There are lots of well-known actors gracing our screens this week, in roles that cover a vast range of genres and characters. I’m going to honor the work of my peers -- and the clear vote of the movie-going public -- and avoid Johnny Depp and ‘Transcendence’ altogether. As my grandmother said, ‘if you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything ’. Instead I will focus on the two extremes of ‘Don Hemingway’ and ‘The Other Woman’. One is a dark comedy about a deeply flawed man finding his lost soul; the other is a cream puff so light that it threatens to drift off into space – and that would be a good thing.
I have questioned Jude Law’s choices at times, but ‘Dom Hemingway’ is a masterstroke. With the best sideburns since Elvis, slicked back hair and a wardrobe left over from the 70’s, Dom is a lewd, crude and rude London gangster released from 12 years in jail rather than ratting on his mates. And now Dom wants to play catch up – wine, women, drugs, money: he wants it all and NOW! But while Dom was away, the world changed. Petty thievery has been organized, immigrants have taken over the underworld, and Dom is an anachronism – with anger issues. As Dom rampages through this new world order in old world style, we are taken on his often hilarious, but simultaneously dark trip of discovery. He’s been left behind – by the world, by his ‘profession’ and most important, by his family. His wife died while he was in prison, his daughter has married a Senegalese immigrant and had a child, and Dom is left alone. So it is either adapt or die – at least on the inside.
Jude Law is simply outstanding as Dom: you have never seen him in such an engaging role as such an unlikeable character. He can rage and drop more f-bombs that any five episodes of the Sopranos, but you end up rooting for him. And his best friend, played by Richard E. Grant, is the perfect foil – droll, poufy, but a rock. The tour of modern day London’s backstreets is also priceless – there is still a real London behind the façade. This film from Fox Searchlight – the ‘Indie’ brand – is a great example of a small film with great performances lurking around behind the blockbusters. Take a chance and go see one.
If Don Hemingway is a look into the seamy underbelly of petty crime, ‘The Other Woman’ is a look into the elegant idiocy of upper-class marriage and adultery. Everyone here is sleek and stylish – even when puking into designer handbags. And the eye candy is equal opportunity across the board, including Cameron Diaz as a shark of a New York lawyer who happens into an affair with a married man (‘I swear I didn’t know!) played by ‘Game of Thrones’ hunk Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. Of course, the cad is also keeping his clueless wife on the string (Leslie Mann in a role that is hardly believable), while also dallying with a brainless bombshell played by flavor-of-the-moment Kate Upton (and judging from this performance, the moment is passing quickly). Rounding out the team are Taylor Kinney as the wife’s cute brother, Nicki Minja as the sassy secretary and silver fox Don Johnson as the wise old dad. Need I say more?
You know what’s coming, right? The women bond, the cad is crushed and we all live happily ever after. I mean, how many times have we seen exactly this same film – but done so much better. Let’s see: how about ‘First Wives Club’ with an amazing ensemble (and better bombshells – SJP and Elizabeth Berkley). Or maybe ‘The Women’ – again, a better ensemble and MUCH better bombshell (Eva Mendes). The film is a cliché. Perhaps that means it needs be treated as such, and given a pass as mindless entertainment and a two-hour product placement advertisement. But does the film have to treat us as SO undemanding that we won’t object to overt, out of context silliness; huge plot leaps (or just plot omissions); and ridiculous line-reads? I like Aston Martins, designer clothes, houses in the Hamptons and Tribeca lofts as much as the next guy; but this just doesn’t pass the movie IQ test. You have to score at least 85 to get thumbs up in this blog. This may be the movie that unseated ‘Captain America’ at the top of the box office, but give it a pass.
My discovery of the week was the finale at the White River Indie Fest, and is available to buy on DVD now and will be released on-line within the next two weeks. ‘For the Love of Music: the Club 47 Folk Revival’ is a wonderful documentary about the famous Club 47 in Cambridge, MA which easily rivaled The Gaslight in Greenwich Village as the birthplace of the folk music movement, leading then to the wider emergence of bluegrass, the singer-songwriters of the 60’s and the development of folk rock. Using archival film, photos and audio from the period, the film documents how a small basement coffeehouse with only 80 seats hosted the true discovery of Joan Baez (her first paid performance was at Club 47), Eric Von Schmidt, Tom Rush and others; as well as the emergence and development of shining stars like Bob Dylan. The film benefits from the existence and loyalty of many original Club 47 insiders, and features many interviews with those insiders as the grey beards they are today. With 50 years of perspective, their observations are both poignant and pointed.
WRIF should be given huge kudos for supporting this film and for offering it in the festival. And for us old folkies – and I am one of those– this movie is a journey back into our hearts and souls. Even if you did not play a coffee house at some point in your life, you need to see this film. It is the music of your life – whatever life you live and whatever age you are.
OK, more new releases this week. And go see ‘Tim’s Vermeer’ at the Hop on Friday night: you’ll love it!