at the museum: Owen in The International.
by Tom Tykwer
Minutes after meeting with a high-level informant, Interpol
agent Louis Salinger (Clive Owen) turns to see the man reel
as if from a blow, clutch his chest, vomit, and collapse in
the street. Racing to his aid, Salinger is struck by a car.
Next scene up, Salinger is refusing medical treatment to inspect
the informant’s corpse. He intimidates the medical examiner—his
flash of temper is just a harbinger of his recent past and
immediate future—and discovers evidence that the man did not
die of a heart attack.
The action-packed opening to The International is a
tip-off as to its director, Tom Tykwer. The German auteur
of Run Lola Run, Tykwer built a reputation for coherently
kinetic action sequences (driven by circumstance, not marketing),
and The International has a lollapalooza of a shoot-out—in
the Guggenheim Museum. (Well, actually it’s a German set that’s
a dead ringer for the New York landmark.) The reason Salinger
gets caught in a hailstorm of assassination attempts is because
he’s gotten too close to the inner workings of a multinational
bank called the IBBC. The bank is based in Luxembourg, but
it represents an even more corrupt version of the World Bank,
the IMF, or a half dozen other banks that have been in the
news lately. Salinger and his partner, a Manhattan district
attorney (Naomi Watts), are prevented from investigating the
murder when it’s linked to the IBBC’s global arms deals. As
the bank’s ruthless CEO explains to the leader of an African
revolution, money isn’t the bank’s primary medium of exchange;
debt is. “Control the debt, and you control everything,” explains
The film’s script (by newcomer Eric Singer) hinges on the
interplay between profit mongering at the highest financial
and corporate levels (a family similar to the Agnellis make
an appearance), and elusions of justice between various law-enforcement
agencies. The plot is efficiently mechanical (though Tykwer
can globe-trot with the best of the Bond films); it has some
of the criminal flamboyance of Lords of War but doesn’t
achieve the hothouse, in-house suspense of Michael Clayton.
And Watts is underutilized in a wisp of a role. Owen, however,
electrifies the procedurals like a live wire, and Salinger’s
scenes with the bank’s head of security (Armin Mueller-Stahl),
a former Stasi operative who advises him to go outside of
the law, have a philosophical imperative that you won’t find
in a Bourne caper.
of a Shopaholic
by P.J. Hogan
Did I get this movie because THE powers that be at Metroland
knew that on a recent business trip to Manhattan I returned
trying to conceal two pair of shoes, two handbags, a belt
(but what a belt!), two tops, a dress and a pair of leggings?
I swear, somebody at this paper has seen me trying to nonchalantly
sneak bags of sale merch from my car to my house, and this
is my penance: reviewing Confessions of a Shopaholic.
It should have been titillating fun, but then again, so should
have Sex and the City. The idea that somebody could
literally get off, or at least avoid the panic attack, simply
by immersing herself in Henri Bendel, is not such a stretch.
Indeed, when Holly Golightly proclaimed the innate sanctity
of Tiffany’s, it was considered an inspired bit of wisdom,
if a little nutty; but you throw in a major recession, and
suddenly such thinking is downright unpatriotic. The point
behind Confessions of a Shopaholic, based on two enormously
popular Brit novels, is that one shouldn’t have to find happiness
solely via designer duds, but that one can find happiness
in such things as long as one is also dating a really hot
intellectual sort. The great equalizer, proving that your
Prada shoes and your glitzy bling are really just a lark,
a bit of visual artistry, because you’ve got the brainiac
to prove you’re not all that vain.
Isla Fisher, who is the kind of comedian who brings to mind
Jean Arthur combined with Lucille Ball, plays Rebecca Bloomwood,
the eponymous shopaholic, who gamely takes a stab at writing
about finances for Smart Savings magazine, even though
she’s drowning in credit-card debt. Most of the movie involves
Rebecca’s “madcap” (not really, but this isn’t the 1930s)
efforts to stay one foot ahead of the debt collector; she
shows a talent for making finances seem like, well, shopping.
Her editor, Luke (Hugh Dancy), is a sort of junior version
of Hugh Grant—before the hooker—and therefore he’s dreamy
and a catch. In case we wouldn’t like him enough for being
all that, it is revealed that he’s secretly loaded, but doesn’t
like to use Mummy’s funds. What’s not to like about that kind
of security net?
Too much of Confessions is about Fisher straddling
or seemingly humping innocent passersby, such as a-must-be-desperate-for-employment
Vanessa Redgrave, who, the title credits tell us, is “Drunken
Lady at Party.” This is unfortunate, as the actress seems
supremely capable of delivering pure physical comedy, and
does so to a small extent in a dance bit that could have been
all fluttery and cow-eyed. Not enough is made of the catch-22
that many young people find themselves in, when trying to
fit into a certain career or lifestyle, but doing so on a
shoestring budget. That everything these days is based in
large part solely on image is understood; the fact that Confessions
takes its heroine’s underlying rationalization for her outré
spending as a cute weakness, not so understandable.