MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on Movies: New In Town and The Uninvited

New in Town (One-and-a-Half Stars)
U.S.; Jonas Elmer

Welcome to New Ulm, Minnesota, where the tapioca is fine, the snow is omnipresent, the accents are out of Fargo, ice fishing is the town craze, the local most-eligible bachelor and labor union rep is played by Harry Connick Jr., and the local food plant is about to be downsized by a lot of mean big city Miami executives in expensive suits, who’ve sent sexy little Lucy Hill (Renee Zellweger) up to New Ulm to do their dirty work. Heh-heh. Those dumb-ass city slickers! Don’t they know widower Connick is waiting for her there, with an adorable little daughter, both all primed to convert Lucy to the joys of tapioca and ice fishing?

Don’t they know that Blanche Gunderson (Siobhan Fallon Hagon) — who must be related somehow to Marge Gunderson of Fargo, because they talk alike — is Lucy’s secretary sweetie pie (and maybe her Ethel Mertz) and also the master tapioca chef? Don’t they know Lucy, with her orange makeup, stiletto heels and repertoire of sneers and put-downs, will melt like one of those frosty snowmen and wind up battling the big bad Miami execs to save the little people and their jobs? (No Ann Coulter she. Lucy doesn’t fondle checkbooks.) Don’t they know that, as sure as shootin’, Blanche‘s tapioca will somehow save the day, doncha know?

They may not know, but I’ll bet you do. New in Town — which could have been New Girl in Town if it were quicker on its feet — is a movie where all the surprises are stupid ones and all the clichés are honored citizens. This movie doesn’t work even if you like it’s late-arriving political theme of the little guy battling the big guy. (Which I do).

So picture this, guys. When hot Lucy shows up in New Ulm, to throw a lot of workers out of a job, she arrives sneering and scowling and insulting everyone. (Hey! All the executive backstabbers I ever met, smiled and grinned so much, you’d think their faces would get a hernia.) Connick‘s Ted, probably one of the hottest bachelors (or widowers) New Ulm ever saw, doesn’t even have a girlfriend, jealous or whatever — though it’d be a nice secondary role for some at-liberty Hollywood sexpot, say maybe Jessica Simpson. When Lucy‘s car runs off the road and she piles up in the snow bank, and her cellphone doesn’t work, and things look awful bad, she just starts drinking. (Maybe that was the screenwriters’ motto.)

There’s a surprise or two in the credits. The director, Jonas Elmer, is a prize-winning maker of Danish art films, and one of the writers, C. Jay Cox, gave us the somewhat similar Sweet Home Alabama and the gay comedy about Mormon sex, Latter Days. Maybe that’s what this movie is: a gay Danish Mormon art film in disguise. That might explain everything but the tapioca.

Still, despite its social intentions, this movie almost reminded me of the kind of bad blue state-good red state hogwash you get from, what’s their name: Blimp Rushbomb? Sean the Sham Hammity? (I’m not making this up, guys.)

I‘m just kidding. New in Town‘s heart is in the right place but its head seems to be is somewhere north of Old Ulm. This movie is so bad that Minnesota, whenever it gets a U. S. Senator, might consider passing a law against it. I’m serious. I come from a small Midwestern town myself (pop: 1,171 or so when I was there) and I‘m getting sick of all these movie city slickers trying to love us to death. And mucking up perfectly good actors too. Renee Zellweger, you li’l honeybunch, you keep those stiletto heels until you learn to stop falling off porches into snow banks. Harry Connick, this is not your Some Came Running. J. K. Simmons, take off that silly beard and find a keg of beer someplace, for gosh sakes. Blanche, whip up another batch of tapioca so this damned thing will end on time.

Whatever. At least you won’t get a hernia from smiling or laughing at New in Town. Meanwhile, I hope all these moviemakers at least send us some of Blanche‘s tapioca. By gosh and golly, we deserve something for watching this!


The Uninvited (Three Stars)
U.S.; The Guard Brothers (Charles and Thomas)

A disturbed, lovely little girl named Anna Rydell (Emily Browning) comes out of the mental hospital, where she was installed after her mother died in a terrible house fire. Back home, in a gorgeous home by the lake are her writer dad (David Strathairn), her spunky sis Alex (Arielle Kebbel), her evil foxy-looking stepmama-to-be Rachael (Elizabeth Banks), whom she suspects of murder, and a lot of ghastly visions which may or may not be ghosts or hallucinations (as in that other 1944 Uninvited that Charles Brackett helped make, after he wouldn’t do Double Indemnity with Billy Wilder).

For most of this movie’s length, it’s a gripping, atmospherically-shot horror movie with good actors and nice twists. Then we get to the ending and the directors and writers (Craig Rosenberg, Doug Miro, Carlo Bernard) pull a shockeroo that I didn’t see coming, even though it strongly resembles another recent horror movie which I liked (and whose ending I guessed), but whose name I won’t reveal, to keep from spilling the gory beans. (I‘m not talking about the movie’s source material, the Korean shocker Changhwa, Hongryeon by Kim Jee-Woon, which I haven’t seen and therefore might be a source of its cleverness.)

My advice: Go see this movie, but don‘t read another review or article about it until you do.

– Michael Wilmington
January 30 2009

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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