Gotta tell ya, I love Netflix. I resisted at first because I've been burned a lot from being an early adopter of new technology and/or business models. But enough friends whom I trust said to take the dive, and when our last good video store closed leaving only Blockbuster in town, I committed. What's cool it that it now makes sense to watch older movies I've missed because they just don't release movies fast enough to keep up with my demand, and I don't pay extra for it.
This is why I watched Bound, the first movie made by the guys who did the Matrix series (the Wachowski bros, or now bro and sis as one of them had a gender reassignment). I had avoided it because it looked pretty much like a sleazy, rote mob caper, only with lesbians instead of Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci. Well, I was right, that's all it was. Actually, no, it was even less than that, because it was a shameless retread of Blood Simple, including someone dying dramatically in a big puddle of goo. The final stake through its celluloid heart was Jennifer Tilly. Gad she's terrible. She can't act, her voice peels paint, and she resembles that poor soul who in high school stalked/lusted after the star football hunk, but ended up getting impregnated by and married to the guy who ends up being the security guard on the night shift at Walmart, forever thereafter only to be seen in way too revealing halter tops, with a cigarette butt dangling from her lip. I mean, bless her heart that sometimes she gets cast as "glamorous," because if Billy Crystal can convincingly play the romantic lead in films, anything's possible. Yet, I just kept thinking why didn't they cast someone actually alluring? Gina Gershon as her lover, though, was excellent; I'd love to see her way more often in the movies; what a face.
I still like Netflix, though. Can't blame them.
I knew I wasn't bellying up to a great movie when I fired up Mike Nichol's Closer, but Natalie Portman (speaking of glamorous) has entered my short list of actors whom will merit my seeing of anything they're in.* (Her sweet and believable portrayal in Garden State of a young woman who is forced to wear a helmet at her job in a lawyer's office because she has epilepsy won me over.) I watch movies that I've been sufficiently warned about primarily to see precisely when the train goes off the tracks, what it smacks into, and how many bodies are strewn about in the end. In Closer you can feel the train wobble when Jude Law tells Julia Roberts that he "must see her" meaning he wants to screw her (set piece two), but the squealing steel and slamming cars truly ensue the moment that Jude Law and Clive Owen have IM/chat sex (set piece four). The disconnect in this movie is that everyone acts as though they're talking about love, but their fixation is simply who's having sex when, where, and with whom. Because of this odd focus that only characters in a contrived fiction would have, the whole movie feels like a clinical exploration of a fabricated alien corpse.
I've never met people who act remotely like this outside of fiction, with a couple possible exceptions. A few gay people that I've been acquaintances with, and who were not in committed relationships, lived in this state of constant sexual musical chairs partner-swapping that seemed to be primarily about sex and jealousy, and not about love even though they, like the characters in this movie, used the language of love when discussing sexual territory. And though I don't have any real, personal experience with swingers, via exposure that I have had to that world - through articles and documentaries - it seems to also center around sexual gratification as a second-best replacement for real love and intimacy. Had this fiction been about swingers, the new phenomenon of group sex parties (a whole different kind of flash mob, har har), or a gay club scene, perhaps it wouldn't have seemed so artificial.
Still, I recommend this movie to fellow movie fanatics just because it's an interesting artifact, and vaguely enjoyable during the viewing. The mechanics of the filmmaking are stellar: nicely shot, well directed, believable acting, looks nice, has a good pace, etc. Natalie Portman and Jude Law are riveting. Clive Owen is serviceable, but you can tell the character type is a stretch. And though she carried the role, Julia Roberts spent the whole time looking like she had just chugged a 24 ounce beer bong of Pabst Blue Ribbon and was in that precarious state before one knows whether it's all coming back up, still cold and foamy, or if it's gonna stay down and mingle with the Funyuns® into a headache-inducing sludge.
Everyone else shouldn't waste their time and should get around to seeing The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind if they haven't already, as it is an authentic and moving exploration of love and relationships.
For Natalie Portman fans I have a small warning (and a mini-spoiler). Since she is so young and just now venturing into adult roles, it's kind of shocking when she peels back her g-string to display her, uh, virtues upon the request of her customer at the strip club. No, you don't see anything as it's blocked Austin Powers style, but seeing someone I still think of as a kid just grin and bare it was kinda harrowing. Being a dad does that to ya.
*The rest of the list of actors whose mere presence will merit my watching the flick: Jeff Bridges, M. Emmet Walsh (when he was alive), Francis McDormand, Matthew McConaughey, Kate Winslet (!!!), Sandra Bullock (even though she doesn't pick the best projects; I just have a crush on her), and Kurt Russell (the most overlooked and underrated great actor of our time, I kid you not). Jude Law is almost on this list, but we'll see; Cold Mountain is on my "not in this lifetime" list (and I hated hated hated the book). William Hurt used to be, but he got caught up in playing the same thing for a while and clearly chose roles for the paycheck on too many occasions. (Besides, Kiss of the Spider Woman put me off of him for a bit, he did such a terrible job. If it weren't bad enough to watch a bleak prison film where a hetero man sleeps with a gay man just because he cleaned out a pant-load of diarrhea while telling pulpy stories about a creepy spider woman, we have to watch Hurt try to queen it up and end up looking like a big doofus strait guy in bad eye shadow pretending to bat for the other team, popping fouls all the way. Was Tim Curry or John Hurt busy? C'mon.) I always find Sally Field interesting as a performer, worthy of her two Oscars, but she tends to pick over-the-top drippy chickflick dramas, which give me the fantods.
The list of actors who will make me actively avoid a movie unless I have another good reason for seeing it: Tom Cruise (how did this big-toothed weasel with the scary sociopathic/scientology stare get to be a star and why is Spielberg encouraging him?), Nicole Kidman (look up "skank" in the dictionary and there's her picture), Sharon Stone (a psycho-betty who perennially claims a Mensa-level IQ but has yet to display it), John Malkovich (for me he always evokes the term "curdled"), Mickey Rooney (hammy enough to make anyone consider turning vegan), Liza Minnelli (she's always looked like an alcoholic gay husband beater with bad breath), and David Strathairn (because he continually plays a craven uberwimp who you suspect is physiologically incapable of growing a pair).
(Kinda merciless, aren't I? Well, keep in mind my snarkiness is based on their persona, as I have no idea what these people are like in person.)