Not only did I manage to see The Lake House and The Devil Wears Prada, but I snuck in a third movie, Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man’s Chest. That’s the order I saw them in, which if we were going in order of seeing the worst first and best last, should have been flipped.
And because I’m letting my hair dry and avoiding my parents, I’m going to give mini-reviews of each movie. So don’t read further if you’d like to not be spoiled for any of these movies. And in honour of how they should have been viewed, worst to best.
The Devil Wears Prada
Now, to be fair, it’s a toss-up really, which movie was worse, this or Pirates. However, I’m giving Pirates a half-pass for a reason I’ll mention below, which leaves this as the worst movie of the bunch.
A bit back, when this came out (and I’d been cracking up at the trailers and definitely planning on seeing it), a bunch of feminist blogs got their panties in a bunch about the movie, charging that there were extreme changes from book to movie, and it completely ruined the entire plot and point, and it really wasn’t the same so why the hell did it have the same name? I wrote ’em off as panty-wringing feminists at the time; now, I sincerely hope they were right, since it’s such a best-selling novel.
In a nutshell, an NU graduate is desperate for a job, gets hired on at the fashion magazine as a #2 assistant, bitches and moans about the job a lot, gets told to her face the reason she’s not getting the praise she wants is her bitching and moaning (ie her heart isn’t in it), she decides to put her heart in it, changes into a high fashion haute coutere assistant, gets promoted to #1 assistant, is pursued by hunky freelance journalist who has the kind of job and life she wants, breaks up with down to earth college boyfriend, goes to Paris, sympathizes with devil-horned boss, fucks hunky freelance journalist, is horrified to hear firebreathing boss compare the two of them, chucks the job in Paris, goes home, gets down to earth job, tries to salvage things with down to earth college boyfriend.
So, you’re probably going “yes and? Typical movie formula, what’s the issue?” I guess my issue is that I simply didn’t buy it. The movie had me for a while – I believed that she’d do any job, she needed to pay the rent. But then it began stressing how important it was for her to last a year in this position, and then she could do anything, go anywhere. She misses several important events because of the job, destroys her relationship with her friends and boyfriend, ignores her family, all in the goal of holding out. The one time she nearly quits, she undoes it by justifying the staying a year and getting whatever job she wants. Then, at the height of her empathizing with the demon boss’s life, her empathy overflowing in an effort to do right and nice, she gets horrified by being compared to the devil and quits?
I just didn’t buy it. What happened to holding out for a year? What happened to it being more important to hold out that year than anything else? Suddenly one more person tells you something people have been saying the entire movie – and does it in the middle of Paris – and you opt to flip out and quit? I just didn’t buy it at all, and it actually left a very bitter taste in my mouth. It tried so hard to establish several themes – of struggling independance, making the ends meet, doing what’s necessary in life even if it bothers us sometimes – and then blew them away with one perfectly manicured eyebrow raising to the ceiling.
The conclusion to the story didn’t sell me, either. I ended up walking out of the theatre feeling hollow, trying to cling to the lovely, lovely mood The Lake House put me in, and it’s largely why I opted to stay another show and see Pirates.
The Pirates of the Carribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
Like, oh, everyone else, I loved the first Pirates movie. Loved, loved, loved. Fun, rowdy, Cap’n Jack *swoon* loved. And in the week since it opened, I’ve heard quite mixed reviews… and I’m afraid mine goes in on the not-so-good side. To put it very simply, this movie suffers from the Planned Trilogy Twos – it is simply a middle ground trying to get two stories together. Almost the entire movie is spent laying the groundwork for the next movie, with the notion of getting all the characters together a distant second. And in addition to just about everyone from the first movie returning (and I do really mean just about everyone), they add in a new boat, new gov’t, and new oracle – all in all, 4 major new characters to watch, and a host of additional crew behind them.
This has the sad effect of there being very little screen time for most of the characters, save perhaps Jack. Which is a pity, because at least Elizabeth has undergone some pretty interesting character development and it would have been nice to see more of it. William was in it, looking pretty and vacant as always (how do people buy him as a leading action man?), as well as, well, everyone. Even the dog. Seriously. Even the dog. If they’d had kitchen sinks,…
I found myself, at times, paying more attention to my gigantic jaw breaker than the movie. The few moments that I thought “oh, now that was interesting…” or “whoa, dark character development there” were fleeting and apparently rather wispy, as a mere 45 minutes later absolutely none come to mind.
The only reason this isn’t the worst of the three is that 1) it doesn’t offend the feminist aspect of moi (in fact, Elizabeth is quite the hero herself, needing no rescuing, which is nice… so what the hell was with the Princess Leia pose around Jack’s legs, at one point?) 2) the special effects and music were neat 3) mmm Johnny Depp (let’s here it for a guy who never tried to “get serious” and change his acting name to John Depp).
I’ll go see the third one, for the rumours of Mr. Chao, and for seeing it through – much like Star Wars, with better dialogue.
The Lake House
A popular conceit amongst magical realism/scifi/fantasy and such authors is that if you want to tell a story that is not grounded in our known reality, you can only ask the viewer/reader to suspend one major element of disbelief, and perhaps one minor – but you walk on thin ice, the more elements of life that must be suspended.
The Lake House makes the wise decision to pick one simple concept that it asks us to suspend: how it is “time travel” would work. And I use time travel in the loosest sense, since what is traveling is not people but letters. Yes, the past is changed, and no, they ignore all of the changes that would actually happen. Let it go, and sink into the movie.
The advertisements for this movie tell you everything about it: two people living two years apart start exchanging emails and fall in love. The question is can they ever meet, and how? It’s really that simple. The movie actually takes its time slowly unfolding a beautiful love story that had many magical scenes in it. Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves (who yes, really does act, and magnificently in this movie) still have absolutely amazing chemistry, and with better dialogue it almost transcends to something you want to believe actually exists.
The movie carefully crafted a story that led you to understand one of the basic plot points, yet try to escape it. It made you care deeply for the characters, and to be urging and wishing with all your might that there’s a happy ending at the end of your own time-investment. There were edge of the seat moments, scenes of beauty so amazing they bring tears, and moments of such achingly deep sorrow.
On top of all of that, it has one of the most amazing movie kisses I’ve ever seen. Playing by Heart probably still has the better kiss – but if it does, it’s only by a thread. It’s… just go see it. Do yourself a favour and go see this beautiful movie on the large screen, where you can drink in the scenery and emotion. Just go do it, and allow yourself to fall a little bit in love with a story worth loving.