America's Sweethearts


Directed by: Joe Roth
Written by:Billy Crystal, Peter Tolan
Starring: Julia Roberts, Billy Crystal, Catherine Zeta-Jones, John Cusack, Hank Azaria, Stanley Tucci, Christopher Walker, Alan Arkin, Seth Green
Released: October 4, 2001
Grade: A-

The plot may be a little too contrived to make complete sense but there's no doubting that America's Sweethearts is one of the year's best comedies.  Gwen Harrison (Zeta-Jones) and Eddie Thomas (Cusack) are Hollywood's number 1 couple.  They've starred opposite each other in almost every film and together have manufactured six $100m hits.  Yet like every dream romance (ala Tom & Nicole), it soon came to an end with Gwen finding a new Spanish beau (Azaria) and Eddie winding up in a “nuthouse” having lost his grip on reality.

Naturally, this doesn't go down well with the studio.  Since the separation, neither has made a successful movie and executive Dave Kingman (Tucci) has his head in a noose.  Just prior to the break-up, he had perfectionist director Hal Wiedmann (Walken) make a film starring the duo but it still hasn’t been completed with Wiedmann agonising over the finishing touches.  With his career in the balance, Kingman gets marketing guru Lee Phillips (Crystal), with whom he has a rocky friendship, to pull off the promotional scam of a lifetime.

Phillips prepares a press junket (where the press come and meet the stars) and in the process gives the press something to talk about.  As the saying goes, “any publicity is good publicity” and Phillips is an expert in making it.  But there’s still the challenging task of getting Gwen and Eddie back together.  It’s going to take the help of a few friends, a little luck, and Gwen's sister/servant Kiki (Roberts).

Given that it involves the industry itself, I’m surprised to have waited this long to see a film with such a plot.  Billy Crystal is a co-writer of the script and I'm his insight (as well as that from other cast members) is what makes this film so interesting.  Sure it has the tacky and predictable romantic “three way” subplot but the overall package is worth seeing.

Julia Roberts is outstanding and her performance reminiscent of her star turn in Notting Hill.  She is merely a supporting character in the ensemble piece but I prefer the innocent/unsure Julia to the outspoken/bold Julia (Erin Brockovich, The Mexican).  Catherine Zeta-Jones is also terrific as the snobby screen actress who's always thinking of herself.  Zeta-Jones's public image and earlier films have given the real press plenty to criticise but with this following her eye catching part in the award winning Traffic, she has suddenly found credibility.  It comes as no surprise though to see John Cusack is fine comedic and despite a lukewarm opening, Billy Crystal comes through with the goods.

It's always difficult assembling a big name cast but I'm sure Crystal and director Joe Roth had no trouble with this refreshingly honest screenplay.  It’s funny to think that this story is only a blip on the surface of what really goes down in Hollywood.  Does anyone want to take this concept a step further?