Sunday, March 30, 2008

until the real thing comes along

Count on me to take a frothy little nothing of a movie and milk it for everything it is worth. Manish at Ultrabrown reviewed it better than I could. I'd meant to see Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day even though:
  • it's a period piece, which often makes me avoid a movie like the plague (see the as-yet unviewed Atonement for an example)
  • the title is so long that it sounds like the title of a Fiona Apple album
  • something about the trailers gave me the sneaking suspicion I'd want to throttle Amy Adams five minutes into the movie

Why, then, had I wanted to see it? Pretty simple really: Ciaran Hinds. Oh, and I know that is not a legitimate reason, because that dude pops up in every movie known to man. In fact, he's apparently in both this movie and Stop-Loss in theaters at the moment. He's the consummate Hey It's That Guy. So, saying you're going to see a movie for him seems flimsy. So, let me say this instead: Ciaran Hinds and Persuasion. Yes, it's back to Persuasion, I'm afraid.

For all the times he seems to pop up in movies, Hinds does not often play a romantic lead. But he did in Persuasion and he arguably does in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. And he sells it like no one else could. Once I was arguing with a friend about Persuasion- the argument went that the book is great, until the very end, when it descends into the realm of disbelief, because men do not really pine away for women. Bitter friend, yes, but even though I contend that the entire point of Persuasion is the ending, I had to concede it's a pretty tall tale to fathom.

And that bears out in that Hinds is the only guy I can think of who can plausibly play these characters. Only Hinds seems capable of complimenting a woman by calling her "old-fashioned." Hinds is perfectly cast as someone who would cast off a pretty young thing for the good sense of Miss Pettigrew, and Frances McDormand is perfectly cast as someone worthy of the putting aside of pretty young things.

The song this week is performed by the two apparent romantic leads of the movie. Shockingly, Amy Adams did not drive me crazy. I think it works kind of the way that salted caramel is all the rage. Adams alone would have been that sickeningly sweet caramel, but paired with the salt of Frances McDormand, suddenly it's transformed to fine dining. And Lee Pace, as one of a number of suitors, is all dreamy eyes and heart on his sleeve. It should make you swoon, I suppose. The song, though, when you think about it, is all about a youthful kind of love. Games played, toying with each other's emotions, heartbreaks, misunderstandings and rollercoasters, it's all the stuff of the young and beautiful.

And of course, I must conclude that it's a mark of age that what I find much more romantic in the movie is McDormand and Hinds. They are not devoid of romance, but there's a certain no-nonsense aspect of their interaction that is so much more appealing than all the he/she loves me, he/she loves me not nonsense that occupies most romantic comedies. That they think well of and understand each other is apparent straight away. And really, in the movie, the waltz that precedes this week's song is ten times more delicious, because of the corner that McDormand and Hinds turn in that moment.

But here's the thing- young love makes for better songs. The waltz itself was nothing special, it was McDormand and Hinds inhabiting it that was so sparkly and dazzling. Similarly, a song written from the point of view of these two would probably be pretty boring. It's the hazy confusion and misunderstandings and heartbreak and rollercoaster rides that result in such beautiful songs. And even though I'd rather identify with a boring ditty, I have to admit that If I Didn't Care strikes a chord just the same- even if you think how stupid, you should just know how you feel, it's hard to forget that torture from past days.

It should be noted, however, that such songs and movies are not at all conducive to studying. Join me next week when I undoubtedly bemoan flopping a test or something to that effect, shaking a fist at Hinds. I'm an ungrateful wretch that way.

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