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michael lehmann

Review: Because I Said So, License To Wed and Catch a Fire

By Cinema, Reviews

It’s been a tough old week to be a cinephile. Firstly, poet of the dark interi­or of human exist­ence Ingmar Bergman finally gives up the ghost, then I get to watch a dis­mal romantic com­edy star­ring Mandy Moore. Next, Michelangelo Antonioni, cine­mat­ic archi­tect of the spaces between people, him­self passes over and I get to watch anoth­er dis­mal romantic com­edy star­ring Mandy Moore. If it had­n’t been for The Last Picture Show at the Festival it might have been a depress­ing week indeed.

Because I Said So posterThe Mandy Moore rom-com double-feature fea­tures Because I Said So and License To Wed, both dir­ec­ted by TV hacks who, when fur­nished with decent scripts, can turn out cred­it­able work (Michael Lehmann made Heathers and The Truth About Cats and Dogs) but that isn’t the case here.

In Because I Said So Mandy Moore plays a cater­er and the young­est daugh­ter of pushy single mom Diane Keaton. She’s the only daugh­ter not yet mar­ried and, of course, the whole fam­ily frets about her find­ing the right man before it’s too late (though she’s only about 22). Secretly Keaton places an ad at an Internet dat­ing site hop­ing to screen can­did­ates on Moore’s behalf; mean­while Moore actu­ally falls for a musi­cian with a tat­too and com­edy mis­un­der­stand­ings obvi­ously ensue.

I found it impossible to dredge up any enthu­si­asm for this film but the hand­ful of middle-aged women I shared the screen­ing with laughed like drains so you might want to take their opin­ion over mine if you are so inclined.

License To Wed posterIn License To Wed Moore plays a flor­ist who has just got engaged to John Krasinsky (Tim from the American ver­sion of The Office). The church wed­ding she has always dreamed of comes with strings attached – a com­puls­ory mar­riage pre­par­a­tion course taken by Reverend Frank played by Robin Williams. There are two kinds of Robin Williams film nowadays: the ser­i­ous kind and the crap kind and this is the lat­ter. Krasinsky is quite watch­able though and I sus­pect we’ll be see­ing a lot more of him over the next wee while – he’s like a young Tom Hanks with a pair of com­edy ears on.

Catch a Fire posterReturning from the World Cinema Showcase earli­er this year is the splen­did Apartheid-era polit­ic­al thrill­er Catch a Fire star­ring Tim Robbins and (one of my favour­ite act­ors) Derek Luke from Antwone Fisher. The film is set in the North Eastern Coal Fields of South Africa in 1980 where all com­munit­ies live in the shad­ow of the huge Secunda Oil Refinery. Luke plays apolit­ic­al refinery work­er Patrick Chamusso who becomes politi­cised after being accused and tor­tured over a ter­ror­ist attack at the refinery.

He travels to Mozambique to join the ANC and plot the destruc­tion of the refinery, and the over­throw of the hated apartheid sys­tem. What he does­n’t real­ise is that the mor­al cor­rup­tion of apartheid reflects itself in real world cor­rup­tion every­where and that his move­ments have been watched by police­man Nic Vos (Robbins).

Catch a Fire is a test­a­ment to the many sac­ri­fices of those years dis­guised as a fast-moving thrill­er and it works on both levels. Written by Shawn Slovo, her­self the daugh­ter of white ANC free­dom fight­ers, the film also takes a sens­it­ive approach (in the spir­it of Truth and Reconciliation) to the white side of the story, show­ing the spir­itu­al dam­age done to them by apartheid. You won’t find many more sat­is­fy­ing (or more beau­ti­fully pho­to­graphed) films this year.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday, 8 August, 2007.