Posts Tagged ‘Romance’

MOVIE: Dot the I (2003)

September 30, 2011

My husband isn’t a big movie watcher, so when he comes home with a DVD he’s rented, it’s kind of a big deal.  Getting to hang out with him on the couch and watch a flick is a rare treat, so I’m always game for anything he picks out.

By the time we got around to watching this British film, a few days after he rented it, he couldn’t remember anything about the plot description other than the fact someone quoted on the DVD box had compared it to Memento.  That plus the opening credits, featuring names like Gael García Bernal and James D’Arcy, though, and I was IN.

The first hour definitely had us puzzled, but not in a Memento sort of way.  It was more a “Memento?!” sort of way, as in: since when is Memento a somewhat cheesy, wholly predictable (albeit sweet) romance about a love triangle?  You see, the story initially appears to be about a feisty young Spanish woman, Carmen, who has just gotten engaged to her wealthy, if a bit dull, British boyfriend Barnaby (D’Arcy).  They’ve only been dating six months, but he’s clearly crazy for her.  And she?  Well, she’s done “passion” before and that guy ended up hurting her.  At least Barnaby is kind.  Close enough, she decides.

“Close enough,” that is, until she meets Brazilian sweetheart Kit Winter (Bernal, in his first English-speaking role) on her “hen night” (bachelorette party).   For Kit, it’s love at first sight, and he soon starts showing up at her workplace, asking her out for coffee, and then accidentally getting her fired (oops).  At first, Carmen resists, wanting to stay where she is — at peace with her decision to marry Barnaby and get on with her life.  But she can’t deny a powerful spark between herself and Kit, and her resistance ends up being futile (SHE IS BORG) (she is not really Borg).  The night she and Barnaby marry, they have a massive fight and Barnaby angrily tells her to leave.  Carmen runs to Kit for comfort, and, well, you and your imagination can take it from there.  (Hint: smooches.)

That scene, though, is when this movie suddenly flips onto its ear and becomes another beast entirely.  I ain’t sayin’ a word about what comes next, but while I still don’t quite see the Memento connection, I did find the multiple plot twists in the last act pretty crafty.  They’re wickedly mean-spirited too, but while psychological cruelty exhibited at the end of this film is something I usually have a hard time watching (I’m cool with chopping people’s heads off with chain saws, but shame and humiliation is excruciatingly painful for me to watch), the movie is clearly meant to be darkly comic, and the end turns the whole thing into more of a revenge fable than a movie about true human nastiness.  It was more deliciously evil than “my god, people SUCK” evil.  For me, anyway.

Though the beginning of this film is a little on the clunky, cutesy side, the sharp shifts in the last twenty minutes made the kissy-kissy stuff worth sitting through (though, in retrospect, I’d’ say the end was a bit on the overdone side — still, it was certainly fun in the moment).  Plus, I love Gael García Bernal, and I totally have a huge girl-crush on Natalia Verbeke’s delightfully dimpled grin now as well.  SHE. IS. ADORABLE.

Surprisingly entertaining and well worth a rental if you can track it down.  Trust me, you’ll never see the end coming.  No-ho-ho way.  (To see it coming, you’d have to be a viciously evil bastard yourself, and surely none of MY readers are viciously evil bastards.  Right?  RIGHT?!)

Recommended!  Watch it with someone you love.  Or something.

[Netflix it | Buy it]

Genre:  Thriller, Romance?
Cast:  Gael García Bernal, Natalia Verbeke, James D’Arcy, Tom Hardy, Charlie Cox, Yves Aubert

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BOOK: Touched by an Alien by Gini Koch (2010)

May 22, 2010

After I recently read and happily snarked my way through the supremely cheesy sci-fi romance, Steamed (Katie McAlister), my friend Steve the Bookseller has had his eye out for more garbage with which to entertain me.  When a proof copy of this one turned up at his shop the other day, he grabbed it for me.   And how could he resist?  I mean, the title alone screams “DELICIOUS CRAPPY GOODNESS,” doesn’t it?   Touched by an Alien?  That has GOT to be terrible.  Delightfully terrible.  Among the most delightfully terrible crap of all time.

Imagine my surprise and disappointment, then, when I cracked it open, got about a hundred pages in, and realized, hey, this book doesn’t suck.  Not at all, in fact!  What a rip!

Now, don’t get too excited, people.  When I say it doesn’t suck, that is not the same thing as saying it is brilliantly written or anything ridiculous like that.  It is, after all, titled TOUCHED BY AN ALIEN.  It needs some work.  It’s got a lot of cheese.  It’s topped with a fair helping of dork.  It features a few plot elements a little too obviously inspired by a decade or two spent in front of the SyFy channel.   But overall, this novel is surprisingly good.  It’s funny, well thought-out, and features a main character I actually, god help me, both liked a lot and could sort of relate to.

It’s about a young woman, Kitty Katt (unfortunate name, but does it help that “Kitty” is a nickname?  Does it help that it used to be MY nickname?), who is on her way to work one day when suddenly, a man yelling at his wife in the street starts to pulse, grow, sprout wings, and then shoot dozens of knives out of vents in his skin, killing everybody in the immediate vicinity.   Though stunned at first, Katt thinks quickly on her feet, and before the bad dude’s had time to finish racking up the carnage, she pulls out the only weapon she has (a Mont Blanc pen), races up to him, and stabs him in this weird jellyfish-looking area on the back of his neck.

Hey, it looked vulnerable, she later says.  And it was:  he immediately transforms back into a human and dies right in front of her.

The next thing she knows, a bunch of men dressed in black suits come out of nowhere and scoop her up, rushing her back to their car.  Thankfully, she makes the Men in Black joke before we can, and, as it turns out, none of us are too far off.  As is soon revealed, these are alien guys (you can tell because they all look like supermodels) and they’ve been sent to our planet to try to keep evil “superbeings” (humans infected with an intelligent alien parasite, like the guy on the street) from wiping out our planet.  But they need more help and they think Katt has what it takes to join their organization.

As the story progresses, the silliness does indeed start to pile up.  But the thing is, it’s all really entertaining silliness.  There wasn’t a single moment in this book when I was so annoyed with something I was tempted to give up.  And while the writing is pretty weak (it reads like a first draft in need of major polishing up), you can tell Koch has given the plot serious thought.  Her explanations for things don’t always make sense, but at least she tries to explain those things (I hate it when sci-fi authors come up with crafty plans that involve alien technology and don’t bother attempting to explain how that alien technology works — I’ll take a bad explanation over no explanation any time.  Just give me something!).  And, what’s more, she’s authentically funny at times and her characters are both endearing and engaging.

Highly recommended to anybody who likes a good silly rom-sci-com!  I would totally watch this if they turned it into a SyFy movie.  <– True stamp of approval.

[SCIENCE FICTION, ROMANCE, COMEDY]

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BOOK: Steamed by Katie MacAlister (2010)

March 24, 2010

Okay, before I say anything about this novel, let me begin by telling you I read it on a total lark.  This should be obvious the moment I begin to describe it, but just in case it’s not, I feel it’s important that I be clear about this:  I am not a trashy romance novel reader.  I SWEAR I AM NOT.

But, come on, you guys, how am I supposed to resist a book billed as a “steampunk romance,” I ask you?   It’s too much to ask.   So, when a friend of mine mentioned this book to me and then started lobbing out lines from it on my Facebook page, I begged him to pass it along when he was done.  And man, it was every bit as delightfully awful as I hoped it would be.   Sah-weet.

The story, NOT THAT THE STORY MATTERS, OF COURSE, is about a computer technician named Jack Fletcher who greets each day with a round of sexual harassment in the workplace, and then spends the rest of his on-the-job hours working on a super secret nanoelectrical project.  When his nutty sister Hallie comes to visit one afternoon and knocks a cup of coffee onto the computer works, she and Jack suddenly find themselves beamed into another dimension, a parallel universe where steam engines are the height of technology.  They wake up on an “airship,” captained by a gorgeous, buxom redhead, Octavia Pye, whose “uniform” consists of a tight corset, revealing blouse, and sexy skirt.  Naturally.

As the various characters try to figure out what’s going on, and as Pye struggles to lead her maiden voyage in a world filled with air-pirates and rogues, the sparks between Jack and Octavia begin to fly.  She does things like tell him kissing her would be wholly inappropriate, and he responds, of course, by kissing her anyway.  As a woman, I should be offended.  But I’m afraid I was far too distracted by the fact I was cracking up every three paragraphs to get too het up about the whole no-means-no thing.

Besides, it wasn’t really “no,” obviously.  Her mouth said one thing, HER LIPS SAID ANOTHER.  Or something like that.

Mothers, on behalf of womankind, don’t give this book to your daughters.

You can read it yourselves, though.

[SCIENCE FICTION, ROMANCE — god, I KNOW]

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MOVIE: Catch and Release (2006)

February 29, 2008

Remember how a couple of days ago I made a comment that I was sorry I didn’t have more friends who were horror fans?  And you guys all chimed in and said, “Hey, dude!  Horror rules!  It’s romantic comedies we think are crap!”

Um, hi, guys!  Guess what!  I loved this movie!

I could see the surprise on my Mom’s face when I picked this one up during our last visit, because not only do I not usually go for rom-coms, but I also often make fun of my twin sister (hi, sis!) for loving them quite as much as she tends to.  Whadda sap!  Give me a good chainsaw massacre any ol’ day of the week — you can keep that pukey kissy stuff to yourself!

That said, there were two reasons I wanted to see Catch and Release.  The first is my MAJOR girl-crush on Jennifer Garner, who I will worship until the end of time for her work on the TV show Alias.  And the second was my curiosity about Timothy Olyphant, who, until now, I had only seen in one of the Scream movies and in HBO’s (terrific) Western series Deadwood.

In the Scream movie (I think it was the second one, by the way, but I’m too lazy to go look this up right now), I had found Olyphant all too effective in his role as a total sociopath primarily because he, like Christian Bale, has a set of teeth that I find extremely distracting and creepy.  They make for an eerily effective psychopathic grin, you know what I mean?  Luckily, the teeth weren’t a problem when he was on Deadwood because of the superior coverage provided by his character Seth Bullock’s tidy handlebar moustache.  That’s how it came to be that, by season two of that series, I was head-over-heels in love with Olyphant.  But I was still far, far too afraid to rent anything else he’d been in for fear the spell would be broken as soon as I got a glimpse of his choppers again.

“But what if he played a sexy filmmaker who falls in love with my girl-crush Jennifer Garner in a romantic comedy co-starring Kevin Smith?” I asked myself.  “Would that be enough to help me overcome my problem with his freaky teeth?”

It was time to find out.

I went into this movie fully expecting to find it over-the-top with the cheese, but you know what?  I actually laughed out loud a LOT (thank you, Kevin Smith, for your outrageous awesomeness) and even though I never really found the relationship between the two main characters very authentic, I still ended up feeling kinda sweet on them both by the final act.

The story is about a young woman named Gray (Garner) who, as the movie opens, has just lost her fiance in a boating accident.  Struggling with her grief, she’s taken in by her former-fiance’s two best friends, Sam (Kevin Smith) and Dennis (Sam Jaeger).  To her dismay, though, it’s not going to be the cozy household of three she expected because, as it turns out, her fiance’s other best friend, a Los Angeles filmmaker named Fritz (Olyphant), is crashing on their couch temporarily.  And Fritz — yeesh — he has driven her insane since the first day she met him.
Alas, things get even worse for Gray when she begins to learn things about her fiance that she never knew before his death — like, for example, that he had a lover in Los Angeles (Juliette Lewis).  One that Fritz has known about for years, by the way, which doesn’t help HIS case too much.  Oh, and incidentally?  That lover also happens to have a young son who looks an AWFUL lot like Gray’s dead future husband.  Whooooops!

Of course, anybody who’s ever seen a romantic comedy knows exactly where all this is  headed — the two characters that fight the most always end up madly in love with each other, and that’s exactly what happens here too.  There’s even the obligatory scene in which Gray gets really made at Fritz and slaps his face, and he grabs her one arm and pins it to the wall, and then she tries to slap him with her OTHER hand, which he also then grabs and pins to the wall — and then they pause for a moment and look into each others eyes, annnnnnd. . . *smooch*!

For the record?  I hate that scene.  And I also love it.  I’m complicated that way.

In any case, my number one complaint about romantic comedies is that they’re just too predictable (not to mention unrealistic, because most women I know knee the guy in the groin after he pins both their arms to the wall during a fight — or wait, maybe that’s just me?).  The thing about Catch and Release, though, is that there was enough charm and actual comedy thrown into the mix that I just totally. . . fell for it.  I really, really liked all the actors.  I really, really liked the Colorado outdoorsy setting.  I really, really laughed at all of Kevin Smith’s jokes.  And I just had me one fine afternoon.

Go ahead, be disgusted, horror movie lovers — I’ll completely understand.  Stay tuned for a review of 30 Days of Night, where I get back on track and write about vampires chewing the necks off of little children.  Blood!  Gore!  Monsters!  I’m home!

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre: Romantic Comedy
Cast: Jennifer Garner, Timothy Olyphant, Kevin Smith, Juliette Lewis, Fiona Shaw, Joshua Friesen, Sam Jaeger

MOVIE: A Good Year (2007)

December 8, 2007

I wasn’t sure about this movie, to be honest. Reviews I’d read of it were pretty mixed (I remember one reviewer describing it as being a “3-P” movie — pleasant, pretty, and predictable), but I was still kind of intrigued by the concept. I’ve read and enjoyed many of Peter Mayles’s non-fiction books about his experiences in the countrysides of France, and was interested in seeing what he did with fiction. And though I wasn’t sure how I’d do with a romantic comedy — those can be pretty hit or miss for me — I ended up enjoying the movie overall quite a bit.

It’s about a middle-aged man, Max (Russell Crowe), who is some sort of banking titan in London, perpetually busy and completely focused on money. When he gets word that his once-beloved Uncle Henry has died, he’s thrown for a bit of a loop, but primarily seems annoyed he’s got to leave his job for a couple of days to go down to France and deal with Henry’s estate. Max was extremely close to Henry when he was a child (this we learn through flashbacks, in which Young Max is played by the always-awesome Freddie Highmore), but hasn’t spoken to him in 20 years. As Max got older, his values shifted in a direction that just didn’t work for Henry, and the two eventually lost touch.

Max soon learns that Henry left no will, which means, as his uncle’s only kin, Max has just inherited his enormous house and the vineyard that goes along with it. He immediately decides to try to sell it all so he can take the money and run. But his plan is foiled when he gets to the farm house and finds it’s a shabby disaster. “Hey, at least the wine’s good, right? That’s worth something,” he says to himself. And then he tries a bottle and discovers it’s all but undrinkable. Crap!

As Max begins trying to tidy the place up and figure out a way to sell a vineyard that makes crappy wine, he starts flashing back to the happy times he spent with Henry as a child. The more the memories return, the more Max begins to fall in love with the place all over again. But things get shaken up when a young American girl shows up and announces that she’s Henry’s illegitimate daughter. Since this means SHE’S really Henry’s next of kin, Max attempts to keep her happy enough not to ask any questions. He encourages her to crash at the house for a while, to try to get to know Henry through his land, all the while worried that at any moment, she’ll realize all the property is actually hers and he’ll be out the whole shebang.

Meanwhile, Max has met a local French woman, and soon finds he can’t stop thinking about her. Though she mostly rolls her eyes at his attempts to woo her, writing him off as an arrogant Brit who thinks of nothing but how much more wealth he can accumulate, the quiet joys of the French countryside are gradually having a positive effect on Max’s personality. Eventually, he comes to realize he doesn’t want to go back to the frenetic world of London — instead, he wants to settle down at Uncle Henry’s, get married, have kids, and enjoy a simpler life in a simpler place.

While this movie IS actually as cheesy and predictable as I just made it sound, at the same time, it’s also a sincerely funny, sweet, and extremely good-looking movie (gorgeous scenery and colors — worth watching just for the visuals, in my opinion).

The one downside to the whole movie is, surprisingly enough, Russell Crowe himself. He’s just not romantic comedy material, no matter how hard he tries. I never found his charm authentic — even though we’re supposed to recognize he’s undergoing a massive personality overhaul, I never stopped feeling like he was acting, so I couldn’t relax into his character at all.

In any case, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie, despite Crowe’s awkwardness, and it’s always fun to see Freddie Highmore, who I’ve loved since Finding Neverland, as well as the great Albert Finney. I’m ranking it at number 4 out of the 9 we watched on my vacation — not too shabby!

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre: Romantic comedy
Cast: Russell Crowe, Freddie Highmore, Abbie Cornish, Albert Finney

MOVIE: Montana Sky (2007)

December 5, 2007

In retrospect, we should’ve been suspicious when we saw the words “Nora Roberts” in small print on the box cover of this one.  I’m no big fan of Roberts, who mostly writes sappy romantic drivel (you know, in my humble opinion), but me and my mom were drawn in by John Corbett’s name and also the fact this movie is about ranchers and horses.  Me and Moms — we loves us a good girl-loves-horse flick.  And in the last couple of years, we’ve seen several we really enjoyed (Dreamer, Flicka, e.g.).  Unfortunately, while there were parts of this movie that WERE entertaining, for the most part, it was pretty bad.

The movie opens with a funeral.  We soon learn that the patriarch of an enormous Montana ranch has died, and in his will, he left his property to his three daughters.  The problem is, the three daughters all have different mothers.  Only one of them, Willa, grew up on the ranch, and she’s never met the other two, who have also never met each other.  The second daughter, Tess, is a stuck-up writer from LA, and the third, Lilly, is a timid mouse with a mysterious past.  In order to actually inherit the ranch (worth $24 million), the will says the three girls have to live there together for an entire year.

Commence bickering.

For two hours.

Sigh.

Each of the three women soon starts falling for a fella’ — cue Nora Roberts hamminess and lots of smooching.  Meanwhile, someone has decided the girls don’t deserve to get the ranch, and is trying to scare them off, first by killing animals and then moving onto people.  This mystery subplot is the only reason we watched this film to the end — though it wasn’t a very riveting substory, once we got into it, we decided we couldn’t just quit without finding out whodunnit. 

There are some scenes of fairly snappy dialogue between the three sisters — we laughed a few times, I will confess.  But for the most part, this is a supremely corny chick flick with little to endear itself to anybody who has half a brain.  Even if you, like us, are tempted to rent it because of John Corbett, I’m telling you right now you’re better off rerenting season one of Northern Exposure instead.  And if you’re in the mood for a movie about girls and horses, I think you’ll like Dreamer or Flicka a lot better.  They were pretty cheesy too, but had a lot more substance and a lot less grody smooching than this one.

Of the movies we watched over Thanksgiving, I’ve ranked this one at number 8.  And now you must be DYING to find out what movie ranked at the bottom, number 9.  It must be hard to imagine a movie worse than Montana Sky — and yet, I assure you, we managed to find one!  I’ll be reviewing it next, so stay tuned!

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre: Romance/drama
Cast:  Ashley Williams, Charlotte Ross, John Corbett, Nathaniel Arcand

New on TV Tonight: Pushing Daisies (ABC)

October 3, 2007

After a looooong weekend spent watching TV every waking moment just to get the DVR cleaned off so I could start recording everything all over again THIS week, I was all set to skip Pushing Daisies. Then two things happened: I saw a clip of it that made it look like weird, kooky fun (damn, but I love weird, kooky fun); and I realized it was on at 8pm (ABC), where it just so happens my DVR has an opening.

So, okay, I will give it a try. Even though I read that the main character (who is able to bring dead things back to life but then can’t touch them or else they die again) revived his dog ten years ago and has lived with it that entire time without touching it once — I’m sorry, the Department of TOTALLY IMPOSSIBLE PLOT DEVICES called and wants their utterly ridiculous idea back.

Is it just me, or have we been asked to suspend a really ridiculous amount of disbelief so far this season? And we’re only 1.5 weeks in!

In other TV-related news, I’m kind of down on Heroes, which is trying to do too much in every episode, resulting in a whole lotta nuthin’ happening. And I’m one wholly predictable episode of Journeyman away from deleting that one from the DVR timer. I’m still enjoying K-Ville, even though the word that came to mind during this week’s episode was “unsophisticated,” and I haven’t seen last night’s Reaper yet, but I’m psyched to hurry up and tune in tonight. I never got around to watching last week’s Dirty Sexy Money, which means I’m having trouble getting excited about the concept, so I might just delete that one unwatched, and I felt a crushing blow yesterday at about 2pm when I realized that last night’s episode of Eureka was actually the season finale. Colin Ferguson, you will be missed (until next summer when I hope you’ll be back!).

Oh yeah, and I tuned in for Aliens in America Monday night, after reading a ton of positive, excited buzz about it and the word that came to mind during THAT episode was: meh.

Rough week. I hope Bionic Woman doesn’t stink tonight. I have my fingers crossed.

MOVIE: Knocked Up (2007)

October 1, 2007

Yesterday was my sixth wedding anniversary (congrats to us!). Since we’ve been so busy and exhausted lately, my husband and I decided to stay in, cook a great dinner, and watch a movie together. The dinner was cioppino, and my contribution to its greatness was to stay as far away from the kitchen as possible (my husband is the chef in our relationship — yes, I did choose my spouse well!). And the movie was Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up, which I’d heard was the funniest movie of the summer.

Must’ve been a really dry summer. . . is all I’m sayin’.

Okay, okay, okay, that’s a bit harsh. We did find ourselves laughing out loud a lot while watching this film (about a gorgeous E! reporter (Katherine Heigl) who has a one-night stand with a schlubb (Seth Rogan) and gets, you guessed it, knocked up). In particular, every scene that featured Seth Rogan and Paul Rudd playing off each other was absolutely riotous, and the Cirque du Soleil scene alone made us both laugh so hard we scared the cat out of the room.

But, the rest of the movie was. . . kind of too “sweet” for our tastes. It’s funny and sweet, so, yeah, it’s essentially a romantic comedy, which, as most of you know, is not my usual favorite genre. But I’d seen Apatow’s Forty Year Old Virgin and had loved it (also funny and sweet, but in a better balance, somehow), and I was expecting to laugh my butt off for this one too. Instead found myself kind of wishing I was watching it alone so I could fast-forward through some of the cheesier scenes, and I also had a hard time believing in the relationship that developed between the two main characters. I never felt like they had any chemistry and, frankly, I was kind of sorry to see them end up together, which is not really how you’re supposed to feel at the end of a romantic comedy, you know?

Anyway, if you love “sweet” romantic comedies, you’ll probably absolutely adore this one. We enjoyed it (and had fun especially with the Freeks and Geeks reunion of Rogan, Segel, and a nearly unrecognizable Starr) and laughed a lot, but we’ll will probably never feel the urge to see it again. This contrasts strongly with the comedy we saw on our honeymoon six years ago — Zoolander — which we still watch all the time and quote incessantly to each other (“What is this? A center for ANTS?!”). Next year, we’ll have to do a better job at pickin’ the movie!

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre: Romantic comedy

Cast: Katherine Heigl, Seth Rogan, Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Martin Starr, Leslie Mann, Harold Ramis, Alan Tudyk

MOVIE: Pride & Prejudice (2005)

September 16, 2007

I’d been resisting watching this movie ever since it came out because, frankly, why bother watching a new two-hour version, when I can just watch the four-hour 1995 version I already love soooooo much and have seen at least a bazillion times?

Though this newer version has its moments — it’s got lovely scenery and colors, and I did enjoy Keira Knightley as Elizabeth as well as Judi Dench as the insufferable Lady Catherine — my final review of it can be boiled down into a simple phrase:

Matthew McFayden is no Colin Firth.

And that, my friends, pretty much says it all.

I suspect the way these two versions compete is thus: whichever one you saw first is the one you love most. And so, if you’ve never seen the 1995 version, complete with Colin’s famous wet shirt scene (hubba hubba!), you’ll probably enjoy this version well enough. In fact, you might even swoon for it. But those of us whose first onscreen Darcy was Firth’s will never be able to relax into McFayden’s version fully. There’s just really no comparison whatsoever. So, for me, this version was only okay — it’s watchable, but it doesn’t achieve the same level of greatness as the version that was my first.

Glad I saw it — never need to bother with it again. Now, where are my 1995 version DVDs. . . ?

[Netflix me | Buy me]

[Netflix the better version | Buy the better version]

Genre: Romance

Cast: Keira Knightley, Matthew McFayden, Brenda Blethyn, Donald Sutherland, Jean Malone, Judi Dench, Rupert Friend

MOVIE: Sweet Land (2005)

September 10, 2007

This is the most aptly-titled film I’ve seen since last Christmas when my Mom and I watched a reallllly crappy flick named Abominable. Because “sweet” is the absolute, most-perfect word with which describe this film. Sweet. Sweet. Sweet. With a cherry on top.

This simple, enjoyable tale is set in the 1920’s and is about a young German mail-order bride named Inge (Elizabeth Reaser) who arrives in Minnesota to marry a Norwegian farmer, Olaf (Tim Guinee). Added to the usual complexities that go along with, you know, BUYING a bride you’ve never met, the farmer (and, in fact, the entire town) is horrified to discover Inge’s nationality, as the U.S. is in the process of recovering from from its battles with Germany during World War I. The locals still believe that every German is duplicitous, and that German women in particular are all harlots and spies by their very nature. Even the minister refuses to have much to do with Inge, despite the fact he’s one of the few people in the town who speaks German.

As if her nationality isn’t controversy enough, it also turns out Inge’s immigration paperwork is a mess, which means she and Olaf can’t marry immediately as they’d planned. Yet the couple decide to live together in Olaf’s house anyway, which, as you can well imagine, raises many an eyebrow anew amongst the townsfolk.

As Olaf and Inge begin to spend more time together, working to get the harvest in, they gradually begin to fall in love. And when Olaf makes an enormous sacrifice to try to save the farm of his best friend Frandsen, who fell behind on his mortgage, the town ultimately begins to thaw out a bit, giving us hope they might one day embrace Inge as one of their own at last.

This movie has a few problems — the acting isn’t always very good (though Reaser is fabulous, Guinee is a bit blah — it’s too bad ex-Boyfriend Dan Futterman, originally cast in the part, had to pull out to make Capote (he wrote the screenplay), because I would’ve loved to see him in this role), and sometimes scenes seemed awkwardly written and kind of clumsy as well. (Kind of like my last sentence — sorry.)

It’s also a little TOO sweet at times, making it feel a bit more Hallmark-movie-ish than independent-film-ish. (Also, for the record, Alan Cummings gives me the absolute creeps, even when he’s playing someone really nice, as he does here. I can’t help it — I just really really don’t like that guy’s face.)

Nevertheless, Sweet Land is beautifully filmed, with brilliant colors and wide angles of the vast, open land and big blue skies. And, since my own background features Norwegians in Minnesota, I enjoyed that element as well.

Overall, it’s not a flawless film, but it’s still extremely entertaining, made me all weepy at the end, and left me feeling satisfied and happy when I was done. Definitely a chick flick, but one well worth renting.

Netflix me | Buy me

Genre: Romance/drama

Cast: Elizabeth Reaser, Tim Guinne, Alan Cummings, Ned Beatty, Alex Kingston, John Heard