In Here Life Is Beautiful

‘Come and have a dance.’

Your response to that demand (and it is a demand, not a question or request) depends entirely on who says it. From your beloved? No option but to comply. It’s likely one of Your Songs has hit the decks. You need to throw shapes with them, right now.

If a drunken relative puts out a hand, you have more swerve room. It’s within your rights to fake the flare-up of an old sports injury or the development of a new twinge—say from the strenuous shape-pulling you’ve just thrown with your beloved—as an excuse to cry off. It’s also a good cue to make for the bar and grab a glass of something to ease the imaginary pain.

Exceptions to the rule? If your mum or gran make the demand, get over yourself and get back on deck. It’s the least you can do after what you put them through as a child.

If a large sweaty bloke in pancake makeup and a corset who you’ve never met before invites you up, well, what do you do? More specifically, what did I do when it happened to me last week?

Continue reading In Here Life Is Beautiful

Both Sides Of The Track: Source Code, Sucker Punch And Fun And Games In The Multiverse

Source Code is a tightly written, sharply executed dose of intelligent SF, with winning performances and characters that you can care about. Why then does it remind me so much of Sucker Punch, the bloated ugly adolescent fantasy I ragged on last week?

Continue reading Both Sides Of The Track: Source Code, Sucker Punch And Fun And Games In The Multiverse

X&HT Reviews: Love And Other Drugs

The ad campaign for Ed Zwick’s Love And Other
Drugs seem content to have you believe it’s a straight up rom com.
There’s a little comedy, a little tragedy, some saucy nonsense with
flirting and nakedness. Not the sort of thing I’d normally be seen
anywhere near.

However, I may have mentioned in
the past that TLC is something of a fan of the leading man of the
piece, Jake Gyllenhaal (pronounciation guide: it’s a “soft” G, like
the J in Jake. I learned the tough way. I pass my bruised knowledge
on to you, Readership). Hence, it was a no-brainer that I would be
called upon to escort her to her latest tryst.

I’m glad she did. Love And Other Drugs is much more than
the posters would have you believe. There’s plenty of dick jokes
and nekkid ladies to keep the neanderthal in you happy, as well as
a genuinely involving story with some striking performances. Love
And Other Drugs is a solidly entertaining movie that plays nice
with all the rom com cliches while at the same time bringing it’s
own ideas to the table.

Jake plays Jamie, a
salesman for Pfizer during the early years of the Viagra boom. He’s
a fast-talkin’, low-hustlin’ hard-lovin’ guy with serious brains
and a little more of a soul than he’s letting people see. That is,
up until the point where he meets, sleeps and eventually falls for
Maggie, an artist with early-onset Parkinson’s, and his life is
changed. This relationship is the heart of the film, and it would
be very easy for it to collapse into mush. It’s saved by the
utterly astonishing rapport between Jake and his co-star, the
luminous Anne Hathaway. To my mind, she’s very much the best thing
about this film, and lights up the screen every time she’s on (I
can happily report she’s on screen an awful lot, and often not
wearing very much)(yes, I do have a crush now, thank you for
noticing). She takes the annoying manic pixie girl trope and makes
something fresh out of it, flashing between moments of toughness,
sass, sexiness and desperate, strung-out vulnerability.

Together, Jake and Anne bounce lines, looks and tiny
moments off each with the dexterity and subtlety of world class
ping-pong players, always in the moment, always totally believable.
Watching the press kit reviews for the film (are you at all
surprised that I’ve seen quite a few of these?) that rapport
becomes more understandable, as they cook up an act that’s half
mickey-take of Inside The Actor’s Studio, and half Marx Brothers
word play. It’s sometimes surprising that the interviewers get a
word in at all.

Love And Other Drugs is most
interesting when it talks about the state of healthcare in the
States. Although you’re never beaten over the head with the
message, you become quietly aware that the system is corrupt and
fundamentally broken, ruled by Big Pharma and the insurance
companies. Hank Azaria nails his role as Doctor Stan Knight,
vacillating between sleazy opportunism and caring doc on the verge
of nervous collapse. The most moving moments deal with the patients
themselves. Maggie helps coachloads of senior citizens across the
border to Canada, the only place where they can afford to buy their
meds. Meanwhile, the scenes at an Patient’s Unconvention directly
across the street from a huge medical expo slides home the
difference between the slick tactics of the drug companies, and the
realities of what it’s like to be sick in America.

Director Ed Zwick and his co-writer Marshall Herskovitz
are best known these days for widescreen historical epics like The
Last Samurai and Defiance. But they got their break with the
seminal TV drama thirtysomething, and Love And
Other Drugs feels like a story that could easily fit into one of
that show’s arcs. It’s not afraid to be clever and treat it’s
audience as grown-ups. Above all, it doesn’t fall into the romcom
trap of assuming that there’s a happy ever after when Maggie and
Jamie finally get it together at the end of the film. There’s a
maturity and pleasing lack of sweetness to the ending that sits
nicely with what has gone before, although Zwick’s insistance on
playing the “chase the girl to make the speech” bit in the last ten
minutes forced me into an eye-roll.

I’m sorry to
say that I think Love And Other Drugs could become something of a
victim of it’s marketing campaign. It’s being sold as something
that it’s not, and although it’ll draw the romcom crowd in without
a problem (and in fact the screening TLC and I went to was stuffed
solid) it deserves a wider audience. So I’ve taken the liberty of
annotating the UK poster. Just to make sure that everyone who might
be interested in the film gets the message.


Isn’t that better?

+++Pronunciation Update+++
The Gyllenhaal G is soft, and matches the J. Thanks to TLC for pointing this out. I have amended the post accordingly.


Fandom – when obsession becomes passion

My post on fandom a couple of weeks ago was very much coloured by the fact that I’m not part of a fan community. I thought that this would give me an objective outside view of the world. All it really did was provide a barricade behind which I could lob brickbats and snarks without fear of blowback. That’s unfair to a lot of people, and nudges me dangerously close to the kind of snobbish commentary that drives me to fizzing spasms of rage when it’s directed at something I happen to like.

I’ve decided to offer a right to reply to a friend and writer who is deeply involved in fandom. WDW runs a very well respected blog on one of the more interesting A-listers on the scene, Jake Gyllenhaal. She knows the highs and lows of being a fan, and I’m delighted to offer her a slot on X&HT in order to set me straight.

Continue reading Fandom – when obsession becomes passion