Love is All You Need

June 14, 2013 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Trine Dyrholm, Pierce Brosnan, Molly Blixt Egelind
Directed by: Susanne Bier (“In a Better World”)
Written by: Anders Thomas Jensen (“In a Better World”)

Known mostly for hard-hitting dramas like her Oscar-winning 2011 film “In a Better World” and the underappreciated 2007 tearjerker “Things We Lost in the Fire,” Danish director Susanne Bier gives her take on what a romantic comedy should be in the sweet but often emotionally unfulfilling “Love is All You Need.” While her foray into the genre can be considered a mixed bag, Bier is able to pull some convincing performances from her lead actors, Pierce Brosnan (“The Ghost Writer”) and Trine Dyrholm (“A Royal Affair”), to make up for the cliché and predictable moments in Anders Thomas Jensen’s script.

In “Love,” which is in both English and Danish, Dyrholm plays Ida, an afflicted hairdresser who finds out her husband is cheating on her during her visits to the doctor for cancer treatment. As her marriage falls apart, another is about to get underway. Her daughter Astrid (Molly Blixt Egelind) is getting married in Italy to Patrick (Sebastian Jessen), a man she has only recently met. Also scheduled to attend their wedding is Patrick’s workaholic father Philip (Brosnan) who has given the happy couple permission to use the family’s rustic villa for the ceremony.

When Ida and Philip coincidentally meet before they even get on the plane to Italy, it’s fairly easy to see where Jensen is going. In a sort of “Meet the Fockers”-type setup, things are bound to get messy and awkward as the two families collide in an all-too-familiar way. Fortunately, Bier doesn’t stoop to the level of something like “Madea’s Big Happy Family” when gathering the parties together. It’s not that kind of comedy. But there are scenes in “Love” that feel just as sitcom-friendly as Tyler Perry can deliver. Bier’s ability to divert most of these scenarios even when Jensen’s screenplay calls for them is noteworthy. For example, when Astrid’s father shows up to the villa with his new and much younger girlfriend in tow, things could have easily become sillier than necessary. Bier, however, proves even though she is new to the genre, she can keep most of her characters grounded and believable.

Brosnan and Dyrholm are perfectly fine on their own, but when brought together, the lighthearted romance brewing between them isn’t as emotionally satisfying as it should be. There is an underlying connection both have with one another (Philip has lost his wife; Ida has lost her marriage and health), but spending quiet time in each other’s company doesn’t do much to build on their relationship nor does it make for interesting conflict.

Love may be all one needs when life doesn’t go exactly as planned and someone is left to start all over again, but Bier, at this point in her career, isn’t the one that should be trying to inject the story with the kind of subtle comedy the film needs to be more than a blip on the foreign rom-com radar. It’s a passable attempt, but even a slightly above-average date with someone isn’t always a memorable one.

Mamma Mia!

July 5, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Amanda Seyfried
Directed by: Phyllida Lloyd (debut)
Written by: Catherine Johnson (“Sin Bin”)

The reason musicals like “Moulin Rouge!” and “Chicago” worked so well at the turn of the century was because directors like Baz Luhrmann and Rob Marshall had an eye for something uncommon. If that wasn’t the case, the return of the genre might have led us into Bollywood territory where the entertainment value drops as each new film mirrors the last.

In “Mamma Mia!” director Phyllida Lloyd and screenwriter Catherine Johnson go for a more conventional adaptation of the popular Broadway hit. In its own inconsequential way, the film version is the same spectacle as it is on stage, but with more to survive visually on the big screen.

When Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) uncovers her mother’s old diary, she is ecstatic to find out the book could hold the answer to a question she has been wondering her entire life: Who is my father?

The only problem is, her mother, Donna (Meryl Streep), was somewhat promiscuous during her formative years and slept with three men around the same time. This means, of course, that any one of them could be Sophie’s dad.

Set on inviting her father to her wedding so he can give her away, Sophie decides the most reasonable thing to do would be to invite all three men to the ceremony and sort it out when they arrive.

Although Bill (Stellan Skarsgard), Sam (Pierce Brosnan), and Harry (Colin Firth) have no idea the real reason they have been invited to the Greek island paradise, all three show up much to the chagrin of Donna, who hasn’t seen her ex-lovers in years.

Once you get past the giddiness of it all, “Mamma Mia!” has some high points during the musical interludes like ABBA’s “Dancing Queen,” which is so darn catchy you’ll want to hear it again when it’s over. Still, it takes a while to warm up to the characters as they sing and flutter about, especially Pierce Brosnan who seems awkward during most of his vocal work. Then there are also a few misplaced songs and underwritten storylines. Why Winters’ tune is important enough to include in the film is beyond comprehension.

Most of the film’s flaws come from the direction of Lloyd, who seems to have everyone and everything moving nonstop without anywhere to go. If that’s what equals a high-energy musical, someone pump Seyfried and friends up with some sedatives and leave the musicals to directors whose only point of reference isn’t “Grease.”

Married Life

March 27, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Chris Cooper, Pierce Brosnan, Patricia Clarkson
Directed by: Ira Sachs (“Forty Shades of Blue”)
Written by: Ira Sachs (“Forty Shades of Blue”), Oren Movermen (“I’m Not There”)

“Married Life” is either an adult comedy with dark themes or a dark comedy with adult themes, although neither genre in this specific instance is particularly enjoyable even on a twisted level of simplicity.

Although you would be hard-pressed to find two actors more natural than Chris Cooper (“Adaptation”) and Patricia Clarkson (“Pieces of April”), the problems lie in the not-so-fascinating screenplay of Ira Sachs and Oren Movermen.

Set in the 1940’s and given a sort-of film noir ambiance, “Married Life” follows Harry Allen (Cooper), a hopelessly romantic businessman who wants to kill his wife. It is, of course, not his wife Pat (Clarkson) who he is in love with any longer. Harry has moved on and found a younger woman with whom “to be truly happy.”

Her name is Kay Nesbit (Rachel McAdams), and Harry is wild about everything she brings out of him. As a lonely widow, Kay has found a stable relationship that she can count on. As a married man, Harry wants nothing more than to leave his wife and start a new life with his mistress.

But in the 40’s, divorce wasn’t just something people do on a daily basis. There was embarrassment involved from a social aspect because people viewed it as a failure in life. So, instead of divorcing Pat, Harry decides that he will have to kill her to save her from the whispers she might hear after their split. How thoughtful!

All the while, no one has as much power and influence over Harry and Pat’s marriage as Harry’s best friend Richard Langley (Pierce Brosnan). Like a fly on the wall, Richard knows everything that is going on between all parties involved and always has the upper hand to get anything he wants, even when that includes Harry’s new gal. Brosnan, who is also the film’s narrator, is excellent in this role. He keeps up with Cooper’s cunningness both as friends and competitors for Kay’s love.

Although the acting is top-notch in this intelligent albeit soft-around-the-edges drama, one can’t ignore the tediousness that lingers between the characters’ separate stories. These minimal moments muddle the tension and also Harry’s point-of-view, which is the most ruthless and indifferent you could imagine. Some of the best parts of the film are when Harry, only moments away from poisoning Pat, can still give her compliments and make her feel like she is the only thing that matters to him. (“You’re prettier today than you’ve ever been,” he says without a smirk).

Still, Cooper and the rest of the acting talent can’t hold the film together on their own. With a story of deception, extramarital affairs, and murder, you would think the “Married Life” script has a lot going for it. But halfway through, you’ll feel just like Harry and want out in any way possible. Well, almost any way.