The High Cost of Living


 

The High Cost of Living

Zach Braff’s fortunes have plummeted since Scrubs was canceled as the mean streets of Montreal can attest.

 

(2010) Drama (Tribeca) Zach Braff, Isabelle Blais, Patrick Labbe, Aimee Lee, Julian Lo, Sean Lu, Mylene Savoie, Paula Jean Hixson, Pierre Gendron, Nicole Barber, Anick Lemay, Graham Cuthbertson, Tony Robinow, Kyle Switzer, Ian Finlay, Nicole Jones. Directed by Deborah Chow

There are those who believe that life is a chain of random events strung together linked only by our presence in them. It’s not destiny, it’s not fate – it’s just random chance. People drop in and out of our lives like summer storms and some leave more of an impression than others.

Henry Welles (Braff) is an American living in Montreal on an expired visa. He sells stolen prescription drugs to make ends meet and goes club-hopping at night to  deliver his goods to a variety of clients. He lives above a Chinese food restaurant and those around him don’t know what he does for a living.

Nathalie (Blais) is pregnant and her husband Michel (Labbe) alternately dotes on her and treats her with indifference. One night she feels the labor pains begin – prematurely. Her husband is out so she calls a cab. The visibility on the snowy night is poor so she steps into the street looking for the cab to take her to the hospital. She is promptly struck from behind by a cab going the wrong way up a one way street.

She winds up with a concussion but worse still the baby dies in utero. Normally labor would be induced but the doctors don’t think that a stillbirth would be the best thing for her mental state so she is forced to carry the dead fetus for a couple of weeks longer. A couple of weeks after she gets out of the hospital, she is sitting in a cafe having a drink when a busybody chastises her for drinking while obviously pregnant. She loses it and is aided by Henry, whose compassion and gentle caring nature touches her, unlike her husband who grows more distant with each passing day, blaming Nathalie for losing his child. He and Nathalie eventually split up.

But she and Henry begin to form a strong relationship, even after she discovers what he does for a living. But she won’t be so sanguine when she finds out that it was Henry who ran her down and left her and her baby to die. And he doesn’t know how to tell her

This is not a sunshine and light kind of film but it isn’t a complete death dirge either. This is more about connections, and the very fragile nature of them, of how we sin against one another sometimes and how redemption is not always possible – but forgiveness can be. These are all some pretty deep subjects, and the lot of them in a single film is a pretty daunting task but Chow actually does pretty well with them.

Part of her success is in her casting. Both Braff and Blais (a veteran French-Canadian actress) do some superb work in their roles. Braff in particular is best-known for comedies (he became a fixture on hipper radars with “Scrubs”) but shows he has some dramatic chops that he can boast as well. I’m not sure he’s ready for mainstream leading man-ness but he certainly can hold a film on his shoulders.

Unfortunately there are too many plot points that simply don’t bear much weight. For example, there is no doctor alive who would have a woman carry a dead fetus in her womb for several weeks before she is emotionally ready to have it taken out. First of all, that’s essentially a rotting carcass she has inside of her and no doubt there would be dangers of infections galore and from a medical standpoint I’d think getting it out as quickly and as humanely as possible would be the order of the day. Even if that weren’t the case, I think it would be far more traumatic for a woman to be carrying around her dead baby inside her than to have it taken out. I don’t know; I’m obviously a woman but I suspect most women would agree with me.

The situation is a bit cliché but a movie could withstand that and still be enjoyable. It’s just that there’s too many of them here, from the quirky neighbors to the insensitive husband to…well, that would be telling. In any case, Chow the director deserved better than Chow the writer was able to deliver.

That’s not to say that Chow the writer doesn’t show some promise but I think it’s safe to say she’s more advanced at this moment as a director than she is as a writer. Given some quality material, I think she’s got a career chock full of potential. However, this film is merely a pretty good start for a first-time director with some good performances and some good moments. It’s worth seeing for Braff’s performance but those who aren’t into him might be forgiven if they give this a pass.

WHY RENT THIS: The acting is pretty good, particularly from Blais and Braff.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: A few too many indie clichés and a preposterous plot submarine the film’s best intentions.

FAMILY VALUES: There is drug use, some violence, and plenty of sexuality. There is also a plethora of foul words throughout.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: This is Chow’s first feature film.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: There’s a brief interview with Braff and a short film, Mr. Stache.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: Not available.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Town

FINAL RATING: 5/10

NEXT: Safety Not Guaranteed

Advertisements

An Affair to Remember


An Affair to Remember
Dressed to impress!

(1957) Romance (20th Century Fox) Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr, Richard Denning, Neva Patterson, Cathleen Nesbitt, Robert Q. Lewis, Charles Watts, Fortunio Bonanova, Dorothy Adams, Richard Allen, Suzanne Ellers, Genevieve Aumont, Marni Nixon. Directed by Leo McCarey

 

Some movies withstand the test of time while others become hopelessly dated. Some remain classics because of their era-centricity.

An Affair to Remember is one of those movies that has had a charmed life. It began as a remake by McCarey of his own 1939 hit Love Affair which garnered six Oscar nominations, starred Irene Dunn and Charles Boyer and is a classic of the romance genre on its own. An Affair to Remember was a massive hit in its day, one of the first movies to take advantage of the Cinemascope process. It slumbered in the archives of Fox for years, occasionally surfacing on an afternoon movie program before Sleepless in Seattle referenced it as a romantic touchstone for the Meg Ryan character, sparking renewed interest in the film (more than two million video cassette tapes were sold of the film after Sleepless came out).

The plot has European playboy Nickie Ferrante (Grant) taking a transatlantic voyage aboard the U.S.S. Constitution to New York where he is to be married to his heiress girlfriend. On board he meets singer Terry McKay (Kerr) where in time-honored romantic tradition the two find each other not liking each other much but being the only single people on board constantly paired together.

It is only when the ship docks in Madeira and Terry meets Nickie’s charming grandmother (Nesbitt), seeing his tender and loving side that she falls in love with him and he with her. The two spend most of the rest of the voyage trying not to be seen as a couple together; as they dock in the Big Apple they agree to meet at the Empire State Building in six months time. However, fate throws a curveball in their direction that may irrevocably separate the lovers for good.

This remains one of Da Queen’s most beloved films. Her wedding dress and bridesmaid dresses were modeled after the dress Kerr one (depicted in the picture above) to give you an idea of what she thought of the movie. It certainly captures romance in a time and period where elegance and manners weren’t four letter words.

Grant is perhaps one of the most romantic leads ever in cinema. In his time he would have won the Sexiest Man Alive on multiple occasions had the award existed and there are plenty of women today who’d be quite happy to be swept off their collective feet by his ghost – and regularly are whenever they watch one of his films. This may well have been his most romantic.

Kerr is one of the most beautiful women ever in the movies and she was at the height of her beauty and allure here. What man wouldn’t fall in love with someone as strong, smart and lovely as her? She is of course a woman of her time and in many ways there are things about her character that modern feminists might take umbrage to, but that’s simply the norm for the times. For my money she is as modern a woman as most I’ve met running around the 21st century.

This is the way they used to do romance and in many ways, in this age of social networking, online romance, dating services and internet porn, they got it far more right than we do. I think that strikes a chord in a lot of us – wanting our romance to be simple, more elegant, more epic in scale. It isn’t much to ask.

So do yourself a favor – curl up on the couch, bring out the champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries, slip into something comfortable and put this on the DVD player. Guys, nothing may blow up or get shot  at nor will there be any bare breasts but trust me – your woman will thank you for it. In a very meaningful way.

WHY RENT THIS: A favorite of Da Queen and considered one of the best romantic movies ever made. Certainly it has all the right elements for a terrific couch cuddlefest.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Elements of it are dated and might not be relatable for younger audience members.

FAMILY VALUES:  Like most films of the era, there isn’t anything here that you’d find objectionable for your kids to see, other than the excessive smoking and drinking that was par for the course at the time.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The movie debuted aboard the U.S.S. Constitution where many of the shipboard scenes were filmed.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: This has received several home video incarnations; the original DVD release (2003) includes a commentary track from film historian Joseph McBride and singer Marni Nixon who dubbed Kerr’s voice in the film. There is also an episode of AMC’s “Backstory” devoted to the film, and a snippet from a newsreel showing the film’s premiere on board an ocean liner. The 50th Anniversary edition (2008) comes with postcard reproductions of the film’s original lobby cards, as well as segments devoted to the careers and lives of Grant, Kerr, McCarey and producer Jerry Wald. The Blu-Ray edition (2011) comes with everything in the 50th Anniversary edition sans the postcards.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $3.8M on an unreported production budget; the movie was a huge hit!

FINAL RATING: 10/10

TOMORROW: Chronicle