Director: Sam Mendes
Writer: Alan Ball
I went into this one with mixed expectations. The one detailed review I had heard was that it was terrible. But said review was also from someone who watched Survivor religiously, so I didn’t think I could exactly trust her taste. So I tried to be open minded.
Things I really liked: The contrast between the hand held shots of Jane at the very beginning and the pretty overhead shot of the town right after the opening titles was striking. A little obvious, but it still worked. It’s interesting that Lester censors his own fantasies. But I kind of like it. Again, it’s a little overly obvious, but I did think it was nice how Ricky’s voyeurism mimics our own as viewers. The lighting and the camera work in the scene where Carolyn and Jane talk in her bedroom work to create a really intimate feeling. I really love Allison Janney and so I kind of want to complain that there wasn’t more of her, but then I feel like I should point out how awesome she is. Because as much talent as it takes to steal a scene (like she’s totally capable of doing) it may very well take more to just allow yourself to be a minor part in a film like this. Oh yeah, and Kevin Spacey is awesome.
Things I didn’t really like: In one scene we learn Carolyn is wearing a crimson slip under a cream colored dress—I don’t for one minute believe she doesn’t color coordinate her undergarments better than that. I’m guessing they did it so we’d really notice the contrast, but it could have been accomplished more realistically. I have trouble buying Jane as a cheerleader/dance team member. It helped a little that she looked awkward and uncomfortable up there, but in a way that made it worse. The only way I could believe it would be if it was a case of she really loved to dance, but it’s clear that’s not why she’s there. Jane complaining about her dad to Ricky after what she sees of his father makes her seem extremely self-centered.
All the people who refer to this movie as a cinematic masterpiece is not allowed to make fun of soap operas ever again. This movie used so many soap opera clichés it’s not even funny. At least soaps own their cheese. Starting from the misdirect at the beginning with Jane asking Ricky to kill her father to the OMG, there are so many people who have a reason to kill him! Who will actually do it? And then the whole sequence through which Ricky’s dad thinks he’s having a thing with Lester… it was right out of Austin Powers. Except, again, Austin Power owns that shit. This movie tried to spin it as some sort of deep look at the way coincidences can have major consequences… I rolled my eyes a bit. I hope I was not supposed to be surprised to find out Angela was a virgin.
Other observations: The scene in which Lester fantasizes about Angela while watching the dance performance kind of tainted all my memories of my own dance performances. But at least that gave the film extra relevance.
Overall: I liked it. I’m glad I watched it. Yeah… I think some of the love showered on it by the critics when it came out was hyperbolic. But it was still good. I’ll go ahead and give it four out of five jars of peanut butter, but I’m going to eat a big spoonful out of one of the jars first.