Monday, June 16, 2014

This generation's Virginia Woolf

Between/Us (2013, Dan Mirvish) is this generation’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966, Mike Nichols). Like the earlier picture, based on the Edward Albee play, it features two couples. Emotions are revealed, truths uttered too literally. And marriage breakdown is in the offing in this Millennial Generation equivalent of the famous Burton-Taylor combo playing opposite George Segal and Sandy Dennis…..Here we have Taye Diggs and Julia Stiles as the bohemian Brooklyn couple versus David Harbour and Melissa George’s upper crust Midwesterners. Part of the film takes place in the gated community home of the latter, part – in film time a couple of years later – in the cramped messy abode of the former. Lifestyle-wise these couples couldn’t be more different although they had a sinew of friendship. What’s left falls apart over the two meetings, and it ain’t pretty. The movie scores on all points – great direction, acting, hand-held camera often in claustrophobic situations.

There are under-the-radar films – movies one's never heard of – but which apparently did get released. I saw two of these on the weekend…..One, Bigger Than the Sky (2005, Al Corley) stars John Corbett and Patty Duke, of all people. The story is slight. Overly earnest Peter (Marcus Thomas), dumped by his girlfriend, seeks a role in a community theatre company. He’s never acted and the plot is about how he integrates himself into the world of "crazy" theatre people. The movie is plodding and as earnest as the character himself though you have to give it credit for trying to capture the real world of amateur theatre. Corbett and Amy Smart (as the leading lady) are particularly good.……Then there was a movie with a similar title, Reaching for the Moon (2013, Bruno Barreto of 2000’s Bossa Nova and 1976’s Dona Flor and her Two Husbands), a film set in New York and Brazil based on the life of Pulitzer winning post-war poet Elizabeth Bishop. Bishop (Miranda Otto) travels to Brazil for a respite but discovers the wonders of an exotic society and the love of esteemed architect Lota de Macedo Soares (Glória Pires). Unfortunately a ménage à trois develops (the third woman is Mary Morse played by Tracy Middendorf) and we know how those go. This is a pretty good biopic with a lot of subtlety exploring the relationships of these three women. Treat Williams plays poet Robert Lowell.

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