Thursday, January 15, 2009

Movie Reviews

The Devil Wears Prada was on TV the other day, so I watched it. I didn't have any expectations for it, and that was best. Ann Hathaway plays Andy, a recent college journalism grad whose looking for her first job. She lands the gig hundreds of girls would kill for, working as the second assistant to the famous Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), the editor-in-chief of Runway Magazine. Of course Andy is a serious journalist who could care less about fashion and has never even heard of Miranda. Andy gets off to a rough start and sticks out in the sea of Gucci, Prada and Versace like the polyester discount-store sweater on her back. Andy is mostly a fetch-dog for Miranda. All the real responsibilities fall to Emily, the first assistant.

Andy hates her job and especially her boss. She decides to stick with it because if she can survive one year under Miranda's manicured thumb, she can get a writing gig at any magazine. Through all this, Andy has a terrifically supportive, gorgeous boyfriend and a couple friends from college who envy her job. One day Andy realizes she hasn't been giving her all to the job and manages to fit her (gasp!) size six body into some of the zero to four-sized clothing in the Runway closet. Miranda notices the change and Andy receives more responsibility, all because she's traded in the clogs for some heels and a slight hairdo change.

Soon Andy is excelling at her job and becomes Miranda's number one go-to-gal. Back at home, Andy is missing dinners with her friends, and more importantly, neglecting that wonderful boyfriend of hers. Predictably, Andy gets sucked into the fashion world and becomes "one of them." Will Andy stay a Miranda clone or return to her true journalism roots? You'll have to watch to find out, or you could probably just guess and get it right. The story is tied up with a neat little bow, the most fashion-forward bow, of course.

Meryl Streep is her usual excellence in the film. She knows how to play a cold-hearted witch like no other. Ann Hathaway is just OK in my opinion. She makes Andy more clueless and whiny than I thought the part called for. My favorite character was the first assistant played by Emily Blunt. She's been killing herself for Miranda for years in hopes of moving up in the fashion world. She prides herself on starving her already stick-thin figure for Paris Fashion Week, and tries to act like she's cut off from all emotion, but she really puts her whole heart into her job, if only she ever got any credit. She was the only really interesting and funny character as far as I was concerned.

I wouldn't recommend this movie for most. Maybe if you're into high fashion, it's worth a whirl, but the movie just fell flat for me. It was OK for an evening on the couch when nothing else was on, but I definitely wouldn't have made time in my schedule for this film.

I know The Forgotten was a forgettable film for most, but I liked it well-enough for a lazy Saturday afternoon movie in bed. Tilly (Julianne Moore) remembers her son who died in a school bus accident, but as time passes, fewer and fewer people remember his existence. All evidence that he existed seems to have disappeared. Is Tilly crazy or is there something more sinister at play? That's the basic premise. Tilly teams up with the one other parent who remembers his daughter and Tilly's son, and they spend the film looking for their children while trying to escape the grasp of the agents who are following them.

The twist of the film really changes what genre the film belongs in, but I would ruin the film if I revealed this true genre. I was OK with the twist and the stretch of the imagination that comes with it, but I think a lot of viewers would feel cheated by the direction the film abruptly takes. I think the film was supposed to be suspenseful and eerie, but it's pretty light on both accounts. There's nothing extraordinary about the acting or the special effects or the direction of this film. It relies on the mystery of the children to carry it through. I believed from the beginning that Tilly was not crazy and there was a conspiracy involving the bus crash, so I had to watch to discover the truth. If that mystery alone does not intrigue you, this movie is probably not for you.

What She Knew is a Lifetime original movie. My husband and I actually have watched quite a few of these specific made-for-TV movies. The movies usually star pretty well-known, critically acclaimed actors, so they're generally fairly decent, even if the aim of every movie is to make you cry. I don't easily cry at movies, unless they involve animals, so I can watch these Lifetime movies without getting blubbery. I think most women watch them with a box of tissues at hand.

What She Knew stars Amber Tamblin as Stephanie, a 16-year-old who gives birth in a bathroom on a ski trip, leaves the baby in the bathroom stall, goes back on the slopes where she passes out and her secret is revealed. Stephanie claims she didn't know she was pregnant and that the baby was still-born. The air in the baby's lungs tells a different story. Tilda Swinton plays a forensic psychologist, also pregnant, investigating the case for the district attorney through interviews with Stephanie. The interviews are flashbacks beginning with the previous summer when Stephanie conceived and concluding with the birth in the bathroom stall. Timothy Hutton plays the psychologist's husband. These two have problems of their own and the movie follows their story as well.

I think Tamblin is very convincing in her part as a shy, confused teenage girl who may or may not have known she was pregnant. The movie could have become an after school special with a weaker plot and less talented actors, but with this cast and script, it manages to stay out of that cheesy moralistic territory. Piece by piece, the puzzle of the pregnancy and birth are revealed. What did she really know?

I liked the movie up until the very last five minutes. The ending was horribly unsatisfactory for both my husband and myself. I'm not disappointed with what Stephanie knew, just how the film dealt with this knowledge. It felt like the writer didn't know how to end the movie, so the story just ended where the writer blanked on a real conclusion. I hate when movies end so poorly because the ending is what sticks with you. The movie was fine otherwise, but I'll always be hung up on the ending when I think about this film.

I finally saw Milk in the theater, so look for its review in the coming days.

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