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Archive for November 2010

Love & Other Drugs

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Dir. Edward Zwick
Theatrical

The hand-drawn title card informing us we are in “1996” before our audio clue of the Spin Doctors’ Two Princes informs us this is indeed the mid-90s. Jamie (Jake Gyllenhaal’s abdominal muscles) is a slick salesman who, as Oliver Platt remarks a scant 15-minutes from this point, knows how “to swing his dick” for a sale. After some family exposition to introduce us to Jamie’s hilarious fat and nerdy brother Josh (Josh Gad) who designed something vaguely tech related engaged in the world of medicine, we’re onto Pfizer and Jamie’s new life as a salesman hawking designer drugs! And Jamie then sleeps with more women! And he sleeps with a nurse/secretary at a Doctor’s office in mid-to-central Ohio but may actually be filmed in Pennsylvania and then Maggie  (Anne Hatheway) shows up to flash us.

(Now is a good time to mention this is loosely based on the book, Hard Sell, which doesn’t get really funny until this section of the author’s bio: “He then spent five years with Eli Lilly’s Oncology Division, where he discovered there are far fewer jokes about chemotherapy than Viagra. Reidy was fired by Eli Lilly soon after publication of Love and Other Drugs.”)

Let’s go back to what we know: Maggie has stage one Parkinson’s, which means she will occasionally shake and hold back tears while Jamie looks on pensively, as if wondering whether he may have to wait another minute to have more sex. The book was a discreet tell-all about a tiny blue pill to make your dick hard. The film? A semi-alternate universe take on Brokeback Mountain where Anne Hatheway’s character didn’t have her gay husband’s face beaten in.

The sole stand-out line comes from a buxom blonde throwing a pajama party for other pharmaceutical folks where she introduces Jamie to her friend: “This is Tai. She’s Thai. And I happen to be Tai-curious.” Cue make-out. Ditto for everything delivered by Oliver Platt as the pseudo-mentor to Jamie who mainlines Tums before downing drink after drink, much like I should’ve been.

Thematically, there’s nothing here. Edward Zwick is a master is wankery ( home video camera footage is black and white with the frame rate stunted;a short while later, Jamie’s brother is whacking off to Jamie/Maggie’s amateur and rather ingenious sex tape). Aside from a brief soliloquy given by Hank Azaria’s Viagra-crazed doctor on insurance companies helping destroy lives, Love & Other Drugs is so painfully by the numbers that when the eventual Viagra joke about a “painful erection” happens, you’re glad the movie’s over in ten minutes.

 

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Written by john lichman

November 29, 2010 at 12:48 pm

I’m Still Here

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dir. Casey Affleck

iTunes Rental

It’s been roughly a month or so since I sat down to watch I’m Not There, so all my notes are foreign and useless despite snapshots of what I assumed poignant (Cutting back and forth between his assistant’s conversation with Diddy’s own folks, Phoenix mutters, “this is ridiculous.”) The point There strives to drive home is tough to nail since it exists in three separate timelines:

In one: Joaquin Phoenix is shaken by his own mortality and decides to use his acting career–itself a series of interviews and guest spots where he can recite his talking points verbatim on four programs–to craft a new career: JP, the rapper. Brother-in-law and friend Casey Affleck keeps a record of this tortuous event.

The other: Casey Affleck and Joaquin Phoenix are amazed those considered “celebrity” can constantly fuck up without facing any consequence. They plan to tackle this in a fake documentary and use Joaquin, a bonafide rising star following Walk The Line, to show people how shallow they are.  But after an especially fantastic flame-out on The Late Show and during press junkets for Two Lovers, they find a new focus in how media itself works and almost derails their project.

The third: Joaquin Phoenix and Casey Affleck became so absorbed in “The other” that they almost let it overtake them and it did until there was a legitimate threat to both of their future careers.

The actual truth to what There is supposed to be will be forever lost until we get an “As Told To” interview from director and star. The film is many things: it’s a social commentary that became corrupted by the same society because it wasn’t ready for how fast our media consumption moves now (i.e. in 2007-2009). Affleck would go on to admit the film’s staged nature a few days before its release went national outside of New York and Los Angeles to the NY Times.

Out of all of the shots, it becomes weirdly surreal when Edward James Olmos arrives to give a monologue worthy of his barotone and characteristically mythic status that only recently grew from his stint on Syfy’s Battlestar Galactica. The fact they’re under “They’re Going To Kill Us Productions” speaks volumes about Affleck’s own worry about how the film, a deconstructionist documentary whose stylization grows until the evitable “redemption” in the waters of the Amazon, will be found.

The entire back and forth with Puff Daddy is a clear parallel to There‘s own production: a lack of the “essentials” (craft services, studio, ‘trailers’) replaced by an earnestly sarcastic glimpse into the world of celebrity that over the course of the film’s shoot became more than normal. It became, to steal a phrase shoved down our eye sockets by E!, “super” real and “super new.”

So what do we take away from Here if not a physical example of how our media cycle can literally twist and transform a person into believing they can be something they’re not, even if they once were an Academy Award nominated actor.

Written by john lichman

November 26, 2010 at 12:42 pm