. etc. etc. If she isn't nominated for this role I will be disappointed. She is worth the price of the ticket.

THE PRODUCERS: During the first ten minutes of the film, I thought: 'Overdone.' 'Cheap gags.' 'Hyperactive.' Pure Mel Brooks! Then I thought: 'How wonderful...overdone, cheap-gag-gy and hyperactive!! Pure Mel Brooks! A Mack truck without brakes rolling down the PC highway smashing everyone in its path. He never stopped writing Sid Ceasar's Show of Shows!!' Incorrigible, unapologetically, unrelenting...I had the longest stretch of belly-laughs I've had in a long time.

Critics (including the NY Times) have not been overly kind. To those critics, I say: Yes, I agree: Nathan Lane is no Zero Mostel (although close). Matthew Broderick is further removed from the brilliant Gene Wilder (Mostel and Wilder were the original Lane and Broderick characters in the original non-musical 1968 film, The Producers). But the criticim is akin to criticizing merry-go-rounds and cotton candy for being too frivolous. Perhaps the criticism is arising because gays (in theatre, especially), and Germans (all kinds in the film) are mercilessly lampooned. True; the film is gay-bashing and German bashing of the highest order. (Will Ferrell is briliant as the unrepentent modern Nazi.) But the film is also horny little old lady bashing, horny young and old men bashing, blonde-bimbo bashing (Uma Thurman is sexy and comedically wonderful in the film by the way; a delightful surprise...the comedy flair, that is). The film engages in equal opportunity 'bashing'. (It used to be called satire!).

Critics: lighten up. You gay German horny old ladies critics are too thin-skinned. Put aside your PC-ness (in this...and perhaps all cases...Political Constipation-ness) for a couple of hours and have fun laughing at yourself. I did. And I won't tell you what category I belong in. (Although any of you who have followed my reviews and blogs could probably guess. 'Oh, Uma Thurman is sooo sexy!') Suspend critical judgment. See the movie. Then buy some cotton candy and go for a circular but delightful ride on the Mel Brook's merry-go-round. He is a perpetual kid...and kids are mean...but they know how to have a ggod time!


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