New on DVD - 1/13/09

The problem here is the story is just not strong enough to carry the entire movie. Harris sets up the relationship between Cole and Hitch nicely, and he and Mortensen's great chemistry makes for some of the film's best moments. But there really isn't much of a story to go on, stretching it thinly over two hours and leaving the rest of the film to stand awkwardly apart. Part of this is due to some languid pacing, almost as if Harris doesn't quite know where to go next, resulting in a vaguely aimless, uneven structure. Zellweger's character and performance are also problematic, sticking out like a sore thumb that doesn't quite belong. Some would argue that this was intentional, but the character is without a doubt the film's weakest link.

Fish-out-of-water cultural angst is nothing new, and Brick Lane never really brings anything new to the table, despite plenty of chances to explore its Islamic roots that are so dear to its characters, and ever more at odds with a world gone mad, as their own brothers and sisters begin to take up arms in jihad against the West. This is a fact that is given little consideration, and un-mined drama abounds from all angles.

It's hard not to like Emma Thompson (even as such a despicable character), and indeed the film seems to come to life when she is on screen. But when she is not, the film seems to deflate, and we are left to the troubles of one of the most miserable set of human beings to grace the silver screen in many a moon. I felt nothing but hatred for Charles as he led Sebastian on, disillusioning him into believing the attraction was mutual, while he pined over Julia. I found Sebastian's incessant whining nearly unbearable (not to mention the portrayal of all homosexuals as insipid, effeminate drama queens), and Julia and Lady Marchmain's pious devotion to strict, guilt-ridden Catholicism insufferable. They lived in a misery of their own devising, and that misery translates to the audience as well.

FFR DVD Pick of the Week
It's a mesmerizing, astonishingly free form tapestry, almost like a cross between Godard and I'm Not There, where convention is thrown out the window in favor of a soul-piercing window into the mind of a legend.

Allen finds beauty in their attempts at happiness, however, set amidst the sunny backdrop of Spain. Shot in lovely, warm tones by Javier Aguirresarobe, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" is a smooth, sexy valentine to Spain and all its rich beauty. There is a laid-back charm to it all, thanks in part to its attractive cast, that feels a bit like comfort food that's high in taste but low in nutritional value. It's a solidly crafted film, but it never fully explores the intricacies of the relationships it sets up.


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