Last week an unfortunate combination of holidays and illness thwarted our well-laid plans to bring you the Friday Film News come rain or shine. Sorry about that. But fear not, the FFN is back to something approaching normality this week as we check out Owen Wilson’s latest lightweight comedy (You Me and Dupree), an Australian drama (Look Both Ways) and a hard-to-categorise-but-ultimately-heart-warming ghost-story (Volver).
First up, You Me and Dupree – a trademark Owen Wilson comedy, also featuring Matt Dillon, Kate Hudson and Michael Douglas. Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian does seem to like this film more than his mere three stars might suggest, asserting that “it would take a heart of stone not to laugh at the good-natured wackiness offered by Owen Wilson…”
The film’s premise is quite straightforward – a newlywed couple are forced to endure a well-meaning but inconsiderate houseguest, the best man at their wedding, but they are sufficiently indebted to him (he lost his job by fulfilling his wedding duties) to make it awkward to evict him. Nothing groundbreaking, but whereas Peter considers this to form “an amiable comedy-entertainment package”, Anthony Quinn in the Independent is decidedly more critical with his three stars:
[Owen Wilson’s] sleepy-eyed slacker routine is starting to make him look like a one-trick pony. A fine trick, certainly, but it's showing signs of fatigue.
James Christopher in the Times is more straightforward with his criticism, mirroring his meagre two stars with consistent disparagement. He doesn’t have much praise for the supporting cast – Dillon is “dull” and Hudson and Douglas aren’t good enough to break the “monotony” – and he goes one step further with his disappointment with Wilson:
The directors shy away from injecting any real venom into the plot for fear of poisoning their star. Wilson’s anti-Establishment appeal is shamelessly indulged. He is the lucrative point of the film, which is presumably why he co-produced it. The camera ruffles his blond locks and dribbles over his good looks.
Nonetheless, the film will probably still serve its purpose as an undemanding ‘date movie’ quite ably.
Next we have Look Both Ways, a debut from Australian writer-director Sarah Watts. If you thought that the critics were inconsistent with their reviews of You Me and Dupree, they are positively schizophrenic with their views on this film. James Christopher seems to like it and awards it a generous four stars:
It feels like a film with my name on it. It fingers a host of issues that will torture any couple over the age of 35. The ingenuity is how this first-time director articulates these conscious fears with such stylised and intuitive effects.
However, where James feels that he can relate to some of the film’s issues (bereavement, mortality, hidden fears), they clearly leave Peter Bradshaw stone cold as he labels the film “insipid, parochial, laboriously acted and just plain dull”. In case we were in any doubt as to his true feelings about this, he gives the film just one star, and sums it up thus:
The exasperatingly boring story builds up to an outrageous cop-out ending, which will have you petitioning the box office for your money back.
Anthony Quinn is more pragmatic, recognising that the film isn’t perfect, but that it’s not all bad either. He gives it a reasonable three stars, and makes a number of comparisons with the superior (in his opinion) Magnolia. He also pays compliment to the “nice strain of laconic Aussie humour underscoring the whole”.
Last up, the critics finally agree on something, namely that they really like Volver. Mind-you, they seem to be flummoxed in assigning a genre to this film. Is it a ghost-story? A thriller? A tragicomic melodrama? Either way it seems that the film’s eccentric departure from convention works in its favour in this case. Peter Bradshaw bloody loves this film, giving it the full five stars and a glowing introduction:
With its overwhelming richness, its colour and warmth, Pedro Almodovar's new movie is set to capture your heart. Volver seemed guilelessly wonderful when I first saw it earlier this year in Cannes. Now it looks even better. The picture's ingenuities and contrivances just seem to float out of the screen, like psychedelic moodshapes. I found myself floating right along with them.
We’re pleased to hear that Peter’s so happy. James Christopher also seems highly impressed with the film, awarding it four stars and describing it as “a moist and creamy joy about incest and murder”. Both Peter and James also seem somewhat taken with the visual richness of the film’s leading lady, Penelope Cruz. A few choice quotes from these two reviewers:
Cruz is the most preposterously glamorous hospital cleaner ever to set foot on screen…
When Cruz struts with unselfconscious sexiness through the streets, carrying a rounded, wiggling behind that might almost be prosthetic, she resembles the young Sophia Loren.
The wobbly shots of her shapely buttocks and the overhead close-ups of her cleavage — the most spectacular in world cinema, according to the director (and frankly who’s going to argue?) — are mischievous distractions that wrong-foot every gloomy expectation.
Well it looks like there’s something for everyone in this film, doesn’t it? To round off the praise, Anthony Quinn also gives the film four stars and sums it up nicely:
…no one can predict where this movie will go, but anyone with a beating heart will want to follow it.
One to watch, then.
Also out this week: Oklahoma! (re-release of the 1955 classic musical), Marilyn Hotchkiss’ Ballroom Dancing and Charm School (inconveniently-titled sentimental drama) and Severance (“The Office meets Deliverance”, apparently).
Trailer of the week: The Oh in Ohio – the film could be rubbish for all we know, but you’ve got to love a trailer for a comedy about orgasms.