Thursday, September 18, 2008

Supporting, "The Women"

Diane English's remake of the 1930's classic, "The Women," boasts a cast of all women. I, for one, did not miss the men.

I am so sick of Hollywood pandering to the adolescent mind set. Even romantic comedies have been dumbed down to attract young males. There is a nasty new trend to center romantic comedies on a man-child with all the inherit gross out, potty humor. The directors do try to insert some "heart" into these gag fests. But where is the romance and the smart, witty repartee? I heard it took ten years to get this film made. This doesn't surprise me. Even after the success of the "chick flicks," Sex and the City," and, "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants," Hollywood doesn't get it. I see a lot of films. There are women out there who are hungry, HUNGRY for intelligent, moving, character driven films. "The Women," delivers a stick of butter dipped in dark chocolate.

Diane's writing reminds us that comedy can come out of the story and character development - not just sheer shock value. She reminds us that witty dialogue can be damn funny. It seems that Hollywood has forgotten that both men and women (and even some teenage boys!) love the classic comedies of the 40's that feature strong women characters with great dialogue.

To tell the truth, the 1930's version of, "The Women," left me cold with those snooty, upper class voices, catty behavior, and outdated morals. But Diane puts a modern spin on the classic. So while the main characters are definitely privileged, they are still accessible. Much of the credit goes to Meg Ryan's down-to-earth performance as high society good girl, Mary Hanes, and Debra Messing (in her funniest film role) as her artistic, earth-mother friend. Some of the characters do come across as overly catty - especially Mary's best friend fashion magazine editor Sylvie Fowler (played by a strident and crude Annette Benning.) But I figure with friends like Mary she can't be all bad.

Diane does a great job updating the material and dealing with the outdated morals. When Mary finds that her husband is cheating, her mother (Candence Bergen) advises her to stay in the marriage. Diane pokes fun at the archaic values comparing them with those of a 1930's movie. Wink wink.

I'll admit, early in the film, I was turned off by some pretty catty women. But as the film progresses, it shows the strength women get from their loyal friends. Stay with it, and you will be rewarded by smart, witty dialogue, and some big belly laughs.

Movie blessings!
Jana Segals

Check out my later reflections on, "The Women," in the review, "Bridesmaids" A Female Driven Comedy for Men.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

"Jake's Corner"

I am all about supporting Arizona Filmmakers. In fact, I braved two new bus routes to an unfamiliar part of Tucson to watch the Arizona indie, "Jake's Corner."

The mood is set with desert shots that would make any Arizonan proud and some great southwestern music by BJ Thomas and Steve Dorff. We are introduced to the misfits of Jake's Corner who have accepted former NFL star Johnny Dunn (Richard Tyson) into their tight community after a family accident leaves him unable to cope with being in the public eye. The most touching part for me was seeing how this community pulls together to help Johnny when he needs it most - when his orphaned nephew, Spence, moves into his freewheeling life. The townspeople fumble and grope for a way to relate to the only kid in town. But eventually, Spence, played with naturalistic ease by Arizonan Colton Rodgers, is embraced by the whole town.

Writer/Director Jeff Santo does an admirable job of getting some nice performances out of some of his actors - especially young Colton Rodgers. Though it would have been better if Colton had expressed more distress. It is fun being in the world of this film. But I've noticed a problem with some recent indie films (including the recently reviewed, FLOAT). The filmmakers are trying to keep the running time down while juggling several characters' storylines. Santo keeps the running time down to 96 minutes but in the process loses the threads of some of his supporting characters' stories. There are some moving moments here, but the ending would have had more impact if he had connected all the dots. I would have been happy to stay in the world of Jake's Corner another 10 minutes so he could develop these characters' stories.

Movie blessings!
Jana Segal

Thursday, September 04, 2008


The movie follows the lives and relationships of the staff of Float Ice-cream Parlor. The company slogan is, "It's all about the ice-cream." That certainly seems to be owner Ray Fulton's (Gregory Itzen) motto. He works late every evening and when he finally gets home he is still preoccupied by the business. Ray ponders a possible tomato flavored ice-cream as his wife surveys his wilted garden. His wife asks him repeatedly if he has watered the roses. "Are you listening to me at all?" she laments. He answers, "You want me to wake up and swell the roses." Freud couldn't have summarized the theme better.

Float is meant to be a home away from home. But when his wife leaves him, Ray moves into a bachelor pad with his store manager and an ex-employee that he recently fired. Each of these characters has a problem finding themselves. The slick manager, Gevorg (Hrach Titizian), struggles with living up to his Armenian f
amily's expectations while chasing tail and conducting shady deals. Ramon (Johnny Asuncion) tries to find some semblance of a life after being fired for getting into a fist fight at work. He searches ardently for what he is truly meant to do - whether it's mixed martial arts, a green card marriage or whatever comes easy. Ray discovers that he spent his whole life providing for his family, but in the process he lost track of them and himself. His life has truly become "all about the ice-cream." Now he has all the time in the world to find himself. His new frathouse lifestyle gives him the leisure to do all the things he once enjoyed. The roomies bond, support each other's romantic pursuits, and become sort of a makeshift family.

Writer/director Johnny Asuncion takes on the worthy theme of self identify and friendship. However, some story threads are never picked up. Gevorg is so busy pursuing his first real relationship that he never confronts his family about their expectations. Ray gropes to find himself and reconnect with his daughter, but never touches base with his wife. Was this
omission intentional or the result of a ruthless edit? Perhaps the director is saying that family demands aren't as important as being true to ourselves? You decide...

In the last shot Ray finally waters that rose bush and the rose is flourishing.

Reel Inspiration is proud to have "Float" as one of our myspace friends. Please, support this talented filmmaker by attending "Float" at a festival near you.

Movie blessings!
Jana Segal