The Love Punch
Runtime 94 minutes.
OK for children.
This movie is a stunner. Emma Thompson is one of the more gifted women in film, a terrific actress and a fine writer. While Pierce Brosnan has been in some horrors (his performance in the ghastly conversion of Mamma Mia to the screen stands out as a real stinker, although many didn’t notice it because Meryl Streep outstunk him as the singing dancing lead), he has also exhibited some talent when it came to light comedy and romance, like The Matador (2004) and Love is All You Need (2011). At the 49 minute mark, Emma asks Pierce, “Do you think we’re doing the right thing?” That’s the question she should have asked after first reading the script.
So with them in what writer/director Joel Tompkins thinks of as a caper film farce à la The Pink Panther with romcom elements, this promised to be a gem. Even though the first scene is a clever homage to Brosnan’s stint as James Bond, what it turns out to be is an inexplicably terrible film. After five minutes I turned to my guest and asked if she liked it. She responded, “yes,” and asked if I did and I said “no.” Forty five minutes later I asked her if she still liked it and she said, “no.”
One reason is that it is so appallingly implausible. The basis of the film, that Pierce and Emma are going to steal a $10 million diamond from the man who stole their company in order to make everything right with all the employees and themselves, is absurd. And the way they go about it is equally ludicrous.
While farce is, by definition, absurd, it takes talent to make it funny instead of stupid. I’ve referred in the past to my affection for films like director Alan Dwan’s Getting Gertie’s Garter (1945) which can stand as a blueprint on how to make such a movie and make it funny. Tompkins claims that this is his first “French film.” Alas, he needs to go back to the drawing board because this doesn’t approach the subtlety that the French often give to a film like this.
Worse, the chemistry between Thompson and Brosnan, who play spouses divorced from one another thinking maybe they should try again, is non-existent.
The only things about this movie that don’t fail dismally are the production values and the cinematography (Jérôme Almeras) of the Parisian and French Riviera locations. But those few minutes don’t make up for the squirming and watch-checking caused by the other 89.
Runtime 112 minutes.
OK for children.
Three passionate but goofy environmentalists, Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, and Peter Sarsgaard, try to blow up a dam but run into consequences none of them anticipated.
While director Kelly Reichardt (who co-wrote the script with long-time collaborator Jon Raymond) claims that the movie is not about politics but about people, what it shows, really, is that there is no difference. Whether intentionally or not, Reichardt shows the shallowness of some of the people who profess to care passionately about how man affects nature. There is one great line emphasizing the superficiality of these people where Fanning is quoting statistics about nature and Sarsgaard comments that she is really knowledgeable and she says, “Yeah, I had a class about it.”
While all three give good performances, Fanning displays the widest range. Eisenberg’s role is basically just being quiet, thinking a lot and not saying much. There are a lot of shots of people thinking, mostly Eisenberg. While a little bit of that goes a long way, his thoughtful process adds to the mounting tension as problems mount and the only way out seems beyond the pale. The problem for Eisenberg is that this is the way he was in The Social Network, too. He is in danger of getting a reputation as a one trick pony.
Sarsgaard plays a loose cannon and gives his usual fine performance.
There appeared to be one real goof. When the three are driving away from what they’ve done at the dam, there’s a three shot of them in the car facing the camera. While Sarsgaard starts the engine and the wheels are heard rolling, the background outside of the back window doesn’t move a bit. For a moment I thought they were going to be stuck, unable to flee, but it was just a bad job of filming, as they eventually arrived at their destination.
I generally don’t like these films in which people think most of the time, but this one is much better than the norm.