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Weekly Mishmash: May 2-8

Enchanted (2007). Disney’s self-mocking princess story was pretty much what I expected — entertaining and clever in spots, but too toothless to be truly effective satire. Amy Adams is perfectly cast as Giselle, a princess from a mythical animated kingdom who is banished by her jealous queen (Susan Sarandon) to the unforgivable streets of a live action New York City. Adams’ guileless performance, seemingly influenced by Snow White, is delightful and totally spot-on. I also enjoyed the meticulously crafted animated segments early on, but as the movie progressed the letdowns accumulated. For one, I thought there were too many characters. Having Giselle meet cute with McDreamy widower Patrick Dempsey was the first of many pat and predictable twists to come. By the arrival of a chaotic climax underscored with a friggin’ Carrie Underwood tune, I tuned out. Final verdict: too Disney, too Rom Com, too mainstream. The film would have been so much more effective had it stuck with a simple “princess in another world” theme.
poster_houseacrossThe House Across the Bay (1940). Turner Classic Movies recently did a night full of films starring the impenetrable George Raft, including this San Francisco-set drama co-starring Joan Bennett. Raft plays a gangster (of course) who falls for and marries nightclub singer Bennett. He is shipped to Alcatraz and Bennett plays the faithful wife until Walter Pidgeon enters the picture. Decent stuff, nothing spectacular. This was an independent production by Bennett’s then-husband Walter Wanger, a fact that becomes evident once the impeccably lit, made up and gowned Bennett walks into the camera frame (the lady even looks elegant while serenading a chihuahua!). The film unravels somewhat predictably until the always watchable Gladys George comes in as a peppery prison wife.
Tokyo Sonata (2008). Interesting at times, mostly preposterous Japanese family drama about a man who deals with his sudden unemployment by pretending he was never laid off. To keep up appearances with his unsuspecting family, he spends his days at a downtown Tokyo park amongst the homeless and other men in the same situation. This has some effective scenes (mostly involving the family’s youngest son and his fascination with a pretty piano teacher), but as it slowly moves along it becomes progressively more strange. I know the Japanese are well known for emotional restraint and preserving honor amongst blood relatives, but this movie takes that concept to such extremes I almost wonder if it’s supposed to be a parody.
The Unknown Woman (2006). Fun, over-the-top foreign suspenser about a Ukranian woman (Xenia Rappoport) who moves to Italy to escape her sordid past as a prostitute. She worms her way into the lives of an affluent family by becoming the nanny to a young girl with whom she has vague ties, a setup that starts working in her favor until her nasty-ass pimp shows up. This movie was so overproduced and unsubtle (in an entertaining way) that it’s hard to believe it comes from the same guy who directed Cinema Paradiso. It plays like a Euro-centric spin on all those Brian De Palma guilty pleasure thrillers from the ’80s, complete with overly dramatic acting, camerawork and score (from Ennio Morricone, of all people). Recommended if you like that sort of thing.

2 Thoughts on “Weekly Mishmash: May 2-8

  1. I watched “Enchanted” too! It was on TV recently so I watched it yesterday. I think I enjoyed it more than you did, once I let go of the expectation that it was going to seriously satirize the Disney Princess thing. It was more of an homage, and yeah, a pretty child-friendly version at that. I liked picking out all the references to Disney canon. Sure, it was predictable, but there were a few tweaks that made me smile. (Embarrassingly, the Snook can attest that I actually cheered when Giselle pulled out the sword and went to rescue the guy.) I also had fun reading about the film’s production afterwards, especially details about translating animated clothes into real-life costumes.

  2. … “the impenetrable George Raft.” Bingo. Turns of phrase like that are why I keep coming back.

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