Archive for the ‘Helen Hunt’ Category

Then She Found Me

15 Feb

Then She Found Me – directed by Helen Hunt. Dramedy. 100 minutes Color 2008


The Story: A woman on the lea-side of 40 wants to have a baby, but she doesn’t want to adopt, especially when her own long-lost birth mother turns up to drive her nuts.

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Here’s an interesting film you haven’t seen and haven’t even heard of.

Is that true?

It’s true that it’s interesting. And what is more interesting still is how Helen Hunt worked on it for years as a writer and producer before she could get it made. She directed it and stars in it. She describes this whole process with unusual candor in the Extra Features, and you will like how smart she is and how honest, gifted, and determined.

And I think you will like her playing of the main character. As you will Bette Midler as the birth mother, Matthew Broderick as her husband, and Colin Firth as the attractive but erratic divorcé she takes up with.

The movie has a dumb title. It really should be called The Comedy Of Betrayal, because that is the subject driving both Hunt and the story. What place does betrayal play in a relationship? Is it necessary? Perhaps. Is it inevitable? Probably. How do you mine its riches?

The picture is shot in Brooklyn, from what I can tell, and it has a playful, searching script, made marvelously and justly funny by Midler, whom you want to strangle and love all at the same time, and by Matthew Broderick as the gormeless hubby.

It’s a perfect movie for home viewing with a bright mate. Check it out. There’s a lot to see and a lot to surprise you here. And a lot to talk about afterwards.







A Good Woman

08 Dec

A Good Woman – directed by Mike Barker. High Comedy. A woman of mystery turns up in Amalfi and immediately arouses gossip since it appears she is being kept by the recently married husband of a highly proper young woman. 83 minutes Color 2005.
Lady Windermere’s Fan was made famously by two famous directors, one with Ronald Coleman by Ernst Lubitsch in 1925, a silent film renowned for its mute success despite Wilde being the most verbally distinctive of writers; again in 1945 by Otto Preminger with Madeleine Carroll, George Sanders, and Jeanne Crain. The play was clearly ripe for a redo.

No, it wasn’t.

Although the play itself would be unworkable as a movie, the writers have kept Wilde’s structure, but lifted Wilde’s japes and jokes from other sources and flattened them to fit the lips of 1930’s socialites wintering on the Mediterranean, and the only actors who can get their mouths around them properly are the two old troupers who form a chorus of snipers and scandalmongers and tipplers, Roger Hammond and John Standing, and aren’t they fun!

The beautiful English actor Mark Umbers plays the now Americanized (the once Arthur and now Robert) Windermere (no longer a lord) and his wife (no longer Lady Windermere) is played by the seventeen year-old Scarlett Johansson. Johansson is a baffling presence in film, and although she comes to this one with a good deal of experience behind her, it does not show. Her voice is flat and badly placed and seems uninvested in meaning. Her heifer eyes register a wounded stupidity. She moves clumsily. She does not wear clothes well. Of course, her skin takes the camera so well, you think she must be God’s gift to the movies; I give her back unopened.

She is matched by Helen Hunt, who plays the intriguing adventuress, Mrs. Erlynne. Hunt is also American, and she too has the wrong voice for the part, oddly pitched, high, flat, and eggy. I like her face a lot, but, with its thin lips and sunken cheeks and hawk-like nose, it is likely to be miscast as that of a femme fatale. She has too much plea in her timbre. She does not have the inner puma, she’s not a wild animal in lamé, she does not have the sexual certainty to promise. She looks well in her clothes, with her beautifully proportioned, slender figure. And she is a good actress, so she makes the most of everything opposite Tom Wilkinson as Lord Augustus.

Wilkinson is the only real character we care about here. The part, a much-married playboy now in high middle age, is made much larger than in the play, in which he is presented as one of Wilde’s dear old fools. Wilkinson has several good scenes with Hunt, and with the two geezers, as they and the old trouts of leisure snipe at the scandal and inflate it by examining with vitriol eye that corpse, the institution of marriage.

But to really enjoy Lady Windermere’s Fan, one must read it. I do so in a first edition of it, old now, with its odd intestinal cover with three gold leaves, Elkin Matthew 1893: Lady Windermere’s Fan, A Play About A Good Woman. Indeed: a play about goodness of many and various stripes and kinds.


The Sessions

10 Nov

The Sessions –- written and directed by Ben Lewin. Docudrama. A 38 year-old man confined to an iron lung by polio decides to lose his virginity, and hires a sexual surrogate to help him. 95 minutes Color 2012.

John Hawkes plays it like a true Virgo, that is to say he plays it understanding that the only thing that is critical to the role is that the character is in a physical difficulty that no human being could become quite used to no matter how long he had been used to it, and that this requires nothing more than a shift in vocal pitch – the only thing, since, as he is completely paralyzed, his voice is the only expressive instrument available to him. Everything else in the part is played by the audience. He will be nominated again for an Oscar. We ourselves see him with difficulty – from the side, from the top looking down, in profile supine. He is never shown upright and so we must meet him by lying down too.

And what sort of person is this? A very humorous one. Even his admission of self-pity is humorous. His humor gives us enough to do the rest.

The trick for such a story is to achieve a balance of ingredients.

First is a man who is sexually potent but sexually inert. He needs training. (Some men are like that. I was, and I too relinquished my virginity late, aged 20, to the whores in Inchon, to whom I am ever grateful. Like him, I was feckless. Like him, the first time did not work.) So he arranges for a sexual surrogate to come in, a trainer in the craft, here played by Helen Hunt. Hunt gives a generous, straightforward performance, much of it easily naked. She represents and plays the simple sexual act, unburdened by social or religious or family strictures. That’s the second ingredient.

Third is the weight of all outside moral stricture in the form of a Catholic priest, his minister and confessor. This is a part that must be played by the actor who does play it, that beaker of Irish whiskey neat William H. Macy, for the role requires the most impolitic of actors, and he is just the one, isn’t he? He is inherently without rules. He is adorned with hippy locks and jeans for pastoral visits. It’s a funny performance without ever poking fun. And that is smart and correct of Macy, for Hawkes must have all the jokes.

So you see it’s very interesting from the casting point of view. Helen Hunt has a beautiful figure and must be in her fifties, so we’re not talking about a sex kitten – that wouldn’t be legit. She has to be played by Hunt who is legitimacy incarnate. And the polio man has to be played by someone we don’t really know as an actor. Why? Because we have to fall into him, as into unknown territory in ourselves. It’s the sort of part that Sean Penn would kill for, but then it wouldn’t work, would it, because with Penn we’d already know too much.

The movie is about human sexual decency at its most naked. When have you ever seen it before?


Soul Surfer

25 Apr

Soul Surfer – Directed by Sean McNamara. Second Chance Sports Docudrama. A young female athlete tries for a comeback after a terrible accident. 106 minutes Color 2011.

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This movie has a self-embarrassed Christian side-story, and I am embarrassed by its embarrassment. I am not a practicing Christian, but I find it odd that I know of no modern American film which actually embraces as an ingredient of story the spiritual strength which is to be found in the Christian Church, not by saints, or ministers, but by ordinary persons who are also the leads in films. Am I wrong? In this story, spiritual strength is certainly what is called for when the young lady‘s athletic career seems to be completely compromised by what happens to her.  Like all sports stories, it is the record of triumph against odds. In this case, the sport is the enchanting and unthinkable sport of surfboarding. Wonderful to behold, spectacular beyond imagining, one watches the athletes – all of them female – strut their stuff on the crests. The amazing thing about the sport of surfboarding is it does not take place in the racing surface of terra firma. It’s all done on water! How unusual! So the unheavals of water make it a great treat to watch. However, I wish the spiritual side of the piece had been more fully realized. In many ways, the film seems amateur – as how could it not with thirteen screenwriters – but that does not matter so much, when one realizes that it is the actual story of Bethany Hamilton, an Hawaiian girl who actually went through this ordeal. I wandered into the film because Helen Hunt and Dennis Quaid were in it playing her parents. Helen Hunt’s pinched look is a perfect launching point for her skills as an actress which are not pinched, but open, flexible, and immediate. Dennis Quaid is in fine figure, with his intense concern and winning grin. Given the flaccidity of the script, they are both good, and both surf, as well. AnnaSophia Robb plays Bethany most convincingly. It’s a good family film. And for me, as well, it helped once more to dissolve more of my difficulty with handicapped people, and a good job too.


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