Sunday, February 20, 2011

Capsule reviews: Baby Jane, Six Degrees of Separation, Hollywood Homicide

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962, Robert Aldrich)

A crippled woman (Joan Crawford) is condemned to spend her days in a wheel. That’s not the worst part however. It is at her sister’s home (Bette Davis), that she must live those tortuous days. Her sister is a former movie star, Baby Jane, whereas the protagonist is still very much popular and beloved. Baby Jane, she refers to herself as, as long been forgotten in the public conscious and therefore does not shy away from demonstrating her jealousy and borderline hatred towards her incapacitated sibling. Proverbial shit hits the fan.

This is a bizarre film in that several scenes confused me. Was that dance number Baby Jane does to impress a guy in her living room supposed to be funny or creepy? Perhaps both, although I don’t know how successful at either it really was. Director Aldrich raises the stakes like they should be in movies of same ilk, with people getting a bit too nosy about Joan Crawford’s current status for Jane’s liking and therefore killed off because of it. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, Jane eventually has some tough decision making under a heap of pressure for her blatant stupid jealousy. I’m writing this as though I hated the film, which I didn’t. It has a fair share of creepy and well executed moments, and Bette Davis appropriately vile as an aging woman, increasingly frustrated with the irrelevancy she has been damned to. Then again, Sunset Boulevard sort of tackle the same subject matter and is mountains better than this. I also would have thought it interesting has the tension between the sisters played in a more realistic fashion. The ‘thriller’ aspect works fine enough and helps pass a couple of hours, but it would have been neat to see more genuine human drama play out. It’s rarely fair to judge a movie based on what one ‘wanted instead of what one received’, but I had trouble getting the thought out of my mind as I watched What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Six Degrees of Separation (1993, Fred Schipisi)

Rich people in New York, such as art dealers John and Louisa Flanders (Donald Sutherland and Stockard Channign) are victims of a strangely charming con artist (Will Smith) who professes to be the son of famous actor Sidney Poitier. The upper class victims retell the various episodes of their misadventure all the while making attempts to learn more about this mysterious figure who is superbly adept at sneaking into the lives of the wealthy (and poor) for brief periods of time just to be like them. J.J. Abrams has a cameo!

Admittedly I did not see this from the beginning. It played on MPIX (a Canadian movie channel) and I think I stumbled on it maybe 15 minutes in. I had heard of about it every now and then and how it was a very early and interesting feature film role for soon to be unstoppable mega star Fresh Prince. Despite the solid cast, the clever premise and some memorable moments (try to make a movie today where Will Smith turns to another dude and says he want to phuck him…then does it), I was not caught up the thrill of it all. There are some cliché moments of comedy where the ‘rich people who don’t deal with common things’ got to the police station to report their victimhood, a cheaply played out argument near the end when Louisa Flanders, who has finally taken a genuine liking to Will Smith, goes on to find the young man herself because obviously John Flanders fails to see the purpose in helping someone who might have ‘slashed their throats!’ Of course the audience knows Will is not a real bad guy, so of course John is being stupid. Yeah, that kind of drama. Because there are a lot of stories to tell from the perspective of a lot of characters, some of them feel very rushed and less impactful than others. Maybe had the film let only two or three episodes breath it would have been a more engaging experience. It’s too bad, because it does have a genuinely good premise. Not a bad film per say, I did not see the masterpiece so many do.

Hollywood Homicide (2003, Ron Shelton)

Josh Hartnett is an up and coming, sensitive LAPD detective who wants to become an actor. Harrison Ford is an aging, grumpy LAPD detective who makes ends meet as a part-time real estate agent. When a rap group is murdered, it is up to this logically incompatible duo to solve the case.

I don’t tend to review comedies for I have always felt them to be the most subjective of movie genres. You laughed and I didn’t, so you liked and I didn’t. I laughed and you didn’t, so I liked it and you didn’t. I never find there is much to say about comedies, especially those that don’t go for anything particularly thought provoking in their attempts at laughter…so I’ll make this quick. Hollywood Homicide is not going for anything specific here. A little bit of satire here regarding the Hollywood lifestyle, a little bit of buddy cop antics there, a cheesy villain, a bizarre cameo from Lou Diamond Philips pretending to be a drag queen (or being one outright), Keith David being Keith David, Bruce Greenwood playing a jerk of an inspector, etc. I don’t even recall this movie making any sort of cash at the box office. Does it have any sort of following on DVD? I doubt it. Whatever, I thought this was funny, at times hilarious even. Josh Hartnett is not a very good actor, but he’s funny here and Ford is often funny when he’s not trying to be funny (apart from his two iconic roles, I think he is a terribly wooden actor), but his demeanour works plenty here. Sometime one finds a movie that is clearly content with being the forgettable film that it is, which is precisely what the doctor ordered when watching a Wednesday night movie at around 8PM.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Six Degrees of Separation is not an amazing film, but the cast, mainly Smith performances are all great and add so much more weight to this script. Good Review!