I saw a triple feature today. "Crazy Heart," "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" and "It's Complicated." All three suffered from the same problem, even though each of them were in completely different genres. Each of them suffered from an under developed or bland script, generic storytelling & one great performance.
CRAZY HEART. The best of the three by miles and, for the most part, I really enjoyed it - but it definitely suffered from a bland story, lazy directing and a fantastic - amazing performance by Jeff Bridges. I also really enjoy the main song, "The Weary Kind." Just a great song, one I'd like to cry to - if the movie worked. What really did it in for me was Maggie Gyllenhaal. I want to like her, but every film I've seen her in all I can see is... "look guys... I'm acting." Except for Dark Knight, here she was just like, "look guys... I'm terrible at acting." I think she really needs a director that can tame her, she's ready to cry and act and be merry - and when the role calls for it (like in "Away We Go") she's great. But here, she just didn't work. And I definitely did not believe her attraction to Bridges. A few lines of dialogue, such as "... all the men in my life..." don't give enough back story for me.
THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS. I have to admit, I've never been a Terry Gilliam fan and this film by far met all my expectations - which was that I'd loathe it. There's just something about his directing style, I just don't get. It's too... showy. It's too... "look at me, I'm directing." Terry Gilliam is, for me, the Maggie Gyllenhaal of directing. And his films also feel as if they are trying so hard to be original, that a solid story, character logic, pacing and just plain investment of anything goes right out the window. I feel like Terry Gilliam is this unfocused creative genius - who probably shouldn't be behind a camera... I say this and feel a bit guilty because I believe God doesn't really want him to be a director either... see his fights with Brazil, or the documentary Man of La Mancha, or Barry Munchausen, and the untimely death of Heath Ledger... he's got the worst luck.
But, like in "Crazy Heart," the one redeeming factor in this film was Tom Waits... he was awesome! He plays Mr. Nick (aka - the devil). I won't say more, but he's definitely a blast to watch... I just wish I didn't have to watch all this terrible CGI and awful cartoon acting when he's not in the frame. Playing "Uncharted 2" on my PS3 sometimes looked better than the shots & animations within the movie.
IT'S COMPLICATED. I expected nothing from this movie, but I like a good comedy and I like the cast... Alec Baldwin, Meryl Streep, Steve Martin & Jim Halpert... not a bad combo. And each of them gave a funny performance but none was better than Mr. Baldwin. Such a great comedic actor. He played the role wonderfully and I can definitely predict that he'll be receiving a nomination for it.
Meryl Streep, I must say is too good for this movie though. She's a very natural actor. Her performances feel so realistic that the absurd script just didn't fit her soft and subtle smiles, tears and laughter. But, for an chick flick for the more... mature audience, I enjoyed it. It's like taking her "Kramer vs. Kramer" acting and tossing it into 30 Rock, you just don't go there.
A small note about... comedies. There are a TON of original comedies coming out next year and each of them seem to be written from one of two playbooks.
PLAYBOOK 1: two big actors who don't really like each other or aren't doing too well in their current relationship and find themselves caught in an action adventure. "The Bounty Hunter," "Knight & Day," "Date Night" & "Cop Out."
PLAYBOOK 2: the "get a whole bunch of funny actors together and make an ensemble comedy" comedy. "Valentine's Day," "Death at a Funeral," & "Grown Ups."
I'm glad to see original screenplays coming back into play and it's weird to think that maybe this is the just the cycle of movies. The Writer's Strike happened late 2007 into early 2008. And then, they come back, away from the studio for a bit, with new original works, work through the system for the remainder of 2008 and into early 2009, go into production and then premiere in 2010. Pretty fascinating.
I'm curious to see how long these original scripts last.
I'm also in the true belief that filmmaking in the studio world goes into 10 year cycles. You get 10 years of great films from the 70s, ten years of big budget studio fare from the 80s, another decade of original work in the 90s, a decade of comic books & adaptations in the 00s, and now - the 10s... a new fresh era of digital and original work.
Could be fun to watch... I'm glad I'm here to be a part of it.