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Archive for the ‘Kathy Bates’ Category

The Bridge Of San Luis Rey

07 Feb

The Bridge Of San Luis Rey – directed by Mary McGuckian. Drama. 120 minutes Color 2004.

★★★★

The Story: In a trial for his life, a 17th Century friar presents his findings on the coincidence of seven people plunging to their deaths when a suspension bridge collapses.

~

The presence of Robert De Niro as the archbishop of Peru disqualifies the story. He does not have the acting instrument to perform the role, which requires Shavian mentation of inquiry and debate. Nowhere in this piece does he seem feasible.

The others do just fine, and their good work validates our presence before them. Geraldine Chaplin is excellent as the kind Mother Superior who connects all of them. Gabriel Byrne touches one as the soft-spoken friar on trial for possible heresy.

Kathy Bates, an actress difficult to cast correctly, finds herself well placed as the richest widow in Peru, but clearly a parvenu from the shopkeeping class. She moves through the vast structures of cathedral and palace like an elephant in full regalia. Dressed like a pavilion, she performs one rich scene of unexpected eccentricity after another, and the script gives her the only fully realized character in the piece.

As her relative, uncle Pio, our beloved Harvey Keitel is perfectly cast as a theatrical entrepreneur, a man who owns nothing, and loves fixedly.

F. Murray Abraham has, as the vice-ridden Viceroy Of Peru, a part he can finally sink his sharp teeth into. This is the sort of play that actors like better than audiences. There is grand argumentation. Elocution is required. Wit is a priority. Intelligence of style is appreciated. Abraham is an actor of classical gifts, and what a treat it is to see him perform with them.

Dominique Pinon is excruciatingly exact as the Viceroy’s fop. He brings a surge of comic vitality to the film whenever he appears, shrewd, quick, and big hearted.

Pilar López de Ayalaila speaks perfect English, and is a very good actress, but lacks the high temperament, unique sexual personality, and special feminine voice of the actress La Perichola. It is the key role. She unites them all, drives them all, kills them all. But she is not able to convince us of what others see in her. The not-to-be-topped Anna Magnani played a version of her in The Golden Coach of Jean Renoir in 1952. Nazimova, Joan Loring, Blanch Yurka, Akim Tamiroff, and Louis Calhern played it in the 1944 film. There is a 1929 version, part-talking, with Lily Damita.

The original is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Thornton Wilder, which may be still readable today, who knows? I have read it and liked it, but it wasn’t yesterday that I did so.

 

Rumor Has It

20 Jul

Rumor Has It – Directed by Rob Reiner. Upper Class Romantic Comedy. The Graduate Part II. 97 minutes Color 2005.

* * *

We are doing fine as long as Mark Ruffalo is with us. When force of circumstances require our heroine, Jennifer Aniston, to separate him out, the story declines in all areas of its life. Kathy Bates in a white Harpo wig enters in a muumuu the size of a stadium and give a performance to match. This followed by Kevin Costner who almost escapes execution by the false premise of a script which takes Miss Aniston on a billionaire bash, a treat which impresses her nothing, since the gal is from Pasadena, where billionaires are as to flies on cheese. Even the remarkable Richard Jenkins turns in a bad performance. Now, I ask you, if he fails, can winter be far behind? It is not. It takes the form of Shirley MacLaine, in a part requiring the deftness of Myrna Loy; instead she runs the schtick she has run for the past 30 years, that of a stinker granny, turning every line she utters into the stab of a yellow jacket. Aniston alone skims across this mire unscathed, I don’t know how. For one thing her touch on a role is infinitely light. For another, she really is a master comedienne. She seems to be quite tiny, but her size gives her an appeal, which is met by her tiny features in the broad plains of her face. Inside her, as inside Mickey Rourke, is the instrument of a harpsichord, so that she is never stuffy but also never undignified, even when disdignity looms. She is probably not a physical comedienne, as were Katharine Hepburn and Carole Lombard, but is more along the lines of Jean Arthur, who had a quirky voice just as Aniston has quirky mouth, and one we love to have with us so we can watch it and wonder. She knows exactly how to register the merest ripple of difficulty. You’ve got to hand it to her, except I hope no one ever again hands her a movie so badly written and directed as this one is. Mark Ruffalo, where are you when we need you? Oh, there you are, gasp, true blue to the end!

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Midnight In Paris

04 Jun

Midnight In Paris – Written and directed by Woody Allen – Light Comedy. A screenwriter and his fiancée fall out over Paris, as she shops forward, and he time travels back. 100 minutes Color 2011.

* * * * *

We expect another dose of Allen’s tired concerns, but we find instead a spoonful of sugar and no medicine at all. Adrien Brody’s excruciatingly funny rendition of Salvador Dali is worth the ticket of admission. Alas, it stands virtually alone as a form of comic comment as Bunuel, Picasso, Matisse, Lautrec, Degas, Gauguin, cameo in and out with no savor comique at all. The joke of celebrity artists’ sudden appearances plays out long before they turn up, and Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein is once again out of her element in Paris. But, more than the actors, in all these cases, it is the fault of the writer Allen, whose script is flaccid and who tends to sacrifice humor to comedy and comedy to jokes – although some of the jokes admittedly are marvelous. Allen also writes the lines of his male lead for one actor and one actor only, himself, but he is not playing the part just at present, so Owen Wilson who happens to be playing it here, is at times trapped by the Allen rhythms and, through no fault of his own, cannot always adhere to a character whose rug is being pulled out from under him by the failure of the screenwriter who thinks that someone else should be as funny as Woody Allen is when, all the time, Owen Wilson is just as funny on his own and as himself as any normal light comedy film requires. Wilson is right for the part, of course, a gormeless, lecherous, shy, literarily ambition bloke, and his stentorian style of reading his lines is droll beyond measure. He carries the film, for sure, right where it belongs into our own willingly gullible hearts. He is helped in this particularly by Rachel McAdams who gets plenty of and deserved attention from the camera as the fiancée from hell, an extremely well-written part and one which she does full justice to – she’s so funny in everything she does, you’re too horrified to laugh. The other dead spot is Marion Cotillard, leaden as the leading lady in a part that requires mischief and sexual animation such as Carole Lombard had or Goldie Hawn or some Unknown Delight. But, nonetheless, the film carries itself through for us in a good old-fashioned way; it offers us a fairy tale we all have had of hobnobbing with the accomplished. It carries the dream fun through, the feckless younger son meeting all the sacred monsters in the woods of fame, while all the imps are Allen.

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