Girl, Interrupted

Directed by: James Mangold
Written by:James Mangold
Starring: Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie, Whoopi Goldberg, Clea DuVall, Jared Leto, Jeffrey Tambour, Vanessa Redgrave, Mary Kay Place
Released: January 20, 2000
Grade: A-

Based on the autobiographical novel by Susanna Kaysen, Girl, Interrupted is a touching film you are sure you take something away from.

Our story begins in 1967 in New England.  Susanna (Ryder) has always been an outcast at school and is the only one of her classmates not to be going on to college upon completion of her final year.  Her life is complicated, she’s suicidal and one day acts on her instincts and mixes a bottle of aspirin with a bottle of vodka – not a recommended mix.

Surviving, her parents send her to Claymoore, a psychiatric hospital where she is checked in under the guidance of Nurse Val (Goldberg) and only plans to stay a short while so she can rest and regroup.

Inside she develops much needed friendships with fellow inmates but develops a bond with the outspoken sociopath, Lisa (Jolie).  When diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder by the hospital psychiatrist, Dr Potts (Tambour), Susanna doesn’t buy it and remains locked within the walls struggling with her demons.

Girl, Interrupted starts and finishes strongly but some of the weaker subplots bring the story down during development.  Susanna’s final speech sums up the film and identifies the lessons you take away from it.  Director James Mangold produces some nice work but seems a little too focused on close-ups of the two leading stars that was too obvious and annoying.

The standouts of the movie are the two performances of Ryder and Jolie.  Both characters are such a contrast and work so well together - I find it unfortunate that many believe Jolie has overshadowed Ryder because she played the bolder character.  In all honesty, both are as good as each other.

Don’t be deterred by the awful trailer advertising this film (it makes the film appear disgracefully boring).  In the tradition of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, it captures the style and era of the 60s beautifully and creates a setting and a story that will take you away.


The Cider House Rules

Directed by: Lasse Hallstrom
Written by: John Irving
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Charlize Theron, Michael Caine, Paul Rudd, Delroy Lindo
Released: January 13, 2000
Grade: A

Homer Wells (Maguire) was born and remained at St. Cloud’s orphanage his whole life.  Despite many attempts to find a suitable set of parents for Homer, destiny seemed to keep him at the orphanage under the guidance of the beloved Dr. Wilbur Larch (Caine).  As Homer passed through his teens, Dr. Larch wanted to make sure Homer was always “of some use” and so Homer became Larch’s prodigy.

There are only two reasons women go to St. Cloud’s - to give birth and leave their child behind, or to have an abortion.  Homer became proficient in the art of delivery, but despite the wishes of Larch, his moral stance withheld him from performing an abortion.

Homer became a respected member and father-figure of the St. Cloud’s orphans - he was loved and he loved them but as time went by, he wanted more - he wanted to see the world. 

Wally (Rudd) & Candy (Theron) provided that opportunity.  Wally was a fighter pilot in the army and Candy worked at an apple orchard by the sea and together they arrived at St. Cloud’s with an unwanted pregnancy.  Homer seized the opportunity to move on.  Asking for a lift from the love-struck couple, Homer went into the world, to find where he really belonged.

Following Homer’s departure from St. Cloud’s, things changed. The medical board began a movement to replace the aging Dr. Larch as head of St. Cloud’s who now knew his days were numbered.  Larch knew the only person who could replace him and his uphold his ethic would be Homer - but could he convince the board and more importantly, could he convince Homer to return?

The reinvented Caine provides one of the best performances of his career and Maguire was perfectly suited to his role as the stilted Homer.  Lasse Hallstrom’s (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?) direction creates some wonderful moments - including the opening credits (beautiful orchestrated by Rachel Portman), and the moment Homer acts on his affections towards Candy.

But the aspect to emphasise in this film is John Irving screenplay based on his own lengthy novel (first published in 1986).  If the full book was made into a film it would end up being a 10-part mini-series and so cutting it back into a 2-hour version whilst maintaining the whole essence of the novel was a task in itself.  Given the limitations, characters and subplots had to altered or removed (which will annoy some), but Irving comes through with honours.

Despite it’s subject matter, The Cider House Rules is not a debate on abortion, although it will create discussion.  It’s Homer’s story - an emotional and moving drama about the journeys we take and the paths we follow to find our true place in the world - to find that place where we can best be “of some use”.


Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo

Directed by: Mike Mitchell
Written by:Harris Goldberg, Rob Schneider
Starring: Rob Schneider, William Forsythe, Eddie Griffin, Arija Bareikis
Released: January 6, 2000
Grade: C-

Just when you think they’ve scraped the bottom of the barrel in Hollywood, they somehow find another layer.  Saturday Night Live has been a long running staple of the American TV industry.  Long criticised for lacking in quality, it has spawned many film careers including those of Dan Akroyd, Chris Farley and Phil Hartman.  Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo will not do anything for the career of its star, Rob Schneider.

Schneider stars as Deuce, a fish tanker cleaner who meets a gigolo, Antonie whilst on the job.  Antoine’s prized “fishy” is ill and must be closely watched for a 48-hour period.  Unfortunately, he has to go to Switzerland for work and leaves the hapless Deuce in charge of his attractive mansion.

Whilst making the most of the facilities, he accidentally destroys his $6,000 fish tank and so how is going to raise the money in the three weeks before the gigolo returns?  Just have one guess - by becoming a gigolo.

The cast is flat, dead and dull.  William Forsythe is a talented actor who must have been hallucinating when he read this script.  He plays a detective trying to bring down Antoine’s business and who is obsessed with whipping out his penis in public. Funny stuff!

This film is beyond toilet humour and isn’t even remotely amusing.  If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen it all with this one so don’t waste your time.  Nothing more than a couple of “supposed” jokes tortured to death, this is without question one of the worst films of the year.  Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo is sure to leave you speechless.


Happy, Texas

Directed by: Mark Illsley
Written by:Ed Stone, Mark Illsley
Starring: Jeremy Northam, Steve Zahn, William H. Macy, Ally Walker, Illeana Douglas
Released: January 13, 2000
Grade: B-

Harry Sawyer (Northam) and Wayne Wayne Wayne Jnr (Zahn) are convicted criminals given the break of lifetime.  Whilst en route back to the jail after an outing of highway work, the prison van crashes setting themselves and a fellow inmate free.  Desperate to elude the police, they steal a camper van from a petrol station and set off to find somewhere to hide - that place is Happy, Texas.

In Happy, the town is getting ready for a big beauty pageant for young girls as they try to qualify for the final for the first time in eight years.  To help their causes, they’ve hired two guys who are experts in pageants - coincidentally the same two guys from whom they’ve stolen the camper van.

Suddenly, Harry and Wayne find themselves mistakenly identified as the two pageant guys and are roped into helping organise the pageant.  They need somewhere to hide out and what’s more - they’re getting paid $1,000 for the job.

Everything though is more complicated than first planned.  Firstly, neither of them knows anything about beauty pageants.  Secondly, the two guys are supposed to be a gay couple. Thirdly, they each develop crushes on a couple of local women (Walker and Douglas).  Throw in a creepy sheriff (Macy) who comes to a sudden realisation and you’ve got a pretty good recipe cooked up.

Watching this film had me wondering just what it was designed for.  It doesn’t have the laughs for a comedy, but it’s way too stupid for a drama.  It seems to be an attempted feel-good movie that is about twice as long as it ought to be and loses momentum as it progresses.

William H. Macy is in a class of his own and illustrates just how talented he is.  Since his Oscar nomination in Fargo, his career has taken off in leaps and bounds and his supporting role in this film overshadows the rest.  Jeremy Northam and Steve Zahn have their moments but neither is particularly notable.

You’ll see a lot worse movies this year, but all in all it adds up to one of those films that is going to lack public appeal because it’s quirky nature isn’t always on the mark.


Double Jeopardy

Directed by: Bruce Beresford
Written by:David Weisberg, Douglas Cook
Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Ashley Judd, Bruce Greenwood, Annabeth Gish
Released: January 6, 2000
Grade: C

You would go a long way to find a worse script than that offered by Double Jeopardy.  Some studio executive obviously came up with the idea about basing a movie around the concept of “double jeopardy” and paying a bunch of guys to come up with a script that has clearly gone through several rewrites.  For those unfamiliar with the concept of double jeopardy, it revolves around the 5th amendment of the U.S. Constitution - a person cannot be tried and convicted of the same crime twice.  

Libby Parsons (Judd) is a happily married mother with a five-year-old son.  After a “passionate” night with her husband Nick (Greenwood) on their yacht, she wakes up to find the yacht covered in blood, and her husband missing.

Convicted of his death, she spends six years behind bars but whilst in “prison”, she discovers her husband is still alive - he has set her up and run off with her best friend.  Upon release Libby is determined to track him down and make up for her lost time.  Unknowing of the full plight is Libby’s parole officer (Tommy Lee Jones), who comes after her when she breaks parole to take her back under police custody.

As Libby says to Nick upon finding him, “I can shoot you in the middle of Mardi Gras and they can’t touch me”.  I suppose you wonder why I mention this line from the final 10 minutes of the film - doesn’t it spoil the ending?  Well it sure does, but don’t blame me.  This line and several others from the final scenes appear in both the trailer and TV advertisements.  Just another in a long line of movies spoilt by idiotically revealing clips.

If any of this sounds mildly interesting then I am misleading you.  Ashley Judd and Tommy Lee Jones are mildly entertaining in their roles and Australian director Bruce Beresford serves up a fair effort to help build the tension but what an appalling script the screenwriters dished up.  The film is nothing more than a bunch of very unlikely coincidences combined with gross incompetence from the police.  How the hell was she convicted in the first place if he’s still alive - where did all the blood come from (anyone ever heard of DNA testing?).  It is the worst example one can find of a “popcorn movie”.  Designed to give audiences the thrill that one can kill another and get away with it, it’s merely cheap, trashy entertainment and nothing else can be taken away from it.

I could go on picking the holes and analysing the flaws but honestly, that would be wasting time on a film that frankly doesn’t deserve it.


Three Kings

Directed by: David O. Russell
Written by:John Ridley, David O. Russell
Starring: George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze, Jamie Kennedy, Mykelti Williamson, Nora Dunn
Released: January 13, 2000
Grade: A-

So what does attract us to war?  Is the human instinct in all us?  Is the atrocity it shows us?  Is it the comradery that unites us?  There has always been and will continue to be something about war films that takes us to the cinemas.

In 1998 alone, of the five Academy Award nominees for best picture, three were war films - Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line and Life Is Beautiful, and this year another hot contender can be added to the long line of war films being coming out of Hollywood - Three Kings.

We are introduced to our four US soldiers early in the piece (don’t ask me why it’s called Three Kings).  Sgt Troy Barlow (Wahlberg), Sgt Chief Elgin (Ice Cube), and Conrad Vig (Jonze) come across a secret map hidden in the ass of Iraqi solider.  The Gulf War has just ended - the U.S. Iraq have declared a ceasefire, and many of the soldiers are planning to return home.  When Captain Archie Gates (Clooney) finds the other three with the map - he wants in and has a plan.

Evading a U.S. Television reporter, they sneak out to find the location of a hidden bunker that supposedly contains millions of dollars worth of gold bullion.  They never expected it to be easy but what they came across and what it brought out of them, would change their lives forever.

David O. Russell (Spanking The Monkey and Flirting With Disaster) is a blossoming director who has really taken off with this picture.  The setting and story are captured so wonderfully with the radical fast-paced style.  George Clooney has comes leaps and bounds in recent years and follows Out Of Sight with his finest role to date.  Also singled out must be the fourth member of the team - Spike Jonze.  It’s hard not to focus on him in the film and think how this was the mastermind who directed Being John Malkovich.

This film has it all.  It starts off with plenty of laughs but by end you’ve taken a journey you didn’t expect to take.  From the wide-open deserts to the deep hidden bunkers, realism exudes.  Its intensity will keep you riveted to your seat as you await the fate of the four soldiers and you’re taken through their highs and lows. 

Already awarded best picture of the year by the Boston Society Of Film Critics and featured on top 10 lists all over the world, Three Kings is an immensely entertaining film that will keep you both thinking and feeling.


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