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Win Win (2011)
6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Made-for-TV Movie, 14 May 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This film is nothing more than a Made-for-TV type movie. I went to see it because it played at the local art house; in fact, the movie seems to be playing mainly in art houses across the country. Does the presence of Paul Giamatti automatically result in a film's being shown in art houses? An art house release led me to expect something far superior to this.

At any event, within ten or fifteen minutes, you will know the entire plot because you have seen this film hundreds of times previously. Disturbed teenage boy finds a new life with his foster parents (so to speak) and his participation in sports to live happily ever after. Dad also learns a lesson. There is barely an iota of plausibility in this film. And the actors are all better qualified to handle the parts than the parts demand of them. A waste of talented actors. A waste of my time and admission fee.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
How are films like this made when deserving scripts lie unproduced?, 1 November 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The following contains A MAJOR PLOT SPOILER!

This film is as bad as they come and was a total waste of 83 minutes. It is supposedly a film noir, but all it has is the look of noir, and it's not a very good imitation of the real noir look, either. The film is based on a musical called "City Nights" by Glenn M. Stewart, which may account for why most of the film takes place in one set, the Tower nightclub. At first, this nightclub is interesting to look at, but later it becomes boring--same old stuff--and claustrophobic. Aren't we ever going to get out of here? The plot is contained in about four expository speeches rather than being conveyed through action and discovery by the characters. Chaz Davenport's father was murdered, though his death is ruled a suicide, and Chaz is disinherited. We later learn that Chaz's uncle killed the father. It all has to do with the The Consolidated Power Company in LA that Chaz's father and uncle own and their need to control the power in the city. To do so requires the cooperation of the state's governor. When Chaz's father doesn't show enough force in dealing with the governor, the uncle kills him and takes control. Yada, yada, yada, who gives a damn? In case you're wondering, there is no happy ending. Chaz ends up shot to death by the uncle, as if this ending will give the film the necessary punch-up that it's lacked all along. Instead, it's just a blah. Why? Because the characters are never developed in depth; I never cared for the characters or what happened to them, whether they lived or died was of no matter.

Gabriel Mann, who plays Chaz Davenport, would be appropriately cast in the Dobie Gillis TV series. He's definitely a good boy, 1950's style. The best that can be said about Bijou Phillips as Crystal is that she learned her lines and said them without stuttering. Izabella Miko, who plays the singer Madelaine, bears a startling resemblance to Michelle Pfeiffer, which only makes clears all the talent that Miko lacks. And Elias Koteas as the Lieutenant ought to be ashamed of himself for appearing in such junk.

The dance numbers are but a poor imitation of Busby Berkeley routines, lack any variety, and quickly become boring. The songs are ordinary, and it appears all the singers are dubbed with singing voices that are no match for their speaking voices.

Some of the dialogue is risible, which will give you the only laughs you're going to get here.

Since this film was based on a musical, why not keep it a musical? But then it would have to compete directly with "Chicago," I suppose, and that would be a disaster for "Dark Streets." I thought that perhaps the filmmakers were trying to make a ballad--a story in song--but that gives them too much credit.

2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Nice travelogue; terrible plot, 2 May 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Rome Adventure" is primarily a gorgeous color travelogue of Rome and other spots in Italy to which a silly soap opera story has been attached. Indeed, the beauty starts with the credits, which are among the nicest I've ever seen. Director Daves manages to show us all the major sights of Rome and a great many others throughout Italy. Everything is scrupulously clean. It's a bit unreal, but the color is first-rate, and the movie is well worth seeing for its scenery alone. There is also a lush score by Max Steiner.

In front of all this, we have a nonsensical story. The dialogue is sappy, contains many howlers, and is very sexist, encouraging a woman to know her place. Brazzi gives a little speech near the end, telling Prudence that a woman's place is to tame the wildness in a man, and that women were wrong to seek freedom.

The casting is all wrong. Pleshette (who somehow always suggests Joan Collins and Polly Bergen to me) is too sexy, mature, and sophisticated to be a believable partner for Donahue as his character is depicted here, yet she's too young for the Brazzi character, though more believable with him. Daves does photograph her very nicely in a number of close-ups.

Angie Dickinson is not for a moment plausible as a lover of Donahue. She's a sexy dame, and her rightful place was in films like "Point Blank" and "Dressed to Kill," among rougher, tougher types.

Troy Donahue--there he is, the 60s preppy image: white socks, loafers, tan chinos, sweaters, and a slightly pigeon-toed walk. He's not as handsome as I remembered him to be; he has a slack jaw. But Daves, again, gives him a number of nice close-ups. Of course, he can't act; he delivers his lines flatly in a monotone learned, I presume, in the Tony Perkins School of Dramatic Arts.

Hampton Fancher plays Albert Stillwell, a grind graduate student. He's a tall, clean-cut, All-American basketball college jock type. He's certainly as handsome as Donahue, and it was just circumstances that made Fancher a supporting player and Donahue the momentary star. Fancher is the only one doing any acting in this film; it required some skill to put on the face of the bumbling, dull grind.

Constance Ford, as always, comes across as too butch, leaving me the impression that her character is a lesbian, even if the character wasn't intended to be.

I found the film a pleasant trip back to March 1962, which is when the film opened in Manhattan. On April 19, 1961, Fellini's "La Dolce Vita" had opened in the U.S. Which version of Rome do you want to see?

Bix (1991)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
The Bix Beiderbecke Story for Gay Men, 17 April 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is the Bix Beiderbecke story for gay men. The film appears to have been made by a combination of GQ, the photographers for the Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue, and Bruce Weber. It's filled with beautiful twenty-something guys (Beiderbecke died at 28), all of them wearing nice clothing--often tuxedoes, posed against vintage 20s automobiles or in art deco theatre lobbies and nightclubs, in prep-school dorms, or on warp-around porches of large Midwestern homes bathed in a soft golden light. Even when the men are a bit scruffy and in need of a shave, they appear as if in high-fashion photo layouts. This is a film where even the ugly guys are handsome. Watching it is like turning the pages of a deluxe coffee table book about Bix's life.

What does the film tell us about Bix? He was a fabulous trumpet player; a disappointment to his parents, who wanted him to live a conventional middle-class life; an alcoholic. But who cares how inaccurate most of this film's details are? The film's subtitle is "An Interpretation of a Legend," and I can only thank director Pupi Avati and cinematographer Pasquale Rachini for interpreting Bix's life in this lush manner.

Bryant Weeks as Bix is a handsome, blond cutie with a sweet, slightly mischievous smile that no one could resist. Emile Levisetti, with his large dark eyes, is thick chocolate, creamy, delicious! (Note: Levisetti is not a black actor. This is not a racist comment! I mean to suggest the warm and sensual nature of this actor.) Why go on to delineate the beauty of the others? Just see them and drink in their handsomeness. But be warned: there's no nudity, though the director did get Week's shirt off in two scenes, and in another, there's a brief glimpse of his great thighs. Other than that, everybody is buttoned from top to bottom. Of course, none of these men look a bit like their actual counterparts. In real life, Beiderbecke was ordinary looking, if not downright ugly. And Romano Orzari as Hoagy Carmichael gave me a laugh, precisely because he's so unlike the real Hoagy, familiar to me from his movie appearances.

Forget women. They don't count for anything here, and aren't much seen--except for Bix's mom.

The film has a solid musical background, recreations of many Beiderbecke numbers. And "Bix" was filmed in authentic Midwestern locations, including the actual home Beiderbecke grew up in in Davenport, Iowa.

Banjo/guitarist Eddie Condon described Beiderbecke's clear, clean tone as "like a girl saying yes." Well, maybe that quote was taken as the key to interpreting Bix's story in this lush, sensual manner. Yes, yes, yes! Don't miss it.

Most of the actors here, among them Bryant Weeks, have no other screen credits. I'd be interested to hear from anyone with further information about Weeks or the other actors. According to Leonard Maltin's comments, "Bix" was originally 120 minutes, cut down to 100 minutes. Does anyone know if a 120-minute video version exists?

16 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
Meet Jack Stillman--the Real Sexy Entertaining Man behind Plastic Wrangler, 4 November 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I never found Jack Wrangler the least bit sexy. Why wasn't Jack sexy for me? He was a Ken doll, too bland, no depth of personality shown on screen, no interesting quirks. Yes, he was attractive in a smooth, blond way. He'd been to the gym and built himself up. And he certainly had a fine circumcised cock (on display here) that was suitable for porn films. Yet, I can never recall seeing Wrangler in a sex scene where I felt he was actually involved with his partner. He always seemed to be "phoning in" the sex scene, as if the real Jack Wrangler was not even in the same room. His orgasm scenes were equally faked and that is proved in this documentary when clips are shown of Jack ejaculating and Jack being buggered (for want of a more specific word). His reaction is more comic than sexual.

All of this was explained for me in this documentary and in Jack's book, "What Is A Nice Boy Like You Doing?" Wrangler was a character, a persona, that Jack Stillman created, and in that role, Wrangler performed in porn films. Stillman's real self was left behind when he was being filmed.

This documentary clearly states that most of the guys in gay porn films were hustlers, were not well educated, often had criminal records, were heavily into drug use. Wrangler was none of these things. He came from an upper-middle-class background, lived in Beverly Hills, went to a private secondary school, had some college at Northwestern near Chicago, and had taken classes at a drama school in Manhattan. When he left the porn set at the end of the day, he went back to a world very unlike his co-stars returned to. Wrangler never hustled; he didn't have sex for money. Most gay porn actors did. As this documentary makes clear, these gay porn actors used their porn films as a launching pad for hustling and for personal strip show appearances around the country. Through the porn film, the guys became known, and based on that "fame" were able to get bookings into strip clubs and peddle their butts at high prices.

The talking heads in the show overestimated Jack Wrangler's importance to gay porn because they didn't place Wrangler in context. There was some mention made of other porn filmmakers and actors but not enough. "The Boys in the Sand" was the first important gay porn film in Manhattan, playing months at the 55th Street Playhouse. Casey Donovan certainly had a huge impact on audiences in that early film. Other porn actors were equal to or exceeded Wrangler in popularity. However, most of them died of AIDS and aren't available for interviews today.

Now, having said all of these negative things about Wrangler, I must say this film completely changed my opinion of him. Jack Stillman--not Wrangler--is actually a very entertaining guy who has a stock of interesting and often hilarious stories to tell. And tell them he does! It's hard to get Wrangler to stop talking. This may not be fully apparent in the film itself, but the DVD has an extra that includes footage from Stillman interviews that didn't make the film. And Jack is enormously entertaining. I'd enjoy having dinner with him, because I'm sure he'd dominate the talk, but I'd never be bored.

Another thing that made Jack appealing is his looks. He lost that blond Ken Doll look as he aged. The interviews for this film were done when Jack was 59-60, and I find him much more sexy and appealing as he looks now with his gray hair and his wrinkles than when he was blond and smooth. Now Jack Stillman is a real person--unique, and with a personality that emerges through his talk. He frankly talks about manufacturing the Wrangler image and is willing to both make fun of Jack Wrangler and to treat him deprecatingly.

The Jack Stillman revealed in this documentary made it worth my time to watch the film and is the only reason I would recommend the documentary.

1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
A sad misfire; contains spoilers, 26 May 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This play, presented May 6, 1979, was made for the BBC TV series "Play of the Month." This production is the play; there is no attempt to "open up" the drama as films often do with plays. It is now available as part of the Noel Coward Collection (Disc 3), a group of five DVD's presenting Coward's major stage plays, among other works.

When "Design for Living" was done originally in 1933, it was shocking in proposing that a woman (Gilda) live with two men (Leo, Otto), neither of whom she was married to, and that they all loved each other. In recent years, emphasis has been placed on the fact that the men would also be having sex with each other as well as with Gilda. But that idea is a ho-hum today. And the play often has talky, preachy passages and extraneous dialogue to pad the play. Is this a comedy? Well, it's supposed to be (though the use of "20th Century Blues" over the opening titles may suggest otherwise), but I didn't get any laughs from it. The play is probably too dated to work well anymore.

The best thing about this production is the casting of Rula Lenska as Gilda. But in most scenes, she bears a strong resemblance to Loretta Young and in other scenes to Joan Collins, which can produce unwanted comic effect. At any event, her Gilda is such a strong, independent female that she dominates the film. This Gilda would never seriously consider either Otto or Leo as lovers. She'd chew them up and spit them out for breakfast. At best, she'd tolerate them as "gay buddies." And that gets to the major casting trouble. Both Clive Arrindell as Otto and John Steiner as Leo come across as gay and wimpy. Here their drunk scene, which occurs at the end of Act 2 after Gilda leaves them both, occurs in a living room, where they get drunk and end up falling into each other's arms. Then there is a cut to show them both in the shower together. As staged here, this is to make clear that they have had sex. (In the play, of course, lines now said in the shower were said in the living room.) But these two come across as such cold fish, it's hard to believe that they'd even have sex with each other. And Coward uses that old pre-Stonewall cliché: the men had to get drunk to have sex with each other. Actually, for this play to work, both male characters have to be convincing as sexual partners not only for Gilda but also for each other. Neither Steiner nor Arrindell fulfills the bill here. Add to that the changing image of the male physique since 1979. Today, actors have pumped-up bodies; here Steiner and Arrindell are both boyishly skinny and need to hit the gym.

In this production, I never found the plot the least bit plausible, didn't find the love among the three leads believable, and didn't care a whit about what happened to them. I realize that comedy plots don't have to be plausible, but here the falsity of the situation was foregrounded because of the poor casting and because of much of the dialogue. Don't ask me to believe for a moment that these three as shown here have a future.

John Bluthal who plays Ernest Friedman, the older man whom Gilda marries, makes him a sympathetic character until the last scene of the last act when Coward burdens Ernest with speeches criticizing Gilda, Leo, and Otto for deciding to live together, making Ernest the symbol of middle-class morality.

As always in a Coward play, the dialogue is highly artificial, of a kind that people wouldn't naturally speak, or let's say that most people wouldn't naturally speak. If a Coward drama isn't played properly, because of the dialogue, the characters come across as a bunch of superficial twits and prissy queens.

As always in BBC shows, the production values here are excellent--the period costumes, the hairstyles, the sets--impeccable--so that when one becomes bored with the characters and their brittle chatter, he can always study the sets or the costumes. Is the film version with Miriam Hopkins, Fredric March, and Gary Cooper better? It has its virtues but is also, finally, an unsatisfactory version of the play.

3 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Is this the worst gay comedy ever made? Contains spoilers, 17 May 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Over the years, I've had discussion with various gay friends about "gay sensibility." Does such a thing exist, and, if so, how is it defined? One way a term can be defined is by negation--telling what something is not. "Outing Riley" will define by negation very clearly what "Gay Sensibility" is not. This is a heterosexual teen comedy--only it's not the least bit funny, if you're older than 14 and have an IQ higher than 70.

Here's a sampling of this film's "humor": Luke and Connor are in a bar where a horse race is being televised. A woman joins them and asks if they have any money on the horses. "Yes," they say. "On number 2, My Face." So they begin cheering the horse on by saying, "Come on, My Face." Finally, as the race ends the woman realizes she's been made a fool of, shouting out in the bar, "Come on (ejaculate) on my face." Ha, ha! Isn't that just a gut-buster? Another scene--a flashback--shows the father getting exercise equipment for Christmas. He tries out the rowing machine or the slant board (I'm uncertain exactly which it was), and after straining his midsection with a few moves, he expels a loud, explosive fart. If that's your idea of comedy, you'll love this film's "humor." And guess where Connor and Luke arrange to meet Bobby's boyfriend Luke? At a hot dog stand named Weiner Circle. Ain't that just too funny?

We are introduced to Bobby's three Irish brothers and his sister. Oldest brother, Jack Riley, is a priest, and the depiction of his character here makes him a disgusting person, which, perhaps, was the filmmaker's intention, though I doubt it. Jack reveals to his brothers bits of scandalous information that he's learned in the confessional. During a baptismal scene, Jack is paying more attention to trying to hear what his two rude brothers and sister are talking about in the church pews while the baptismal ceremony is going on at the altar. He's hypocritical. He's bifurcated--a priest in the church and rectory but someone else quite different when off the church property. Brother Luke Riley is a pothead and magic mushroom devotee, even though he's married, the father of two daughters, and apparently in his early 30s. And then there's Connor Riley, the overweight internet porn addict--also married and a father.

There isn't an iota of conviction in this film. I didn't for a minute believe that Bobby Riley was gay. Pete Jones remained a straight man playing a gay character. I couldn't believe in Bobby and his boyfriend Andy's love for each other. We see mighty little of Bobby and Andy together, for one thing, and when we do see them together, they are awkward and stiff with each other, incapable of speaking naturally, and certainly not behaving as lovers of several years.

We're to believe that Connor and Luke both come to accept Bobby as gay because they arrange a surprise Coming Out party for him. Nonsense. The priest gives out with the usual Catholic line--the church doesn't condemn a homosexual, just homosexual acts. He says he's still praying for Bobby and hopes he'll make a better choice. This guy is the hypocrite to end them all.

Finally, the only gay moment occurs in a brief ten second (or so) fantasy scene that Bobby has which recalls an Esther Williams water ballet as choreographed by Busby Berkeley. So all is not lost, after all!

I don't think a writer, director, or actor has to be gay to portray gays and their lives successfully. I conclude that Pete Jones is an inept writer and director whose heterosexual sensibility and penchant for gross-out teen comedies was glued unto a story about a gay man coming out.

If you want to know what it's like to come out as a gay or lesbian to a family of religious parents and siblings, I'd recommend the excellent "For the Bible Tells Me So." There's no comedy there, though there are, for the most part, happy endings of acceptance. And, yes, there are comedies about gays and lesbians coming out, but "Outing Riley" isn't one of them.

How did this film get made?

Phoenix (2006/I)
2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
For Silhouette Romance Fans - Contains MAJOR SPOILERS, 12 March 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Do the publishers of the Silhouette Romance novels have a line of romance novels for gay men? If so, the script for "Phoenix" would fit right in, for this is just a trifling romantic soap opera.

Dylan Wells, a twinkie in his early 20s, is seeing Kenneth Sparks, a traveling real estate agent whenever Sparks comes into L.A. for the weekend. Their "relationship" is nothing more than weekend sex sessions whenever Sparks is available. Sparks has been stringing Wells along by saying that he will meet his friends and that he will soon move in to live with Wells. A person doesn't need a three-digit IQ to know that Sparks is lying, and Wells should not have hung any expectations for a future with Sparks on what Sparks told him.

As shown here, Sparks is a short-tempered man arguing with his business associates. (He smokes, a sure sign this guy is the villain.) Although Sparks gives Dylan a small jug handmade from ClayMakers in Phoenix and tells Dylan it's a work of art, we later learn this was a gift that had earlier been given to Sparks and is not an expensive work of art at all.

On this particular weekend, Sparks leaves Dylan within hours after arriving, pleading business. The day after they part, Dylan impulsively decides to go to Phoenix, where Sparks told him he was going to deal with business. But when Dylan goes to the Mod Resort, where Sparks is staying, he does not find Sparks in residence, though Sparks has a room there. Posing as Sparks, Dylan manages to con a trainee at the front desk into giving him a key to the room. He finds none of Sparks' personal effects in the room.

Dylan phones the police, reporting Sparks as a missing person, and, quite improbably, Detective Smith comes around to interview Dylan, who is still occupying Sparks' room (improbable also). The police would not have responded to Dylan's call since Sparks was not a relative, nor were Sparks and Dylan legally married. Besides, Sparks hadn't been gone more than a day or two. But let's not quibble over small plausibility matters.

After his discussion with Detective Smith, Dylan searches out ClayMakers, where his jar was produced, and discovers that it is a one-man operation in the garage of the owner's home. The owner is Demetrius Stone, a chef in his mid- to late 30s, and, in short order, Dylan discovers that Demetrius and Kenneth Sparks have been partners for more than seven years.

So now, we have two betrayed men. What next? Well, what do you expect in a Silhouette Novel type plot? Demetrius and Dylan have sex, the two consoling each other in their betrayal. Over the next few days, Dylan falls in love with Demetrius, the speed of this emotional entanglement with Demetrius showing Dylan's' immaturity. Nonetheless, Demetrius and Dylan want the same things. As Demetrius says, "All I ever wanted was a husband, a house, and a kid I like." The plot promotes the current thinking in the gay world--become like a heterosexual couple! A few scenes between Demetrius and Dylan make it obvious to the viewer that the two are mismatched. To the film's credit, it doesn't give Demetrius and Dylan a happy ending. The two part as friends, and Dylan goes back to L.A., supposedly a wiser person The movie's tag line is "Every broken heart is a chance for a new beginning," so I assume that--phoenix-like--Dylan will arise anew from the ashes of his two broken "relationships" with Sparks and Demetrius. And, I'm sure, Demetrius will recover, too.

There is some obvious symbolism here in the title, the waves crashing on the shore, phallic rock formations, that anyone who has had an introduction to literature course in college will easily interpret.

The film has decent production values that belie its low budget. However, the sets look like displays of model rooms in a furniture store--all new and all impersonal. The same goes for details like dishes, sheets, wall decorations, kitchen appliances. However, some shots in Demetrius's home reveal it to be a real house-- mismatched kitchen cabinet doors, an older stove, and inexpensive dining room furniture.

The technical quality of the film (lighting, editing) is fine, as is the photography. There is nothing distinguished here, just quality work of the kind that often doesn't appear in low-budget indie films. The film's pace is slow in a few places, which had me looking at the décor in the background rather than the actors in the foreground.

The three leading men are all attractive in a generically handsome way. They're rather like the sets--nice looking and impersonal. Gaelano Jones as Kenneth Sparks does display a mean look that is appropriate to his character. Jeff Castle bears an uncanny resemblance to Cliff Robertson. Chad Bartley looks like the kind of guy who turns up regularly in gay porn films. He is the weakest actor here, but then he only has two IMDb credits, his other being a bit part.

Two older characters, Lewis and Gunther, unnecessary to the film, appear briefly in two scenes as lovers who've been together for about twenty years. They're stereotypes: have an open relationship, trade barbs with each other, and so on.

There is no frontal nudity here, though Bartley does some bare butt scenes. Jones keeps his underpants on throughout, and, although one scene has a naked Jeff Castle in bed, Chad Bartley is positioned in such a way that you don't ever see Castle's bare butt.

Finally, according to the IMDb, this film was Akers' attempt to remake Antonioni's "L'Avventura." Let's not even go there.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Not funny, not recommended, 29 January 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This was not a very good film, and, after seeing it and thinking about it, my opinion of it sank even further--to awful. It's supposed to be a comedy, but I didn't get one laugh.

The plot is well detailed by gradyharp, another commentator here. The whole plot is utter hogwash. But I was put off by the film's making fun of the Indian traditions and rituals of engagement and marriage. (No, I am not Indian.) In playing them for laughs, it degraded them, and this wasn't funny.

The gay story is ignored--yes, ignored--for most of the film. I didn't for a moment believe that Jimi and Jack were in love and a devoted couple because the film didn't have enough scenes to make that clear. Chris Bisson is miscast as Jimi Chopra. He looks much older than Peter Ash, who plays Jack. Sushil Chudasama, who plays Ravi, Jimi's brother, would have been better cast as Jimi. There is no chemistry between Bisson and Ash. Jack is ignored for most of the film, and this is insulting to his character. Jack emerges as a chump, willing to take whatever humiliation Jimi hands out. And Jack's willingness to meet Jimi's parents and extended family and to take a role in Jimi's marriage seemed unrealistic.

But Jimi himself isn't very nice; he's cowardly, spineless, unwilling to confront the issues of coming out to his parents. I suppose one could say that if Jimi did so we'd have no movie, or we'd certainly have no comedy. But as presented here, I disliked Jimi for his spinelessness, even though he used the rationale of doing what he did to please his parents. But what Jimi was about to do in marrying Vanessa would have been harmful to many people in short order, even though Vanessa, Jack, and Hanah were all in on the deceptive marriage plot. That they were says nothing positive about their characters.

Actually, the gay plot is so back-grounded, that the film might well work as a heterosexual story. Jimi could just as well have an English girlfriend, say, whom he wanted to marry but whom he knew his parents would disapprove of and will hatch a plot to deceive his parents but allow him to still live with his English girlfriend.

In addition, I was put off by Vanessa, an overweight alcoholic woman who works tending bar in a pub and passes out most nights when she comes home from work. She also has a potty mouth. None of this makes for a humorous effect. Her precocious young daughter, Hanah, not only takes care of herself but also attends to her mother. Unfortunately, most of Hanah's dialogue is implausible, very adult, and proves only that Kazy Clayton can memorize sophisticated dialogue at a young age.

A strip club scene here is unnecessary. Harish Patel, who plays Simran's father, is outrageously over the top in a Zero Mostel manner that I found both embarrassing and irritating. Definitely not recommended.

Sons & Lovers (2003) (TV)
3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
The Nudie Version of Sons and Lovers - Contains spoilers, 24 May 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The credits say the film is based on an uncensored version of the novel, and that has resulted in a film with far too much nudity and too many sex scenes.

The film starts weak because it tries to show something of Gertrude and Walter Morel's meeting and early life. To do this correctly, this part should have been much longer to make us better acquainted with these characters.

The film doesn't settle into a coherent narrative until the two sons, William and Paul, have grown up. The first part gives full attention to William, his going off to London, his involvement with Lucy, a frivolous London woman, and his death.

The connection between Paul and Clara Dawes (in part 2) is almost comical--plenty of hard staring and then dates at the movies where the piano player's music not only accompanies the silent movie but the increasing passion of Paul and Clara, making it comic.

Paul and Clara decamp in hot lust from the movie theater for her place where she tells him to wait in the living room while she gets naked and then prances in for a full frontally nude shot. Part 2 has significant nudity, and none of it works. In another instance, Paul and Clara have a stand-up f*** at work. In another instance, Paul and Clara are kissing in a movie theater, so overcome with their lust that all of the other patrons are staring at them. This also is unrealistic for the time. In yet another modern bit, both Paul and Clara are totally naked and f***ing on a hay truck in an open field. This film is a perfect illustration that nudity and scenes of f***ing don't create a sexy or passionate atmosphere, but in this film are actually annoying and intrusive.

Paul's relationship with Miriam involves nudity on both actors' parts. Here Paul comes across as a clod who obviously doesn't understand much about how to satisfy a woman sexually. He just mounts the poor girl and pounds away. No wonder Miriam is horrified by sex, and Paul isn't satisfied. Miriam doesn't know how lucky she is that she never married Paul. The point is that Paul isn't meant to be shown this way, but that's how he comes across because of the nature of the sex scenes. In this version of the film, Miriam is Paul's victim, yet sadly blames herself.

One of few effective scenes in this overly long drama occurs between Paul and Miriam when he meets her for the last time and tells her that they must end their relationship--despite the sex they've had together, despite his having asked her to marry him, despite her understanding they were engaged. In tears, Miriam asks Paul to tell her parents that he can't marry her, but he doesn't. It's one of the few scenes where the actors are given some decent lines and some intense emotion to act, and they do it well enough.

After Mrs. Morel's death, there is a sudden cut, and we see Paul in some seedy hotel room surrounded by his paints, an easel, and plenty of liquor bottles; Paul is drunk. No explanation for this scene. Mrs. Morel's funeral is skipped over. I presume Paul quit his job at Jordan's and came here, but where is here? Nottingham? London? Clara comes to him here and--you guessed it, another nude sex scene--and sets him straight. He stops his drinking, checks out of the squalid hotel, and goes back home--or so I assume from the direction of the train. World War 1 has just begun. And we leave Paul at that point.

Repeatedly the script has the actors talk rather than show. Paul talks to his mother about Clara rather than our seeing what we need to of their relationship. Clara talks to Paul to explain Paul's relationship to Miriam.

Lyndsey Marshal as Miriam Leivers is the most interesting actor here, but she wasn't given much chance to show her talents. Sarah Lancashire constantly distracted me because she looked like Vanessa Redgrave. The male leads are just boy toys.

In the superior 1960 version, Wendy Hiller and Trevor Howard are able to convey with dialogue and some excellent facial expressions and fine acting the entire early history of Mr. and Mrs. Morel. In the 1960 version, both Gertrude and Walter are very real characters. Here both are flat, especially Walter, who is simply a bore that falls right out of the narrative, which focuses on Gertrude and her two sons. Walter is out of the narrative for so long at various points that I thought perhaps he'd died. And no one here is in the same league as Dean Stockwell, Mary Ure, and Heather Sears.

The settings are false throughout. The Morel's home in the mining village looks like something right out of "Better Homes and Gardens" or "Traditional Homes"--as if a miner's row house had been gentrified. And these miners' homes are in close proximity to rolling green hills with beautiful views of valleys beneath. Right behind each home, there are perfectly tended vegetable gardens and plenty of room for the laundry to be hung out and blow dry in crisp, fresh air. Nonsense! The costumes the characters wear are, likewise, neat and clean as if put on for a fashion shoot in "Vogue" or some other magazine.

And then there is the score; the 1960 film has the better score, one that works throughout to complement the melancholy mood and atmosphere of the film.

A waste of time. See the 1960 version if you can find it.


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