Wednesday, February 15, 2006

In Lili's petite shoes

IN HER SHOES (2005, Curtis Hanson, seen on DVD)- very nearly a great movie, instead of being a noteworthy example of its genre (the chick-flick dramedy), and it's the most genre-friendly stuff that drags down the rest- the caricatured stepmom character, the tart-mouthed best friend (not Brooke Smith's fault- she plays the character well, it's just not written in a very inspired way). But I almost feel like I'm nit-picking, when there's so much good here. Of paramount importance was that Diaz and Collette were instantly convincing as sisters, and their relationship is a palpable one (doesn't hurt that Collette's in top form, and Diaz has never been better). Keeping them separated for most of the story is a bold idea that pays off because when we see one sister we feel the absence of the other. I also liked that Mark Feuerstein's character never felt like a fantasy figure, but rather a quirky individual with passions (eating out, the 76ers) but a lack of understanding (and admittedly, context) for Collette's complex relationship with Diaz. And thankfully, MacLaine reins it in here, making her grandmother character life-size instead of outsize, thereby grounding her scenes in an elderly woman's reality. And of course Hanson remains unparalleled at location shooting, although I'm not sure we needed Collette running a bunch of dogs up the stairs of Philly's art museum. Rating: ***.

LA PETITE LILI (2003, Claude Miller, seen on DVD)- this well-acted but forgettable drama is my first exposure to Miller's work, and what I've seen here doesn't really inspire me to watch the rest right away. I liked that he doesn't blindly celebrate Julien's artistic temperament- he prattles on about purity and not compromising, but he's young and kind of priggish, so this has just more to do with his romanticization of the artistic process than it does with any real life experience. Meanwhile, others around him are much more pragmatic- famed filmmaker Brice (Bernard Giraudeau) listens to Julien's rantings with a mixture of nostalgia and bemusement, and Lili herself (Ludivine Sagnier) is starstruck in Brice's presence, ambitiously hoping to parlay it into a career for herself. However, the film's final third is less interesting- Julien reuniting family and friends to make an semiautobiographical film isn't the stuff of great drama. Still, some good performances (Giraudeau especially) and naked Ludivine doesn't hurt either. Rating: **.

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