Wind-swept: Alicja Bachleda and Colin
Farrell in Ondine.
by Neil Jordan
The catch of the day is rather unusual in Ondine, the
latest from Irish filmmaker Neil Jordan. But that’s to be
expected from the director of The Crying Game and Interview
With the Vampire. For Ondine, one of his gentlest
(and least compelling) efforts, Jordan blends village life
in a remote part of County Cork with folklore as embodied
by Ondine (Polish actress Alicja Bachleda), the lovely young
woman who is raised from the ocean depths in a fishing net
cast by Syracuse (Colin Farrell). Syracuse is a lonely fisherman
living in a cottage by the sea, and to him, Ondine is a mysterious
gift. Her strange accent and desire to remain unseen by anyone
but him almost convince him that she is indeed a creature
from a fairy tale, especially after she accompanies him on
his fishing boat and sings a strangely hypnotic song that
seems to be the reason for his lobster traps and nets being
filled to capacity.
He tells his young daughter, Annie (Alison Barry), about his
new friend as if he were telling her a story, and she informs
him that Ondine is a selkie, a mythological creature that
lives as a seal in the water but can live on land as a woman—but
only for a limited amount of time. Annie spends much of her
time in the hospital because of a failing kidney, and when
she’s well enough, she lives with her hard-drinking mother
(Dervla Kirwan). Having Ondine in the cottage enriches the
storybook quality of Syracuse’s noncustodial relationship
with his daughter.
In the film’s first half, the charm of Syracuse and Ondine
falling in love (perfectly believable even without knowing
that Bachleda and Farrell fell in love in real life), the
rugged beauty of the Irish coast (picturesquely captured by
the great Christopher Doyle), and a lovely score compensate
for the wan script. The mystery of Ondine and her elusive
background isn’t potent enough—there’s never any doubt that
she’s human—and the film’s homage to the traditions of oral
storytelling is diminished by repetition: Annie repeats her
selkie knowledge so often that it becomes boring, and more
repetition is added during Syracuse’s confessions to the village
priest (Jordan regular Stephen Rea). Syracuse’s fear that
his good luck and newfound love can’t possibly last is sloppily
dramatized (and made worse by unnecessarily thick accents),
and as the plot moves into more predictably modern events
(a man from Ondine’s past prowls the docks looking for her)
it becomes merely slow-moving instead of leisurely lyrical.
By its disappointingly conventional conclusion, the early
enchantment of Syracuse and Ondine getting to know one another
is about as memorable as a TV perfume ad.
of the Past
by Nash Edgarton
Despite its setting, The Square is in many respects
a pretty traditional genre flick. Noir thrillers tend rather
more to nighttime Los Angeles than to suburban Australia,
but with so many other conventions satisfied, The Square
is firmly in that category: Visually and symbolically, it’s
got the low lighting and the rain; dramatically, it’s got
a cast of shifty types, headed by conspiring lovers overmatched
by circumstance; and philosophically, its got the essential
“lie down with dogs” moral fatality.
Raymond Yale (David Roberts) is a respected and successful,
if unsatisfied, construction manager. We know that he is unsatisfied
because he is having an affair with Carla (Claire van der
Boom), a younger woman from what appears to be the wrong side
of the tracks (or in this case, the wrong side of the river).
Under pressure from Carla to raise money to fund an escape
from his wife and Carla’s thuggish husband, Smithy (Anthony
Hayes), Raymond has started accepting kickbacks on the job.
This fund gathering is too slow a process for Carla, however.
When she discovers that her husband is hiding a large stash
of cash in a crawlspace in their house, she issues Raymond
an ultimatum: He must prove his seriousness about the relationship
by ripping off her husband.
The hapless and hangdog Raymond accepts, and from that decision
the tragedy unfolds. It’s to the credit of the filmmakers,
director Nash Edgerton and writers Joel Edgerton (the director’s
brother) and Matthew Dabner, that The Square maintains
both the sense of inevitability that makes an effective tragedy
and the surprises that make for an effective thriller.
Though some critics have detected a Coen-esque quirk to the
movie, I did not, at all. If the Edgertons were going for
a kind of black comedy, they did not have the cast for it:
Roberts and van der Boom are appropriate as desperate connivers
in over their heads; they do not have the subtle comedic sense
of the likes of Frances McDormand and Dan Hedaya in the Coens’
early noir, Blood Simple.
So, if you are looking for a deep character study, or a wry
take on genre, The Square may leave you cold with its
bleak and pessimistic treatment of its characters. If, however,
the stylized and unforgiving judgments of traditional noir
(or Elizabethan tragedy, for that matter) are your thing,
The Square provides such without irony.
(On the other hand, the short film by the Edgertons that precedes
the feature is a swift, brutal, blackly comic thrill of an
altogether different, more Tarantino-esque type.)
by Dennis Dugan
Ups is a movie geared toward schlubs who proudly never
got the point of flushing the toilet, let alone putting the
seat down. Bodily fluids exist to titillate, or in the case
of one character’s “48 month old” who still breast feeds,
repulse. Women are bodacious hotties (Brooklyn Decker) until
pregnancy and motherhood transforms them into domineering
witches, or menopause renders them physically and sexually
abhorrent. Some of this is to be expected in the kind of cinematic
comedy one associates with Adam Sandler and director Dennis
Dugan, but overall, it translates to a completely unenjoyable,
even painful film-watching experience.
Sandler plays Lenny, now a hot Hollywood agent who was the
nucleus of his championship middle-school basketball team.
Upon the death of their beloved coach, the team reunites for
a long weekend at a secluded lakehouse (no, Jason in his hockey
mask is not lurking around, although you may wish he were).
There’s car salesman Eric (Kevin James), stay-at-home dad
Kurt (Chris Rock), forever immature Marcus (David Spade),
and new-agey Rob (Rob Schneider), along with assorted wives,
including Salma Hayak, Maria Bello, Maya Rudolph and Joyce
Van Patten. Despite Lenny’s well-known success, he prefers
to downplay things to the point that he pretends the family’s
do-it-all nanny (Di Quon) is an au pair studying for university
exams. His unease is matched by that of most of the guys.
It’s clear from the start that Eric is hiding something, and
Kurt’s efforts at domestic bliss are belittled by his breadwinner
wife Deanne (Rudolph) and her obnoxious mother, whose character
exists solely to fuel jokes about farts, bunions and stereotypical
old-black-woman behavior. Marcus seems happy to live from
one one-night stand till the next, and Rob seems truly at
peace with his holistic life style and much older wife (Van
Patten), whose character exists solely to fuel jokes about
the supposedly unappealing and asexual nature of older women.
The movie is nostalgic for a time when kids played outdoors
with whatever was at hand, but The Sandlot was much
better in doing that and providing a decent storyline. Once
we’re past the well-publicized moment when James’ Eric experiences
a very painful ride on a rope swing, there’s little else to
laugh about. The guys are able to momentarily relive their
glory days while continuing to pound on each other when least
expected; the wives find new appreciation of their hubbies;
and the kids find out that they can survive without their
Wiis, DSes, cell phones and personal trainers. Strangely,
the normally unwatchable Schneider is the only main character
who warrants some empathy and seems capable of something beyond
toilet humor. In the end, it seems like Sandler, maybe with
a contract to uphold, decided to call a bunch of friends together
to shoot hoops, and see what sort of movie fell out of it.
I think simply watching them play basketball together, regardless
of their capabilities, would have been preferable.