Saturday, November 08, 2008

Winona Called - She Wants to Know Why She Wasn't Cast in Another Movie Where Angelina is Involuntarily Dragged Into a Psycho Ward.

2 stars.

Before composing this post, I went back through the Weenie archives to see how often, if ever, I've extemporized on Angelina Jolie. I figured I must have at least a few times, since I've resented her existence going back to 1999, when her scenery-chewing performance as a sociopath in Girl, Interrupted unfairly soaked up all the attention from Wino's career-best turn as Susanna Kaysen. Although this primitive blog doesn't come equipped with a state of the art search engine, I successfully located the only entry where she was mentioned at great length - from June 2007. (In case you ever want to peruse the Weenie archives, I would recommend googling "Weenie Enema [term you're looking for]." I have never met with failure.) This is the snippet in question:
If you ever play the Movie-off Game, where you pick an actor or actress and go back and forth naming their movies until someone runs out of titles, you want to pick Whoopi, and you want to save Girl, Interrupted for the end because she's so unassuming slash amazing in it that NO ONE remembers she was even in it. Admittedly, this is partly because Winona was even better - to the point where her greatness emanated out of every kleptomaniacal orifice and was mistakenly assumed to come from Angelina Jolie, but that's another post entirely.

I guess that other post is this one.

Having come off a viewing of another movie starring a calorie-challenged actress, I can assure my readership that in a 'rexic throwdown, Angelina is infinitely more distracting to the potential enjoyment of a movie than Keira Knightley. It is abundantly clear that Ms. Jolie has not consumed solid food in many moons, and the fact that she appears to be roughly 7'5 does not help matters. However, since I am a hardcore mature individual, I tried to ignore her totem pole appearance and try to concentrate on the matter at hand.

"Have you seen my son?"

It was a difficult undertaking, made no less so by the plot moving slower than MO-lasses. Having never directed a movie about a child abduction in the late 1920s, I cannot attest to how easy it is to move along such a story, but you'd think with Angelina getting thrown into the nutty house with Amy Ryan (whom I am now convinced is building a career based solely on looking like shizzle) and a subplot involving a quasi-pedophile serial killer who bares a frightening resemblance to a fey Brendan Fraser (redundant?) would get the ball rolling. Alas, it was not to be, and for two and a half hours, I was subjected to watching Angelina alternate between staring off into space (perhaps her lethargic way of looking for her kid) and screeching at cops. Her only deviation from this pattern was to politely smirk at a court ruling in the waning minutes of the movie, perhaps as much to the creatures who shelled out money and a lot of time to watch this as to the corrupt LAPD. Somewhere, Rodney King is smiling.

Exit poll: Would you rather have the LAPD undertake a nationwide search for your missing child, or start up race riots with the aid of a trusty baton and your face?

I'm completely baffled by the accolades Angelina is getting for this movie. Part of me thinks it's the natural byproduct of a society that desperately needs to find something of value in the Brangelina phenomenon - sending Jennifer Aniston off the deep end notwithstanding. Every time a larger than life celebrity - by definition, someone who is more well known as a famous creature than an actor or whatever profession they claim to be involved in - is actually productive, we need to effusively praise the effort, regardless of whether it's deserved. So when Whoopi Goldberg decided to take time off from shaving her eyebrows and appear as a spastic medium in "Ghost," she gets an Oscar for it, even though performances like that are a dime a dozen. When Cher had enough of Sonny and decided to become "a serious actress," the Oscars nominations (and one win) began flooding in. In short, there are more advantages to being Angelina Jolie besides the aesthetically pleasing life partner and self-financed UN refugee children farm.

If they had cast HER as Angelina's asylum roommate instead of the troll screeching, "This is MY room!" you pretty much make up for the rest of this movie's shortcomings.

I don't think it's a spoiler to tell you that there are roughly 10 minutes at the beginning of the movie where Angelina actually has her real kid (there is a very creepy scene later on where she emphatically confirms that the boy the LAPD brought home for her is a fake - and it involves prepubescent penis) and life is perfectly adequate. She brings her son to school every day on the streetcar and spends her workday zooming around the telecommunications center on roller skates. One would believe she'd be a bit more upbeat during that short sequence of the film, but if you didn't know any better, you'd think she already knew her son was about to disappear, possibly at the hands of the sexually ambiguous Brendan Fraser. It's a decidedly one-note performance that's probably going to block a deserving actress' nomination come January 22.

"Hello, young boys of 1928 California."

The supporting cast that Clint Eastwood installed around the popsicle stick is much better than anyone deserves. John Malkovich (who I thought was incredibly hot in 1985's Death of a Salesman, but it appears that he doesn't look remotely like that in ANYTHING ELSE) in a refreshing change of pace is cast as a benevolent creature, though he appears to be channeling too much John Waters in the process. In the small role of an insufferable medical practitioner at the psychiatric hospital, avid SVU fans will recognize a guest star from Season 1 - the mentally retarded dude who accidentally rapes a geriatric because he confused her unconscious body with a conscious romantic overture. Shiver.

In a story where roughly 50% of the two and a half hours (someone else can do the math) consists of Angelina encountering frustrating obstacle after frustrating obstacle, there better be a pretty damn good reason to sit through it. Personally, I HATE watching extended sequences where someone is clearly in the right (in this case, Angelina thinking the creepy LAPD boy is not her own kid) and everyone condescendingly tells them they're wrong ("I'm SURE this is your own son. You're just under a lot of stress.") The bottom line is that there isn't a whale of a lot of payoff in the end. Without ruining this for potential ticket buyers, there's a clear moment with about 20 minutes left where Clint could have EASILY ended the movie. There's a closing shot of Angelina's face (not exactly smiling, but you can't have anything), the lighting goes dim...and then the movie continues. So at that point I'm thinking, "Okay, there must be a REASON why he kept going. Surely something momentous to cap this mediocrity off is in the works." No, it wasn't. I guess he just wanted to get in a few more shots of all the costumes and scenery, quite possibly the best part of the movie.

"We put Angelina to shame!"[Editor's note: There were no flappers in this film.]

For the record, I am all for introspective pieces that focus on the inner wranglings of main characters with minimal action. Those movies can be very good - I would point to 2001's In the Bedroom as a high water mark. However, it doesn't work here because Clint tried to balance a character-driven piece about a woman searching for her genetic progeny with a true-life crime murder mystery. The result is that the movie starts and stops, sputtering at its inability to define itself. There will be 15 minutes of Angelina in a zombie trance, trying to figure out how so many elements in her life went awry with minimal effort - with the added bonus of multiple women screeching to be let out of their cages. But then the movie rapidly switches gears, as we watch detectives frantically trying to uncover the mystery behind a plethora of missing children, while other employees of the LAPD try to cover it up. This might have worked if there was any discernible difference in Angelina's character, but for whatever reason, she doesn't. There's a lot of potential in this tale, but aside from a few solid scenes (anything with the creepy non-son, John Malkovich and the nuthouse), the film doesn't work, and it's all Angelina's fault. Stick with the tomb raiding.


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