DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE MORGANS? * *
Cert PG, 103 mins
Hugh Grant’s last film, the entertaining Music and Lyrics with Drew Barrymore, was almost three years ago.
He can plainly pick and choose his projects these days and doesn’t need to make movies simply for the pay cheque.
So why on earth did he agree to this under-par script? It’s hard to believe it’s penned by the same writer/director, Marc Lawrence, who brought us Music and Lyrics and Miss Congeniality.
It’s not unwatchable, but it’s not worth the price of a cinema ticket. The dialogue is as lame as the wordy and meaningless title and the plot is stuffed full of clichés.
Lawyer Paul Morgan (Grant) and his wife, real estate agent Meryl (Sarah Jessica Parker), are a successful New York City couple. They are separated after he was unfaithful, but he’s doing his best to woo her back.
Then, in farcical scenes, they witness a murder, the Mafia hitman comes after them and the FBI puts them in a witness relocation programme.
They are sent to deepest Wyoming, to stay with a wise older couple, Marshall Clay Wheeler (Sam Elliott) and his wife Emma (Mary Steenburgen). Predictably, the city slickers are out of their depth in cowboy country, having to cope with grizzly bears and rodeos.
What’s the betting they come to appreciate life in the country and realise they still love each other? You wouldn’t get long odds on that outcome.
Grant and Parker have a certain chemistry and their performances aren’t bad, but the film lacks pace, charm and laughs. It’s too long at 103 minutes but feels like it takes up far more time. RL
NINE * * * *
Cert 12A, 119 mins
Perhaps it’s no longer such a good idea to make a movie about a director having trouble with his creativity and the women in his life at the same time.
Back in May, Philip Seymour Hoffman starred in Charlie Kaufman’s ludicrously-titled Synecdoche, New York about a theatre director in crisis.
Across the pond it barely took $3 million. Here, £500,000.
Now comes Nine the musical, in which double best actor Oscar-winning star Daniel Day-Lewis plays film director Guido Contini.
His personal and professional lives hang by a thread as he attempts to get his latest movie off the ground at Rome’s Cinecatti Studios.
Nine has been directed at Britain’s Shepperton Studios by Rob Marshall – the man behind the multi Oscar-winning Chicago. It stars some of the world’s leading ladies and five members of the cast are Oscar winners, too.
But, even though it’s the last script from the late Anthony Minghella, a fine supporter of regional film journalism, the distributor failed to show Nine to regional critics in advance.
With or without our support, all the early indications are that Nine will under-perform at box offices worldwide – which is a pity. The original 1982 Broadway production won five Tony Awards including Best Musical.
It was inspired by Federico Fellini’s 8½, the 1964 Best Foreign Language Oscar-winning film about a director retreating into his memories and fantasies.
Nine has some glorious moments during its breathtakingly-choreographed heavyweight musical numbers. The main set is fabulous and La Vie En Rose’s Oscar-winning star Marion Cotillard is on top form as the cheated wife Luisa who refuses to be walked over.
But the rest of the story is too fragmented, with Contini also having to try to cope with his extraordinarily curvaceous mistress Carla (Penelope Cruz), film star muse Claudia (Nicole Kidman), confidante and costume designer Lilli (Judi Dench), an American fashion journalist for Vogue called Stephanie (Kate Hudson), a whore called Saraghina from his youth (Black Eyed Peas’ Fergie) and even his Mamma (Sophia Loren).
Nine’s look at the darker side of musical life means that it is set to be one of those films which, for whatever reason, will be appreciated more over time than it will be today – certainly by those who take the chance to see it now on the silver screen where it belongs. GY
POST GRAD * * *
Cert 12A, 88 mins
This is rather an odd, though likeable, little film.
Pretty Alexis Bledel plays recent graduate Ryden Malby, who thinks the world is her oyster now she’s got a degree.
She comes down to earth with a bump when she doesn’t get the publishing job she had set her heart on, and is forced to move back in with her eccentric family.
The cast boasts some fine older actors, especially Michael Keaton and Jane Lynch as her parents.
JK Simmons also appears briefly as the father of her best friend Adam (Zach Gilford), but then vanishes and is never seen again, leaving that plot line hanging. What a waste!
Adam isn’t sure what he wants to do with his life but is sure that he’s in love with Ryden, though she just wants a platonic relationship.
There are some nice moments and witty observations but they don’t hang together very well and the dialogue is underdeveloped.
So too is the slight plot which doesn’t go anywhere, and we could also do without the slapstick moments involving a cat.
Ultimately it’s a simple, short and rather sweet – if also rather pointless – story. RL