adaptation
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Possession

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A preamble about the source material of the film: This is such a fantastic book, I have been eagerly awaiting this film. Of my three companions, only one knew how much I had been sucked into the novel, and none of them had read it. There are changes, big changes, of course, any dense novel needs to have some concepts simplified, smoothed; some of these I can defend artistically in adaptation, and some of them bumped this movie from Full Price to Matinee & Snacks. However, the casting is perfect, and while they lose some of the tone of the novel (by necessity) they remain true to the spirit of the story. My companions who had not read it immediately wanted to borrow or buy a copy and read it, and they all enjoyed it very much, despite my petty complaints of the “wrong” changes. But I was crying at the end like anyone.

Neil LaBute (famed for his harsh dramas In The Company of Men and Your Friends And Neighbors) sweetly directs this self-proclaimed Romance. Screenwriter David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly) takes broad artistic liberties with the story, sometimes past the reasonable expectations of adaptation, but keeps the themes intact. The story is an interweaving of current-day literary scholars (Aaron Eckhart and Gwyneth Paltrow) who each have devoted their lives of study to two Victorian poets, respectively the fictional Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel LaMotte. One thing leads to another, in 2000 and 1859, and the scholars are investigating a relationship no one knew existed while we watch the relationship unfold.

Both the Victorian and Millenial pairs of hearts are opened by intellectual curiosity and finding connection in the mind, but we must not forget, the story is about poetry. Thankfully, it’s not a chilly, Saganesque deconstruction of intimacy through mutual mental felicity, but a warm embrace of connection and, well, possession. It’s a lovely idea but the film, by necessity, must skim over most of the joy of Maud and Roland’s discoveries. Although many of the clues that drive our star-crossed scholars are derived from their overly intimate knowledge of their respective subjects’ poetry, the film judiciously only uses what poetry is necessary to provide the clues and the tone of the works. Unlike the non-germane endless songs and elvish chants in Lord of the Rings, the poems of Possession inform the characters and pull readers through the mystery.

It is our fortune to know the chameleonic actor Aaron Eckhart from all of Neil LaBute’s films, and Erin Brockovich. As Roland, he has so many layers, and so completely inhabits his character we cannot imagine anyone else playing the part when it is done, even if we never noticed him before. Gwyneth Paltrow is beyond perfect as Maud, though this adaptation robs her of the time to show Maud Bailey’s complete transformation. Equally lovely are the rumpled Jeremy Northam and the self-contained Jennifer Ehle (she was Elizabeth in the A&E/BBC Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth).

The film is about intimacy, but it’s about the sorts of intimacy you normally don’t see in film: intellectual, philosophical, poetical, emotional, even marital intimacy. It’s also about secrets and knowing and wanting to Know, the reckless pursuit of Knowledge of all kinds as well: academic, sexual, romantic, a mystery of the past, a mystery of one’s own life failures, and knowledge of another person’s inner workings. I was fascinated, reading this book, by these modern people subjugating all else in their life to know every minutia of a long-dead person’s life, when we can never really truly perceive a life across the dusty shelves of history. Under such subjugation, they know nothing else but their elusive targets. I am delighted still by the layers only hinted at in the film. To possess the subject of your study, to be possessed by the demons of love or curiosity, to possess a secret or to possess an artifact, even its meaning as heritage comes into play in this film.

The novel speaks: “There are things that happen and leave no discernible trace, are not spoken or written of…” but the knowledge of them is all the record that remains. It’s lovely, go see it.

MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 8/16/02
Time in minutes 103
Director Neil Labute
Studio USA/WB/Focus

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Road to Perdition

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I honestly have delayed writing this review for so long because I was terrified I would not do the film justice. Armed with my friend’s superior analysis which I will blatantly steal so you who missed this film will decide to see it, please let me assure you that it is a truly spectacular piece of filmmaking, fine craftsmanship, etc. It is a Tiffany diamond among JC Penny fine jewelry.

Based on the graphic novel of the same name, mobster Michael Sullivan must rescue his child from Sullivan’s secret gangster life, protecting himself and his real family from those he used to call family. Human grace and brutality exist side by side. Yet although the film is rated R for violence and language, it is not a slapdash gratuitous gore movie like the Untouchables. The most violent acts in the film take place in contrast to serenity and beauty to amazing effect.

As director Sam Mendes proved with his American Beauty, the emotional landscape of unhappy men can be explored with tenderness. Cinematographer Conrad Hall (also Beauty) makes this movie *look* like a graphic novel. Not a comic book, but one of the serious graphic novels (like The Watchman) so overlooked these days. My friend likened every frame to an Edward Hopper painting; I thought Vettriano, but you see, the feel is of a rich painting. Even with motion, the colors and textures are so glorious they feel still and solid. We both went into orgasmic tizzies about the amazing lighting. It’s so narrow and carefully placed and gives such depth and contrast!

My friend was also astute enough (I wasn’t) to notice how many shots are through chinks and reflected in mirrors and in glass and so on…not so much that it felt like a gimmick, but enough to add depth to every shot. I had noted a Deakinsian quality to the film (Roger Deakins being my all time favorite cinematographer), it was so sublime to look at. Composer Thomas Newman (who wrote the music to Deakin-lensed Shawshank Redemption) recycles that film’s sound but it is so effective I can’t even be upset about it. I don’t know much about editing but I have read enough to know that this movie will be studied in the future for precise characterization and flow. It never seems slow.

I love the feel of everything. My friend gave me the scoop that they had actually had fabrics woven to make the textures and colors be as saturated as they wanted. Production designer Dennis Gassner’s name sounded familiar. I looked Mr. Gassner up on the old imdb.com and now he is my favorite production designer. Most of the films he’s done that I have seen have unbelievable production design. Wow.

I haven’t even gotten to the story or to our hero, Tom Hanks. In his AFI Lifetime Achievement tribute, it was clear that Hanks always has an element of humanity in him that we all connect with and instinctively love. Here’s Tom, a strong-arm for the mob, a gun-toting thug who commands fear and respect, who loves his kids but doesn’t make a big show about it. How can any actor make that role human. Hanks can and does. It’s surreal, but it works beautifully. It would be too hard to believe any level of that character’s internal battles if he was slick and cool and unknowable.

His son, Michael, played by Tyler Hoechlin, has not done many films yet but I hope he does. Walking the line drawn by Hanks, he was excellent, scared and brave, tempted by the glamour of the guns and terrified of the deeper consequences. Then there is Jude Law. Why cast someone so preternaturally beautiful as him just to make him ugly? The war of the ugly makeup with his own real face made his character somehow creepier and more unpredictable than if say, Clint Howard had been cast. Unpleasantly, Maguire’s portfolio of work is true-life death shots. Ick.

Without giving too much away, Hanks’ road to Perdition takes him through the basement of a church, filled with derelict sacred objects-cum-junk. The delicious symbolism of the scene and the actual content of the scene with Paul Newman-oh so tasty!

I quote my friend’s brilliance: Does watching excessive violence create the desire to do it? Or can it be used to horrify, to make one turn from it? Both, evidently. The end is a beautiful yet shocking dialogue on this whole concept. Go see it now, it’s what we always hope for in a film.

MPAA Rating R for violence and language.
Release date 7/12/02
Time in minutes 108
Director Frank Darabont
Studio Dreamworks/Fox

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Emperor's New Clothes (2002)

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An interesting fictional conceit of an alternate ending to Napoleon’s life, The Emperor’s New Clothes takes this delightful notion and really works it as if it is truth. Part of its weight and verity comes from Ian Holm’s Oscar bait performance as both Bonaparte and his commoner doppleganger. As the real Eugene Lenormand (“The Frenchman” ha ha), Holm is awkward, wiggling his toes in his role impersonating the Emperor, and full of righteous fire to get a little of his own back. As the real Napoleon-cum-Eugene, Holm is ruthlessly efficient, and surprised at finding warmth among the common folk he once trod above; and a personal look at the real aftermath of his glorious campaigns.

Channeling Robin Wright Penn, Iben Hjejle plays Pumpkin, a widowed greengrocer, opens up her home to “Eugene” and his new, different exile. No more the plush trappings of the accursed rock of St. Helena, but also no more the respect and recognition of who he is. A delightful supporting cast including the darling Hugh Bonneville and Sgt. Darling himself, Tim McInnerny fills in the cracks so Ian isn’t just strutting about, hand thrust in his jacket. There is never enough of Bonneville or McInnerny in any film they are in (last seen together in Notting Hill, but Bonneville was also the Oscar-snubbed cast member in Iris), but they do not “steal the show.” McInnerny’s role allows him to explore darker human aspects he was only allowed to mock while on Blackadder.

Without a good understanding of Napoleon’s final exile and the feelings of the Imperialists and the Royalists of the time, some of the motivations of the side characters are confusing; but it is made abundantly clear that the line of treason at this time can be easily drawn around you without your knowledge. But the movie isn’t about history, since it purports to be rewriting it; it is about a man’s identity as a man, and as he is seen by others. And it’s a great excuse to have Ian Holm play dual roles and have a great time. What is remarkable is how different his two characters manage to look from each other; not just in stance but even in the weight of the world’s pull on their faces and shoulders. Fine work.

The film is based on Simon Ley’s novel, “The Death of Napoleon,” so you can imagine that the plot thickens well after the secret switch of men is done. The official date of death is May 5, 1821, but the story covers several years on both sides of that boundary. Unlike a vaguely similarly-themed film, Dave, New Clothes is not concerned with what the unwitting usurper does, but who he becomes.

There are comedic moments, and poignant moments, but I am not sure how to characterize the film. It is more of an interesting character study with a nice story framework, that makes you think, but not think too much. Either way, it is definitely worthy of viewing and hopefully Holm will be remembered by the Academy this year.

MPAA Rating PG
Release date 6/14/02
Time in minutes 107
Director Alan Taylor
Studio Paramount Classics

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Sum of All Fears

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I saw this a couple of months before it opened at a test screener, and not since; yet ironically, am writing this review now. All shame aside, when I saw it that day, not being a Tom Clancy fan or Jack Ryan fan, I did quite enjoy it. Ben Affleck, the upstart heir to the Jack Ryan throne, is playing a young, pre-career Ryan, but set in the present day. I describe this anachronism by comparing the character of Ryan to James Bond. Pierce Brosnan’s 2002 Bond is clearly no older than 40 years old, but of course Bond girls have been wiggling enticingly since the 1960’s when Brosnan was in short pants. Jack Ryan is the American James Bond; unlimited power outside the traditional power structure, extra special resources, and political adventurer. Ryan in later incarnations is happily married, blah blah. Anyway, it justifies Affleck’s shorter teeth than Harrison Ford’s and it also gives a new, amusing perspective on the insanely different life Ryan leads. He’s still kind of a tool, but it works for him to be that naïve and clumsy in this phase of Ryan’s career. Affleck’s innate cockiness offsets this quality and makes it work.

That said, I saw the film because it was a screener but also because Morgan Freeman is in it. Morgan Freeman plays his specialty: world weary, wise, and lovable, but as a foil to Affleck it plays as a strong counter measure. I have not really appreciated Affleck of late and I must say that he did a great job making me feel guilty for making fun of him. Is it Freeman’s staid and wise influence, or is it just the right role came along? I don’t care. I had not read the book so I had no idea what was going to happen, and as a jaded moviegoer did not believe that disaster could strike in the manner it actually did. I was thrilled that the filmmakers could surprise me, and thrilled that after that payoff the movie retained my interest. I won’t give it away for the cave-dwellers who missed the awful spoiler preview.

Anyway there is a scene well into the film where, in my supposedly unfinished sound and music print, it was washed out, quiet, and there was little to no music; I found this incredibly effective in building tension and it influenced a lot of my good opinion of the film. I liked being worked up by the insane cold-war-style escalation, I liked being unsure what would happen next, and I liked watching young Ryan figuring it all out. I really enjoyed it. My companion of that screener went back after the film actually opened and liked it just as well, but couldn’t remember if the music and sound were different. Either way, it’s entertainment that speaks to us post-9/11 and hopefully points a finger at the senselessness of mis- or non-communication in the global arena.

Technically speaking, I loved all the establishing shots, shown not a camera perched on a sidewalk outside a grand building, but humbling and vaguely unsettling satellite photos from space, blurring boundaries and also depersonalizing the target – and making us remember we are always being watched. The editing was great too, though I cannot remember why now. (In the darkness I wrote: “nice editing”) But it was. Great story, frustrating in its eerie inevitability – today it seems such a thing could happen any second, 1984 all over again but without Matthew Broderick hacking into DEFCON to save us.

Check it out.

MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 5/31/02
Time in minutes 124
Director Phil Alden Robinson
Studio Paramount

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The Importance of Being Earnest

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Last filmed in 1952, Oscar Wilde’s play was deserving of an update. Pity no one managed to see it. Horrifyingly, I have been stymied as to how to review it for months. Literally! It’s a frothy delight, true to the spirit of the original, but flavored with the permissiveness of the present. Perhaps the filmmakers took too many liberties with the behavior of the time, but I suspect they just wanted to keep their MTV audience interested. I mean, it’s rated PG for “mild sexuality.”

Apparently screenwriter/director Oliver Parker (An Ideal Husband, another film adaptation of Oscar Wilde, as well as the Laurence Fishburne Othello) doesn’t think the classics are good enough – but at least he is true to their spirit. He loves Rupert Everett as a straight man and so do all the ladies out in the audience, so go Ollie go! I have not read any interviews with Mr. Parker, but it is clear that he really loves the works that he brings to the screens, though he tries to push the boundaries of the script towards the modern sometimes. In this case, it was the bizarre comedy of errors coupled with a casual sense of sexuality, something Lady Bracknell would never indulge in her wicked nephews.

If you don’t know the general premise, our two bored and aristocratic friends find amusement in pretending to be a different person in Town than in the country, and in the guise of their respective alter-ego “Earnest,” have seriously engaged the affections of two young ladies. The problem is, the ladies love them for being named Earnest, and some cross-acquaintanceship (and the fact that they both pretend to be Earnest) creates some seriously high-end farce. In the end, of course, being earnest is more important than being Earnest, but both together make for some wickedly scintillating comedy.

And excuse me? Could it be better cast? NO! So if you have never seen the play live, you must endeavor to see this cast. Rupert Everett is Hollywood’s shining example of why we don’t actually care if our leading man actors are gay, as long as they are as dashing and charming as Rupert. He’s got the Wilde fever for certain, and he’s a delicious foil to Colin Firth, a geek’s hunk, comfortably haughty and uptight (as we love him in his dual Darcy roles) as the other “Earnest.” Basically. if you love the play, you will love this movie. I’m not going to give you any more teaser information if you have not. All farce is a greater joy when it is a surprise.

Anachronistic as it is to say so, Judi Dench ROCKS as the redoubtable Lady Bracknell – with her natural gravity and fearsomely twinkly eyes, it’s no wonder most community theatres have to resort to a man in drag for this role. Frances O’Connor (Mansfield Park, A.I.) and Reese Witherspoon make up the rest of the main ensemble, though all the supporting characters are equally lovely. Reese is the lone Yank in the sea of stiff upper lippers, holding her own like a native. They’ve all been playing these sorts of roles since they were in leading strings, and she eases into it like, well like Gwyneth Paltrow. A supreme compliment, by the way. One wishes this cast could go and remake other works, like Dangerous Liaisons (in the period, not Cruel Intentions) so they could continue to play together. Oliver Parker Repertory Theatre! Oh yes!

MPAA Rating PG
Release date 5/22/02
Time in minutes 100
Director Oliver Parker
Studio Miramax

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Spider-Man

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As with many comic-book hero film adaptations, I was apprehensive about this latest attempt. Not only was it Spider-Man, whose story still reeks with the scent of 1960’s nuclear misinformation and silliness, but also it starred Tobey Maguire! Tobey Maguire for Pete’s sake. Skinny, sloe-eyed, whiny of voice, and not exactly someone you imagine being able to put down the self-torture kit long enough to go save someone. I was pleased to discover that he actually did a good job, and his weird wimp act really worked for him as Peter Parker. Once he’s buffed out and has put the mask on, it doesn’t really matter who is playing Spider-Man, because the computer is doing it.

Sure, lots of the action shots were so hyper as to feel rushed and odd; and his Spider-bod was too rubbery and flexible as it flipped through the air. Overall the computer effects were very very good, especially in marrying live action with CGI; the previews that started airing a year before were clearly 100% CGI and 0% actor, even the explosively obvious nipples of Kirsten Dunst. Understanding why they famously withdrew the preview shot of the World Trade Centers (with a helicopter caught in a huge web between them, twitching like an insect), I still hope it gets included on the DVD for posterity. It was one of the only reasons I ended up seeing the film. It was creative and impressive and actually a lot of the sequences honestly lived up to that level.

Thankfully, director Sam Raimi knows a little bit about exposing the cool in something that is irrevocably cheesy. Take, for example, Spider-man’s costume debut, hilariously parodied for the MTV Movie Awards by Jack Black (that whole segment was excellent). I won’t say what it was, though I am sure you have seen the film by now, but Bruce Campbell makes his requisite cameo as a dubious and abusive MC. Because we know the Spider-Duds are a little corny and not all that arachnidesque, we can laugh with the audience laughing at Parker jumping about in a proto-super-hero uniform.

However, I do not think we were meant to laugh at the Green Goblin as much as we ended up doing. The Goblin is played with full on histrionics by Willem “Jesus Christ” Dafoe, and he does an admirable job making the Goblin’s whole…thing seem very deep and meaningful. The mask designer, well, we need to talk. There is one scene, a dialogue between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin; they both have their masks on and guess what – all the head bobbing in the world won’t replace being able to see an actor’s eyes. It was actually so comical it was kind of embarrassing, especially when Goblin strikes an “Alas poor Yorick” pose. It was like watching a Thunderbirds episode with no strings. Cuh-reepy!

A few of the scientific details were changed about Spidey’s abilities, which I appreciated from a reduction-of-corn value, even though purists were disgusted at Parker’s downgraded science achievements. Hey, the lad drinks Dr Pepper, what more do you want? In fact, every brand name Spidey touches is right out there for you to emulate. Come on kids, don’t you want nasty little hairs growing out of your fingertips?

Oh yeah, Kirsten “Bring It On” Dunst. She sure is pretty, but after crazy/beautiful and this she had better do some more great character roles because she is going to lose all that great acting ground she got on Interview With a Vampire, ER, and of course, the greatest cheerleader movie of all time. The sequel is already slated for 2004…

MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 5/3/02
Time in minutes 121
Director Sam Raimi
Studio Columbia Tristar

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Big Trouble (2002)

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Celebrities I have known: Check out famous actor Philip Nolen in the first few minutes and Michael McShane in the next few minutes of this broad ensemble comedy written from Dave Barry’s 1st novel of the same name. Go guys!

I was led to understand, after seeing this film, that some people did not like it as much as I did. I can totally understand this, because I am certain no one read Dave Barry’s novel (yes, novel, not expanded column) on which this film is based. Had you read the very enjoyable book, you would have enjoyed the near-perfect casting and the sort of “greatest hits” reel that is this film. However, like David Lynch’s Dune, without having the source material ready to hand, the film is a bit of a rushed, piecemeal mess.

Basically, a bunch of people with no ties to each other become witlessly and hopelessly intertwined in a rather serious adventure plot that also contains a vast amount of comedic elements. The film translated this into rapid-fire set pieces with a stellar cast who could, admittedly, wring the most possible laughs out of the least possible plot and character development, but who were not given enough to make it fly. My recommendation is to read the book and then, that same night, when you have put it down, rent the movie. It’s like watching the trailer on the DVD after watching the movie.

I say stellar cast, although I am always dubious of Renee Russo in a comedy (but this is Barry Sonnenfeld of Get Shorty fame, he’s no genius there). Had this role been played by Jeanne Tripplehorn (although she is too young) or Susan Sarandon I think it would have been smoother. Tim Allen – well, I hate Home Improvement almost on a religious level, but he was great in the Toy Story films and Galaxy Quest so it must be the material that works for him. Stanley Tucci, Janeane Garafalo, Dennis Farina, and Patrick Warburton round out the major players of the ensemble, with many more in the wings, including Jackass Johnny Knoxville.

The unfortunate thing about this movie is that the novel is so fast paced and jam packed with gags and great storyline crisscrosses, the moviemakers apparently felt they had to match the pace, but in the already frenetic medium of film, with the result that it feels rushed and more contrived than the already extremely high statistical incidence of coincidence in the novel. A couple of notes to future screenplay adapters of novels like this: every gag does not always translate into film, so keep the ones that do or the ones that propel the story only. McShane was used well as a recurring character (who does not exist) pumping energy into otherwise throwaway business. And yes, he does sweat that much.

It’s fun, but the book is better. Go see it for Nolen and McShane!

MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 4/5/02
Time in minutes 93
Director Barry Sonnenfeld
Studio Touchstone

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Iris

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Watching Iris is like flipping through a painstakingly maintained scrapbook, lovingly assembled by someone with deep emotional ties to the subject. James Horner’s beautiful, delicate music (punctuated by dreamboat violinist Joshua Bell) provides the same reverent mood that the smoky, colored light in the rafters of a stained glass building creates. In fact, with no knowledge or investment in the lives of Iris and John, I was already teary eyed just two minutes into the film thanks to Horner.

I had never heard of Iris Murdoch prior to my awareness of this film, but I am glad to have had such a gentle and loving introduction. Iris is a movie, a true story, about romance and love and the mysteries of connection as much as it is about the heartbreak of Alzheimers. Based on her husband John Bayley’s book, An Elegy for Iris, it is an acting setpiece for not only the redoubtable women playing Iris but also for the men playing John. And it is an absolute crime that Hugh Bonneville was the only one of the lead foursome not nominated for an Oscar; they were all deserving of accolade. You might recognize Hugh from Notting Hill. You should recognize older John, Jim Broadbent (who, since I saw the film, won his Oscar) from Moulin Rouge and Bridget Jones’ Diary. Hugh and Jim were percolated in a time machine to play each other; and their hearts are on their sleeve, while never being overpowered by the figure being memorialized in the film. They are lovely and weak, strong and loving, but never cartoons.

Kate Winslet and Dame Judi Dench share the role of Iris. Quel surprise that Dench can hit this role our of the park – her gravity in Iris’ lucid moments is stunning but her floating mindlessness is equally felt. Her capacity to embody a person so wholly is constantly astounding. They both radiate the same fire and beauty, the casting for this film could not be better. Delightful. Winslet is always her best when she gets to be smart and strong, and even though the older and younger generation do not share the screen at any time, they draw strength and beauty from each others’ performances, or that’s how it looks.

I say the film is romantic, but it is romantic not like a romance of finding each other, but a romance of knowing each other. The longer journey of being together, being in love together, and living through such a change as Iris experiences, makes for a beautiful tale. It is a tale of caring for and being with someone and the slow pain of watching her break down – her impossibly elevated status of unpossessable goddess slowly slips her down from being his mistress to his child.

Director Richard Eyre should be proud of his cast but they seem to operate on a plane beyond direction. It is an actorly movie, all character study and little “plot” per se, but the overall story told through these flashes of past and present draw a more delicate picture of romance, of love, and of the tenuousness of connection, than any standard narrative could succeed in doing. Run out and buy the soundtrack too, while you’re at it.

MPAA Rating R for language and sexuality
Release date 2/15/02
Time in minutes 91
Director Richard Eyre
Studio Miramax

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The Shipping News

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Matinee and Snacks if you love the book

The reviewer tried to read the book. Thin, 337 pages, a trifle. On more than one occasion labored over the prose. Curt, choppy poetry that defies engagement of interest when lacking dialogue. Cursing as she struggled to plough onward, salty sweat on her lip, forcing her way to page 90. Final stop – the film has arrived. Names all symbolic, irritating obviousness. Lack of verbs. Film needs no verbs. Actors need only dialogue. Kevin Spacey is wonderful. Reviewer saw it with a fan of the book. Fan swooned. Waxed poetic of the beauty of the film. Trust her judgement if you love Proulx. Main character is a writer whom could not be written about.

The audience with free passes shivering in the air conditioning. Spacey lumbers onto screen, the exact opposite of Keyser Soze. Puffy body, dejected shoulders. Physical weight of his unhappiness palpable. Clothes wrapped around bent shoulders. “He’s too thin to play Quoyle, don’t you think?”

“But look at him – even though I know he is physically too fit, too confident, too present, I am watching him disappear under other people’s needs!”

“Shhh! Judi Dench is speaking.”

Dench curls her eyes around her venomous past. She is a prima ballerina in such climate. Quoyle a ballast in his own life. Boats, boats, and more boats litter the scenery, meaning much but saying little. Landscape eats the characters and digests them into useful grist for the film. Quoyle’s body shapeshifted as each scene went by, growing muscle and bone and vital spine. Spacey does it again. Triplets play one girl who should be sisters. The singing of the house is audible and not due to sound engineers. Cate Blanchett, so little seen, so very crazy. Why does he love her? We know. We have all loved her in some form in our lives. We forgive, pity, wait.

Julianne Moore, sensuous Newfie with a secret. We feel Quoyle’s captivation and his curiosity. Spacey makes us feel his desperate yearning. Wombs cry out from the theatre, “I’ll have you!” Moore smiles wisely. If Spacey is gay as rumored, he is the best actor in the world.

Review lunges clumsily at meaning. Did she or didn’t she like it? Hate the book, cannot finish it. No need; Kevin Spacey renders reading obsolete by showing so much with his body. Audience a rapt filing cabinet of varying degrees of age, comprehension. Students will skip book, see movie, reveal ignorance. Changes are minor but significant. Mood is thick. Tone perfected by loving glass and celluloid making a light soup of portent.

If this review writing style annoys you, see the movie, skip the book, and marvel at the wonder that is Kevin Spacey. He inhabits his body so completely that he physically changes before your eyes, like an elapsed time video of a flower opening in the sun. For him and Judi together in a room is like sipping reality tea. Imagine the horrible alternate reality that once existed where John Travolta was tagged to play this part. Go out and support Kevin Spacey.

MPAA Rating R-language, sexuality, disturbing images

Release date 12/25/01

Time in minutes 111

Director Lasse Hallstrøm

Studio Miramax

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Jurassic Park III

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If they remade “It’s A Wonderful Life,” they could make it about Steven Spielberg being shown what American cinema would be like if he had never lived, and Clarence would show him this movie. Director Joe Johnston is not entirely to blame. He has enormous shoes to fill, the shoes of a man who, as even as his detractors agree, has a gift for presentation. Johnston previously helmed Jumanji and Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, which are in their ways, very similar to JP3: lots of crashing, noisy, exciting sequences, with enough of a story to keep you interested but not necessarily to transport you to another world.

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