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Holiday Affair (1949)
Doesn't stand to repeated viewings...
For a Christmas film to achieve lasting status, it ought to be able to withstand repeated viewings. When I first caught this film, I thought it was an impressive, under-seen gem. But a few years have gone by and my initial enthusiasm has waded.
The biggest problem with the film is that the script relies heavily on re-stating everything that had happened before it, as if it needed all the padding it could take. This happens many times over, most notably in the courtroom sequence, and after awhile it gets pretty monotonous.
The second problem, and it is a minor point, but the story's initial conflict doesn't really translate well to today. One wonders why comparison shopping was so problematic back in the late 1940s, and whether the Janet Leigh character had to actually purchase a train set to find out what the price would be. We live in a society that thrives on "Consumer Reports" guides. Even "A Miracle on 34th Street", made two years prior, touched upon a similar subplot that made this one seem outdated.
Lastly, the kid was annoying. Enough said.
With a thin plot, unrealistic circumstances, and dialogue that repeats itself (thinking it's funny enough to stretch a story to feature length), this makes the film worthy to watch once, and then forgotten shortly afterward.
Simple and Outrageously Funny
There are images from this film that will stay in my mind forever. Particularly, the ending--perfectly executed, cinematically elegant, outrageously funny, and simple. It has the message of "thinking outside the lines" written all over it.
The first few times I saw it I teared up near the end. What a great movie. Don't let it's G rating deter you--this is a masterpiece of comedy, of fable, of modern special effects-driven to simplicity. A miracle film.
Smith makes a movie -- now he's an EXPERT??
I am a Catholic, but I also have thick skin. I've enjoyed many "controversial" movies such as Pulp Fiction, Magnolia, Happiness, and Breaking the Waves. Whatever the on-screen offense, whether it be sexual, violent, verbal or heretical, I could take it... so PLEASE don't write me off because I state up front what my religion is.
That said, this movie is not funny. It's not stale because it's potentially offensive--it's not funny because it's not funny. Every joke of this sort has a backdrop story that HAS to make sense. Every punch line has to have a setup. Every satire (and this IS a satire, not merely a silly film), must base its allegations on reality.
Maybe I just know too much of the Catholicism Smith is perceived to be lampooning to know better--this is a Catholicism in Smith's own imagination, or Catholicism as non-theologian Smith wants it to be, but not really Catholicism. There's tons of dialogue, but a person who understands Catholicism could see the mile-high loopholes from a distance. Smith, more than anything, displays his ignorance on the subject matter.
The only original idea was the "Buddy Jesus" subplot. Cute, very smart. Everything else--"doesn't matter what your faith is as long as you HAVE faith", the crap monster, pro-choice and racial diatribes, the pot-shot against Disney, the stripper-muse, Jay and Silent Bob being prophets--comes across as dated, cliched, and boring. The biggest sin in "Dogma" wasn't it's potentially offensive nature--the biggest sin is that it wasn't FUNNY.
I've heard some people returning to church after seeing this movie. To you, kudos. But even you, by now, understand what I mean. If this took place on another planet altogether, with the central religion being something completely fictitious, it would make better sense. As it stands, it's an embarrassment.
The Story of Us (1999)
Did you not SEE it?
When "The Story of Us" opened in 1999, the critical disdain was so overwhelming, that my fiancee and I opted not to see it. After all, the ads focussed on its romantic comedy aspects, directed by Rob Reiner (When Harry Met Sally), and starred Bruce Willis (who had just undergone a public divorce).
In retrospect, it's easy to assume why it got panned... this is NOT a romantic comedy, although there are comedic elements. Those expecting a Harry/Sally II would be clearly be disappointed. Those expecting some insight to Bruce Willis' marriage, too, would be disappointed. The film is neither of those things.
Of course, had the associations not existed, and the ad campaign refocussed its efforts, the film would be far better respected. That's why time will be very kind to this film.
Not everything works. Some scenes, like the language of the women, are too profanity-laced to sound like real women (making David Mamet's writing seem like Jane Austen by comparison). There's a terrible scene with Willis in a restaurant--unrealistic, unfunny.
Why then recommend the film? Because the agony, the depth of painful emotions, are real. Find a better acting job by Willis or Pfieffer. Find one!!! Can't be done.
Do you not see it? Do you not recognize that this film has one foot firmly planted in the light comedy world, and another foot firmly planted in the incredible realism (almost too realistic) angst of a failing marriage? Do you not see it? Do you not hear Reiner's concerns projected in the scene where Willis requests to Reiser his dream of writing a book on his grandmother--is this not Reiner saying that he WOULD go further with the serious story here, but the audience, too set by his own past achievements, will not let him? Is this not exactly what happened, when _Story of Us_ was released?
Don't be fooled. This is one serious movie. It should be required viewing for all engaged couples. It's a fantastic wake-up call. The circumstances that lead up to the arguments are simplified, but the emotions are raw. I repeat, time will be very kind to this movie.