MCN Columnists
Gary Dretzka

By Gary Dretzka

Performances by Ejiofor, Bello elevate Easter weekend hopefuls

April 13, 2006
The titles of most of this week’s new movie releases would look every bit as enticing on the marquee of a Pussycat Theater, as the signs informing passers-by of the fare at your local mega-plex. Consider: “Wild,” “Sisters,” “Kinky Boots,” “Hard Candy,” “The Notorious Betty Page,” “La Mujer de mi hermano (My Brother’s Wife)” and, through blurry eyes, “Kekexili” … “Kooky Lezis,” perhaps?
Throw in “Scary Movie 4,” and it’s exactly the kind of schedule Jack Valenti would have said demonstrates the need for the MPAA ratings board. Parents won’t have a clue as to which movies were made for general audiences, and those meant for adults.
And, sure enough: “Candy,” “Page,” “Sisters” and “Hermano” are rated “R.” as they probably should be; “Scary” and “Kinky” are PG-13; “Kekexili” goes out unrated (in Singapore, it’s PG); and “Wild,” an animated feature from Disney, is “G.” The possible sticking point with “Wild” arrives in the nickname, “Spaz,” which is attached to director Steve Williams.
You might recall that the PC police forced golfer Tiger Woods to apologize for applying the same word to his performance at last weekend’s Masters. Personally, I couldn’t care less. It might be advisable, however, for Disney drop the moniker on the DVD boxes.
Of the several movies opening Friday, I’ve only seen “Sisters” and “Kinky Boots.” I wanted to preview “Betty Page,” but no invitations for screenings arrived in my overstuffed mailbox. Judging from the early reviews posted on Metacritic, the biopic didn’t meet anyone’s expectations. Its primary flaw apparently was its avoidance of anything remotely controversial.
“Kinky Boots” belongs in the same category as such Brit working-class crowd-pleasers as “Billy Elliot,” “Brassed Off,” “The Full Monty,” “Calendar Girls” and “Blow Dry.” Julian Jarrold’s tale is based on the true story of a traditional men’s footwear factory, in Northamptonshire, which saved itself – and a couple dozen jobs — by producing platform-heel shoes and boots for transvestites.
Why transvestites and drag queens? Because women’s shoes and boots are designed to support the weight and gait of the typical woman, not men of greater weight and bulk.
Charlie (Joel Edgerton) is an ambitious young man who inherits the dying business from his father. Besides the factory, his dad left him a huge pile of bills. It isn’t until the lad runs into a sore-footed drag-diva, Lola (Chiwetel Ejiofor), that the light bulb goes off in his head. Ejiofor is a large man, and, as the featured attraction in a drag revue, Lola encourages Charlie to take a shot on the new line of footwear. For the idea to bear fruit, however, the boots must past the muster of fashionistas huddled at an Italian shoe expo. Throw in a bumpy romance and some homophobic shoemakers, and, well, you can guess the rest.
“Kinky Boots” is fun, if overly expository. At 107 minutes, it felt long. Foot fetishists aside, the film should appeal to fans of the above-cited against-all-odds melodramas. Ejiofor’s touching performance, too, is worth the price of admission.
“Sisters” is a horse of a completely different color. It, too, features several splendid performances — including Oscar-quality efforts by Maria Bello and Tony Goldwyn – but the dialogue overflows with bile, and there’s hardly a character who isn’t encumbered with one debilitating character flaw or another.
Richard Alfieri’s stageplay and script were inspired by Chekhov’s “Three Sisters.” This adaptation places the Russian siblings in the hoity-toity milieu of a private big-city college, while the place to which they’re longing to return is a posh post-bellum home in South Carolina.
What emerges is a world-class bitch-fest that more closely resembles
“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” on steroids than your local repertory company’s interpretation of “Three Sisters.” The critics hated it, but I kind of enjoyed watching a half-dozen cloistered academics — and an upwardly mobile blond bimbo — tear into each other in the king’s own English (certainly that of our reigning president). There wasn’t a missed syllable, or a “like, you know,” in the entire 113-minute length of the film. Anyone looking for new epithets and curses to throw at a spouse, in-law or sibling will find “Sisters” most instructive.
Director Arthur Allan Seidelman, whose background is almost entirely in television, has created an environment that’s too claustrophobic and stagebound to be even remotely credible. The actors have to work double-hard to break through fourth wall, and the effort shows.
Maria Bello, though, as the sister most embittered by her imprisonment within the family legacy, couldn’t be better. Her Marcia is alternately nasty, empathetic, vulnerable and tremendously sexy. Goldwyn plays her long-ago admirer, also married, who turns her inside-out with lust and longing. Anyone casting an updated version of “Virginia Woolf” need look no further for their George and Martha.
Among these titles, only “Scary Movie 4” is likely to make an impression at the box office, if only for old time’s sake. Mainstream audiences need not fear being left too far behind, however, as Hollywood’s summer officially begins next week. – G.D.

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.

Digital Nation

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon