March 18, 2016

hello my name is doris Greetings again from the darkness. Hollywood has long ignored the pushback on its habit of casting younger women as the love interest of older men. In most of those movies, the relationships are treated as normal and expected. In the few movies that turn the tables, a relationship between an older woman and younger man is typically treated as either comedy or scandal … consider Harold and Maude (1971) and Notes on a Scandal (2006). In this latest film, writer/director Michael Showalter (The Baxter) and co-writer Laura Terruso strive to balance heartfelt emotions with situational laughs.

Sally Field returns to leading lady status as Doris, a never-married frumpy accountant in her late 60’s who has been living in her childhood home whilst caring for her ailing mother … hoarding everything from magazines to packaged food seasoning to a single water ski. The film begins with the open casket funeral of Doris’ mom, and we see her brother (Stephen Root) and his obnoxious and rude wife (Wendi McLendon) immediately pounce on Doris to clear out the clutter and sell the house. They even set her up with a hoarder specialist/therapist (Elizabeth Reaser) who finds the case quite challenging.

The real fun in the movie begins with a close encounter in the office elevator, when Doris and her cat-eye glasses come face to face with a handsome and charming young man who offers up a compliment – something Doris rarely experiences. Of course, a few minutes later, we learn the young man is John (Max Greenfield, “New Girl”), the new artistic director in Doris’ office. For years, Doris has depended upon cheesy romance novels to supply the fantasy in her life, and now the lessons from that reading kick into full gear.

It’s a night out with her best friend Roz (Tyne Daly) that results in a chance interaction with a cocky motivational speaker (Peter Gallagher) whose catchphrase is “Every week has seven days. None of them are named Someday”. He leaves Doris with this thought: “Impossible means I’m possible”. When combined with those romance novels, Doris now sees a realistic chance for love if she pursues the man of her dreams … the aforementioned (and half her age) John.

With the help of Roz’ teenage granddaughter (Isabella Acres), Doris learns how to Facebook stalk, and soon enough ends up at a concert with John’s favorite techno band, Baby Goya and Nuclear Winters (led by Jack Antonoff of Fun.). John and his group of hipster friends are enamored with Doris’ vintage clothes and quirky sense of style and speech. She soon finds herself posing in spandex for Baby Goya’s album cover, going to dinner parties, and joining a rooftop knitting group of millennials.

Judging by the boisterous laughing by women in the theatre, this is a prime GNO flick for women of all ages. Most of the comedic situations seemed pretty obvious and predictable, and I found some traits of Doris to be less than appealing. However, as a statement on what happens when the outside world passes by, and generational gaps become almost impossible to bridge, the film makes a bold statement on real friendship between mature women. It poses the question, what determines whether a personal awakening is real or imagined?

Sally Field (turning 70 in 2016) gives a terrific performance, and it goes much deeper than someone who puts her reading glasses on top of her regular glasses and wears giant bows in her giant hairpiece. Ms. Field has excelled in such previous work as “Sybil” (1975), Norma Rae (1978), Places in the Heart (1983), and Lincoln (2011). She understands comedy and human drama, and as Doris … you’ll kind of like her. You’ll really kind of like her!

watch the trailer:




November 18, 2010

 Greetings again from the darkness.  Attended a Tuesday screening and must admit that I was blown away by Christina Aguilera.  The film is first and foremost a showcase of her musical talent … and quite a talent she is!  Of course, you better be ready for the humor and visuals aimed at the audience attracted to an event featuring Cher and Christina.

Ali (Aguilera) is a bored, small town Iowa girl who heads off to find the bright lights of L.A.  She stumbles into a Burlesque club and is immediately enchanted by the songs, the dancers and the ambience.  The club is co-owned by Tess (Cher) and her ex-husband Vince (Peter Gallagher) and is on a steep slide towards financial disaster.  Local real estate developer Marcus (Eric Dane) rides in on his classic Porsche and fat wallet and offers to rescue Tess and Vince.  Of course, his plan for the club is anything but altruistic.

 Meanwhile, Marcus and Jack the bartender (Cam Gigandet) battle over Ali, though neither are very good at it.  While that battle is going on, Ali manages to leapfrog a burned out Nikki (Kristin Bell) for the spotlight on stage.  This is when the movie really takes off, musically speaking.

From a musical perspective, Cher belts out a couple of solos that easily convince that her pipes are still full strength.  Her two songs are definite highlights and it’s a pleasure to hear her in top form – at age 64!  Aguilera has so many numbers that I lost track.  Most are average songs at best, but her voice is so unique and powerful that the non-descript songs come off just fine.

 Must also mention Alan Cumming and especially Stanley Tucci.  Mr. Tucci is clearly the best actor in the movie, though he basically reprises a previous character (Devil Wears Prada).  Oh and there is the bonus of a very odd Tucci bedroom scene. 

There will be comparisons to Dreamgirls, Cabaret, Chicago and Moulin Rouge!  This is no litmus test for Ms. Aguilera’s acting ability, though she comes off infinitely better than Mariah Carey in the atrocious Glitter.  Writer and first time director Steve Antin pretty much stays out of the way of Cher and Christina, while delivering the expected and welcome product to his intended audience … not that there’s anything wrong with it.

SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you need an intro to Christina Aguilera’s singing ability OR you are a fan of Cher (like anything could keep you away!)

SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: bump and grind dancing is not your cup of tea OR you can’t appreciate campy humor filmed for the enjoyment of the gay community

See the Burlesque trailer