Virginia Film Fest Day 1
Gonna try something new now that I can blog from my iPhone … a single post updating the films after I see them. UPDATE: I decided to separate the days just to keep the post(s) at manageable length, though I’ve updated each throughout the day)
I’ve gone to the Virginia Film Festival in Charlottesville several times before, but it has a new director this year, who wants to de-emphasize the “overarching” themes it’s had in the past, though it does have one — “funny business.” This year’s slate is heavier on classics and local films than fall awards-season stuff (though there’s always been some of all).
Thus my schedule is heavier on films I’ve seen multiple times, but never with an audience (real important for a comedy). You don’t (or shouldn’t) need me to tell you SOME LIKE IT HOT or HIS GIRL FRIDAY are awesome, so those remarks will be heavier on the particular screening or audience reaction or “things seen anew.”
My first film is about to begin:
HIS GIRL FRIDAY (Howard Hawks, USA, 1940):
Double aggravation at the start — introduced by a professor-type who said Hildy was starting her own business, and then quickly realized that the film was being shown on projected DVD *with the English captions on* … grrr.
Now seeing it for the first time since seeing the 1931 film of THE FRONT PAGE, and believe it or not, the lines in this famous fast-talker are actually delivered slower here. But the little gestures and side touches make this one funnier — Grant tapping Bellamy on the shoulder so he can see him fake-cry. My profession also means I understand every thing Walter Burns does, and Roz Russell here is every man’s (well, every journalist’s) idea of the perfect woman. But I’ll go to my grave thinking the suicide is a mistake — a real tone-breaker.
TRUE ADOLESCENTS (Craig Johnson, USA, 2009, 6)
What if the “grumpy adult bonds with cute moppet” genre had as the “grumpy adult” a Gen-X slacker hardly worthy of that noun. And not in a Jack Black SCHOOL OF ROCK kind of way, where he’s still basically a mentor, but with an adult character with a serious case of perpetual adolescence.
Mark Duplass is near perfect in the role until the very last shot, where he has to pull off the kind of soulful “look in the mirror at yourself” and he just doesn’t have it. The plot trajectory is entirely what you’d expect from the premise — Duplass goes camping with his adolescent cousin and the kid’s best friend and he grows. Except here, the adult being the buggest kid of the three — though the generation gap still asserts itself — makes the material feel fresher and tenser than it is. And it’s doubtful that he actually does grow. In the end though, it’s like camping itself — it’s enjoyable (I guess, in the case of camping) but you don’t really end up with much permanent takeaway except the journey itself.
TENURE (Mike Million, USA, 2009, 6)
As with IDIOCRACY, Luke Wilson is the least interesting part of a comedy he stars in. He’s a very average everyman, working only as counterpoint to the crazies who surround him. But this film, a campus comedy about an English professor up for you-know-what, often works exactly on those terms. When the crazies take center stage for a scene or sequence, it’s inspired. My favorite scenes can be called School Spirit and Erotic Poetry. And Rosemarie Dewitt also good in another “other woman” role — here, a stalker object with a backstory. However TENURE is not remotely as good as IDIOCRACY perhaps because it’s too good-natured and sane for a comedy. What makes the school spirit and erotic poetry scenes work is that the behavior is outlandish, but logical for the character obsessions they embody.