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Saturday, August 30, 2003


Directed by Alan Rudolph
Written by Craig Lucas and Jane Smiley
Starring Campbell Scott, Robin Tunney, Denis Leary
Review by Mil Peliculas

Well, finally a non-pretentious, interesting, mature story from Alan Rudolph. This guy has been boring me for years, he rightly should be a member of the Bland Pack, but with his latest Secret Lives of Dentists, Rudolph as threatened to make a liar out of me.

Campbell Scott plays dentist David Hurst, who married his dental-school sweetheart Laura. Now the two have a nice practice together and three adorable daughters. The problem is that David seems to have lost the passion for his wife, we’re not sure how long ago, maybe years, but the problem has now manifested itself in the form of an extra-marital affair. Laura, it seems, is stepping out on him.

The film focuses less on the actual affair—we never even really know the name of the man she’s sleeping with, nor do we really see her with this other man—than it does on the mental torture that the spouse undergoes when the first suspicions arise. David actually sees his wife seemingly kissing and cuddling with a man from her theater group backstage at an Opera performance where she is performing a small role. This sets his mind to working. That faraway stare, replaying things in his mind over and over, reliving the moments when he first fell in love, weighing whether or not to tell her he knows—these are things that people can really relate to. To an immature person, the obvious thing is to tell her. But as David says, “Then we’d be forced to DO something about it.” The right way isn’t always apparent, especially in the area of love. That’s one of the nice complexities of the story.

The thing that really elevates the film is its well thought-out use of subtext. For you film freaks out there who like to delve a little further, there’s fodder for you. Denis Leary plays an angry patient who had some bad work done by David, and sort of becomes a symbol of David’s failure, appearing next to David as a mental projection to help him along through his difficult time. Also, the littlest daughter has of late taken to slapping the mother every time she gets too close to her, and she only wants to be with her father-- At one point “becoming part of my body,” as David says. I found this interesting, taking it to be a commentary on her mother’s loss of love for her father—as if the daughter was the piece of the mother that broke off and now must cling to the object of its affection, the father, while the mother herself goes out tries to reconnect with another man. I knew that if the daughter and mother were joined, things would be okay.

In the opening narration of the film, David describes the hardiness teeth, being a dentist, he would know. He says that nothing can harm teeth, for instance, they're the only thing left after a fire burns away the rest of the body, and that centuries of lying in the dirt merely gives them a good cleaning, etc. In fact, the only thing that can harm them is life. Life indeed has a way taking things that are strong and tearing away at them, destroying them. One of things that made me keep watching this film was: Will this affair destroy this marriage? I got my answer.

The dialog is smart, the humor is clever, and I found the story to be quite engaging throughout. For adult audiences (which now means over 30) you can’t go wrong with this one. Go. See. But pay attention to the details…

Saturday, August 16, 2003


Screenplay by Heidi Thomas
based on the book by Dodie Smith
Directed by Tim Fywell
Reviewed by Mil Peliculas

A good film should set the mind to working. There’s nothing worse than forgetting an entire movie by the time you reach the lobby. For those of you, men or women, who love, have loved, or will love—this film will have something to say to you.

The story follows a family who moves into a castle in the English countryside in the 1930’s. The father, a recently successful author, plans to write his subsequent masterpieces there. Twelve years later, he has not written a word, the rent is two years overdue, and the family finds themselves in dire straights. The anchor of the story is the 17-year-old daughter Cassandra, who, unlike her father, spends much of her time writing in her journal. When two wealthy American brothers of marriage age show up at the castle, that strange and elusive concept of love begins to muck up the works, while at the same time presenting salvation for the down and out family. Cassandra’s older sister Rose eventually lands the older brother Simon, played by Henry Thomas, but seems to be more concerned with the size of his bank account.

The film really sets out to explore love, as so many other films do, but mainly the unrequited kind of love--the kind that hurts. Every relationship in the film seems to be affected by this variety of love; serving as inspiration for the artists, and for the rest who aren’t so inclined, to simply give meaning to their lives. Unlike the serpentine and contrived domino-effect of the “I love him, and he loves her, and she loves someone else” plots that litter daytime dramas in every part of the world, this one really seems to come from the heart. Cassandra serves as the conscience of the story, the only one who seems to be able to stick to her guns, treading carefully through the minefield and not letting herself be derailed into any relationship that does not suit her. The character of Cassandra bears an obvious resemblance to the heroines of Jane Austen’s great works: the sister whose inner beauty ultimately outshines the prettier, older sister. She’s the one who’s seemingly not good enough for any, but in reality, too good for all of them.

I was reminded of a quote that I cannot find attributed to anyone in particular: Who I loved, loved me not, who loved me, I loved not. It’s a cruel joke that afflicts all too many of us poor humans, but this story treats it more realistically than Austen usually did. Only one couple seems to find what they are looking for.

The performances are good with the exception of the stiffly wooden brother Neil, but he’s hardly enough to ruin the ensemble. Younger male audiences might find the plot completely uninteresting and inscrutable, and if you are one of these youngsters, give this movie a few years and go back to it once you’ve had a real taste of the “L” word.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003


Written and Directed by Gary Ross
Based on the book by Laura Hillenbrand
Reviewed By Mil Peliculas

There’s no other way to say it: Seabiscuit is just a lovely movie. Flat out. It reminds me of what Hollywood does right once in a while. It’s the story of the famous racehorse Seabiscuit, who was a scrappy little guy with a bad attitude descended from famous racing lineage, but who was overlooked and tossed aside by his trainers, and ultimately sold for a pittance to a wealthy entrepreneur.

Jeff Bridges plays Charles Howard, a self-made millionaire who made his money in automobiles. To him, cars were the future, and he would rather have had one car than a hundred horses. After an ironic twist of fate takes the life of his son in a car accident, Howard ends up recanting his feelings about horses, and even ends up buying Seabiscuit on the recommendation of Tom Smith (Chris Cooper), a uniquely gifted horse trainer and lover of horses. Smith sees something in Seabiscuit that no one else can see. Namely “heart.” Apparently in horseracing, you can often tell a good horse without even seeing them run, it’s just a look or an attitude that can be the tip-off, which I found very interesting.

Smith and Howard choose Red Pollard, a Jockey who’s as full of piss and vinegar as Seabiscuit is, to try and tame his wild spirit—and the combination turns out to be golden. Seabiscuit went on to be a world famous horse, and captured the imagination of a down-in-the-dumps depression era America as “the underdog” rags to riches story.

Everyone contributes in meaningful ways to this film, from the writing, directing, acting, and consultants. It seems very authentic, the characters are fully fleshed out and engaging, and even though I knew the story of Seabiscuit, I was on the edge of my seat, well, I did have to pee pretty bad, so that could have been part of it, but you could not have pried me from that seat, plots like those are called “bladder busters” because no matter how bad you gotta pee, you ain’t leaving. You also get nice little history lesson in the process.

Kids may find the pacing a little slow, but it’s properly paced for the type of story it is. I encourage parents to take their kids to this one, truly inspiring, and you may want to bring a tissue, because it does get rather emotional at times.

I hate to say it, please, forgive me, but...

As far as Oscar contenders go, Seabiscuit has broken out early and has a commanding lead coming around the first turn.

Cue music: Wha wha wha wha…