|Index||5 reviews in total|
This film is three short films in one, all inspired by short stories featuring one male lead and one female lead. James Woods and Melanie Griffith do a credible job in the Hemingway story, but the story itself is far superior to this script. The Dorothy Parker adaptation with Molly Ringwald and Peter Weller is awful; the two actors appear to be in two completely different stories. It's Elizabeth McGovern's performance in "The Man with the Brooks Brothers Shirt" that makes this tape worth the price of the rental. Beau Bridges is good as the traveling salesman, but McGovern's performance as the stranger he meets on the train is one of the most skillful, powerful performances I've ever seen on film. This is a hugely gifted, vastly underrated actress who ought to be seen a lot more often than she is. Two stars overall, but Elizabeth McGovern gets five.
For a start, this work is wildly mistitled. "Women and Men, Tales of Seduction" lures unwitting viewers to three literary short stories reenvisioned as short films. If you like short stories, this isn't a problem - but anyone who has done English 101 would recognize that these stories are not actually about seduction at all. Still, if three stories of equal weight had been chosen, there would have been more chance for a satisfying whole. Unfortunately Hemingway's oft taught "Hills Like White Elephants" is a major work that comes after two minor ones (although I must admit my love for anything Dorothy Parker). Who chose THESE stories to film? Worse still, the Hemingway story (a classic of the form) is mauled by none other than Joan Didion. What was she thinking? Revered for its spare use of descriptive narrative in favor of minimalist but revealing dialogue, here "White Elephants" has been stretched and puttied with endless dialogue as well as an odd interpretation which seems to miss the point of the story. How did that happen? There are bright points, however; Elizabeth McGovern is wonderful in a truly depressing story which simultaneously questions gender roles and unwittingly chastises women for breaking out of them. Peter Weller reminds us that his sex appeal exists in a purely auto-erotic manner, thus making the second story almost impossible to comprehend. (In the original version, a cad manages to manipulate his young lover into staying "just one more time" through sheer masculinity and charm. Peter Weller? Uh uh.) Although the story is ruined, his own peculiar appeal still makes it worth watching and possibly in a manner that the perverse Ms. Parker, herself, would have enjoyed... Unfortunately Molly Ringwald's shrieking and lack of any appeal whatsoever rends the piece useless. Still, watch it for the scene where Weller lies splayed-legged on a bed...a truly unusual scene, and the closest the whole film ever comes to a literary moment. After watching all three parts I'm still confused as to who gave the film the go ahead. Someone obviously loves these stories, but not enough to take care of them, or to make us love them as well.
The best of three is The Man in the Brooks Brothers shirt, with
Elizabeth McGovern displaying her deep and complex powers. This
is the same lady who contributed to "Once Upon a Time in
America" becoming a film classic and grand opera. What she does
with her face is difficult to describe, but is worth watching.
"Hills Like White Elephants" is the best short of the set. Thick with tension and a tangible, though unspoken, sense of pervading hopelessness. Hadley is Melanie Griffith's most outstanding role. What Melanie communicates with just her eyes is amazing. As for James Woods, well, he plays a sleazy jerk of a guy as impeccably as ever. But, really, for those of you who think Melanie Griffith can't act, this short film will change your mind forever.
I just watched this video today in my Introduction to Fiction class and was disappointed with it. I liked Hemingway's short story very much. It's a great story thats told through dialogue and imagery. What I was basically disappointed about with the film adaptation was the how they changed the dialogue and basically spelled out for the audience what the couple's quarrel was about. The film took away the elusiveness of the short story. With all that aside, the acting and directing was alright. I like how the film added the couple walking across the tracks into an orchard, where I think there was an apple tree, and then they walked back to the station (a literary tool used in short stories like "The Swimmer" and "Young Goodman Brown" that use that loss of innocence symbolism with apple trees that originated with the Garden of Eden story). Anyway, the short story is better.
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