Monday, June 19, 2006

Jack Cohen impedes my viewing.

I subscribe to Tesco’s DVD rental serivce – an offshoot of Screenselect – and so far things haven’t been too bad. I’ve been going at it, so to speak, since April and chalked up a total of about ten shiny discs so far (which isn’t bad going, seen as they only send me one at a time) out of an ever-increasing list of 421.

I was more than pleasantly surprised when John Curran’s We Don’t Live Here Anymore splashed through the letterbox. After all, it’s been touted as a modern education in misguided marriage and features an impressive smattering of talent, (Lynch cohorts Laura Dern and Naomi Watts, Mark Ruffalo, Six Feet Under’s Peter Krause) along with mostly gushing reviews from my one-stop Metacritic.

Due to the neglect of my predecessors, the extreme sensitivity – and unlockability – of my Sony, and the bottom-side of a disc while raped by African tribesmen and scratched out of all proportion by Sharon Stone’s masseuse, I was forced to relocate to my computer. No biggy. I must’ve given it about fifty minutes before I finally gave up: not, you understand, because of the film’s quality (although it wasn’t up to much), rather it had more false starts than Linford Christie and skipped merrily to and fro as much as a French waif does on a Friday. Which is a shame because I had my review all neatly lined out, replete with phrases like ‘mirthlessly vindictive’ and ‘glabrous paucity’.

What I did ascertain from my largely joyless fifty minutes was that We Don’t Live Here Anymore is to marriage what 2005’s Crash was to race: an overreached stab at an ‘adult’ interpretation of modern disillusionment. Characters were uniformly and lankily disjointed by consistently slight, dreary and clunky dialogue (“You know, you're a funny girl. After a long carnivorous fuck, you're talking about a marriage counsellor? Who are you?”) relying on belligerent, contradictory shock tactics . In fact, the whole thing felt like a contradiction in terms. Even the usually vivacious Naomi Watts was surprisingly unremarkable.

The movie centres around four self-pitying and unhappy adulterers – Terry and Jack, a couple of dull penny-squeezers, as well as Edith and Hank, two individuals living in an idyllic state of haute arrested development. They all do each other over for reasons stupidly specified, much in the way Closer had its protagonists gallivant around gaily for two hours, but at least Mike Nichols had the decency to inject a little warmth and morality into the whole bloody affair.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so jarred. The warning signs were there. House of Sand and Fog, a movie well-meaning but intrinsically blah, took its source material from Andre Dubus III. Anymore has its taken from Andre Dubus Sr. and clearly Pa’s had an effect on the sprout. House of Sand and Fog buckles under its own pretension not because of the impressive performances from Jennifer Connelly and [Sir] Ben Kingsley, instead it collapses in a wave of churlish melodrama; something Curran’s movie pretty much epitomises, at least for the fifty minutes I saw. It’s simply not worth the wealth put into it.

My rental died the death just as Dern and Krause were about to do the dirty. If they were younger, more attractive, and not so absorbed in their dull little lives, it would’ve been a crying shame. Instead, I can always rely upon the mirthlessly vindictive to shower me with blessings in disguise. Perhaps the second hour redeemed this film in some way, or maybe it wallowed in its frass a little longer. Either way, I’m not in a hurry to find out any time soon.

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