and son: (l-r) Pegg and Fenton in Run Fat Boy Run.
but Not Unfunny
Fat Boy Run
by David Schwimmer
is inexplicably funny about British buttocks has faded since
the appearance of Rhys Ifans’ tight bikini undies in front
of the press in Notting Hill. In Run Fat Boy
Run, Simon Pegg pulls a similar sight gag, and Dylan
Moran flashes his backside more than once. Pegg plays Dennis,
a hapless security guard; Moran is Gordon, a layabout gambler
whose cousin, Libby (Thandie Newton), is Dennis’ ex- girlfriend.
Libby owns and operates a bakeshop called Nice Buns, which
could be an alternate title for this mildly amusing, warms-the-cockles
comedy in which Dennis (“I’m not fat, I’m unfit”) trains for
a marathon to prove his ardor to Libby, whom he jilted at
the altar five years previous when she was pregnant.
Dennis gets motivated to be all he can be after meeting Libby’s
new boyfriend, Whit (Hank Azaria), a hedge-fund manager with
a bullish portfolio and pecs to match. Whit runs in marathons
for charity and is unflappably friendly, making Dennis’ attempts
to show him up all the more frustrating. Dennis dubs him “Mr.
Perfect” but changes the moniker to “Mr. Peter Perfect” after
getting a gander at Whit’s hidden assets in a gym locker room.
It’s the film’s funniest scene, deftly carried by Pegg’s appealing
Co-written by Pegg (with Michael Ian Black), the story is
an ’80s-Brit-pop version of Rocky, and not as zany
as Pegg’s previous acting and writing gigs in Shaun of
the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Director David Schwimmer
adds some TV-style tumbledown humor but smartly lets the actors
play to their strengths, and the slacker bonhomie between
Dennis and Gordon, the seethingly polite exchanges between
Dennis and Whit, and Dennis’ appealingly silly rapport with
his precocious son, Jake (Matthew Fenton), compensate for
some distinctly lowbrow American gags, such as a squirting
blister that might’ve been an outtake from a Farrelly brothers
During his training for the marathon, Dennis is aided and
abetted by Gordon (Moran’s louche line readings are almost
worth the price of admission) and some unlikely supporters,
leading to a predictable, but sweetly and sincerely parlayed,
moment of self-actualization. Run Fat Boy Run
may lack the comedic brio of Pegg’s previous work, but Dennis
is such a likeable bloke—even in too-tight running shorts—that
his growth experience from shirker to working-class hero is
a modern girl: McAdams in Married Life.
by Ira Sachs
The drama of a broken marriage is as old as, well, marriage.
In Married Life, set in 1949, middle-age wealthy businessman
Harry Allen (Chris Cooper) has fallen out of love with his
loyal wife Pat (Patricia Clarkson), and into love with a young
war widow, Kay (Rachel McAdams). He doesn’t want to hurt his
wife, and he can’t stay—so he decides to murder her.
There’s a fourth party in this domestic tragedy-in-the-making,
Harry and Pat’s bachelor pal Richard (Pierce Brosnan). Richard
has his own interests, but is remarkably agile in keeping
them hidden from everyone. Everyone but the audience, that
is—Richard also serves as the not-always-trustworthy narrator,
a fact enriched by the sly Brosnan’s skills.
Life re-creates America right after World War II like
no other film in recent memory. It gets the clothes, cars,
music and gadgets right, but it goes deeper than that. It
gets the mores—which are central to the story—right. One of
the reasons I think the kids (i.e., anyone under 30) don’t
get old movies is because we’ve changed so much as a society.
Example: The idea that marriage was a life contract, especially
if you were of a certain class or held a place of some importance
in society, is unfathomable today. But that’s the way it was.
Relations between the sexes, married and single, were subject
to rules both openly acknowledged and silently assumed—rules
totally alien to the way we live now. If nothing else, Married
Life performs a kind of public service for not transposing
our mores on those times.
That said, it’s still ultimately unsatisfying. And the film
goes wrong because director Ira Sachs makes his actors to
do almost all the work. (That aforementioned meticulous attention
to period detail does the rest.) With a couple of obvious
exceptions (that I’m willing to bet money came from the source
novel), Sachs is singularly uninterested in telling the story
through compositions or editing. Odd, because those are sort
of the point of film directing.
The best example of this is a key scene between Cooper and
McAdams. It’s groaningly obvious what’s really going on; the
point is to show that Harry, who thinks of himself as shrewd
and perceptive, is actually a bit of a dolt. Sachs shoots
it with the blandness of a three-camera sitcom. It would be
a complete misfire if not for McAdams; she invests Kay with
a genuine depth of feeling and emotional complexity that transcends
the aimless direction.
The handling of the murder scheme is also flat-footed. Sachs
can’t seem to make up his mind how seriously to take Harry’s
plotting; in the end, the fact that Harry’s punishment fits
his crime is unnecessarily blunted.
That the film remains worth a look is likely owing to the
sturdiness of John Bingham’s source novel Five Roundabouts
to Heaven. Oh, and those terrific actors.