5 items from 2004
Comic-turned-chat show host Ellen DeGeneres is considering dragging Brittany Murphy and her mother onto her hit program to give them a lie detector test about the actress' early speech skills. Guests like Sharon Stone and Christina Ricci have poured scorn on Murphy's claims that she could talk at four-months-old, and now DeGeneres is keen to help the actress prove she's not lying. Former Mensa student Stone, who is one of the cleverest actresses in Hollywood, insists Murphy is either talking about "baby talk" or she has a good imagination. The Basic Instinct beauty recently suggested on DeGeneres' show, "That's why she's an actress - because she has an imagination." But Ellen wants to give Murphy the chance to back her claims up: "We're gonna have her and her mother on and hook them up to lie detector tests." »
Toronto International Film Festival
TORONTO -- "I Love Your Work" is a movie directed and co-written by an actor, Adam Goldberg, that features many of his actor buddies. So what's it all about? It's about how awful it is to be an actor or, worse, a movie star and how an acting career can damage one's fragile psyche. Before you can even accuse the moviemaker and his pals of naval gazing, a "narcissism expert" appears on a TV talk show and turns to the movie's protagonist to lecture him about listening to other people and getting over his egocentricity. Of course, he doesn't listen to her.
However much this movie may speak to the current generation of actors, it has little to say to moviegoers. Goldberg's direction is all flash and no substance, and his story and characters offer little reason for viewers to empathize with such self-pitying characters. Because Goldberg borrows -- or believes he is borrowing -- from the stylistic flourishes of filmmakers ranging from David Lynch and John Cassavetes to Martin Scorsese and the French New Wave, the movie may stimulate cineastes who look for "references" in movies rather than originality. Otherwise, "I Love Your Work" will have little life off the festival circuit.
Giovanni Ribisi plays Gray Evans, a movie star whose life and marriage to fellow movie star Mia (Franka Potente) is falling apart. As Mia accurately points out to Gray: "You hate the business. You hate the rags. And you hate being a celebrity." No one bothers to ask why Gray pursues a career guaranteed to bring him so much grief.
Goldberg and co-writer Adrian Butchart try to establish layers of reality in order to play peekaboo with the narrative structure. So there is a movie being made within the movie. Gray's obsessions and fantasies may or may not be real. And he suffers many mental mix-ups wherein his wife turns into his ex-lover Shana (Christina Ricci) and Shana gets confused with Jane (Marisa Coughlan), the young girlfriend of one of Gray's fans, John (Joshua Jackson). But since no level of reality is given any substance or plausibility, the movie feels void of narrative purpose.
Gray, who exists on a diet of booze and tobacco, apparently goes to a premiere nearly every night. Yet every time a photographer's flash goes off, his face has the startled, horrified look of a deer caught in the headlights of an on-rushing car. Gray sees stalkers everywhere, to the amusement of his security expert (Jared Harris), who pads his bank account nicely by following up on every obsession. And every time Elvis Costello leaves a message on the answering machine for Mia, Gray goes into a jealous rage.
Meanwhile, Gray and Mia live a strange movie-star existence as they inhabit a cool, sterile loft above an aging movie theater. The only real twist to this film comes when the movie star essentially stalks his own fan. Gray's spying on John and Jane allows him to fantasize about what a "normal" life would be like. Yet he gleams no wisdom from his intrusion into their lives. Instead, his continual delusions and flawed memories offer Goldberg the opportunity to wallow in an impressionistic style, courtesy of cinematographer Mark Putnam's crisp, gloomy lighting, designer Erin Smith's antiseptic decors and editors Zack Bell and John Valerio's jumble of images culled from Gray's confused mind.
Goldberg's actors work hard, but the overwrought melodrama betrays their efforts. Ribisi, who has never looked less like a movie star, is too weird and affected from the opening scene to pull you into his character's turmoil and troubles. Potente, who does look like a movie star, comes off with dignity at least as a women struggling to cope with a failing marriage. Jackson, Coughlan and Ricci, all playing quasi-figments of Gray's imagination, can do little more than pose and react.
I LOVE YOUR WORK
Fireworks presents a Muse production in association with Cyan Pictures, Departure Entertainment, Miracle Mile Films, Rice/Walter Prods. in association with In Association With Prods.
Director: Adam Goldberg
Screenwriters: Adam Goldberg, Adrian Butchart
Director of photography: Mark Putnam
Production designer: Erin Smith
Music: Adam Goldberg, Stephen Drozd
Costume designer: Dawn Weisberg
Editors: Zack Bell, John Valerio
Gray: Giovanni Ribisi
Mia: Franka Potente
Shana: Christina Ricci
John: Joshua Jackson
Jane: Marisa Coughlan
Yehud: Jared Harris
Stalker: Jason Lee
Running time -- 111 minutes
No MPAA rating »
If there were any doubts that Christina Ricci is one of the most interesting, resourceful and hugely watchable young actresses of her generation, then "Prozac Nation" ends them.
Her performance as a Harvard undergrad battling clinical depression compels your attention every moment she is on screen. It's not easy to make an audience want to watch an impossible personality. She's Jekyll and she's Hyde all the time, and it's tearing her apart.
The movie is standard-issue woman-under-the-influence material, better than "Girl, Interrupted", less graphic than "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden" and made with genuine concern about this area of mental illness. The film will engage mainly female audiences in North America and many overseas venues. Critical reaction and possible awards for Ricci certainly will help sell a movie that is, after all, no walk in the park.
Based on Elizabeth Wurtzel's memoir, director Erik Skjoldbjaerg and writers Galt Niederhoffer, Alex Orlovsky and Frank Deasy lay things out with crystal clarity. Lizzie (Ricci) might have been prone to depression anyway, but with her early family life she never stands a chance.
A chain-smoking, neurotically self-obsessed mother (Jessica Lange in a truly scary performance) raises her in New York after her father (Nicholas Campbell) -- an even more self-centered character, if that's possible -- all but deserts the family.
Lizzie's writing carries her far -- all the way to a Harvard scholarship and published pieces in Rolling Stone. But at the university, her life falls apart. Understandably terrified of rejection, she nonetheless alienates everyone close to her: an admiring roommate (Michelle Williams), who really "gets" her; her first lover Jonathan Rhys Meyers), who turns her on to recreational drugs; and a caring fellow student (Jason Biggs), whom she anoints her "savior."
Seemingly, Lizzie can connect only with Lou Reed -- the rocker puts in an appearance at an underground music venue. Those closest to her put her in panic mode. Her therapist (an icy Anne Heche) realizes that only by remaining aloof can she reach a soul in such turmoil. Eventually, she prescribes Prozac -- the cure-all drug of the 1980s -- to help Lizzie get "a perspective" and rebuild her identity.
Ricci has mesmerizing eyes and a face that is open one moment and opaque the next. In this role, she uses her eyes and face to reflect not only the emotional turmoil but also the anger at her self-destructive actions. Ricci makes you realize how tough it is for Lizzie to be Lizzie. She doesn't like herself much but nevertheless clings to life.
The movie, though, is perhaps too Crystal Clear. The other actors are very good at establishing exactly what kind of people their characters are and how they will respond in all circumstances. Consequently, there are few surprises. No one can step out of character to lend Lizzie a helping hand. In fact, the movie is practically a commercial for medication over human compassion, which is unfortunate though possibly true in many cases.
Skjoldbjaerg's attempts to visualize Lizzie's moods through speeded-up action and fuzzy double images remind you of bad student films of the '70s and '80s. Otherwise, he directs with intelligence and is smart enough to realize that with Ricci as his star, the less fuss the better.
Cinematographer Erling Thurmann-Andersen goes for somber, dark tones, while editor James Lyons moves things along at a crisp pace.
in association with Cinerenta
A Given production
Producers:Galt Niederhoffer, Brad Weston, R. Paul Miller
Screenwriters:Galt Niederhoffer, Alex Orlovsky, Frank Deasy
Based on the book by:Elizabeth Wurtzel
Director of photography:Erling Thurmann-Andersen
Production designer:Clay A. Griffith
Costume designer:Terry Dresbach
Dr. Diana Sterling:Anne Heche
Noah:Jonathan Rhys Meyers
Running time -- 98 minutes
No MPAA rating
Hollywood beauty Christina Ricci has slammed rumors that she had her breasts reduced to help her film career. The Monster star is furious about reports that she has had her hefty bust cut down to please Hollywood producers. The 23-year-old insists, "That's ridiculous. Why would having smaller boobs get you bigger roles? I'm more comfortable with my body than I've ever been. I like to be photographed and photographers like to shoot me because I'm willing to go there and do different things." »
Oscar-winning beauty Charlize Theron found it difficult to stop laughing when filming a lesbian kissing scene in Monster - because her teeth kept falling out. Theron - who last Sunday won the Best Actress Academy Award for her performance - underwent a huge physical transformation to play serial killer Aileen Wuornos, including having a dental plate fitted. But the false dentures made kissing Christina Ricci tricky, and the pair spent the day in hysterics. Theron says, "She was really great at kissing, but it was quite difficult with fake teeth. Nothing could help us keep a straight face. At one point I looked at Christina and said, 'This is a slumber party gone so wrong.' That was one of the funniest days we had on the set of that movie." »
5 items from 2004
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