WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 55

Let's see what I saw this week for Weekend Wrental Wreviews in my 55th WWW:

1) Return to Me:
David Duchovny surprised me with his range in this film, particularly one heartbreaking scene when he's alone with his dog and breaks down sobbing over the recent loss of his wife. I couldn't believe this was the same cool cat who played Fox Mulder, or that he was successfully pulling off the lead male role in a romantic comedy. I had avoided the film for years because I feared the subject matter would be too sad or macabre, but it wasn't at all what I expected. Minnie Driver, to no surprise, fully shines as the lead female love interest, winning over the audience as much as Duchovny's Bob with her beauty and awkwardness. Driver's Grace is a young woman with a weak heart, given a second chance by a transplant. The catch is that her new heart comes from Bob's wife, though neither know this when they meet. There's just some instant chemistry, some sense that something familiar lives on in Grace. An ape at the zoo where Bob's wife worked is the first to recognize it, and later the family dog takes to her as well. This isn't a story about possession or anything supernatural either, simply fate and coincidence and the funny way things work out. Return to Me has all the classic charm of movies such as Breakfast at Tiffany's, something rare in today's cynical world. Carroll O'Conner is amazing in his final on-screen role as Grace's loving grandfather, who runs an Italian/Irish pub/restaurant alongside his brother-in-law, played by Robert Loggia. The old men and their friends steal the show many times. Overall the film is sweet and feel-good, and even if you figure out where the plot is going, you'll probably still be sitting there with a dumb grin on your face most of the time. It's two hours of pure charm and grace.

2) The Opposite of Sex:
Christina Ricci might narrate, but it quickly becomes clear that the stars of the film are Martin Donovan and Lisa Kudrow. Ricci's Dede is fully aware of the audience, at times skipping ahead or making fun of movie clichés. It's an interesting device used sparingly, though it does get old in one or two spots. Upon the death of 16-year-old Dede's stepfather, she runs away from home and tracks down her older half-brother Bill, played by Donovan. Bill is a teacher who takes everything in stride. When he catches a student writing graffiti about him in the bathroom, he calmly points out a grammatical error, then proceeds to take a marker and modify an obscene drawing. Dede soon tests the limits of Bill's stoicism when she seduces his gay lover Matt(Ivan Sergei,) claims to be carrying his baby, and runs off with him and some of Bill's money. Bill's life is further complicated by the arrival of a former student(Johnny Galecki) who was not only involved with Matt, but makes allegations of sexual abuse against Bill that threaten his career. By Bill's side at all times is Kudrow's Lucia(pronounced “Loo-sha” because she emulated her sisters Marcia and Tricia in their pronunciations). Lucia's brother Tom(Coupling/Eureka's Colin Ferguson in a non-speaking flashback role) was Bill's former lover who died of AIDS. Bill and Lucia are still connected through his memory. The movie is slow at times, an independent film focusing on character more than plot. Character is the film's saving grace. Ricci is cynical and destructive, rarely showing cracks in her armor, and she's a hurricane that twists the lives she has blown into. She warns the audience not to sympathize with her, not to expect an arc where she grows a heart by the end of the tale. Lyle Lovett is collected and wise as the town sheriff who grew up with Bill and has his sights on Lucia. Most of the characters have a cynical view of sex. Lucia blames it for her brother's death. Dede sees it as a tool to manipulate others. Lovett's character has an interesting speech about how it's more than recreation or procreation, but perhaps concentration, a “biological highlighter” forming a connection between two people in a world of billions. With some good performances, interesting ideas, and a couple of laughs, I give it about three stars: average, but entertaining.

3) Guinevere:
Sarah Polley plays Harper, a 21-year-old bound for Harvard, whose life is changed by an older photographer she meets at her sister's wedding. Connie(Stephen Rea) swiftly charms her with his accent and nicknames her “Guinevere”. Though as old as her parents, and not the best-looking guy, he still wins her awe, much to the chagrin of her mother(Jean Smart in a strong performance). Connie sees talent in Harper, though she has yet to take a single photo. And when she learns that she's not the first of his “Guinevere”s, that he has a tendency to take younger women under his wing, she must decide whether she has anything to gain by studying under him, and staying romantically involved. The film gets into the mechanics of the true artist, someone who sacrifices wealth to do something he or she truly enjoys. Rea does a good job with Connie, going from homely but charming to creepy and predatory to genuine and sad. A true photographer can capture and immortalize moments and emotions the naked eye might miss. Polley is a strong protagonist, petite and fragile yet enduring. Her opening monologue perfectly sums up her experience with Connie: “If you're supposed to learn by your mistakes, then he was the best mistake I ever made.” When Harper rebels and chooses her own path rather than the one her family has planned for her, there are risks and losses along the way, but also possibilities and opportunities she never would have had otherwise. For better or worse, every person we meet shapes and refines the person we're going to become, and vice versa.

More reviews to follow next week after I've spun a few more discs!



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