Archie and the Gang Get CWed

So, the new Riverdale.

The CW has taken the classic Archie comics, and brought them into the real world. Well, not the real world, exactly. More like a CW show. They’ve brought them into a CW show. So it’s a darker, more nuanced, grittier Riverdale. (Although not nearly as gritty as the fantastic Afterlife With Archie comics, which place Archie and his nifty pals in the midst of a zombie apocalypse.)

In Riverdale, sufficed to say, there’s murder, illicit affairs, closeted jocks, and a serious lack of lighting.

When the story starts, Jason Blossom, twin brother of Cheryl, Queen Bee of the school, has apparently drowned. No body was found. But was it muuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuurder?

Of course it was.

Right off I’ll say, I enjoyed the pilot enough to continue watching. However, it’s very much like Gossip Girl, or Pretty Little Liars, and I gave up on both of those shows a couple of seasons in. Eventually you’ve paired up everyone with everyone else, you’ve had every single character betray every other character multiple times, everyone has secrets that come out, and then more secrets that come out again.  It all becomes a bit of a yawner, frankly.

I hope the creators of Riverdale don’t just plop the Archie characters down in the CW universe, and forget their provenance – both to honor it, and to turn it on its ear.  There were flashes here and there in the pilot, but I’d like more winks to the original.  (Kevin calling Archie “swell.” Jughead’s hat. A hint as to where Moose might have gotten his nickname.) The show is, after all, written by Archie Comic’s chief creative officer.

Some general atmospheric stuff: I get that they’re going for a Twin Peaksian vibe here. That small town/soap opera noir, somewhat dreamlike, and very, very dark. Too dark. I mean, the-band-room-is-candlelit dark. I wish they would take a page from Buffy, a show that knew how to work the contrast between a sunny, seemingly perfect burb and its nasty underbelly. Give us some sun, and some bright shiny teens. Every scene at Riverdale High shouldn’t look like they’re about to be blasted with the tornado siren.

The characters in the original Archie comics never change (at least not when I read them back in the 80s.) They act out the same patterns again and again, they take the same girl to the dance (or at least the same two girls, in rotation) – they laugh at the same old bit of wackiness from Jughead, and at some point, Moose sees Reggie flirting with Midge, and we just know Reggie’s gonna get a pasting.

In Riverdale, they slap big fat labels on everyone’s foreheads right in the pilot. Many of the characters declare out loud just who exactly they are, or if they don’t, their friends do it for them. The Perfect Girl. The Fiery Bitch. The Big Jock. The Gay Best Friend. The Ice Queen. But of course, unlike in the Archie comics, these boxes are meant to be broken.

The only person who remains undefined is Archie, because at the start of the show, he’s mired in an identity crisis. He has no idea who he is, and it’s paralyzing him.

Which brings us to the character rundowns. Spoilers ahoy!

ARCHIE

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First off, Archie’s dad is played by Luke Perry, which is an inspired bit of casting. (Although, speaking of a rehash, Archie’s working-class dad and Veronica’s rich mom having a thing in the past – and now they’re both single (!) is so very Gossip Girl.) Let’s be clear: Archie in the comics is a little shit. He’s a wishy-washy, lying, misogynistic pipsqueak, who plays women against each other. Why two gorgeous, together girls like Betty and Veronica would even talk to him, let alone fawn all over him, is beyond comprehension. But I guess that’s part of the joke.

So Riverdale, smartly, gives Archie a makeover. First of all, he’s hot. And, one of those aforementioned winks, we learn he wasn’t hot the last time any of the characters saw him. He got ripped working for Dad Perry’s construction company all summer. He’s not a freckly ginger, either. Don’t get me wrong, freckly gingers can be uber-hot, but they’re not traditionally as hot as, say, oh, I don’t know, dark auburn broody boys. Just sayin’. So, Archie’s hot AF, so hot, in fact, that he loses his V card (I’m assuming) to the smokin’ music teacher over the summer. He’s still a little obsessed with her, I think (?) which is one of the reasons he can’t commit to his best friend, but never-girlfriend Betty, I think (?) but also because Betty is too good for him (yawn), I think (?). Honestly, we were left hanging as far as Archie’s feelings go. Which would be fine, except I think the writers were trying to be clear. He tells Veronica that he doesn’t think of Betty that way, but then, with the final Jughead-as-Walter-Neff voiceover, we hear that Archie’s heart is broken too, I think (?)

What we do know is: Archie love music. Archie love football. Archie torn. Archie gets to do both. Whee! I’m sure they’re going to create more conflict where this is concerned, but right now, it seems like Archie is broody for no reason, as he tends to get what he wants.

That’s the other thing, his Big Dark Secret with the teacher (aside from the naughty naughty), is that, while they were canoodling in the woods early one morning, they heard a gunshot – right around the time of Jason’s disappearance. Except, at the end of the episode, this problem too goes away for Archie, as they find Jason’s body with a gunshot wound. So he no longer needs to fret about telling the police. Although, hopefully the police will get the time of death wrong, and an alibi will be at stake or something, and that crisis can return. Otherwise, this Archie, like his predecessor, will just be a little shit who gets whatever he wants.

BETTY

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I’m liking Lili Reinhart as Betty Cooper so far. She’s a decent actress, and, like Betty in the comics, can go from sweet and perky to hella hot armed only with some hot rollers and a pink dress. Her mother is played by Mädchen Amick, a deliberate nod to Twin Peaks. I’m already fascinated with the mom, as she’s a pretty horrible person, but in a somewhat unique way. I think we’re going to find out that she’s fixated on slights she incurred in high school, and those feed every current grudge.

I’m digging the relationship with Veronica. In the comics, it was always so strange, tricky, and unbelievable. They were sort of best friends, sort of arch nemeses, both fighting over Archie, but each other’s confidants too? In Riverdale, Veronica works hard to become Betty’s friend, because she sees that Betty is a good person, and wants to be like her. In turn, Veronica forces Betty to be bold, and not just eat whatever shit is shoveled her way. It has an immediate effect, especially in regards to her mother. A friendship to root for, which is great, because we know that Archie will come between them. He already has.

VERONICA

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Those eyes though. Camila Mendes has some gorgeous, camera-loving, huge brown peepers. Also, they cast a Brazilian-American woman as Veronica, which not only is cool, but necessary, because the world of (original, early) Archie is whitey-white-whitesville. She’s a skilled actor, impressive because she has zero experience on TV before Riverdale.  I love what a wit the character is. Her references leap from literary to pop culture, several of them are deep track, all of them are on point. Because it’s been established that Veronica used to be a big ol’ bitch, we can assume that she used to use that sharp tongue for evil. Now it’s used to delight those around her. And occasionally to take down the local nasties (I’m looking at you, Cheryl.)  Also, that reformed beyotch thing is interesting. After she kisses Archie, she goes to her mom and puts her head in her lap – the camera pulls in. Although she doesn’t say it, we know she’s thinking, “Can I change? Am I just an awful person by nature?” That’s some good directing and acting. Excited to see more of her struggles with her shoulder devil.

Okay, but here’s my problem though – and it’s not her fault.

When I was 13, and staying at a friend’s aunt’s place for a week, I discovered a huge stash of Archie comics in the back of a closet. I read them all. And let me tell you, I was obsessed with Veronica. Her clothes, her face, her hair, her attitude, the whole shebang. This Veronica… is not quite there. She’s too sweet looking, her hair is too plain, her clothes are meh. This can all be fixed – step up, ye mavens of hair, makeup and wardrobe! Give her extensions- a fantastic head of glossy thick waves. Zhoosh up her makeup: play up those goddess–given eyes. And please, please, get her some fabulous duds. We should be drooling every week over What Veronica Wore. That’s who she was in the comics, that who she should be on the show.

Also, it has to be said, she needs to work on her Ice Queen game. I didn’t quite buy her takedown of Cheryl. I think she has it in her, though.

KEVIN

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When we first meet Kevin, in Betty’s bedroom, we know he’s gay. When she calls him ‘Kevin,” I thought, “Really, they couldn’t have made a canon character gay? They had to invent a new one?” BUT, I looked it up, and Kevin is a character, albeit a newish one, in Archie. He’s also gay, in Archie (Yay Archie!) BUT ALSO, bite my tongue about canon characters. Freakin’ MOOSE. Big closeted jock Moose. I love it. I wonder if there’s going to be a Midge. Will she be his beard? So curious.

The actor playing Kevin, Casey Cott, is nailing it well enough – he’s especially strong, as is the character, when he gets salty. I like that he doesn’t hold his tongue, even when he probably should.

I’m putting faith in Riverdale. Since they deliberately labeled Kevin the Fabulous Gay Best Friend, I’m assuming they’re planning on breaking him out of his box as well. Because that depiction is tiiiired, and more than a little insulting. The gay man who only lives to support his female friend with sassy little asides? Yeah, no. Granted, that character template, like all character templates, can turn out exceptionally well with good writing: as long as the character is given a unique personality, agency, and their own desires. (See: Felix from Orphan Black.)

Already we’ve gotten a bit of Kevin’s life outside singing backup for the gals, what with that Moosetacular assignation. Sadly, it ended with a corpus coitus interruptus, but I’m sure they’ll hook up in the future – and since Kev Kev (can I call him Kev Kev?) is playing a dangerous game – one that could damage his heart and/or his person- it’s bound to be interesting.

CHERYL

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A pretty stereotypical Queen Bitch of The School, except for the twist that her twin brother and “soul mate” just died, and she was apparently lying about how it happened. Also, there was definitely a creepy sexual element to their relationship in the flashback. And also, also… she seems to have bounced back to being a cheerleading bully and school dance princess pretty darn quickly.

And what’s with all the redheads in Riverdale? Hmmmm….. (Yes, I know it’s in the comics, but they could really play with that.)

JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS

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No token minority for the Pussycats – all three of them are black, and brava. Again with the smart diversity. More of this everywhere, please. Also, Josie, at least in re Archie, is really, really mean. A snotty kind of mean. I’m not sure how I feel about this, only, I hope we learn a lot more about her, and Sweet Merciful Zeus, please don’t make her yet another love interest for Archie. He has quite enough on his plate already, thank you very much.

JUGHEAD

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One of the main four characters in Archie, he narrates small bits of the show. We don’t meet him until the very end of the episode, when we learn that he had a falling out with Archie some time ago. He seems to be a bit of an artsy loner, and might end up being a favorite character for that fact alone. Looking forward to more Jughead, including how he got, not to mention held onto that nickname.

To sum up: I’m going to give Riverdale a chance to do some magic. So far, it’s fairly thin on the ground. There are some nice twists to the original characters, but many of the bits fall flat. Cheryl lording over her party, manipulating the game of Seven Minutes in Heaven? It feels like a ‘first idea’ sort of writing choice. Not terrible, but not at all original or surprising. Veronica and Betty kissing at the end of their cheerleading tryout? I get what the joke was supposed to be… we’re supposed to think that’s going to get them on the squad, and then *record scratch* Cheryl points out that that particular device is tres passe… Except, here’s the rub:  Riverdale used it in the show for the very same reason that Veronica and Betty used it in their tryout. Cheap titillation.  They try to get away with it by bending the fourth wall, but it doesn’t quite fly. Archie’s father’s lecture near the end of the show… about construction, and football, and music, and how Archie lied, doesn’t quite track with what happened earlier in the episode. And so far, Archie is an amorphous blob of a character – but I’ll give that a chance, because I know the point is that he doesn’t know what he wants.

All I can say is, remember the provenance, creators. Keep on winking at us, and you’ll be just fine.

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Have You Seen This? 13 Great, Often-Overlooked Films

Part of Finding the Yummy is picking out that perfect film for that particular crowd, for that precise night. Here are some of my favorites from the 1990s that you may have missed… or may want to watch again. Why the 90s? Call it the 20 Year Rule: now that we’re in the 20-teens, the 90s are finally starting to come into focus. As a bonus, I’ve included the perfect drink to pair with each film.

Big Night, 1996, Directed by Campbell Scott and Stanley Tucci

I really love this movie. You’ve got a pre-Monk Tony Shalhub, (back when we only knew him as ‘that funny guy from Wings’)giving us an early glimpse of his prodigious drama chops as Primo, a temperamental Italian chef who co-owns a restaurant with his brother, Secondo.  Secondo, played to perfection by Tucci, is a slick character who seduces everyone he meets (especially women) – but really, it’s he who’s being seduced, and ultimately duped, by the American Dream.  Add to that mix an at-her-best Minnie Driver, Allison Janney, Isabella Rossellini, Ian Holm (in a scenery chewing role as a rival restaurateur), and Campbell Scott, and you can hardly go wrong. Then set it all in a glossy, gauzy, 1950s, add a killer jazz soundtrack, some truly funny bits, and a feast scene to rival even Babette’s. Warning – don’t watch on an empty stomach. Delicious.

“To eat good food is to be close to God.”

Pair With: Tomassi Amarone (if you’re feeling munificent), or a Valpolicella – terrific at almost any price. (You might want to have a substantial antipasto plate handy too.)

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Cold Comfort Farm, 1995, Directed by John Schlesinger

There was time, back in the 1990s it was, when the world was a kinder place, and a young actress named Kate Beckinsale was known more for her wit and talent than for the way her leather pants stretched across her patookis as she crouched atop a flying buttress, surveying her nighttime domain. Giving crappy vampire franchises their due, I still think playing Flora Poste in Cold Comfort Farm is Beckinsale’s finest hour. Flora is akin to Jane Austen’s Emma (in fact, Beckinsale went on to play Emma only a few years later), a buttinsky and a matchmaker who gets away with her interfering nature because she’s just that charming.  The main difference is that, unlike Emma’s schemes, Flora’s tend to be successful. It’s the 1920s: Flora’s parents have just passed away, and she chooses to go live with her gothickly rural relatives at the titular farm. They are a miserable, hilarious lot – including a fire-and-brimstone preacher patriarch (Ian McKellen), his wretched wife (Eileen Atkins), and their oversexed, hunky son (Rufus Sewell). Flora sweeps into their lives and refuses to allow them to wallow in their desolation. Also with AbFab’s Joanna Lumley, and one of my favorite people on the planet – Mr. Stephen Fry.

“I saw something nasty in the woodshed.”

Pair With: A Brandy Sidecar – a jazz era favorite!

Deja Vu, 1997, Directed by Henry Jaglom

Not to be confused with the Denzel Washington film of the same name (don’t worry, I’ll get to Denzel in a minute), this is a talky little art house film that managed to capture me despite some flaws. Okay, one particular flaw, in my mind. Like David Mamet, Jaglom will insist upon casting his wife (in Mamet’s case, the occasionally good, but often flat Rebecca Pidgeon, and in Jaglom’s case, Victoria Foyt). Foyt co-wrote the script, so in a way, I understand. It’s not that she’s a crappy actress, and I really like her strong, beautiful features (but what’s with that haircut from 1984?). It’s just that…well, she’s sometimes annoying. When her character, Dana, is upset, Foyt lapses into a whiny voice that I find altogether irritating. So why is this film on my list, you may well ask? Number one: Stephen Dillane. You might know him now as stern Stannis Baratheon on Game of Thrones, but here he is utterly swoon-worthy. If you like the male variety of the species, you might just fall in love with his character, Sean. The other reasons to watch Deja Vu? The writing, and the rest of the cast, including Vanessa Redgrave as a gorgeous, winning, adventurous creature, who is also shockingly self-centered. There is moral ambiguity in this film – who’s the better, more complete human, the person who follows their bliss, or the one who sticks with their commitments, no matter what happiness they may end up denying themselves? (Hint: there’s no right answer. Warning: if you believe that infidelity is universally reprehensible, you probably will not like this movie.) Mostly, I come back to the film because it gives me chills. The good kind of chills. Jaglom plants us firmly in the real world with his naturalistic dialog and documentary-style camera work  – and then suddenly, he hits us with fate-laden, wondrous, magical moments.

“To cheat oneself out of love is the most terrible deception, it is an eternal loss for which there is no reparation, neither in time or eternity.”

Pair With: A Kir Royale, or some hot chocolate.

Devil in a Blue Dress, 1995, Directed by Carl Franklin 

This movie stars Denzel Washington, so you’d think that pretty much the entire world would have seen it by now – yet, when I worked at a video store (Nicollet Village Video in Minneapolis, now Filmzilla – an actual, surviving brick-and-mortar video rental shop – What?!), I often discovered customers who had never even heard of it, let alone seen it. It’s simply a great period noir, from the book by Walter Mosley. Jennifer “The Bride” Beals is the requisite treacherous woman (guess what color her dress is?) – and though I tease with “The Bride” stuff, she is very well cast, as it turns out. Washington, at the height of his early stardom, smolders as Easy Rawlins, an amateur sleuth in way over his head. The real standout here, however, is Don Cheadle, before many of us knew who the hell Don Cheadle was, as the terrifying psychopath Mouse Alexander. Surprisingly, rather than having Mouse work for the bad guys, Mosley casts him as Easy’s tenuous friend – he’s like a rabid dog on a short leash – and Easy has to decide how much slack to give him, never knowing when he might break free on his own.

“…if you ain’t want him dead, why you leave him with me?”

Pair With: Bulleit Bourbon, neat.

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Funny Bones, 1995, Directed by Peter Chelsom

I remember the first time I saw this film, on video, with friends – and as the credits rolled, we just sat there in stupefied silence, unable to speak until the end of the reel. The opening sequence has a similar impact… a sort of “What the…Did that just happen?” vibe. Oliver Platt plays Tommy Fawkes, a comedian living in the shadow of his much more famous father (played by Jerry Lewis, pretty much as himself). After Tommy bombs at what was supposed to be his big break (a really painful scene, but I promise, it’s the only one in the movie), he travels to Blackpool, England, an old family vacation spot, to search for the next great act. What he finds are family secrets, the fine line between comedy and violence, and quite possibly, the funniest man alive… a sort of humor savant named Jack (Lee Evans). A truly unusual and very funny film.

Nicky: “Have you lived in Blackpool all your life?” 
Jack: “Not yet.” 

Pair With: A Beefeater Gin and Tonic.

The Ice Storm, 1997, Directed by Ang Lee

This is a dark one, so be prepared. It takes place in the 1970s; Allison Janney again (let’s face it, everything’s a better with a little A.J.) hosting a “key party,” Sigourney Weaver and Kevin Kline cheating on their spouses, Christina Ricci seducing her boyfriend’s younger brother, and both Spiderman (Tobey Maguire)  and Frodo (Elijah Wood) running around trying to figure out life while courting sex and death — all against the setting of a spectacular ice storm. If the cast isn’t enough to recommend this film, then let Ang Lee draw you in. He might just be the most diverse director working today – he has an eye for delicate detail, and the ability to sweep us away in any genre. After all, the man directed both Sense and Sensibility and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

“Ben, you’re boring me. I have a husband. I don’t have a need for another one.”

Pair With: A Bloody Mary, preferably before noon. 

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The Impostors, 1998, Directed by Stanley Tucci

The first of three films on this list that include Hope Davis in the cast, and the second directed and written by Tucci. Every person I have shown this movie to has loved it, and yet, on IMDb, it only garners a slightly above average rating. Granted, I count among my friends many actors and jazz musicians, and the film appeals greatly to these two demographics. Do you like Laurel and Hardy? Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead? Farce? 1930’s jazz? Then run, don’t walk to rent this film. It makes me laugh until I tear up every time I see it. Oh, and did I mention? Oliver Platt (again), Tony Shalhoub (again), Allison Janney (again), Campbell Scott (again), IsabellaRossellini (again), Richard Jenkins, Alfred Molina, Lily Taylor, Steve Buscemi, Billy Connolly, and Woody Allen. Whew!

Perhaps we should wrestle sometime. Do you like the taut roundness that exercise brings to the buttocks?”

Pair With: A Gin Martini with Olives. (Although perhaps not as large as the one Arthur orders in the movie.)
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Joe vs. the Volcano, 1990, Directed by John Patrick Shanley

This, perhaps more so than any other film on this list, has become a cult favorite. It was seriously panned when it came out, the one time the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan formula didn’t seem to work. The writer/director is a playwright, which might explain why it didn’t go down well with everyone. Don’t get me wrong: at times, it’s goofy. It’s not grounded in reality. Meg Ryan turns up as three different characters. Abe Vigoda plays the chief of an island tribe, and one of the tribesmen is Nathan Lane. Let me say that again. One of the island tribesmen is Nathan Lane.  And all of this makes complete sense when you accept the fact that Joe Vs. The Volcano is a fairy tale.  (It even starts with the words “Once Upon A Time…”) Drenched with symbolism, really funny, incredibly sweet and highly quotable – hitch yourself onto Joe Banks’ raft made of luggage, and I promise you a fun journey.

“Very exciting….as a luggage problem.”

Pair With: A Mai Tai, served in a coconut, with plenty of fruity garnishes. 

Lone Star, 1996, Directed by John Sayles

This is the movie that made Matthew McConaughey a star, so upon re-watching it the other night, I was surprised at how little screen time he has. Now that his looks and manner are so familiar, his absence is noticeable, but back then his brand of charisma was a novelty, and his character, a sheriff’s deputy in the 1950s, so loomed over the story, that I remember him as being in at least half the film. Chris Cooper plays McConaughey’s son in the present day… and really, the whole movie is about fathers and sons (it follows multiple families) – do you accept your parents’ legacy, or write your own story? It’s also about race and power. But mostly, it’s  about a 40-year-old murder mystery that Sheriff Sam Deeds (Cooper) is trying to solve. The victim was a monster of a man, played with great menace by Kris Kristofferson  – and it’s soon clear that the world is better off without him.  Deeds’ main suspect? His deceased father, and local legend, Buddy. Add to this Sayles’ always dry, clever dialogue, and a very sexy Elizabeth Pena, and you have Texas gold.

Sheriff Sam Deeds: “Mrs. Bledsoe?”
Minnie Bledsoe: “That’s me.”
Sheriff Sam Deeds: “I’m Sheriff Deeds.”
Minnie Bledsoe: “Sheriff Deeds is dead, honey. You just Sheriff Junior.”
Sheriff Sam Deeds: “Yeah, that’s the story of my life.”

Pair With: (Need I even say it?) A Lone Star Beer, ice cold.

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Miller’s Crossing, 1990, Directed by the Coen Brothers

Okay, this one isn’t that obscure, but it, like another one of my favorite films, The Royal Tenenbaums, bears a second (or twelfth) viewing. Yes, it is extremely violent – it is a mob movie after all. And yes, like many of the films on my list it is a period piece (1930s). Gabriel Byrne is Tom, the right-hand-man of Albert Finney’s Irish mob boss, Leo. Due to, what else, a dame (or, in the parlance of the film, a ‘twist’), Tom shifts his loyalties over to the Italian side of the underworld…or does he? Is he playing the most brilliant long game ever, or is he, like he claims, just making it up as he goes along? Marcia Gay Harden is mesmerizing as the dame, and who can forget John Turturro as her weasly brother Bernie… one of his greatest performances, and that’s saying something. And as the final cherry on this scrumptious concoction, Miller’s Crossing has some of the best noir dialogue ever to grace the silver screen.

“You ain’t got a license to kill bookies and today I ain’t sellin’ any. So take your flunky and dangle.”

Pair With:  Bushmills Black Irish Whisky or a Negroni, depending where you are in the film.

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Mumford, 1999, Directed by Lawrence Kasdan

This stars Hope Davis again, and Loren Dean (why don’t we see more of him?) as the title character. Mumford is a psychologist in a town that shares his name. He’s appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and now is making great strides in helping the quirky townsters solve their problems, including a weight-obsessed teen (a young Zooey Deschanel), a shopaholic mom (the always great Mary McDonnell) with a boor of a husband (Ted Danson), a lonely software billionaire (Jason Lee), and a sickly, oppressed and beautiful woman (Davis). But who is Mumford, really? A couple of rival shrinks want to know. His story, when revealed, elevates this romantic comedy from a meet-cute with a cast of loveable oddballs, to something a little darker, a little richer.

“When I was in high school the thing I wanted most when I was stuck in class, the thing that I was desperately in pursuit of, was a hall pass. That’s all I ever wanted. I loved moving freely around the school while everybody else was trapped in there. That’s how I feel right now. Like I have some giant – all day – hall pass.”

Pair With:  A virgin Cuba Libra (Coke and lime).

Next Stop Wonderland, 1998, Directed by Brad Anderson

Another Hope Davis romantic comedy. What can I say? She brings a certain sadness to her characters that makes her more interesting that your average big-toothed, sparkly-eyed romantic lead. Her character, Erin, is indeed sad – a state of being which is nicely echoed by the film’s glorious, melancholy, bossa nova soundtrack. Erin hasn’t recovered from the death of her poet father – add to this the ignominy of being dumped by her blowhard poser hippy boyfriend (Philip Seymour Hoffman – pre-greatness, but already great), and having a mother who is way more glamorous than she is (Holland Taylor – completely unaged since Bosom Buddies). Erin prefers the gentle nudgings of fate to guide her path – her mother, a much more proactive person, takes out a personal ad for Erin without her consent. She passively agrees to these dates – and humor ensues. All the while, however – as in Sleepless in Seattle, or Serendipity, we know who she’s supposed to be with – a man named Alan (Alan Gelfant – who, in an era of sensitive leading boy-men, was a masculine breath of fresh air), whom she hasn’t yet met. We’re following his story as well – and we can’t wait for that moment that fate finally decides to bring them together. Sure, there’s a goofy bit about the mob and a stolen blowfish (no, really) – and some two-dimensional characters, but all in all, a terrific romantic comedy (and those are hard to come by).

Cricket: “Don’t you just hate men?”
Erin: “Oh God, I wish I did. That would make my life so much easier.”

Pair With: A Caipirinha – the national drink of Brazil.

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Zero Effect, 1998, Directed by Jake Kasdan

My friends and I were some of the only people in the Uptown Theater the night we saw Zero Effect. You guys. It’s so, so good – more people need to see this film. I’ve always liked Bill Pullman (Especially in While You Were Sleeping), but even I admit he can be shaky at times. As Daryl Zero, a modern-day Sherlock Holmes (although not a Sherlock derivative), Pullman is at his very best. Casting him seems like it was a bold move on Kasdan’s part, as was the casting of Ben Stiller (not yet a box office draw) as Daryl’s put-upon guy Friday. Daryl Zero is a nearly autistic, recluse private detective, who can only function in the world when he’s on the job, pretending to be someone else. He’s investigating a blackmailing on behalf of a millionaire (Ryan O’Neal), who’s clearly not telling the whole truth. The story is extremely well written, the clues all fall into place beautifully, and watching Daryl work as he illuminates his methods, we really believe that we are watching a genius – the best detective in the world. Pullman manages to capture the character’s brilliance, dysfunction, and infuriating capriciousness, all with humor and depth. Kim Dickens, intense, and yet somehow still very at ease, is great as Daryl’s only equal. 

“A few words here about following people. People know they’re being followed when they turn around and see someone following them. They can’t tell they’re being followed if you get there first.”

Pair With:  A Tab soda and tuna fish out of the can.