Wednesday, December 28, 2005


The story: Two dysfunctional sisters (Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette) can't live with each other, can't live without each other. Collette is the less attractive of the two, a successful, hard-working lawyer who can't find a man, and Diaz is the sex kitten, who can't seem to say 'no' to a man--or 'yes' to a job. Finally, Collette finds a man, another lawyer in the firm, and Diaz, who is staying with her, seduces him. Diaz is thrown out of the house by Collette, goes to stay with a long lost Grandmother, Shirley MacLaine, who is living in a complex in Florida for active seniors. Meanwhile, back in the city (Philadelphia), Collette drops off the fast track, finds peace in menial jobs and discovers a long simmering relationship with another lawyer, one who is at the old firm and always had the hots for her. The rest of the film deals with each sister 'finding' herself, including a more functional relationship with each other--based on a discovery of the truth of their past which includes a suicidal, mentally ill, mother.

Shirley MacLaine (the Grandmother) is a great actress, still one of the best America has produced in the last fifty years (has it been that long already?!); Collette is one of the best around today; Diaz has deep blue eyes and a body--and breasts--overly sculpted in a gym and other places. The men are Ken Howard as the Daddy, Mark Feuerstein as the Collette beau, and Norman Lloyd as a dying old man who mentors Diaz; they are solid.

The film (directed by Curtis Hanson of LA Confidential fame) is sweet, lovely, predictable; and slow. The actual two hour length of the film goes by like three. The filmmakers never solve the problem of turning the novel, on which the movie was based, into a film. It is the classic conversion dilemma of Hollywood: the difficulty of taking a novel, which conveniently gives you a story already developed, but in a form ideally suited to the novel structure, and trying to turn it into a medium for which it was never conceived.

In classic storytelling theory, each story dictates its own best form, the ideal way of conveying the essence of the tale. Ironically, often the skimpiest, less fully developed novels turn into the greatest films: two of the greatest examples are The Bridge Over the River Kwai and The Treasure of Sierra Madre. But that is rare. And is probably why Faulkner never translated into a great film. What God giveth in adapting a novel to film (fully developed story and complex characters), God taketh away (the usual inflexibility of a novel's storytelling structure).


Blogger Gary Freedman said...

I haven't been to a movie since September 1992. What do you think of that?

11:45 AM  

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