Wednesday, December 28, 2005

blah

OK, so I was in fact wrong about The Family Stone. I think I was just inordinately happy that day or something. And the small bit I missed due to dozing was probably the worst part of the film, and it set the tone for the rest. I think I must've been giving it the benefit of the doubt after having missed a bit. It's weird how one can have totally different reactions to the same movie... this time, Bezucha's thick layers of sap managed to block all the good stuff from view. I remember being all moved and mushy-eyed at stuff that now makes me go "oh, please."

This time, the sentiment seemed cheaper, the music seemed louder and more inappropriate, the comedy seemed more sitcomish, SJP's arc seemed more sudden and forced, the initial meanness of the characters seemed more implausible, and the movie as a whole just had a much thicker air of mediocrity.

It's funny, Bezucha seems to be attempting something really ambitious here with the tragicomic feel he has... in fact, the structure of the film feels a lot like that of Moulin Rouge!: a zany, high comedy beginning that melts into a softer, moving love story (or in this case, two), punctuated by frequent reminders of imminent tragedy, with a very zany, high comedy ending, punctuated finally by the realization of said tragedy. But unfortunately, Bezucha is no Baz Lurhmann. In Family Stone, there is constant "wink wink" type exposition that tells the audience what it should be thinking, but there is no winking at the high theatricality and rather artificial feel of the piece. In fact, there is little narrative perspective to speak of. The film just seems unplanned and confused.

And this makes me sad, because there was so much to work with here. The cast is phenomenal. I continue to give them major props for doing all they possibly could with this script. All the real comedy and drama that comes through is pushed through by the actors; you can each one of them is working super hard here to exhibit his or her natural charm, and as a result, they're giving the script new layers that it never deserved. When someone comes upon a moment they can really milk, it's like a gift from heaven. Example: the dinner scene. It continues to be the highlight f the film... I felt palpable discomfort for all involved, not because they were working with a bad script, but because they were caught in a bad situation. Diane Keaton was aces here, and her extended line reading/acting of "Hey you! You are more normal than any asshole at this table. OK? OK... I need a fork." is brilliant, and almost worth the price of admission on its own.

The other actors are wonderful, too. SJP is great fun, even if she is saddled with an implausible character. Luke Wilson exhibits an easygoing, natural charm. Rachel McAdams is terrific as the bitchy sister. Durmot Mulroney has some great scenes (including a moving cry-a-thon with Keaton). Craig T. Nelson is gently moving as the patriarch. And of course Keaton is the glue of the family as the loopy mother, even if she must work with a bizarre and sitcomish script. Sigh.

There really are two movies here, one by Bezucha and one by the cast, and the tension in the material is kind of fascinating frustrating. Bezucha seems to be trying to be covering for his loads of sap by at times making his characters unnaturally mean, so as to avoid charges of sentimentality. One can almost see him there with his script, brushing on a layer of sap, then scratching it off with a fork, only to brush it on again even thicker, and then scratch it off again. He just can't decide what he's doing... and it makes his characters' actions seem pretty implausible. Still, the cast makes his schizoid script marvelously fun, and like vultures hovering over the sap, whenever they find great bit, they pounce - get ready to be inexplicably moved at times, and to laugh quite a bit at the absurdity of it all (I still think this ensemble is award-worthy; they at least get a big A+ for effort).

So anyway, yeah...
Grade I gave the film last time: B+ (way too generous)
Grade I still give the cast: A+ (hey, working with a bad script is hard)
Grade I now want to give the film: C+ (the + is for the acting)
Grade the film really deserves: C (because Nathaniel is always right)

But the upside is, if I was wrong about this film on first viewing, maybe I was also wrong about Brokeback. Nathaniel is always right; we all know this. So maybe I'll love it more next time...

10 Comments:

Blogger Kamikaze Camel said...

Well, Nat's not always right to me.

And I find it weird and creepy if you think he's always 100% correct cause... that's weird and creepy.

11:55 PM  
Blogger adam k. said...

Well, I was sort of kidding.

The joke is that I always seem to agree with him even when I don't want him to be right. I am a little afraid that I funnel all my film opinions through him without meaning to, cause that is kind of weird and creepy. But I think we just have very similar taste.

I was actually really refreshed that I disagreed with him so strongly on this, but upon another viewing, it became clear to me that it really wasn't a good movie. A lot before was based on my having missed a few minutes, I think. Unfortunately, this time, I saw the mediocrity.

I really want to agree with him (and the globes and BFCAs and all the nation's critics) on Brokeback Mountain, but I still don't. I'll see it again and see what I think. I await your reaction also.

1:23 AM  
Blogger adam k. said...

For the record, though, I think I am sticking with a C+ for Family Stone (slightly more favorable than Nathaniel)... the + is for the dinner scene, and the acting.

1:25 AM  
Blogger JavierAG said...

lol it is actually with foreign films that i tend to disagree with nat, and also i'm a sucker for films of "the earth" (ie, winged migration) that nat doesn't really care about.

5:36 AM  
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6:24 AM  
Blogger Kamikaze Camel said...

WHAT. THE. ???.

(Park rangers are spamming now?!)

I find myself disagreeing with Nat quite a lot. I'm a much less harsh grader than him if anything else.

But no one is as cynically bitter as the people at Dave Poland's hot blog. I don't think those guys have seen a good movie in 20 years.

6:50 AM  
Blogger adam k. said...

Well, you were more harsh on King Kong.

But yes, in general, Nat is not kind with his grading. I was pulling for an A for The New World, but I guess a B+ is all he would allow.

11:46 PM  
Blogger JavierAG said...

hmmm.... I had thought he would give "The New World" something like a B- or something. The film has not been too well-received, and it sounds to me as too much of an "earth" movie for Nat to give it an A anyway (ya know, trees seem to be more important than the actors in Malick movies, which I love, but not sure Nate does).

5:22 AM  
Blogger Kamikaze Camel said...

I disagree with you there Javier, Malick never allows trees to get in the way of his actors...



it's the GRASS that does that. Big spindly grass everywhere.

(I was harsher on Kong because it warrented it. I'm interested in what Nat has to say about that other than a B+ grade. I'm assuming it's in his top 13 or else he would probably have said something by now)

12:02 AM  
Blogger JavierAG said...

I thought "Kong" was movie bliss (working on a review right now). And Glenn I love my trees!

1:23 PM  

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