F.I.L.M. of the Week (April 13, 2017)

13 04 2017

At some point while working on a profile of Robert Pattinson, I realized I couldn’t write honestly or insightfully about the actor if I only considered his post-“Twilight” work, which I generally considered to. I’m not sure at what point I decided I needed to watch everything in his filmography, but one film I did not particularly anticipate sitting through was “Bel Ami.” Costume dramas, especially ones set in 19th-century Europe, tend to function as something akin to the bane of my existence.

But to my very pleasant surprise, “Bel Ami” stands out as a delicious experience in a primarily dreary and stuffy genre. To be fair, I’m not sure how much I would have enjoyed the film had I watched it upon release in 2012. Pattinson was still, reluctantly, in the thrall of “Twilight” mania. The specious read of the film is to see his character, Georges Duroy, as an emotionless man who somehow manages to function as an effortless womanizer. (There is admittedly some jealousy in play, I’ll be up front.)

Indeed, there are some similarities to Edward Cullen at the surface level of “Bel Ami.” Yet with some distance, the film looks more like a reaction against his famous role. Georges makes plenty of sexual conquests in the film, but he achieves them not out of confidence or swagger. He’s deeply insecure about his station in the Parisian social strata, nervously approaching formality. In his first high society appearance, Georges musses with his appearance several times in the mirror before entering the room.

He’s at a distinct advantage in the elite ecosystem since he does not come from money and only gets a seat at the table when a former comrade from war lifts him up. To hold this tenuous position, Georges needs an ace in the hole, and he finds it through gaming undersexed and undervalued wives. Wooing them works to his benefit for a while, but eventually he learns that appealing to them goes only so far in a male-dominated world. This narrative acts as something of a meta commentary on Pattinson’s participation in the “Twilight” franchise, and his desperation and frustration is the secret sauce that raises “Bel Ami” out of standard period piece drudgery and into the “F.I.L.M. of the Week” territory.

F.I.L.M. of the Week (February 11, 2011)

11 02 2011

Wes Craven has made many a good horror movie, helming such classics as “The Last House on the Left” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” but arguably leaving his biggest mark on the genre with the revolutionary self-aware “Scream” series.  He merges the two together to form the irresistible guilty pleasure “Cursed.”

Yes, I fully realize that by labeling it a guilty pleasure, I’m saying that you could easily hate this movie.  But if you love that seamless blend of comedy and horror with a touch of irony, I think you will be drawn in by the cultish appeal of “Cursed.”  In an era marked by movies that are emasculating such fearsome beasts as werewolves and vampires, Craven delivers a werewolf movie with true bite!

Not to mention that it features fun performances from plenty of ’90s stars like Christina Ricci and Joshua Jackson that have disappeared, as well as providing one of cinema’s first glances at an Academy Award-nominated actor by the name of Jesse Eisenberg.  In one of his earliest screen roles, Eisenberg still has the same fast-talking and dorky awkwardness that has marked his career ever since.  (“The Social Network” just served to refine and harness that power.)

As for the movie’s plot, it’s a mash-up of the typical werewolf curse stories as two siblings, Eisenberg’s high-school dork Jimmy and Ricci’s professional Ellie, are attacked and are forced to confront and kill the beast if they want to avoid total transformation.  But along the way, they find little changes make a big difference.

…Ok, it sounds dumb on paper, but I loved this movie because in all the ways it should have failed, it somehow worked!