|Chum Change: “One Day” and “Fright Night”|
|Movies - Reviews|
|Written by Mike Schulz|
|Saturday, 20 August 2011 12:35|
When Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess) first meet in director Lone Scherfig’s One Day, it’s the morning after their 1988 university graduation, and a few minutes before the happily drunken pair tumbles into Emma’s bed. They don’t wind up consummating their flirtation, but the young Brits – and best-friends-to-be – seem perfectly content to smile and snuggle while the sun rises, and Emma makes the observation that the new day, July 15, is the English near-holiday of St. Swithin’s Day. Or, as Scherfig’s comedy/drama/romance might cause me to think of it from now on, St. “Well, Isn’t That an Astounding Coincidence?” Day.
Like the David Nicholls novel it’s based on, and with Nicholls himself serving as screenwriter, One Day begins Emma’s and Dexter’s stories with events of that July 15, and then lands on all of the July 15s to come through 2011. (At least I think it does; I didn’t see the date-establishing numerals for a couple of years in the Aughts but assumed they were merely oversights on my part.) As a means of exploring a Love for the Ages – noting the leads’ changes in temperament, careers, relationship status, and affections for one another by focusing on one day out of 365 – this concept is certainly workable, and I was glad for Nicholls’ decision to have several of the July 15s, as days are wont to do, pass by in a flash. (One particular year of experiences is summed up merely with a shot of Emma diving into a pool.) Yet dramatic convention dictates that something momentous has to happen on at least a few of these dates, and eventually, the contrivance behind Nicholls’ diagrammatic structure wore me down. In One Day, one major romantic gesture, one breakdown on live television, one breakthrough with a parent, one bloody beating, one death, and, if I understood a particular throwaway moment correctly, no fewer than two weddings all take place on one of Emma’s and Dexter’s ides of July. Nicholls writes passages of lovely dialogue, and his conceit is clever and all, but isn’t this a bit much?
And I’m sorry to say that while the schematic presentation kept me from ever being truly moved, the stars didn’t do much to assist in that department, charming and eminently watchable though they always are. Hathaway is a radiant, witty presence, but the actress has little to play here beyond saintliness – over the course of the movie, Emma doesn’t say or do one remotely off-putting thing – and her shaky British accent, like that of screen mom Patricia Clarkson’s, seems to put quotation marks around most of her lines. (It was probably too soon after An Education for Carey Mulligan to be a casting consideration for Scherfig, but I couldn’t help thinking what that film’s Oscar-nominated star might’ve done with the lead role.) As for Sturgess, he works awfully hard at selling Dexter’s playboy-with-a-secret-heart-of-gold routine, and he’s a terrifically likable actor. Yet for most of the film, his charm feels inseparable from vanity, and not in a way that feels linked to character; throughout the first half, especially, Sturgess seems a bit too turned on by his own adorableness, like Matthew McConaughey in his grim rom-com efforts. (When Sturgess grins at Hathaway, it reads less as “You’re cute!” than “Aren’t I cute?”) Despite One Day’s eternal-love hook, its great-looking leads barely mesh.
The movie is actually at its best in its occasional moments of fringe comedy, as when Emma makes a too-solemn vow to hunt down Dexter’s stolen underwear, or Dexter voices a collection of miniature stuffed animals, each of them, in turn, announcing, “I am Spartacus!” And wonderful supporting performers keep popping up to give the film an amusing or touching lift: Ken Stott as Dexter’s dyspeptic father, Jodie Whittaker as an ultra-loud party grrrl, Romola Garai as the woman who disapproves of laughter because of what it does to her face. Yet in the end, the only character I really felt for in Scherfig’s latest was Rafe Spall’s wannabe comedian Ian, a dweebish sort who becomes an unlikely match for Emma, and sticks around far longer than you – and certainly Emma – would have anticipated. Less grateful than positively floored by his good fortune and cheerful even in despair, he’s the only figure in One Day who doesn’t appear to be acting on autopilot, and while I was pleased that the endearing Spall was involved in so many of Emma’s and Dexter’s July 15s, I left the movie kind of wishing that the July 15s we’d been following for so many years were his.
Director Craig Gillespie’s remake of the suburban-vampire-next-door movie Fright Night isn’t bad, I suppose. There’s a fair degree of wit in the dialogue and in the choice to update the setting to Las Vegas – where staying up all night and sleeping all day is hardly restricted to bloodsuckers – and there’s a lot of wit in the performances of Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Toni Collette, Imogen Poots, and the utterly invaluable David Tennant and Christopher Mintz-Plasse. (I was also delighted to see the original film’s Chris Sarandon make a cameo, getting exactly what was coming to him back in 1985.) Beyond, however, the actors and their frequently amusing contributions, with Tennant doing a Russell Brand and Mintz-Plasse reenacting the broken-body slapstick of Death Becomes Her, there’s precious little surprise on hand. One dully conventional scare-flick sequence segues into the next with professional acuity and almost nothing in the way of actual inspiration, and while Gillespie’s outing is passable enough, there doesn’t seem to be any reason (beyond the acquisition of late-summer box-office dollars) for this particular remake to exist. It’s like a well-made version of every blandly trashy horror movie that you skip at the cineplex and figure you’ll sit through, maybe, on late-night cable when there’s nothing else on. If, however, you’re insistent about catching the film in its theatrical run, do yourself a favor and avoid, like the freakin’ plague, the movie’s 3D presentation. With all of their dark exteriors and interiors, vampire movies (even vampire movies set in Vegas) probably aren’t the smartest genre picks for the hue-dimming experience of 3D. Numerous scenes in Fright Night, through, appear so under-lit – with characters’ expressions, locales, and even specific props impossible to see through the eyewear – that I chose to watch several of them with my 3D glasses off, because despite the blurriness, at least I could make out basic shapes. Walking into a room that son Yelchin has turned into a crucifix-laden, vampire-free zone, Collette says, “It’s like that TV show Dark Shadows in here.” More like that movie The Black Hole, actually.
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