The Maiden Heist (The Lonely Maiden)


The Maiden Heist

It's Hell to grow old - you get a lot more of your pictures going straight to DVD!

(2009) Caper Comedy (Yari Film Group) Christopher Walken, Morgan Freeman, William H. Macy, Marcia Gay Harden, Breckin Meyer, Bhavesh R. Patel, Stephen Stapinski, Philip Dorn Hebert, Anthony M. Cascio, Bart A. Piscitello Jr., Joseph McKenna, Todd Weeks. Directed by Peter Hewitt

 

Art is a very personal thing. There’s no telling what will inspire us, capture our imagination, create an obsession. That isn’t limited to the wealthy and educated – anyone can find themselves captivated by a work of art.

That’s what happened to Roger Barlow (Walken). He’s a security guard for the Boston Art Museum and one of the paintings under his charge, The Lonely Maiden has gotten under his skin. The forlorn look of the maiden standing on the beach has him scouring the internet for information on the artwork and its artist to the point he knows more about it than the docents do.

He’s not alone in this regard. Fellow security guards Charles Peterson (Freeman) and George McLendon (Macy) have a similar problem, albeit with different works of art. In George’s case, he has a statue that’s a particular favorite; it inspires him to get naked and imitate the statue’s pose – alongside the statue itself. To each their own.

Charles has a thing about a picture of a woman with cats on a different floor of the museum. All of the men are friendly with one another until they get yet another thing in common – their pieces of art have been sold by the Curator (Weeks) to a Danish Art Museum. Suddenly, it appears their obsessions will be taken from them. All three agree that this can’t stand.

They decide that their obsessions must be stolen and replaced by fakes. Not being particularly adept artists themselves, they enlist a starving artist (Meyer) to recreate the artwork to the standards of the men. This isn’t easy as the men are very particular and they need to be – the artwork has to be good enough to fool the experts.

They have a pretty foolproof plan but there are a few snags – one of them being Roger’s wife Rose (Harden) who dreams of Florida and is amassing the funds for a vacation there. In order to pay the starving artist to do the work they need (and get other supplies needed for the switchola) Roger has to raid his wife’s vacation fund without her knowing. The fact of the matter is that these are far from being professionals – will they be able to pull this off?

I think with a cast like this one, a lot of people might be surprised they’ve never heard of this film. It was due to be released back in May 2009 but the bankruptcy of the distributor left it dangling in the wind. The movie was eventually picked up by Sony and sent straight to DVD – do not pass Go, do not collect, well anything.

And quite frankly there’s a reason Sony didn’t put this into theaters. Despite the cast full of Oscar winners and nominees, the movie is pretty scattered. The plot goes careening all over the map like an out of control radio controlled plane before crashing in a neighbor’s yard. The caper aspects kind of don’t make sense a lot of time and stretch credibility.

At least with a cast of actors this distinguished you know you’re not going to get amateurish performances. Walken and Freeman acquit themselves well, although Macy looks decidedly uncomfortable as a guy who is something of a pervert – and not in a good way. Harden winds up being shrill and unlikable for the most part, until the very last reel. She was certainly misused here.

I generally like caper movies but they have to be smart and they have to be clever (which sounds like the same thing but it isn’t). This one is neither and despite the stellar cast misfires most of the time. There are a few moments here and there that work (particularly near the end) but too much of the movie relies on stupid people doing stupid things – which is just lazy writing.

WHY RENT THIS: The actors give it a good college try and there are some poignant moments.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Kind of a mess with the caper aspect being the worst offender. Too many clichés spoil the plot.

FAMILY VALUES: There are a few curse words scattered throughout, some brief nudity and a bit of fantasy violence.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The art museum scenes were primarily filmed at the Worcester Art Museum in Worcester, MA.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: There’s a blooper reel…and not much else.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: Not available.

FINAL RATING: 4/10

NEXT: Zookeeper

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past


Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

Jennifer Garner and Matthew McConaughey only have eyes for Daniel Sunjata.

(New Line) Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Michael Douglas, Breckin Meyer, Lacey Chabert, Robert Forster, Anne Archer, Emma Stone. Directed by Mark Waters

In many ways the era of the confirmed bachelor is well behind us. Men who don’t get married at a certain time in life are regarded with some suspicion, as if they’re missing a requisite character trait that makes them trustworthy. Plus, given the state of 21st century sexuality, with STDs, unplanned pregnancy and so on, men are less inclined to play the field as much as they did even 30 years ago.

Don’t tell Connor Mead (McConaughey) that though. Mentored by his Hugh Hefner wannabe Uncle Wayne (Douglas), Connor refuses to spend more time than absolutely necessary to seduce women which makes his career as a fashion photographer an ideal hunting ground. He has adopted a love ‘em and leave ‘em attitude, hold the love ‘em, and has been known to break up with three women at a time on a conference call.

Uncle Wayne is long gone, passed on to the great piano lounge in the sky, but his estate is going to be used by Connor’s younger brother Paul’s (Meyer) wedding to the highly neurotic Sandra (Chabert) whose ex-Marine dad (Forster) is performing the ceremony. Connor is far more interested in seducing the bride’s wife (Archer) and even more interested in getting plastered and espousing his views on love which are to wit that love is a myth, to be believed in the same way Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are. His mood isn’t helped by the presence of Jenny (Garner), his first girlfriend who parted terms with Connor on less than friendly terms.

A little later on when Connor goes into one of the cavernous bathrooms of the mansion, he runs into the late Uncle Wayne, who advises him that he is going to be visited by three ghosts that evening in order to save him from a life of loneliness and unhappiness. Can these specters save Connor from himself?

Frankly there came a point when I didn’t care. McConaughey has an easy charm which here masks a guy with real problems. I generally like the shirtless Southerner’s performances but here he might have been a little too good at his job – Connor’s misogyny is so pronounced that eventually I lost interest in his salvation.

Still, there are things to recommend the movie, chief among them Michael Douglas. As the Lothario to end all Lotharios, he resembles the legendary womanizing producer Bob Evans with slicked back hair, big glasses and silk cravat, but Douglas plays the role with a hint of a twinkle in his eye. Poor Jennifer Garner has the thankless role as the one McConaughey is “meant” to be with and she manages to make the part less cliché than you might think. Personally I’d get a restraining order.

This is ostensibly a comedy and in fact there are some genuinely funny moments as when Ghost of Girlfriends Past played by Emma Stone in a highly amusing role, announces that Connor is about to see a montage of girlfriends set to the timeless music of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.” However, there aren’t enough of those moments to really sustain this movie.

Obviously using Charles Dickens as a touchstone is never a bad idea, but results may vary and quite frankly, this is a disappointment which while it may not necessarily have Dickens spinning in his grave, it might get him to send the Ghost of Screenplays Past to visit the writers of this movie.

WHY RENT THIS: Michael Douglas is having a good deal of fun, and there are some moments that are genuinely funny.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Connor’s attitudes are so hateful it’s hard to root for him to get the girl. There aren’t enough funny movies to earn a higher rating.

FAMILY VALUES: There’s a good deal of sexuality and sexual references. Connor’s attitude towards women might need explaining to the younger set.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Ben Affleck was originally attached to the role of Connor back in 2003 when the movie was originally set to be made, but the failure of Gigli and concerns with the budget caused the studio to cancel production one month before they were scheduled to shoot.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.

FINAL RATING: 6/10

TOMORROW: Paris, Je t’aime