Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Week of June 3 to June 9 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann
     You know Will Ferrell, of course, from a decade of shows on Saturday Night Live and films like Talledega Nights. And if you’re at all literate, you know Raymond Carver, the quintessential short story writer. Director Dan Rush has joined these disparate talents in EVERYTHING MUST GO, the story of Nick Halsey, a man who has hit bottom.
     There’s not much to Carver’s brief story, Why Don’t You Dance (http://bit.ly/m7VFaN), but writer/director Rush has fleshed it out in a script that seems made for a dissolute demeanor that comes easily to Ferrell -- not comic, but not exactly sad. Nick has lost his job, his wife, his car, even his cell phone. All he has is a couple of six packs of Pabst; a lawn full of furniture to sell; a sympathetic, and pretty, pregnant neighbor (Rebecca Hall – Please Give, Vicky Cristina Barcelona); and a local kid who wants to help out -- and learn to play baseball.
     Sounds like a bad situation, but one could do worse. And Nick seems to sense that, as bad as things are, he’s got nowhere to go but up. “Quiet, acutely observed, based in everyday events and ordinary moments… Rush's script and direction are exemplary” and Ferrell is “dazzling.” Salon.com
     What is HENRY’S CRIME? Well, there’s the bank robbery that Henry Torne (Keanu Reeves) was jailed for, even though he wasn’t guilty. And there’s the bank robbery, of the same bank, that he decides to commit just to even the score. Don’t take it too seriously. This isn’t a heist movie like Inside Man or Topkapi, but a tongue-in-cheek romantic-heist comedy. Reeve’s usual passive style – he’s working as a toll-taker -- is countered by an antic James Caan – as his prison buddy and eventual robbery accomplice – and Vera Farmiga – as a two-bit, overacting stage actress. You see, there’s an old tunnel that goes from the theater, where Farmiga is rehearsing The Cherry Orchard, to the bank. And Reeves gets a part in the play to gain access to the tunnel, and maybe to Farmiga’s heart. As I say, don’t take it too seriously. “With a terrific cast… this is a fun comedy with irresistible heist and heart.” (Box Office Magazine)     

     Meanwhile, it’s going to be Gay Pride Week here in Key West (June 8-12), and the Tropic is doing its best to go with the theme. Most interesting to me is BEAUTIFUL DARLING, a documentary about the Warhol transgendered star Candy Darling. Drawing on footage of Candy performing on screen and off-Broadway, interviews with the likes of Fran Lebowitz, and readings from Candy’s letters and diaries by Chloë Sevigny, documentarian James Rasin has crafted a sympathetic portrait of this late Sixties icon who died tragically at age 29. It’s “a sad, lyrical reflection on the foolish worship of movie stars.” (New York Times)
     Or, if you’re looking for fun, KABOOM might be more your thing. Set on an unnamed Southern California campus, where the lead character Smith (Thomas Dekker) is of “undecided” sexuality, and avidly pursuing it, Kaboom is the latest from New Queer director Gregg Araki. It’s “an erotic blast of sinful flesh, fun and fantasy that you don't want to stop.” (Rolling Stone)
     On the Special Events calendar, AIDS Help is sponsoring a free mini festival of three films. On Wednesday it’s THE BOYS IN THE BAND – the classic play and then movie about AIDS in the 1970’s; on Thursday it’s MAKING THE BOYS – about the roots of the play and movie; and next Friday (June 10) it’s AND THE BAND PLAYED ON – carrying the story into the 1990’s.

Comments, please, to pmann99@gmail.com

1 comment:

Bill Iddings said...

Assuming you’re not very good at it, crime does not pay.
But mix felony with theater and you stand to score a bundle.
Yes, someone has finally hit upon a way to make a financial killing in live theater: knock off a bank.
That’s “Henry’s Crime,” a trying heist comedy that takes literally the notion that some theater’s a crime, and proceeds to shuffle off to Buffalo where Keanu Reeves acts Chekov.
Reeves, the laconic A-lister who slo-mo dodged bullets in “The Matrix” franchise, plays an ex-con and would-be bank robber. He limps - literally, after being hit by a car -- into a principal role in a Buffalo, N.Y., production of Russian playwright Anton Chekov’s classic “The Cherry Orchard.”
Even though Reeves is quite good as the goateed Lopakhin and falls in love with the cynical actress (Vera Fermiga) who not only plays Madame Ranevsky but ran him over, the role is a ruse.
After they’re paroled, Henry and his aging ex-cellmate and accomplice (the savvy James Caan) infiltrate the stage world solely because the theater building is linked by tunnel to a bank that Henry was wrongly convicted of robbing.
The theory, advanced by director Malcolm Venville and screenwriters Sacha Gervasi and David White, becomes, “If you’re going to do the time, you might as well do the crime.” Bet they don’t teach that at Juilliard.
“Henry’s Crime” piles improbable atop preposterous. It does not achieve the causal comedy -- plot points building at every turn -- that characterized such Ealing Studios 1950’s heist films as “The Lavender Hill Mob” and “The Ladykillers,” veddy British larks starring Alec Guinness.
Starkly filmed by cinematographer Paul Cameron, most of “Henry’s Crime” sleepwalks, which is not very involving to anyone un-smitten with theater, illegality or both. It comes to life when Caan lets loose, Fermiga cackles a laugh, and a temperamental Russian director (the wonderful Peter Stormare, one of Sweden’s finest contemporary theater artists) goes nuts with passion.
Solid support comes from Fisher Stevens as a snake cutting in on the caper; sleepy-eyed Bill Duke as a bank guard with a score to settle; Judy Greer as Henry’s wife who dumps him when he’s in the slammer; and Danny Hoch as the dimwit she marries, a knuckle head whose defining characteristic is his tendency to get drunk and puke.
As much as “Henry’s Crime” erodes patience, it, like Reeves’ reticent title character, has a good heart. Venville keeps Henry’s motivation murky, and the film falls apart, turning foul-mouthed and crude en route to a Hollywood happy ending. If Stormare’s ebullient prima donna were directing rehearsals for “Henry’s Crime,” his head would explode and swivel on his neck, after steam shot out both ears.
Yet “Henry’s Crime still has Caan as a career confidence man so believable that he convinces the theater folks he was once an actor on that stage they so covet. It gets him in on the action, a place James Caan knows well.