Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Bride Wars

When I first began reading about the plot of Bride Wars, I was intrigued. It seemed like a cute little movie that was perfect for a Girls’ Night out. In fact I had hoped to go with my friends to see it, until I started hearing from people who had already seen it. My mother thought it was great, which for me is not a good sign for a movie, but I had heard negative reviews from other people, but felt like I needed to see it on my own and form my own opinions. I should have listened to other people.
Bride Wars tells the story of 2 lifelong friends in New York City, Liv (Kate Hudson), an attorney, and Emma (Anne Hathaway), a schoolteacher. These two are both in serious relationships, and one day while going through Liv’s closet, the girls find a box from Tiffany’s and without opening it assume that Liv’s boyfriend, Nate, will propose and she tells everyone that she is already engaged, even though he hasn’t proposed yet. While waiting for Nate to propose, Fletcher, Emma’s boyfriend proposes. This leads Liv to confront Nate about why he hasn’t proposed, which he does after the confrontation. Now that they are both happily engaged, they meet with their dream wedding planner, Marion St. Clair (Candace Bergen) and she announces that she has availability for weddings at the Plaza in June, which is a dream that the two friends share. They both pick different dates, since they are each other’s maids of honor. However, due to a scheduling mishap their weddings are booked for the same day. Neither wants to give up their dates, and they begin sabotaging each other and their weddings.
If this was supposed to be a movie about friendship and how true friendships always last, then I fear for the people who believe that. If this movie has one message it is that in this world you can only trust yourself and to never open up to anyone because you never know when a moment of weakness where you share something will come back to haunt you.
However, I have more problems with the movie than just it crap-tastic depiction of lifelong friendship. The movie didn’t bother to delve any deeper than the traditional bride mentality that is accepted as the norm. I mean this movie is basically about tow really big and expensive temper tantrums, where it is all about the bride and no one else matters. If the superficial emotions that are portrayed in this film were the only problem, it might be surmountable, but that isn’t the only problem,
There were a lot of actors in this movie, but I don’t feel like anyone was really acting. I had the same problem with Must Love Dogs. I feel that the script was so superficial that the actors didn’t really care about their characters. The film should have been called “Really Expensive Puff Piece and We’re Just Paying These People To Show Up.”
This wasn’t a good movie. There is no way around the fact. The plot was horrible, the characters were flat, and if there was any acting that occurred in this film, then it escaped me. I give it a -13. Just a tip for all you brides out there, NEVER ACT LIKE THESE WOMEN!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Vantage Point

Eye-witness accounts, by and large, are very unreliable. In court, you need more than just somebody saying “I saw him do it” to get a conviction. The reason is that what we see is completely subject to our perceptions, attitudes and mindset. Memory is editable; things can be cut out, blocked out, and even not recorded at all. That’s why two people can see the same exact event, but have two completely different takes on what happened.

Vantage Point would seem, at first glance, to take advantage of that. But in the end, it kinda… doesn’t. The particulars of the story don’t really turn out to have anything to do with the idea of “perception ≠ truth.” That’s a little disappointing to a cerebral, outside-the-box thinker like me. Vantage Point doesn’t plumb the depths of what we see being the limits of our world, or any such thing. Where it scores major points, though, is in having a fantastic plot, being well-shot, and being excellently paced. Even if it can’t be a deep philosophical treatise (and let’s face it, not every movie can), it can at least get the other, slightly easier elements of moviemaking right; Vantage Point definitely does.

The motif that Vantage Point goes with is the story of an event being told from several different viewpoints, all weaving together to give the viewer a complete picture of what actually happened. Now, this is not a new idea to cinema. Rashomon-style movies have been done ever since… well, Rashomon. It requires an investment on the part of the viewer, as they must be paying attention the whole time. And the payoff must be great indeed to reward that investment. Vantage Point’s payoff is alright, if a little simple-minded. The “event” it concerns is an assassination attempt of the U.S. President during an international summit for peace he has arranged in Spain, shortly after the 9/11 attacks. There is a shooting, and a bombing shortly after, and then another very shortly after that. The entire plot of the movie takes place in approximately 30 minutes real-time, but the movie is just 90 minutes long. It seems longer, but not because it drags. I can’t think of a single moment in the entire film where I was bored or disinterested. It also felt longer in that there was just so much plot and so many characters that it felt very full. One of the strengths of this movie is that it holds your attention throughout.

The movie has varying degrees of success at doing several different things. It has a strong human element to the story, has plenty of action, and always keeps the tension high. Movies as jam-packed as Vantage Point have a tendency to paint the characters as two-dimensional, falling into good guys/bad guys categories, but it amazingly doesn’t do that. Those categories do exist, but they break down and bleed together at a certain point for some characters. The movie never quite lets you off the hook, and does some funny things with our perceptions of character. None of the acting is spectacular, with the possible exception of Forrest Whitaker. His portrayal of an average Joe who does the right thing because it’s what needs to be done is very real and appealing, though I’m sure it wasn’t even a shadow of a challenge for him.

That brings me to the plot, which in the contexts of narrative flow and storytelling, was out of this world. It had all the major elements that make a great plot solidly in hand: it was engaging throughout, kept us interested on multiple levels, and revealed essential plot points at just the right times. It would have been nice if the story had a deeper meaning, but it was such a great ride that I’m not that disappointed. It didn’t quite answer all my questions, and was ever-so-slightly unbelievable, but considering how far it could have gone off the deep end, it executed itself very well. It was tight throughout, and at the end, it made sense. As the viewer, I felt a sense of accomplishment that I was able to follow it, which is a tricky thing for a movie to pull off.

Vantage Point could have been better, but that might be asking a lot of a movie that already has so much going for it. All the elements come together very nicely, and the pieces all fit together to make a complete picture that I could understand. It’s a shame this didn’t do better at the box office, because it was a tightly constructed movie that didn’t make me work my skepticism too much.

Iconic Lines:
“He doesn’t even look like me.”
“The beauty of American arrogance is that they can’t imagine a world where they’re not a step ahead.”

22 Rating: 13

Particle Man