Skip to main content

Review: Eat Pray Love, Buried and The Town

By October 20, 2010November 30th, 2010No Comments

Eat Pray Love posterEat Pray Love is what they used to call, in the old days, a “women’s pic­ture” and the advert­isers who have paid good money to annoy audi­ences before the film make sure you know it: fem­in­ine hygiene products. A chro­mo­somal anom­aly on my part means that I’m not in the tar­get mar­ket for this film (or the best­selling book that inspired it) but I’ll give it a go. Manfully.

Julia Roberts plays Liz, a phe­nom­en­ally bad play­wright and (sup­posedly) suc­cess­ful author who has a crisis and ends her (sup­posedly) unsat­is­fact­ory mar­riage to bewildered and hurt Billy Crudup. Never hav­ing lived without a man in her life she goes straight into a rela­tion­ship with hand­some and spir­itu­al young act­or James Franco.

Still unhappy, and a source of enorm­ous frus­tra­tion to her eth­nic­ally diverse best friend Viola Davis (Doubt), she uses her share of the Crudup divorce to take a year off and find her­self – Italy for the food, India for the guru and Bali for Javier Bardem.

This is a film about shal­low people try­ing to be slightly less shal­low. The well-off are entitled to their crises as well as the rest of us but after two and a half hours Roberts’ char­ac­ter has failed (it seems to me) to learn any­thing. She’s still listen­ing to oth­er people tell her how to live and she’s still (lit­er­ally) run­ning after a man that will com­plete her.

Written and dir­ec­ted by Ryan Murphy, cre­at­or of the tv shows “Glee” and “Nip/Tuck”, per­haps Eat Pray Love is the the Green Party altern­at­ive to ACT’s Sex and the City – a gay man’s fantasy about what women really want. Is that helpful?

The Leopard posterSunday was a mara­thon day at the movies for your doughty (I first typed that as doughy which would serve equally well) cor­res­pond­ent. After shar­ing Julia Roberts’ vap­id brain for a Titanic length of time I stayed in my Embassy seat for Luchino Visconti’s 1963 epic, The Leopard and the three hours and ten minutes flew by.

While there’s no deny­ing the masterpiece-ness of the film, the giant Embassy screen couldn’t help reveal­ing (in one scene) an extra play­ing a corpse slyly open­ing his eyes, check­ing some­thing off cam­era, then clos­ing them again. You’d nev­er have seen that on the Steenbeck. These Sunday after­noon clas­sic screen­ings at the Embassy are a most wel­come addi­tion to the film buffs’ cal­en­dar. Keep an eye on the schedule.

Phédre posterThen it was around the har­bour to the Lighthouse in Petone for the National Theatre Live pro­duc­tion of Phédre star­ring Helen Mirren (a replay from earli­er in the year).

I’m not sure who is sup­posed to be review­ing these present­a­tions – me or Lynn. The audi­ence is not shar­ing a room with the act­ors so it isn’t theatre; it’s one con­tinu­ous uned­ited per­form­ance so it isn’t really cinema; and the National Theatre busi­ness case means these pro­duc­tions will nev­er be avail­able for home view­ing so it isn’t tele­vi­sion either. And yet… and yet… you must watch them when you get a chance because they are so good.

I nor­mally steer clear of review­ing any­thing in these pages that you can’t actu­ally watch and Phédre is now long gone, but I do recom­mend that you pick up a bro­chure and check out the rest of the sea­son. Outside of (pos­sibly) a Festival of the Arts you’d nev­er get to see a Complicité pro­duc­tion but now you can pop down to the flicks to see the acclaimed A Disappearing Number in a com­fy seat for less than the price of a stu­dent stand­ing standby tick­et in the West End.

Buried posterI’m extremely impressed by the intel­li­gent and chal­len­ging cinema com­ing out of Spain at the moment. [REC], Timecrimes and Cell 211 are all examples of fresh think­ing and tak­ing inspir­a­tion from limitations.

Buried is the latest win­ner – a superb idea bril­liantly executed by dir­ect­or Rodrigo Cortés (from a script by Chris Sparling). Ryan Reynolds is a US truck driver con­trac­ted to ship stuff around the Iraqi war zone. After an ambush he is kid­napped and bur­ied alive with only a zippo and a cell­phone. He is being held for ransom and has only 90 minutes of air left to per­suade the author­it­ies to pay up or he will nev­er be found.

The entire film is shot inside the con­fines of the coffin and all takes place in real-time – struc­tur­al form­al­ism for the win! – and the ten­sion is often unbear­able as Cortés, Sparling and Reynolds pile on the pres­sure. Buried is going to be a film school text one day. Don’t miss it.

The Town posterLantern-jawed movie star Ben Affleck has already proved that he’s a film­maker of great prom­ise. He (with Matt Damon) star­ted a kind of Boston tri­logy with Good Will Hunting in 1997. He dir­ec­ted his first fea­ture ten years later and hit it out of the park with Gone Baby Gone. His latest, The Town, also prowls the inner city Boston mean streets of Charlestown, where the proud Irish American com­munity robs the banks of the rich and polices its own.

Affleck is the lead­er of a crew of bank rob­bers. When he falls in love with a wit­ness he is sup­posed to be pres­sur­ing not to testi­fy (Rebecca Hall) he decides it’s time to retire but comes into con­flict with hot­head half broth­er Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) and G‑man Jon Hamm (who proves he ain’t Don Draper by not shaving).

This time around Affleck the dir­ect­or gives Affleck the writer a little too much liberty (and Affleck the act­or a chance to indulge him­self). There’s a bit too much speech­i­fy­ing in the first two acts and too much shoot­ing in the third, but The Town is a sol­id thrill­er nonetheless.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 20 October, 2010 (Buried and The Town held over for space reasons).