Back to School: High Art, SLaP, and more
A roundup of what I've written and watched recently…
In case you missed it, I wrote a few things:
Vulture invited me to revisit Dawson's Creek for their rad recurring feature, Nostalgia Fact-Check. (Warning: Contains crying-Dawson GIF.) It's actually not horrible, in retrospect, although it's more boring than I remembered and Kerr Smith's man-smooch dread is even more palpable the second time around. Tobey is still a fox, though.
2) Revolting Snacks you may have missed include the Lady Linda Crème Finger (I probably violated like four laws just typing that…so gross), the Twin Bing (two words: "poo boobs"), and the World's Largest Gummi Worm™, a.k.a. "Three-Pound Gummi Dildo." …Upon reflection, perhaps "missed" isn't the right term, but in any case, "enjoy." Or inject an entire salad into your eyeball. Your call.
In between various assignments, I also watched a few things:
High Art. I liked it; the casting is flawless (Patricia Clarkson is so sad and frustrating as Greta), and it really captures that junkie claustrophobia — and at the same time its twisted appeal to a twentysomething like Syd, whose own internal claustrophobia makes the fuggy loft upstairs seem like a wide-open, wonderful country. But the movie doesn't do much other than atmosphere; the ending is abrupt and feels a bit like Cholodenko didn't trust her story. Syd is recognizable and real, which is a nice marriage of writing and performance, but she's also recognizably annoying — we all had that annus weirdabilis in our twenties, but a little of it goes a long way on film.
Prime Suspect 3 and 4. I'd seen the first PS and the last, but this is my first time through the ones in the middle. The plots can present PSA-ishly, and the fashion is truly painful at times. I know it's a series about the police in London, but does it seem to anyone else like every other suit in the '90s looked cheap and rained-on as well? And could British TV detectives please please buy a tin of Carmex? Between Tennison and Lynley, I'm about to take up a collection. Visual nitpicks aside, it's good storytelling even when the twist is telegraphed, and Helen Mirren is just great, because Tennison is an ass. Not "sometimes"; usually. Insecure, territorial, insensitive, a user, needy, imperious — and eminently sympathetic. Her behavior is painful to watch, because Mirren gives you all the reasons for it; the scene at the end of PS 4's first segment when she comes home and just sits and stares is perfectly done.
I haven't decided if I want to try to watch the American version, because the original worked in its time, but I don't know if we need another iteration of that character in 2011 — and regardless, I don't know if Maria Bello can pull it off. I find Bello enormously likeable but at the same time not a very good actress, although when she's cast correctly, she's just the thing; I don't think she's the thing here, and that thing is already everywhere you look anyway. Sedgwick on The Closer, Giddish in whatever U.S. Marshals show last year that only I watched (and only for three episodes), Mary McCormack, Holly Hunter…the plight of the tiny white beauty with the flawless blowout in law enforcement, again? Really? Nothing against those shows or those actresses, but put a real-looking lady in it. Get a middle-aged woman who will cut a bitch: Christine Baranski, Cecelia Roth, someone like that. Or! Dropping Melissa McCarthy's Bridesmaids character in it wholesale — but not making it a comedy? That I would watch. I don't need yet another 42-minute clinic on hot rollers in a police procedural, is my point. Toughen her up. It's the whole reason the original is awesome. (…Melissa Leo? Is she too fancy for that kind of thing now?)
The Son. The camerawork verges on the precious at first — some reviewer grumped that he could pick out the back of Olivier Gourmet's neck in a crowd of a thousand people, and: seriously — but at around the half-hour mark, everything begins to click into place, and what might have felt pretentious or like an exercise up to that point will contribute to an unrelenting tension from then on. Gourmet plays a carpentry teacher with a perhaps-unseemly interest in a new student at the vocational center where he works, and I shouldn't say any more about the plot — but once you see what's going on, you also realize you don't see, at all, and you can't wait to see, and you're afraid to see. The script uses the metaphors of wood and precision and building things deftly and doesn't push them too hard; the acting is great; it's subtitled, but there isn't much dialogue, really. Give it a chance to work on you, because you will sit there thinking it can't, and then, it does. Great storytelling whose apparent simplicity is deceptive. Try it.
One last thing: if you like The Vine, but think it needs either more pop music or more Mark Blankenship, it's your lucky day! Send your questions in matters of the heart, career, or whatever else ails or confuses you to soundslikeaplan1 at gmail dot com; I'll tell you what to do, and Blanko will recommend something to sing while you do it.
Tags: Cecelia Roth Chapstick Christine Baranski Dawson's Creek famous boyfriends friends Helen Mirren Holly Hunter Kelli Giddish Kerr Smith Kyra Sedgwick Lisa Cholodenko Maria Bello Mark Blankenship Mary McCormack Melissa Leo Melissa McCarthy Olivier Gourmet Patricia Clarkson Revolting Snacks of America: A Field Guide sites the Dardennes the food/poo Venn diagram this scarf-based interior design brought to you by: the 90s Vulture writing