Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Some Amiable Comedies

My strategy for finding DVD's to watch over Easter was hardly scientific: I started at the front of the store and worked through until I found 5 to qualify me for the "$10 for 5" deal, then found they were all $1 each anyway. One surprise was the near universality of the coming of age theme in the five DVD's I did pick out.

The one most focussed on a literal coming of age was also the one I knew least about yet enjoyed the most. In All I Want (aka Try Seventeen), Jones Dillon (Elijah Wood) is off to college. He rejects dorm life because his room-mate is odious; rejects college for unspecified reasons and lives in an apartment building where he spends most of his time typing letters out to his father (never sent because he has no idea who his father is) and hanging out with others in his building. Lisa (Mandy Moore) drops him like a hotcake when she finds out he's a virgin (he's only 17) but this doesn't phase Jane (Franka Potente). She's a very cool character, at least to a 17 year old: works in a music store, takes interesting photos, has an enigmatic quality about her. Thanks to her, Jones learns to deal with his mother, stops dreaming about his father and, of course, stops being a virgin.

At the other end of the scale was Alfie (Jude Law) - he was just awful: completely charming, has faking sincerity down to a t, is very pretty but thoughtless and selfish. He sleeps his way through half the women in New York, betrays his best mate, is someone sensible women know not to count on. I kept hoping something awful would happen to him, but all that really does is that, right at the end of the movie, he finally gets that he has nothing and has no idea what to do next. The most interesting thing about the movie was that Nia Long (his friend's girlfriend) showed up just after I finished watching it as the latest new lawyer on Boston Legal.

In between were 40 Year Old Virgin and Connie and Carla. It was interesting how the film equated being a virgin at 40 with being a total loser - Andy (Steve Carell) has no apparent friends, no social skills, and very geeky hobbies. But I really did like the the way that despite all the advice his workmates were giving him, he followed his instincts and went for Trish (Christine Keeler). Even better, when they finally got it together, he was able to say something incredibly sweet to her, about waiting for the special person, and her being it. Plus, the movie was simply lots of fun and not silly at all - could even be said to make some important social comment on the constant pressure to be sexually successful.

Connie and Carla is a less orthodox, and slightly silly, coming of age tale but certainly has something to say about being true to yourself. Connie (Nia Vardalos) and Carla (Toni Collette) are not very successful dinner-show singers in an airport restaurant. At least, that is, until they see someone who loaned them money killed by a Russian gangster and they have to flee - to a place which has no dinner theatre, no cultural activity i.e. Los Angeles. There they can't afford to show themselves because the gangsters are after them, but have to earn a living, so become drag queens as a way of hiding out. Problems arise when Connie falls for Jeff (David Duchovny): there's a classic scene where she's in full drag and kisses him. Poor guy simply doesn't know how to take it. But, hey, its a comedy so everything comes out fine.

Finally, not a coming of age thing, was Best in Show - it took me a wee while to get in synch with this movie, but once I worked out that it wasn't really about the dog show so much as about taking the mickey out of the entrants, I enjoyed it. The two lawyers (the Swans - Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock) reminded me of some of the more bitchy couples off The Amazing Race (although I thought their story about how they met via Starbucks was kind of cute). The guy doing the commentary to the dog show (Buck Laughlan) was so off the wall he was irresistible.



Blogger harvestbird said...

At the time Best in Show came out, I belonged to a mailing list for Norwich Terrier types. Some of the members knew the owners of the dog that played Winky in the film, and some (with their dogs) were featured as extras in that early scene where Winky qualifies to go to the national show!

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