Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Yes, No, Maybe So Double: "Hanna" and "The Other Woman"

It's a double dip for Yes No Maybe So as we're way behind. Can't the movie world just stop for a little bit during the holidays so that we can all enjoy the movies we have right in front of us? Too many things. Too many things. Here's a girlish double and we'll get more manly in the next installment.

Let's start with The Other Woman which used to be called Love and Other Impossible Pursuits (better less generic title) starring the ubiquitous Natalie Portman. And that's ubiquitous with a capital U because, really, she's only going to get more inescapable from here on out.

The Other Woman

First there's this movie, then there's that Ashton Kuchner romcom, then Your Highness, then there's Thor (yes, 4 releases in 2011) plus the next two months of awards shows and then the wedding and the baby and so on. Is she aiming for Jolie/Pitt levels of über celebrity status? You won't be able to get away from her. You're going to look in the mirror and see Natalie Portman.

Don Roos's key successes (The Opposite of Sex and Happy Endings) were told in a unique voice (always a plus) and revealed a deft hand with actors. His frequent collaborator Lisa Kudrow (yay!) plays the first wife and I think everyone wants to know if Natalie, post-Swan even though this was shot earlier, is going to be able to up her game as she moves into her thirties.

On the other hand this looks soft, overly happy and above all unfocused (child rearing, adultery, infant death, custody battles, family bonds, the kitchen sink). It also displays this other woman and asks you to root for her to win the married man which is...unnngh. Really? But it's a trailer, and maybe this isn't at all easy to summarize. Roos, particularly in Happy Endings, was able to balance a lot of flawed characters and emotional arcs. So maybe the marketing department just doesn't know what to do with it?

Despite what seems like far too many plot points (especially for a trailer) you have to admit there's a certain amount of 'wow... this could go in all sorts of interesting emotional directions.' That is if, and it's a big if, the trailer is a false witness to the actual tone.

It doesn't look promising to me but I am curious. You?

This trailer and discussion has presumed spoilers.


Next we have Saoirse Ronan training for kills in the woods, with the dissonant mix of modern music and fairy tale titles. Little Saoirse's eventual target: Cate Blanchett.

You can't say that Joe Wright skimps on acting talent lining up Queen Blanchett to square off against Eric Bana (daddy?) and Saoirse Ronan (baby girl?). You also can't say that he didn't earn a couple films worth of experimentation and possible failure after his first two terrific pictures (Pride & Prejudice and Atonement).

I know that the deady little girl thing is a rite of passage for all underage startlets (just ask Natalie Portman, Kirsten Dunst, Dakota Fanning and Chloe Moretz and whoever gets cast in Hunger Games) but I can't say that the child soldier thing is for me. Rooting for trained assassins is so ... unpleasant. Child assassins? Even worse. Why is it such a popular genre? And isn't the trailer giving away a huge twist. [SPOILER?] Isn't it basically saying that Saoirse is Cate's daughter and that Cate is the villain rather than the victim/target? [/SPOILER?]

Visually there are a handful of hooky images and many trailers don't succeed at that even though they all try. Maybe Joe Wright and team could provide real chills (acting) and thrills (action).

So I guess that's two Maybe Sos for me. How are you feeling about seeing either of these pictures?


Nic said...

However so-so the trailer seems, it's the squints of acting amazement in there by Natalie Portman that make me want to see 'The Other Woman'. Also, let's face it: death of children is always good motivation for great acting (see; Rabbit Hole).

Jonathan E. said...

although 4 films is a bit much for one year, even for someone like sam jackson, it's nice to see natalie portman finally releasing a nice, healthy amount of films. the past few years have included her releasing perhaps a film a year, if so. The Other Woman was filmed a while ago, and probbaly only being released now because of her star-power rise due to BS.

In terms of Hanna, i think this film looks absolutely great. Great cast, great plot, and it seems like we won't know the whole story, even though they seem to give some parts of it away in the trailer. Plus, i would love to see Saoirse's career go in a similar direction that Natalie's went/is going.

Julien said...

I've seen Love and other impossible pursuits in Cannes, and I'm quite sure no one would have bothered to release such a derivative, meandering failure if Portman weren't the talk of the town right now. Ironically, they aren't doing her a favor: she's just awful in it, whiny and affected in all the worst ways.

In truth, Portman overkill would't seem so terrible if her future movies looked a little better.

OtherRobert said...

Even Jodie Foster had her "deadly little girl" role in The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane. I'm excited for Hanna because it's an action (?) film populated by talented actors. I've yet to be disappointed by Ronan even when the film she was in was bad.

Speaking of which, would The Lovely Bones count as an American animated film confronting death? Most of what happened was done on a computer, right?

James T said...

I'm a "maybe so" for both of these.

Hanna seems like it won't be as deep as it wants to and just be Salt level fun/deep.

The Other Woman might have its moments but on the whole... I dunno.

Dominique said...

Gotta nitpick here. Don Roos' second film is actually Bounce (yeah, the Affleck, Paltrow one). Happy Endings is the 3rd.

Anonymous said...

Any joe-schmo would guess "OMG They're mother and daughter" based on the general premise alone (female teenage protagonist and female middle-aged antagonist). Come'on people that's clearly not it.


dom -- oops.

Anonymous said...

Since this seems semi-relevant here...

I know this is completely random (what is else is new?) but I just finished watching Black Swan for the second time and the funniest thing happened: suddenly I found myself very bored by the first half of the movie. It just felt... unnecessary. And the same goes for Portman's performance in that half.

Don't get me wrong, she's still amazing (Oscar-worthy, damn-near transcendent!) but now I only feel that way about her in the second half. The first 45 minutes just feels like a broken record. Maybe it's because I already know where it's going, maybe it's because I was watching it on my computer, maybe it's both? I don't know. Anyone else seen it twice? Thoughts?


badmofo -- it's not as great the second time through, i'd agree. but that's a lot of movies of the horror/shock/spiral variety i think. or any movie really that has a ton of setup time (inception) and so on.

john said...

If Ronan and Blanchett are supposed to be mother and daughter then why have they made Blanchett less Blanchett-y since she's blonde in real life? Maybe there is no relation between the two?

Alex said...

Is it crazy to hope Lisa Kudrow gets a Best Supporting Actress nomination for "The Other Woman"? She's so overdue.

Unknown said...

@Alex: I was thinking the same thing. She does seem to be, after all, playing a jilted, long suffering wife -- which the Academy simply loves. If the best thing that comes out of the movie is nomination for her, that would definitely make me happy. Phoebe was always my favorite.

Paolo said...

The Other Woman has a good stuff, bad stuff, then good stuff happens again formula. But it feels like the third section of the trailer happens in the first act of the film. So the manipulative feel of the trailer gives it a maybe for me.

For Hanna - EFF YES!

SoSueMe said...

Is Natalie also in a movie called Hesher, or is she just a producer?
Hanna looks great...Nat, you totally used the right still of Cate for your "Maybe So" segment...holy cow...she looks stunning!

Anonymous said...

I'm OBSESSED with Black Swan and Natalie's performance in it, and I'm pretty terrified that her two potentially awful films scheduled for release before the Oscars are going to wreck her chances of winning. Tell me I'm being silly. Please.

Anonymous said...

Hollyfrench I believe the term is "norbiting" someones oscar chances in memory of Eddie Murphy releasing a heinous January release that screws his chances, same thing happened to Anne Hathaway with the unimproveable (ha) "Bride Wars". Just goes to show the whole Halle Berry "I'll do one good film every few years and colour my resume with derivative crap for the most part for an easy paycheque" really can affect awards traction. Your voting for the actor not just the performance. Was that too bitter? On a lighter note, just wanted to extend a huge thanks to you Natahniel for writing such an incredible blog, it's always a high point in my day. Thank you. Was wondering what you thought of Sandra Oh in "Rabbit Hole", I thought she was really lovely in it.

- Sean C.

adri said...

The Other Woman:
Yes: I like the cast.
No: You know how you can like people but have no desire to go over to their house and spend time there?
Maybe so: As a compromise movie where I don't like the other choices.

Yes: I like the cast, the genre, the director. Joe Wright seems to be a director who can get actors to leave off their usual acting tics.
No: Nathaniel's comment about child soldiers has me thinking.
Maybe so: More movies with female leads, yes.

Glenn said...

Oh. See, when I saw the poster with that title The Other Woman I assumed it was a thriller of somekind. Like Chloe or The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, ya know? Wasn't expecting that at all. Umm. It looks... I dunno. I trust Don Roos most of the time, but I dunno. Lisa Kudrow though!

Hanna looks baaaad, but Cate Blanchett's hair is a lock for Best Supporting Actress in 2012.

Anonymous said...

I watched Don Roos' film a few years ago at TIFF when it was called something else and while it's his most mature work it's actually his worst. Natalie Portman is insufferable and Lisa Kudrow's talent is completely wasted (except for one scene late in the film where she really knocks it out of the ball park). But who knows, maybe they did some edits and changed it since TIFF.

/3rtfu11 said...

The Return of Blanchett -- wish she had Kidman’s taste in projects. I don’t like any of the movies I’ve seen her in save for Benjamin Button and I’m just being nice.

For those needing guidance for repeat viewings of Black Swan: remind yourselves it’s a mood piece. Certain movies have wonderful re-watch value once that nostalgic feeling sweeps over you – and you can sit at the TV like a vegetable and recite your favorite lines of dialogue.

Bryan said...

@BadMofo, Nathaniel, and /3rtfu11-- I agree that Black Swan loses a bit of its impact upon repeat viewings, but also that you have to be in the right mood for it. Regardless, I still love it.

And, with regard to Natalie's performance in the first half of the film: I still noticed and loved many of her choices. Remember when Erica presents Nina with breakfast? I love how Natalie says of the grapefruit (something along the lines of), "Oooh, so pink and pretty!" I had to remind myself that Nina's not a six-year-old girl. I also enjoyed how-- in this one line-reading-- there are undertones of Nina's girlish-ness being an act, implying that her vestigial uber-femininity was equal parts delayed development and self-maintained facade.

And, just as fascinating as Barbara Hershey's teeth were (a set of chompers has never been so frightening!), I also loved how when Nina calls her mom from the bathroom stall, Natalie smiles in such a way that brings the largeness of her front teeth into prominence (and the not inconspicuous bits of space in between them). It reminded me instantly of how first graders look after growing in their two adult front teeth: cute, precocious, and like they don't quite fit into their adult bodies yet.

jen said...

Blanchett looks so WASP with her Hanna's hair, don't you think ?

Arkaan said...

re: Black Swan

The climax is so full of raging bravado that I can imagine a second viewing where I'm "hurry up, get to the pirouetting swan!" But I think the earlier part really sets up the feeling of utter dehumanization (in the quest for perfection) and Natalie Portman's performance is all sorts of layered (that innocence!)

re: Hanna

Ronan is really showing she's the real thing. So Blanchett + Ronan + Joe Wright = sold. Plus I'm interested in seeing Wright flex his chops way from bait.

Anonymous said...

@Bryan, Arkaan -- I agree that Natalie does so much more in the first half than I'm giving her credit for. When she delivered that grapefruit line ("look how pink, so pretttty") I knew this performance was the real deal. And she deserves any praise coming her way for that crazy-good bathroom scene. I've actually found myself replaying a lot of the early stuff in my head again now that I think about it.

Guess I just really wanted to get to that "pirouetting swan" lol.

Volvagia said...

I'm a yes on Hanna. (Ronan with that director again? The rest of the cast? Chemical Bros. scoring? If that's not yes six ways to sunday (It's exactly the same rough formula (Pre-established director-actor collaboration + great supporting cast + Chemical Bros. score) that made Fight Club great), I don't know what is.)
On The Other Woman: I don't like stories about cheating. They make me inherently uncomfortable. If there's any risk of it being bad, on top of the subject matter, that is a clear NO.