|Page 5 of 7:||      |
|Index||62 reviews in total|
What would make a smart, young, beautiful woman fall in love with a
photographer three times her age? What would possess her to give up a
spot in Harvard for the opportunity to live with a tortured artist?
Could it be a human desire to create and having the room to do so?
Could it be he offers sage-like wisdom that outweighs the adjunct
creepiness of the situation; Perhaps. It also helps to have low
self-esteem and little direction in life. In the non-committal words of
Harper Sloane (Sarah Polley), "He was the worst man I ever met, or
maybe the best, I'm still not sure. If you're supposed to learn by your
mistakes, then he was the best mistake I ever made
I was his Guinevere
whatever that means." As you can imagine the basic outline of Guinevere
(1999) is one of a relationship between an aging photographer (Stephen
Rea) and a colleen with a self-image problem. As their relationship
progresses, Harper uncovers Connie's bohemian lifestyle extends to his
love life as well has his approach to art. Can she properly balance
their love, her family's expectations of her, his expectations of her
and a menagerie of rival "Guineveres"? Stephen Rea's Connie asks for
five years of his muse's life. Five years rent free for Harper to coax
and develop the artist inside herself. Can she truly accomplish this
task? Okay enough with the rhetorical questions. The fact is those who
will like this movie will like it because it is a mediocre film made
relevant by its subject matter. Self-proclaimed artists and photography
buffs will likely see Guinevere as a diamond in the rough; a romantic
take on their struggles living with their gift. Luckily I have no
artistic talent so I can speak for the majority when I say Guinevere is
diminutive and not worth sitting through. There are moments that bring
to mind other, better films about similar subject matters like Blow-Up
(1966) and La Dolce Vita (1960). Those moments however are interspersed
with conversations about which picture is better, whether Uncle Tom's
Cabin was art or a product and these are not my boobs.
As one gets older, the libido takes a back seat to the heart so I can sympathize with Stephen Rea's character a little. He craves seeing a young artist blossom and loves seeing Harper slowly come out of her shell and eventually become a photographer. That being said he is also craven for a woman's touch and gets it with a clockwork obsession. He doesn't necessarily cheat on Harper, though it is implied. Instead he reinforces his own ideals of love while never really loving Harper to begin with. He loves her potential not who she is.
Jean Smart, who plays Harper's bourgeois mother, does a spot-on analysis of Connie and his warped relationship with Harper. Upon discovery she comes to their apartment and points out that only a young naïve girl would look at a bohemian photographer like him with a modicum of admiration. "No woman of experience would ever stand in front of you with awe in her eyes." She being a woman with experience may have a seemingly unpleasant marriage but at least her children are talented and they live in a home filled with expensive stuff so of course she knows what she's talking about.
Now one can get a sense of legacy from a movie of this kind. Jean Smart's character might see her legacy through her accomplishments in her career and economic success, while Connie might see his accomplishments highlighted in the pursuance of beauty. It's a fair question, whether you yourself would prefer to be remembered for being monetarily successful or being artistically talented. If only such heavy themes were put into a better movie where the whole story wasn't treated so glibly; then we'd have something to talk about.
My next bunch of reviews will focus on Canadian actor/director Sarah
Polley, who has starred in several independent films such as
"Guinevere", "Go", and "My Life Without Me", along with directing the
critically acclaimed films "Away from Her" and "Take This Waltz". Born
in January of '79 in Toronto, Sarah found success in the TV show "Road
to Avonlea" and several other Canadian productions. She may be short in
stature (5'2") but is quite the heavy hitter in the indie film scene.
The 1999 film "Guinevere" was written and directed by Audrey Wells and co-stars veteran Irish actor Stephen Rea as Connie Fitzpatrick a Bohemian San Francisco photographer. Polley play Harper Slone the youngest daughter in a wealthy, stuck up family of lawyers. Harper is often ignored and played off as the black sheep, when she is really the most normal and grounded of the bunch. While bored to death at her sisters wedding, she runs off with a bottle of champagne and manages to bump into the wedding photographer, Connie. Connie is not one to win over the young ladies with his looks, but is a very mysterious and intriguing character. The appealing lure of the life of an artist does it every time. He quickly strikes up a sort of friendship with Harper when he agrees not photograph her as part of the wedding party. Unknown to Harper he does take a picture of her and she falls in love with it. On the back it says "To Guinevere" Connie is the stereotypical self destructive, alcoholic, has been artist that have been portrayed since Shakespearian times. He has this thing were he mentors and helps troubled young female artists find their way. I won't lie it is kind of creepy and looks likes the oldest trick in the book for an older man to get with young girls. Although there must be something to him because Harper ditches Harvard law school to live with Connie rent free with the condition that she must work on being some sort of artist. She chooses photography as her medium. All of the girls past and present are referred to as his Guinevere's and serve as his muse's for his own photography projects. It not long before the ole Connie charm kicks in and Harper is sleeping with him. Harper is introduced to his close circle of friends and even meets a former Guinevere, played by Gina Gershon. For the first time in her life Harper feels accepted for who she is and not the constant disappointment her family sees. Connie gives her all of the attention she could ever want and Harper soaks it up like a sponge.
Early on when Harper finds out their have been other Guinevere's, she has a major freak out. Thinking she is being taken advantage of she moves out only to be back with him shortly after. When Harper's mother finds out what she's been up to she confronts Connie. She is one frosty bitch (played by Jean Smart), which a big side a jealousy. "Guinevere" is not a great movie by any stretch, but it is watchable for Polley and Rea, because with out them this movie would need to left in the darkroom. It is currently showing on Netflix Instant Streaming.
After going thru a similar relationship that Harper and Connie shared
I've got to say that in that respect this movie sent many chills up my
spine. The positive aspects of the film are: 1. It's shot in my
hometown of San Francisco and done quite beautifully. 2. Great scene
between Connie, Harper and her mom. 3. Pretty clear plot. Good
representation of the nature / dynamics of their relationship. 4.
Harper's character is contradictory in a way. On one hand she's smart
enough to get into Harvard yet not experienced in the matters of the
heart. 5. Character motivations were all pretty obvious.
However here is what I didn't like about the film: 1. Too many things did not make sense about Connie. He's supposed to be a successful somewhat famous local artist. Where were his shows? He's Irish right? A little about how he came to this country and his relationship to San Francisco's vibrant art scene would have been nice. If he is indeed bohemian, where is his "salon"? What artistic movement is he a part of? He also deteriorates towards the end. Is his alcoholism just a typical facet of being a tortured artist? Why does he stop shooting weddings?
2. I didn't like the "Titanic" choral music.
Anyways I did enjoy it for its nostalgic quality.
I bought this movie at a sale, curious and unaware of its potential,
the stars or story. This afternoon I had two hours off work, and
thought I would relax in the sun and watch it. What a surprise.
It starts with the photos of body parts, which are a little ambiguous, thighs, elbows, curves etc, and I thought, looks interesting. Well it stopped being interesting right there - I should have mowed the lawns! Silly innocuous girl, she kept saying she was nearly 21 but acted around 14, had her head in a bottle - presumably spent the last 4 years at college learning to hold her liquour - at her sister's wedding, in a rather odd bridesmaid's dress, met the man she was to spend the rest of the movie with. I have nothing against age gaps in relationship, although reality has taught me that sooner or later one of you is saggy and baggy and the other gets disillusioned. This guy, this Connie, with a woman's name, had a line as hackneyed and a style as old as the hills. Silly little girl has crush. Where he should have backed off from one who was so self-absorbed and totally boring, he didn't and we all suffered for it. The high spot for me was when she suggested that she look for a flat of her own a few months down the line and he had a tantrum and got well and truly hammered. The good looking older guy with the other blonde in the café looked fine - our girl should have moved in on his party. It just went from bad to worse, giving the Irish, the wedding photographic fraternity and blondes a bad name. Really it was dire. Question - in the scene where she finally walks away, why did she walk through a large puddle? Was that to show us how young and immature she really was? Too late - we knew. Question - don't really wealthy families do 21st birthday parties anymore? So that she got a take away, a Chinese fortune cookie and back into the arms of Mr irresistible. It was all too shallow, as though nobody really wanted to get too heavy. Pity really, it could not have made it any worse.
I was going into this film expecting not to like it. The only reason I watched it was because I'm a big fan of Sarah Polley. I wouldn't say it's the best film and wouldn't make my top ten, but it was enjoyable. Polley seems to be doing a lot of "dark" films lately. I think she wants to get away from her "Road to Avonlea" image. Anyway, I think this is one of her better films, esp. when compared to The Life Before This and The Sweet Hereafter. I give it a 7/10.
Audrey Wells has crafted a tremendous film in Guinevere. She seems to show a talent not only for writing, but for visual direction and camerawork. The acting is solid all around. Stephen Rea is very strong, and Sarah Polley turns in another great performance. A very good film all around.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie is actually very deep compared with a lot of Hollywood
stories presented to us over the years and the plot is not as uncommon
as it might seem on first look. Although the writer and director is a
female, this is a story from a neutral perspective and both men and
women can find themselves in it. You can identify with one of the
characters and understand the other one.
The first time I saw it wasn't from the beginning and it caught my eye in a weird way. I underestimated it when I first saw it but something pulled me to watch it again. I've seen it few times since and I think to really understand it you have to see it more than ones. Before you start calling me names, like dumb and stuff for not getting it right away, I should mention that my profession is psychologist and actually I'm in Mensa. Not that it matters when we discuss taste for movies, but when it comes to analyzing the characters I am more than educated to give my saying. Being amateur scriptwriter is helping me see the story from a different perspective. But enough in my defense, the point is to actually give you a friendly advice if you hated the movie the first time: See it again.
What I look for in a movie is a realistic character with flaws and virtues. Good and bad sides. Actually, in a way, the performance of the leading actors was borderline brilliant and I'm not sure that they even realize it. Harper Sloane is a naive (but this movie is not) girl with low self-esteem not the center of attention she would like to be. So she goes on the other side. The alternative side where she's denying the need for attention on the outside but accumulating it inside. A very common story in real life. She meets the disgustingly ugly character Connie (sorry Stephen :) ) who is giving her the one thing she needs the most. In fact she's identifying herself with him. And thus feels very close to him, he is the only one that gets her or the only one who seemingly cares to understand her. A potential soul mate. Sure, you can see him as a dirty old man if you like, and call him the abuser of a naive young body but think again. Cause you can call her the abuser also, she's getting what she wants from him maybe more than he does. She tells him that she plans to move out (not right away but has plans to do so) and what does he do. Gets insanely drunk and ends up in the hospital. He actually loves her. Perhaps not exactly Harper, but what she represents. And he is actually if need be, ready to put everything on the line for that. What he loves is presented to us by the mother Deborah, another complex character that looks predictable on the first look. Also this is confirmed by the other girls that Connie "loved" in same way. Sweet naive losers with desperate need for attention, and even more, help in the forming themselves into bearable creatures as they mature. Bearable for them not for the others. They are all unhappy and depressed. Looking for someone to save them from these feelings. They are all special in some way; Connie brings them out of their cocoons they might have never left if it wasn't for him, and makes them special.
This is a story of life and death (the nature itself), metaphorically speaking, cause throughout the movie we are constantly waiting for the separation of Harper and Connie. The end points it out very explicitly. Probably for those who failed to understand it during the course of the action. About the archetypes, what can I say, perfectly painted in the modern environment. The old man, the naive girl, the mother I could go on for hours but that would probably bore the hell out of the ones who care enough to read what I have to say about this piece of work.
I had a feeling when I finished watching it that it can be done much better. Sure, the movie could have been directed better, superstar cast might have done it differently, more appealing, but than it would lose the imperfection. This way, it's like that old book you found with ripped pages, very unappealing, and read about the secrets in it. Like a diamond found in the garbage. It can be private this way, just for those who spend the time to really grasp it. If it would be a blockbuster, it wouldn't be as precious as it is this way.
Story has been done a thousand times on the Lifetime Channel alone. Script
has absolutely nothing new to say on the subject.
Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk and talk some more - and then finally - finally - the movie ends.
The cast is fine but you can only do so much when you're assigned bland dialogue.
While Sarah Polley is a fine actress and does the best she can in this role - Here's a tip for budding filmmmakers - if you're casting your character to be upper-crust/upper income, it's distracting that you ask the actress to not smile or to hold her hand in front of her face because her teeth are not perfect - as her character's should be. Oh the other hand, it's probably the most interesting thing about this film - how Sarah's going to try and hid her teeth in a particular scene.
After reading various enthusiastic reviews of Guinevere, I emerged from the
cinema wondering if these critics and I had seen the same film. Are we
expected to take the story or any of these characters seriously? Is it
possible that any appealing young woman intelligent enough to earn a BA
could be deceived by this crassly predatory con man? Stephen Rea plays an
even less attractive version of the walking Irish cliche he portrayed in
"Angie" - dark, rumpled good looks, smooth charm, gift of the gab, etc.
However, in Guinevere his character has the extra ethnic disadvantage of
roaring alcoholism and the tiresome habit of spouting pseudo-Marxist
diatribes against the upper classes.
Admittedly, there is no accounting for taste, especially in sexual matters. Yet you hope that even someone as totally gullible and inexperienced as Harper Sloane (even her name is a crass cliche) might be offput by the explicit warnings from the earlier "Guinevere" played by Ileana Douglas....especially when her prophecies come true and Connie sends Harper out to earn the household income in a burger bar, while he stays at home, presumably in an artistic trance or an alcoholic stupor.
It is difficult to see what artistic tuition or inspiration Connie provides his "Guineveres" that they could not obtain more easily at the public library or evening classes. Sloan does not even take a photograph throughout her relationship with Connie, so it is difficult to see how her later career as a successful photographer owes anything to his mentorship. The one piece of career guidance he is seen to offer her is unbelievable. At a hospital, he leaves her alone in a room with one of his friends, who is even less attractive and more alcoholic than himself and is strapped down to a bed undergoing drastic detox treatment. He urges Sloane to document his incoherent pal's agony in photographs. Sloane does not get as far as taking pictures, because the drunk urinates all over her. Connie berates her for not taking photographs, declaring "This is hard....this is work!!" Well, no it isn't Connie; it is vile, degrading and humiliating and only a pathetic old Marxist lush like you (or a lousy screenwriter) could think otherwise.
Sloane's mum asks Connie what he has against women his own age. The answer is obvious, though not spoken in the film - any woman his own age would see through him in a maximum of three seconds. Also if she was sufficiently deranged to share a home with him, she would insist he do some honest work. Curiously, her mum looks more attractive and vibrantly sexual than the wan and compliant Sloane.
When Sloane first tries to leave, Connie says that both he and Sloane will know when it is the right time for her to leave. Eventually even Sloane's immature brain clicks into gear. When Connie is lying desperately ill in a crummy motel room and sends her across the road for a bottle of liquor, she disappears to get a life - and presumably a boyfriend who is not old enough to be her father.
With so many talented performers and technicians on show here, it is a great shame that they were not provided with a better screenplay. There may be good reasons for a young woman to associate with an older man, but this film provides only an unsavory and compelling argument for sticking to your own generation for sexual and intellectual companionship.
Aside from the obvious qualities that make this an enjoyable picture
(Outstanding performances by all and a solid screenplay), it is perhaps
Guinevere's subtle qualities that set it apart from the standard,
long-winded, character development movie. The cinematography is outstanding
(and rightfully so as it is a film about photography), the casting superb,
and it is quite apparent that this film was under the supervision of a
skilled and consistent director. The characters are believable and natural
really bring this film to life.
However, you must know what you are getting into. Although it is not especially long, it feels like it is. You should expect a movie which seems like it could end at several points, but then continues for another 45 minutes. Guinevere moves more like a good book than a good piece of cinema. But if you are looking for an intelligent, enjoyable film which does not attempt to do anything beyond tell a good story and create interesting believable characters, Guinevere is right on the mark.
|Page 5 of 7:||      |
|Newsgroup reviews||External reviews||Plot keywords|
|Main details||Your user reviews||Your vote history|