24 Lies a Second

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Hello again everyone, and before we get onto the regular sordid business of viewing cinema's latest offerings through the grubby prism of my own bias (in the process no doubt revealing more about my own peculiar psychopathology than I should really be comfortable with) I thought it would be nice to have another edition of 'Who gives a damn what I think?' (or, as our esteemed editor once put it, 'Awix ranting').

I have noticed an odd trend in cinemagoing over the last five years or so, which I have decided to name the Misleading Trailer gambit. The first time this really came to my attention was when we went to see the 1997 John Cleese vehicle Fierce Creatures (the one with the zoo). A nice enough film and no mistake, but, well, not entirely the one I had been expecting from the trailer: in particular, there was a distinct absence of Kevin Kline being attacked by a rhino. This bit was in the trailer but entirely lacking from the finished movie.

And it's happened quite a few times since then: you see the trailer for the movie, and think 'Oh, that looks good,' on the strength of what you're shown, only to find that when you go to see it memorable bits from the trailer haven't made it into the finished film. It happened with Red Dragon, it happened with this week's film, and I've no doubt it happens a lot more, except most of the time people don't notice it.

I'm more bemused than angry about this, if truth be told, and I can
understand why it happens: films are advertised so far ahead of their
release date these days, and tinkered with and recut so much, that it's
hardly surprising if the film the trailer was made to promote isn't
exactly the same one that eventually comes out. But it's a niggling irritation, and - especially given that the deleted scenes in question will no doubt be on the DVD release as extras - another sign of the odd current phenomena where there is no 'final' version of any given film, instead there's the cinema release, the director's cut, the DVD release, the tenth anniversary special edition, and so on, and so on...

Well, anyway, enough senior citizen moaning on my part ('Special
effects were much better when you could see the strings. And there hasn't been a decent fantasy film since Ray Harryhausen retired'
) and onto a proper review. This week I went to see Two Weeks Notice, a romantic comedy written and directed by Marc Lawrence and produced by and starring ol' llama-face herself, Sandra Bullock.

Sandy plays Lucy Kelson, a committed, idealistic, and highly committed lawyer1 in New York. (She remains oddly fluffy and lovable.) While campaigning to stop the nasty Wade Corporation from knocking down her neighbourhood community centre (you have to admire, by the way, the brazenness with which the film deploys such a hoary old cliche) she meets the corporation's 'closer' George Wade (played, inevitably, by Hugh Grant) - and no, I don't know what a closer is either, but it's the only job title Grant's character seems to have. His job mainly seems to involve playing tennis and being a louche scallywag, if that's any help. Wade is filthy rich, utterly self-absorbed and completely amoral. (He remains oddly fluffy and loveable.) He also needs a lawyer and so in exchange for his saving the community centre, Lucy takes the job. Of course, in his fluffy, lovable way
George drives her up the wall, and eventually she fluffily and lovably
quits. But, this being the land of rom-com, there may just be an outside chance the two of them will realise they're actually perfect for each other, eventually acknowledge their true feelings, and wind up making saccharine speeches in public places, etc, etc, all before the final credits roll.

Two Weeks Notice is a film that knows what it wants to be and goes all out to be that thing: a gentle, amusing, frothy comedy with some romantic overtones. In fact I would say that it pursues the comedy element a little too fiercely, with the result that the characterisation and relationships are not as three-dimensional as they perhaps need to be. But, some unconvincing slapstick and sight-gags aside, this is all amusing enough.

Most of the credit for this must go to the leads, as Lawrence's
directorial technique almost wholly consists of him simply pointing the
camera at whoever's talking. Sandra Bullock's performance in this movie
rather reminded me of Geoffrey Boycott. I suspect that particular critical gem may require some exegesis, so here goes: just as the famous Yorkshire cricketer achieved his success through hard graft as much as natural ability, so Sandy isn't, I would argue, the most naturally gifted actress when it comes to this kind of daffy, ditzy, screwball comedy. But by gum she puts 100% effort into it and in the end her performance is everything it needs to be and perhaps a little bit more besides.

Hugh Grant, on the other hand, could play this kind of part in his sleep by now. Not since the kung fu heyday of Bruce Lee has one actor dominated a particular film genre in the way that Grant rules the rom-com roost. Nobody plays this kind of part as well as him, but he does so with such effortless aplomb that it's too easy to accuse him giving the same performance in every film he makes. As usual, he subtly modulates his screen persona to suit the movie: this time round he's a bit more clueless and infuriating than usual. The lack of more serious elements to ground the film mean that the great man spins his wheels a bit in places, and this isn't his best work by any means. But it's impossible to imagine this film being as likable as it is without him.

The rest of the cast pretty much do what's required of them (the only faces I recognised were David Haig and Alicia Witt, but you may have more luck), and Sandy has managed to convince Norah Jones and Donald Trump to make cameo appearances as themselves. One of them sings, and to avoid accusations of being a spoiler I will leave you to discover which one for yourself.

Two Weeks Notice isn't a bad film, but it's one I find difficult to get excited about. It's entirely successful in meeting the target it sets for itself, but as that target is to be a rather formulaic comedy populated by near-stereotypes with not very many surprises in the storyline, this is not that great an achievement. Fun, but not exactly memorable.


27.02.03 Front Page

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1Does anyone know why there are so many films about lawyers out at the moment?

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