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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Where The Heart Is...

Greetings and salutations. It has been quite a while since I've adorned this blog with some well-pronunciated dialogue, or rather monologue since it is only me. There is valid reasoning behind this: a fresh obsession. For me it is fresh, but for others the Others it is trite and outdated: LOST. I am told that it requires capitalization because of its vast significance, and the fact that it is capitalized in the opening titles. Anyway, that would be my completely justified purpose for not writing in such a long while. Consider it a televised sabbatical, only difference is that you cannot actually witness me watching the series. Obviously, for that would be strange. Why, then, am I writing now? Well, it just so happens that I took a well-needed pause in my quest to discover the glory and fascination of LOST in the form of a double-feature. That is, two films that are not continuations of another, but are merely two separate movies I watched recently. The title of this post, moreover, relates to the subject matter of each film. I am aware that is happens to be the title of an actual movie, and it just so happens that it is one of the deuce I watched. What, exactly, is my angle? Well, I intend to compare two films in order to identify when compassion and wholeheartedness can support, and when the absence of such qualities can throw the production into a tedious slump.

Playing For Keeps - This is the other film I watched, which I'll find you appreciate since it is a new release. Then again, it was not well-received by the critics, which can safely assure that the public did not care for it much either. I am speaking for myself, of course, and must declare that the critics were spot-on in their mordent reviews. (I wanted to use that word "mordent" since I was reminded of the word and its connotation for me, personally, earlier today. It means bitter or harsh in nature.) The film itself was nothing out of the ordinary, other than the fact that it was utterly dull and plotless. That is, it had absolutely no course to which any normal film would follow in its duration. From beginning to end, this movie had no real reason for being in existence, and proved to be a waste of my time. Why waste your time, then, by explaining why it was a waste of time? Oh, well. The star of this lousy production is Sparta's very own Gerard Butler, assuming the well-acquianted role of "dead-beat dad", though the film does very little to explain just why he fills the shoes of that character. Throughout the movie, the former soccer player (his character, that is) nearly beds an entire suburban neighborhood once he's occupied the job of Little League soccer coach. He fills this position in an attempt to get closer to his estranged son, who hasn't even spent the night at his new apartment yet, as well as to rekindle his romance with his ex-wife, played flaccidly by Jessica Biel. Is it just me, or has she gotten much more obnoxious and unattractive? My condolences to Justin Timberlake, a man with feasible talent and charisma, unlike his blushing yet pasty new bride. In a Razzie-worthy performance, Jessica Biel portrays the typical ex-wife, concerned facial expressions and all, as she tumbles through corny dialogue and unappealing tear-scenes. Another stifling aspect of the film is Dennis Quaid, whose purpose here was negligible and whose performance was excessive and faulty. Within the disheveled construction of the film, Gerard Butler's character, again, nearly beds an entire village, including the uncomfortably obsessive Judy Greer (in a supporting role suiting her eternal background-actress status), a sexy Catherine Zeta-Jones (stunning as ever, though her acting has faltered in recent years), and a confused Uma Thurman (also glowing in appearance, though severely lacking everywhere else). In the end, as expected, he reconciles with his wife in the pinnacle of corny scenes: the two play soccer playfully with their son. Aww. What ruins this Hallmark moment is the nature of itself, in its ingenuity and artificial-sweetener inadequacy. Nothing in the film made me gush in adoration at all, for I was much too numbed by the intermittent shutting of my eyelids. 
And this.
Beyond the lack of affectionate enjoyment, Playing For Keeps lacked a solid storyline. I understand that Gerard Butler used to be a famous soccer player, but what happened? Was it simply that he had gotten too old for the sport? And what of his marriage? Was he unfaithful? That would certainly explain why women were catapulting themselves onto him as if they just could not resist his charm. Had the film shown a brief montage of his life with Jessica Biel, perhaps it would not have been as sour. The tone of the film suggests that Gerard Butler is changing, from an unworthy spouse and father to a great man deserving of his ex and son, yet there is a blatant dearth in how that transformation occurs. What made him so intolerable to live with? As I said, a clip of Jessica Biel finding lipstick on his collar would have justified the swarm of women in suburbia desiring him, as well as how he changed. The fact that he rejected both Uma Thurman and Catherine Zeta-Jones seems preposterous in content of the film, for they clearly surpass Jessica Biel in every way; however, if he had a propensity for infidelity, this rejection would have reasonable cause. A changed man. Not the case with Playing For Keeps, I'm afraid. As unintended, the film failed to reach that ideal warmth such lighthearted comedies strive for--which brings me to my next film of the evening.

Where The Heart Is - Yes, that is also the title of this post. Either I am alluding to the film's prominent edge over the previous film, or the intended purpose of this post. To analyze how wholeheartedness can distract a viewer from the total lack of point. Regardless of why, this pleasant piece truly brightened my mood after Playing For Keeps, urging me to stay up past a reasonable hour for slumber. But it was well worth it. Originally, I had no plan to watch this, on account of my father's reaction towards it. From what he recalled, the film surrounded some sort of degenerate family and the heavily dramatic episodes that accompany such a predicament of Southern depravation. This, however, is far from the situation of the film. Far from it, to reiterate. While the setting is Sequoyah, Oklahoma, and there is a hint of redneck "hick" within, Where The Heart Is is an absolutely adorable slice of cinema, most likely because of the leading actresses. Natalie Portman, in her ripe age of seventeen and already gleaming with promise and talent, portrays Novalee Nation, a white-trash youngling who gives birth in a Wal-Mart after her boyfriend and baby daddy abandon her at the store. From there, she gains fame as the "Wal-Mart Mommy" along with her daughter, Americus, and meets several lifelong companions, including a sweet yet loose mother of five, a kind and understanding older woman who takes Novalee in, and her future sweetheart, Forney. 
That sweet yet loose mother I just mentioned is played by Ashley Judd, the second actress who makes this film all the more naturally-sweet; her performance here, might I add, proves that she is a dreadfully underused actress, for her talents are manifest. Both her tears and those of Natalie Portman are, by far, the most genuine in cinema, placating this airy picture as one that is completely realistic and, better yet, wonderful. In an attempt to remain reclusive of the specific plot elements, I'll just say that the scenes displayed here are rather impacting and emotional, in the sense that it will certainly affect you rather than bore you. Unlike documentaries and unsuccessful films of this kind (such as the former film), Where The Heart Is achieves that sought-after quality of genuine warmth while also remaining blithe and at a state of tranquility. Whether the content will affect you deeply or the treat of beholding truly graceful actresses such as Natalie Portman and Ashley Judd, Where The Heart Is will certainly have you consider the idea of the film--that love and compassion is wherever you are moved by--and recall this film fondly, rather than think of it as that one about white-trash folk. It is not the run-of-the-mill white-trash feel-good film. It is actual quality that is worth much more recognition than it is granted.

There you have it, a short summary of the only films I've seen in the past few weeks. This should be a meaningful sentiment for those reading now, for neither of these films really required much discussion. I felt I should write something as all, if not for you then for myself. It's been nearly two weeks, hasn't it? But that is the sort of drivel I save for introductions. Anyway, I have already returned to roam through LOST, abandoning the realm of cinema for only a little while longer. Halfway through the fifth season, I have one more to go, then...it's over. Oh, the rising fear of conclusion. Is it true that everyone dies at the end? Rhetorical question, of course, even though I know the answer. Despite this promise of another elongated absence, what does loom ahead is a massive analysis of LOST, a la Desperate Housewives. Remember that juggernaut of a post last autumn? Expect another. Surely, I can't be serious. Oh, but I am. I will not even satisfy this end with an Aitplane! reference. Good evening, and good morrow to one and all.

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