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View From The Couch

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BOUDU SAVED FROM DROWNING (1932). If Creative Loafing ever decides to adopt a movie as its mascot, Jean Renoir's Boudu Saved From Drowning would doubtless be as good as any. That's because of Michel Simon, whose performance as an inventive tramp is a work of unbridled comic genius. Fed up with life, Simon's Boudu jumps into the Seine, only to be fished out by Monsieur Lestingois (Charles Granval), a successful bookseller who feels it's his duty as part of the bourgeoisie to offer a lending hand to those less fortunate. But Boudu is having none of that: Steadfastly refusing to thank the man who saved his life, he instead moves into the Lestingois household and proceeds to stir things up, first by his, ahem, creative loafing and then by seducing both Lestingois' wife (Marcelle Hainia) and mistress (Severine Lerczinska). A minor Renoir by most standards, this is made memorable by Simon's dazzling work -- he delivers an animated, oversized performance that seemingly combines Chaplin's Little Tramp with Hurricane Hugo. Incidentally, if this plot sounds familiar, that's because it was remade by Paul Mazursky in 1986 as Down and Out In Beverly Hills, starring Nick Nolte. DVD extras include an archival introduction by Renoir, an interactive map of 1930s Paris pointing out the film's locations, and an excerpt from a 1967 French TV series on cinema featuring a discussion with Renoir.

Movie: ***

Extras: ** 1/2

CLUELESS (1995). The 40-Year-Old Virgin of its day, Clueless is a movie that confounded my expectations upon its original release by being smart and sophisticated rather than idiotic and infantile. And if anything, the film continues to hold up over time, with subsequent viewings proving to be as enjoyable as the initial one. Loosely (very loosely) adapted from Jane Austen's Emma by writer-director Amy Heckerling, this centers on the life of a pampered Beverly Hills high school student named Cher (Alicia Silverstone) and how her carefully structured life starts getting messy once her mind becomes flooded with romantic aspirations. The cast is packed with rising young talents -- Brittany Murphy (never more adorable -- or less plastic), Breckin Meyer, Donald Faison, Paul Rudd (currently in The 40-Year-Old Virgin) -- and they all carve out distinct and memorable characterizations. In her star-making performance as the "hymenally challenged" Cher, Silverstone is an absolute delight, though it's veteran Dan Hedaya who steals the show as her gruff father, who informs one of her dates that "if anything happens to my daughter, I have a .45 and a shovel; I doubt anybody would miss you." DVD extras include over an hour of incisive featurettes detailing all aspects of the making of the movie and theatrical trailers.

Movie: *** 1/2

Extras: ***

A LOT LIKE LOVE (2005). A Lot Like Love is a lot like When Harry Met Sally crossed with Serendipity, as two people wonder whether they're better off remaining friends or whether the stars have something more intimate in mind for them. After spotting each other at the Los Angeles airport and then wordlessly boffing in an airplane lavatory, Oliver (Ashton Kutcher) wants to know all about his new lady friend while Emily (Amanda Peet) becomes distant and aloof (When Hurry Met Dally?). Over the next few years, they keep bumping into each other, sometimes by accident (in New York City and Los Angeles, which, according to this movie, must each have a population that tops out at 250), sometimes by design. But rather than commit to each other and in effect get us off the couch after a blessedly short half-hour, the pair keep bumping up against labored plot developments that drive them apart and insure at least one more trip to the fridge. A Lot Like Love is one of those romantic comedies that wants us to believe so bad in its central love story, we'll willingly be led by the nose through all sorts of nonsensical contrivances. But while painless to sit through, the film never convinces us that these two need to be together. Most of the blame falls on scripter Colin Patrick Lynch, who creates two likable protagonists who could doubtless find happiness in the arms of countless other kids with a shared interest in junk food, Jon Bon Jovi and afternoon quickies. DVD extras include five deleted scenes, a blooper reel and the music video for Aqualung's "Brighter Than Sunshine."

Movie: **

Extras: ** 1/2

WITNESS (1985). After establishing himself as a box office draw with the Star Wars and Indiana Jones series, Harrison Ford teamed up with director Peter Weir to make this adult thriller-cum-romance. The result was a critical and commercial success, and it garnered Ford the first (and, so far, only) Best Actor Oscar nomination of his career. Certainly, Ford's best performances were back to back in Weir productions -- Witness and the underrated flop The Mosquito Coast -- and considering how the actor has now frittered away his once electrifying career by making junk like Hollywood Homicide and Random Hearts, it's a shame that these two never paired again. But at any rate, we can still enjoy this solid effort, one of those rare movies that improves with every viewing. Ford stars as John Book, a Philadelphia detective who retreats into the Amish community to protect a widow (Kelly McGillis) and her young son (Lukas Haas) from corrupt cops who are after the boy for witnessing their killing of another law officer. Maurice Jarre's score is a standout, and the scene in which Ford and McGillis dance to "(What a) Wonderful World" is a classic moment of movie romance. Nominated for eight Academy Awards (including Best Picture), the movie earned statues for Best Original Screenplay and Best Film Editing. DVD extras include a five-part documentary on the making of the movie, a deleted scene and the theatrical trailer.

Movie: *** 1/2

Extras: ***

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