Tonight it was a rain-soaked, bone-chilling, blustery night and I wanted to find a warm comforting place to spend some enjoyable time. So, I took myself to the local theater. Of the week's new offerings I chose this film to see, I'll admit, based almost solely on my past experiences seeing films with the principal actors we see here. As it turned out, the film warmed me far more than the stingy heat in the theater. It was a very comforting presentation to enjoy on a holiday season night.
One can't say a great deal about the staging of a contemporary film. After all, it's not much of a challenge to capture the mundane surroundings we see every day. The film, then, needs something a lot more interesting injected into it to make it successful and this one succeeds marvelously. The plot concerning a down-on-his-luck businessman falling head-over-heels for a femjock who's just received the biggest disappointment in her life is just different enough to not be boring and interesting and fun enough to hold our attention. The director, James L. Brooks (who also scripted and co-produced), has an incredible track record for excellence as writer, producer, and director so it creates high expectations in a movie goer. He really delivers here with just the right nuance of sentimental warmth and comedy. Of course, he didn't do it alone, having some tremendous acting talent to lend a most competent hand.
Being me, I couldn't help but first notice the very talented, captivatingly beautiful Reese Witherspoon as Lisa, the athlete. Yes, I can even buy her as an athlete, something not every actress could carry off. She most ably, and with seeming ease, injected not only an unmistakable air of beautiful professional competence but a degree of class, physical grace and presence that is riveting to watch. It's hard to take your eyes off of her while she's on screen, and she doesn't disappoint for a single moment. Whether she's wearing a baseball uniform or elegant evening wear, she's convincing as whoever she attempts. You just naturally want to like her, to root for her to succeed and find that most elusive of dreams; happiness. Of course, as completely captivating as she is, she's not on screen alone, but surrounded by a lot of other great talents.
Everyone seems to like Paul Rudd; here as George. He's a likable everyman in the same sort of mold as Jimmy Stewart and his presence improves whatever he touches. He creates a character here that just makes you want to like him and hope he succeeds. Here, he's the down-on-his-luck businessman who is set up for a blind date with the effervescent Ms. Witherspoon. I love them as a couple. On screen, they're what a lot of people hope to be; good people who find a way through life with someone else. Of course, as films always do, there are stumbling blocks.
The first stumble is that Ms. Reese is first hooked up with a real character played by the wonderfully talented Owen Wilson as Matty, the professional baseball player. He is a happy and likable guy with a simple mind and simpler morals who just can't grasp how to treat a lady - or that he really has an incredible lady right there in front of him to lose. Fun ensues and these three, Witherspoon, Rudd and Wilson really do have fun on screen and carry us along for the ride. (NOTE: One can't help but notice the quite accurate depiction of the immense difference in the way the world treats highly successful athletes of both genders. While the males are showered with obscene amounts of cash and attention, the equally great, or even perhaps better, female athletes have to settle for little more than faint praise and a pat on the back.) I was also highly entertained by a wonderful supporting cast, led by none other than the legendary Jack Nicholson as Charlie, Rudd's father and playing as fine a slime-ball as ever graced the silver screen. Thank you, Jack, for giving me a villain worthy of disliking.
Now, add to this already fine mix the talent of Kathryn Hahn as Annie, Rudd's very pregnant assistant. She adds a real element of class to what otherwise may have been a mundane role. She really hits her stride in a scene with the great character actor Lenny Venito, as Al, her baby's co-producer. This pair have one of those screen moments that is so terrific it comes very close to overshadowing the main plot.
Other memorable performances came from Molly Price as Coach Sally (even though her part was small she shone) and a humorous John Tormey as the doorman and, last-but-not-least the always great Tony Shalhoub as a psychiatrist Ms. Reese almost visits. The short exchange between them is very fun to watch.
All-in-all it's a great film to take someone you love to during this holiday season.
By Bruce L. Jones http://webpages.charter.net/bruce.jones1/
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