In comedies, a male character that age can usually be described by his personality flaw. "Punk", "Spoiled Brat", "Doofus", or whatever. This is played broadly, for laughs, for 75% of the film, and then usually he's given that one chance to man up, which he does, and then drops every other characteristic and becomes conservative. In suspense movies, such a character would probably be static: he would start out creepy or violent or sullen, and then stay that way until he gets killed.
This movie is neither of these, though. I thought Walter was an excellent character, both as written and as played. He starts out withdrawn, but more wary than resentful: he's too beat-down to be sullen. He's just pathetic enough to make you feel bad for him, but not so much so that you want to smack him. (Well, I didn't...)
And for crying out loud, his voice was SUPPOSED to squeak! I suppose you people also think Charlize Theron gave a bad performance in `Monster' because they made her look un-beautiful?
Walter's growth as a character depends on his interaction with Hub and Garth, which comes off well. There's a scene where the three of them, without actually saying the words, agree that "From now on, it's gonna be just us men!"
Walter doesn't get one big dramatic scene where he leaps from boy to man; it's a matter of his being given a lot of small chances, and being guided through a subtle change. I honestly don't know what the people who call HJO's performance "wooden" are looking for. Nobody can radiate "happy" like he does. And check his last scene. The character has clearly matured, and it's been built up to gradually enough to be believable.
Also, I have to respond to John Ulmer's speculation that Haley and Emily Osment are pawns of their parents, and are going to burn out a la the Culkins.
I've been a fan of Haley's for several years now (can you tell?), and I've read just about every interview and article that's been printed or appeared on the net. Based on that, I can assert that the only thing Haley has in common with M. Culkin is that they're both blond! He and Emily are acting because they WANT to, not because they're being forced into it. Their parents have gone to infinite trouble to keep their egos and behavior in check, and from all reports, they've done a fine job of it.
I don't see them getting into drugs or any deviant behavior that springs from boredom, need to rebel, lack of boundaries or self-indulgence, because those factors just aren't there. From everything I've read, what they're interested in is acting, not being stars. Have you read or seen any interviews with Haley? It's clear that he takes his work VERY seriously, and he's sensible enough not to do anything that would hurt his reputation and, by extension, his career. And believe me, if either of them ever exhibited any bratty behavior, it would be common knowledge by now. But in fact, every director and adult actor who's worked with them has nothing but good to say.
And one last thing. The main part of the movie takes place in the LATE FIFTIES. Maybe 1960, but no later. The flashbacks take place in the NINETEEN-TENS, and the epilogue takes place in the EIGHTIES.
Furthermore, this change eliminates more dramatic tension than it creates. When someone goes off to war, you *know* there's a good chance they may die. I prefer the book's turning point: first, the too-good-to-be-true diamond mines; then Barrow's arrival to report that Crewe "died delirious...and didn't leave a penny." And because we lose this, we also lose the parallel, and heartbreaking, storyline about Carrisford searching for Sara everywhere except where she actually is.
And Sara's hysterics when she meets her father again are inexcusable. Burnett's Sara would never have taken on so.
---Sara, not her father, was the one who came up with the theory about dolls having secret lives. She's the one with the active imagination, after all! It would have played much more effectively to have her explain this to him, and have him further torn apart by the realization that he's really going to miss this charming little girl.
---I'm not criticizing Liesel Matthews' acting, since she was okay for the role *as written* (just that it was written wrong!), but she LOOKED wrong for the character! Burnett constantly referenced Sara's BLACK hair, pale skin, and big eyes. Because she made so much of this, I would say that casting someone with those attributes is crucial.
---In the book, Ermengarde was fat, and slow, but also pretty. In those days, being "plump" was no impediment to beauty, and, then as now, beauty and intelligence were often seen as mutually exclusive.
---Did the French teacher have to be such a caricature? He looks like Asterix, for heaven's sake! Also, Matthews doesn't sound as if she's been speaking French all her life; surprising, considering her background.
---Becky does not have to be black in order to illustrate that she's "below" the other girls. In the book, she talked cockney: that was enough of a difference. Dividing lines between the classes were sharp enough without bringing race into it. Also, a scullery maid would not have been serving at table, or doing anything "visible".
---And we shouldn't see the garret before Sara goes to live there. That's the turning point, and the difference between the two settings should be as jarring to the audience as it is to her.
---And Sara giving Becky new shoes?! How's she gonna explain that?!
---Also, I don't like the identical uniforms. Pre-crisis Sara always had the best of everything, including clothes that were much more grand even than those of the other rich little girls.
---I wish they hadn't eliminated the character of Jessie, Lavinia's sycophant. In the book, it's through their conversations that we get to know what's in Lavinia's beady little mind. Dipping hair in inkwells is good visual shorthand, but Burnett's Lavinia was too ladylike for such antics.
---Likewise, Sara would never have taken a cheap shot like calling Lavinia a "snotty two-faced bully". She NEVER rose to her bait; that was a key facet of the "princess" persona. She was motherly towards Lottie, and kind to everyone. The film Sara is just too snippy, almost asking to be knocked off her pedestal.
---Miss Minchin wasn't nasty to Sara until she lost her fortune. As long as Sara was a "show pupil", she could do no wrong. In fact, on Sara's fateful birthday, Minchin called her "dear Sara", and reprimanded Lavinia for snorting at this. But when Minchin ceased to have anything to gain by being nice to her, she ceased to do so.
---In general, the school was not a house of repression; not for the regular pupils, anyway. They all had wealthy, well-connected parents, and Minchin would have heard about it if they'd been unhappy.
---Many of the post-crisis scenes were undercut. Sara had to "put her pride in her pocket" when the little boy offered her money; that should have been played up. She used to give handouts to the poor; now she herself was being patronized. And sharing the pastry with the other little girl was, in the book, a huge sacrifice. Being a princess, she couldn't turn her back on another's suffering. And both these things happened after she'd been beat down for a while, not right off the bat.
---I'm sorry, but I just don't buy the dancing-in-the-snow scene.
---And FORGET the soot-down-the-chimney prank. Sara would have been beaten for that, not just made to wash dishes. As a servant, she was subjected to downright abuse. She didn't get regular meals, for instance. When Minchin told her she would get no meals the *next* day, that was after she'd had no dinner or supper *that* day. She also had to take a lot of guff from the cook, another character I'm sorry they left out.
---They just took all the bite out of it. Scenes like retrieving the locket (which did not exist in the book!) and Amelia's romance with the milkman are okay for what they are, but poor substitutes for the much more powerful scenes mentioned above. And, in the book, the other girls did not rally around Sara as they did in the film. Except for Ermengarde and Lottie, and, in her nasty way, Lavinia, they mostly forgot about her.
---And the last act is ridiculously overwrought. In the book, Minchin softened up again when Sara started getting "donations", because she assumed this mysterious benefactor could make trouble if they knew how she'd been treating Sara. Putting Sara in peril is a trite cop-out.
---And I don't believe she could have pulled herself up onto that ledge anyway.
---And Minchin being reduced to servitude is just stupid.
It can be taken either way. He might have been faking because Connolly asked him to. Or it could be that he genuinely did panic when he saw the electric chair. This might have been a last-moment plea for redemption. Remember, he wouldn't ask for absolution when Connolly was in the cell with him; maybe he changed his mind and asked in his own way.
Flash forward 60 years or so to Menace II Society, another film I recommend. I see some parallels. In Menace, Caine, the main character, starts out directionless and living from moment to moment. His grandfather is always lecturing and preaching at him (I love the shot with the shadow on the wall of grandpa's finger wagging at him), and at one point asks him, "Do you care if you live or die?" Caine says, "I dunno," in a tone that implies he is thinking about it, but can't come up with anything.
Similarly, Connolly probably preached at Sullivan a zillion times, every time he visited the prison, but it didn't sink in to him either. It wasn't until Rocky got out of prison (didn't he get out and go back in multiple times? Or was it all those years for one offense?) and found out what it's like to have a girlfriend, and have those kids look up to him, and have a place in the community, that he started to get his act together. But he didn't change fast enough. He only had one skill, and when he tried to use it one last time to build a future, he was screwed.
Same with Caine. He'd been shot non-fatally but still badly, then been to prison, and endured an interrogation by Bill Duke that would humble just about anyone. ("See, you done ----ed up. You know that, don't you? You know you done ----ed up." Brrr...) So when he got out, he started listening to people: his friend's girlfriend, his friend who was in prison for life, and Charles Dutton's character. (It might also have been a faith-restoring moment when the Latino crew opted to help out Caine and his friends, instead of starting a pointless turf war.)
So he decided to make an enormous change by moving to Atlanta with the girlfriend and her kid. But he still had all these karmic debts outstanding. He'd always thought that the convenience store incident would call in his markers, but instead it was the girl he'd gotten pregnant, or rather, her brother and his crew.
So Caine's last thought is, "My grandpa asked me once, do I care if I live or die. Yeah...I guess I do. Now it's too late." Rocky might have been thinking something very similar.
I saw the first half of "Superdad" (couldn't stomach the whole thing), and even then wondered what the heck had happened to handsome Col. Hogan. Now I know, of course. Also, I love the bit about Disney "busting" Crane with a photo of him at a strip club, apparently not realizing that that was the least damning revelation that could be made about him!
The photography, and Angelo Badalementi's awesome-as-always score, illustrate Crane's downfall beautifully. The set dressers and costumers also did an excellent job; you can almost pinpoint the year according to what people are wearing and what locations they're in. I did think that Kinnear sustained the chipper act a few scenes beyond the point where his character should have started to fray, but his performance in the final half-hour was spot-on. Crane's last meeting with his agent, and Carpenter alone in his hotel room, are both chilling and depressing.
Like a lot of people recently, I've been digging out stuff that Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen and John Rhys-Davies were in before LOTR. I gave this movie another go...and I was amazed. Mac is just pulling the strings, but Elijah WAS his character! He shows so much of the vulnerability, determination and nerve that he does as Frodo! And I swear he doesn't look a day older now!
That said, however, this movie is just too pat. Everything's set up so that there are no obstacles to "Henry"'s plans, and there's no way for "Mark" to succeed in foiling him. The last third of the film moves too fast, without enough connection between events.
Start with Henry saying, "What are you gonna do? Watch her all night?" Cut to Mark waking up on the floor next to Connie's bed in broad daylight. So he did stay there all night. But that plays like the punchline to a joke. What did he really do? Did he TELL Connie he was going to stay there? If he had, then he would also have told her WHY he was doing it. Then she would have thought twice before going skating with Henry. Or if he didn't tell her, then when she woke up, she would have said, "Eek! Mark's in my room!" Then the parents would have charged in, thinking HE was the one with evil intentions. But that still would have put a crimp in Henry's plans, or at least Mark would have known where they were going. The way it plays out just makes no sense.
And the mom never really believes Mark until Henry tries to kill *her*. And it's because of her, not Mark, that Henry dies. And what was that final scene about?
Still, it was really, really sweet how Mark tried to protect Connie. I would like him in an adult size, please!
I sought out this movie after reading a magazine review. Chris Mulkey, the lead, said in the interview that he predicted all women would despise this film. Odd, I thought. You're acting opposite your wife, and claiming that the film is offensive to women? Being a glutton for punishment, I grabbed it as soon as it was on video (couldn't find it in a theater.)
And did a total 180 in my attitudes. I finally got some insight as to WHY men are the way they are. Insecure, shallow and immature, hiding behind crude arrogance (Billy). Or sensitive, thoughtful and vulnerable, hiding behind pompous pretension (Eddie). Patti, on the other hand, was unlike any of the women in my family, or acquaintance, for that matter. *She simply did not need a man.* Totally foreign concept to me.
I just think it's ironic that Mulkey thought women would hate this film. Guess he's much like Billy IRL, as far as not understanding what makes women tick! I thought the film was very *pro*-women, and anti-men. Billy runs his mouth constantly, putting women down, but there's not a thing that happens that justifies his asinine opinions. All hat and no cattle, he is. His wife's not home when he calls (possibly messing around, but at any rate not bound to him), Patti can't be intimidated by him, and the random female motorist... ...I've thought about that scene. Why is this elegant, fur-coat-wearing, *mother of a teenage daughter* behaving like that? The only explanation I can come up with is that she's driving the daughter to or from, probably from, a visit with non-custodial dad. She also has issues, and whaddya know, the perfect target goes right across her radar!
Also love Eddie's antics in the scene leading up to that. "There could be white people in there...The good old days are gone forever. Anyway, I also love the byplay between the two men. The argument in the diner was so real...and you know when Eddie leans on his fist that the next shot will be of him in the passenger seat. Of course. But isn't it always like that? And his line to Billy: "Do you ever listen to yourself? I mean, do you ever LISTEN to yourself? If you did, you wouldn't say the things that you do!" I've used that on people, who have no idea that it's a quote...it's that realistic!
Also, my mom wanted me to point out that for all the vulgarities spoken in the first hour, you don't hear the word "prick" until Patti says it to Billy.
I don't have much to add to what others have said, except a few random observations.
---Poor Cowboy. He probably came to New York to be an actor or something.
---In the play, the game was called "Affairs of the Heart", not "The Truth Game". Someone *suggested* the Truth Game, but Michael said, no, let's play a *new* game. Is it the same in the film? I don't have time at the moment to get the video out.
---Interesting how Emory goes from taunting Alan to provoking him, then is terrified of him, and finally becomes solicitous. Almost like he's Alan's id.
---Some of the dialogue was cut, but it seems only to have served to make the pacing more tight. My one objection is the sacrifice of Donald's speech to Michael, explaining the source of his fear of success, and Michael's rant against his own parents. Kind of leaves Donald hanging in space.
---Also interesting how the two campiest characters, Emory and Harold, are two of the most aggressive (besides Michael, of course).
---Larry is smoldering hot. I don't mean *I'm* attracted to him, but I can see how any gay man, open or closeted, would fall for him.
---One of the many things that "dates" the film is Emory's racial cracks against Bernard (African Queen, indeed!) But for all that, I can sense that Bernard feels much at home in this group. It wasn't much easier to be African-American in 1970 than it was to be gay, and a gay black man was probably more at ease with gay whites than with straight blacks. Gay/straight is really the toughest barrier in American society.
As some people have already noted, this was the Beatles' first project after the death of Brian Epstein, their manager. Like teenagers left on their own for the first time, they decided free themselves of convention and let the project develop as it went along. They drew up a treatment (and I mean "drew": most of Lennon's and some of the others' ideas were conveyed by sketches) and planned a bus tour. Then they found out why Epstein was so preoccupied and humorless. They didn't know how to rent equipment, hire people to work it, recruit extras, make reservations, or even order lunch. They already had people working for them, so they turned those responsibilities over to them. Well, that was somewhat effective, like hiring an electrician to fix your plumbing. They don't have this particular skill (they were music biz people, not film biz), but they knew how to get things done some kind of way, but not well. (No offense to them.)
Then there was the matter of this free-form premise. And the fact that some of their ideas just weren't doable. And putting so many scenes on a bus hampered it. You can do closeups, or you can have long shots from the end of the aisle. The bus device also caused production problems. First they couldn't get the signs to adhere to the sides. Then when they finally got on the road, they immediately attracted a convoy. Then they hit traffic. When they came to a standstill, Lennon stormed out and tore off the signs. Said Neil Aspinall, "They should have filmed THAT."
"Ryan Weigert" noted the pointlessness of the Paul McCartney-on-the-hill sequence. Macca went to FRANCE to film that. Funny story: He got out of Heathrow by telling Customs that his people were in Nice with his passport. Then he told the De Gaulle Customs people that he'd "left" the passport at Heathrow Customs. He called up Peter Brown to say, "I've found the perfect hill, but we don't have the right camera lenses; can you send them?" Brown says, "You're in France? I have your passport in my desk!" Anyway, Macca was so besotted with this hillside, I guess he didn't want to distract from its pastoral beauty by actually DOING something. I can only conclude that he was, as someone else suggested, stoned out of his mind.
And that was a sequence that at least one person was satisfied with! They didn't see any attractions along the road, like festivals. One of the scribbled notes was "Spaghetti". Where do you go with that? They didn't know. The stuff with the magicians ended up being filler when it could have tied the whole thing together. I forget how it even ended.
"cerdo" mentioned the "I've got a loverly bunch of coconuts" interlude! That's the only bit I like! Except for the musical sequences, it's the only bit that's actually entertaining. I love how Ringo totally acts drunk. Though he may not have been acting. And given everything I've just said, I would not blame him.
Which is what I like most about this movie. It doesn't end with everyone singing. Or dancing, or marching towards the camera, or anything like that. The goomba and the Spike Lee guy duke it out while the Asian girl despairs (as I did), and the white guy and black girl embrace each other hopelessly. That is life. Some differences will never be resolved, and the best you can hope for is that *some* people will reach each other. I was praying all along that this would not have some pat ending that could never have happened at my school, and I was rewarded. There are no resolutions, just moments.
So what do they do for the movie? First they change the setting to San Francisco! Why? Then they make his character into a complete wimp; I cringed at almost every line. And they add all this gratuitous violence, despite the fact that there was almost no violence in the real-life uprising. What struck me about the book/journal was how disorganized everyone was. The protestors didn't have a clear plan. Some of the Columbia students opposed the protestors, and *they* didn't have a clear plan. The cops were powerless to do much of anything to the protestors except occasionally put handcuffs on them and herd them around, and the administration flipped back and forth constantly between trying to compromise with the students and threatening to expel everyone. What I got out of it was that revolution sounds like a great idea, until you get into the dean's office and realize that you don't know what to do, besides pose for a photo in his leather chair while holding a joint.
But that doesn't sell tickets. So they have a big, loud riot scene, ending with a totally campy freeze frame. (I was waiting for Bruce Davison to die in that manner when I saw him in X-Men! No such luck.)
1) "Playing the sunset" was Holland's way of getting Gertrude to relax so she could play the notes fluidly. They both knew that she didn't sound professional, and wasn't going to. The idea was to get her just above the level of making a fool of herself as she did the first time he called on her in class. Then she could, and did, perform in the band without dragging down the whole ensemble.
2) Her goal was not to be a professional musician. Did no one else hear her speech about "I just wanted to be good at *something*"? She listed all the fabulous achievements of her parents and siblings, and concluded, "I'm the only one who's..." The missing word would have been "useless" or "worthless". Or "a failure". Thirty years later she's the governor (not the mayor!), because in 1966, Holland helped her gain confidence for the first time.
3) She wasn't "wasting" Holland's efforts by going into politics. Art, music and theater education don't exist solely to create professional artists, musicians and actors. They also exist to give young people an opportunity for change and growth, even if they never use a paintbrush again.
I liked that plot twist. Almost every high school has an alumnus who has achieved something in art or entertainment, but a lot of people sell one painting or appear in one film and become a hero to their home town. But there are only fifty states, and it takes an extraordinary amount of drive to become governor of one of them. It's unlikely that she would have taken that first step towards empowerment without Holland.