Thursday, June 23, 2011

Why the Young Woody Allen Should Have Had Himself Cloned

Granted, I only went to see Midnight in Paris to sit in a place that had air-conditioning, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have minded enjoying the movie as well. Or, to be perfectly honest, staying awake the whole time it was on. I kept passing out and then snapping back. Usually, when this kind of thing happens, you have to ask the person you came with to catch you up on the plot. Malheureusement, I came with no one. Heureusement, this didn’t matter because the movie, though gorgeous, was, zut alors!, plotless.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t go see it. If you’ve just come back from your first trip to Europe which you took right after you got out of college with a degree in English under your belt, you should go and see it this very minute. But only if you did all this in 1972, and even then, only if it’s still 1972.  Which would mean Woody would be playing Gil Pender, while Owen Wilson would still be at home about to turn four.

Don’t get me wrong.  I like Owen Wilson, and not only for his nose and depression. He has, as they say in the cesspool called Hollywood, the all important “shtuppability factor.” That’s why he got to play Jennifer Aniston’s husband in Marley & Me. The director was confident that the audience would completely accept that Aniston was happy to shtup him. This qualifies Wilson as “sexy” and thus completely unsuited to play Woody Allen. Especially the young Woody Allen whose humor was based on his being a nebbish. However often he might break his own nose, Wilson is still too tall, blond, and officially “sexy” to play a true nebbish, by which I mean an undersized, homely, redheaded Jew who wears giant glasses, fears the whole world (i.e. the goyim), is already balding, and never gets laid.

The role of Gil Pender was meant to be played by that young Woody Allen, who, of course, no longer exists. But since the film works on a time-travel premise, let us pretend that he does.

With the young Woody Allen playing Gil Pender, I would have bought a sensitive screenwriter wanting to marry a bitch like Inez because Gil would then be a self-loathing Jew, eager to live out a life of pure torture if it means he gets to shtup Rachel McAdams.

And Inez’s parents would have had a reason to be so Unrelentingly Horrid, the reason being that Gil would have to explain to us just how Californian their Horridness was, the way he explained just how Midwestern the Hall Horridness was even while dining with Annie Hall’s family--in a scene so memorable we still, well, remember it.

And imagine Young Woody meeting up with Hemingway, Picasso, and the rest of the luminaries. Imagine how, even as he romanticized them, he would have upset Fitzgerald’s eternal Gin Rickey, and, when challenged to an arm wrestling match, allowed Hemingway to shatter his ulna. As for the women, he might well have passed on the pretty abuse-a-muse and gone for drunk Zelda, or, better yet, Stein.
Plus he would have asked every one of them if they'd heard about a new up-and-comer named Hitler.

If the moral of the film is that we shouldn’t long for a rose-colored past but live right now as we are in the present, let me just say I did not get that message. Maybe it’s because I kept falling asleep, but I think it’s mostly because I know that the past was better than now because Woody Allen was still able to play himself--his paranoid, nebbishy, razor-sharp self--in his own movies.

(And also, no kidding, because I was young.)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Bring On the Vomiting Bridemaids

If you are a woman, or just sort of a woman, or even, like me, a woman who has never once been a bride or one of her unfortunate minions, get thee to a theater now and treat yourself to a viewing of the more than a little Shakespearean Bridesmaids. 

See it for Melissa McCarthy’s portrayal of Falstaff, wherein she channels Ricky Gervaise before he took off the weight and started wearing those stupid tight tee shirts. She’s a glorious id, completely unleashed.

See it for Kristen Wiig’s brilliant depiction of Lady Macbeth, if Lady M had been forced to sell jewelry to the deluded, and driven to calling a young girl a cunt.

As much as I thrilled to seeing a woman brought down so low that she cannot not call a young girl a cunt (an epithet used night and day by the British), my favorite line, also spoken by Wiig, is the terse damnation: You are a flight attendant. 

My favorite physical comedy is when Kristen Wiig mocks a woman she loathes with such enormous head-swerving zeal  that she makes her car start doing it too.

As for the notorious barfing and pooping, it’s nowhere near as upsetting as, say, the New Yorker’s David Denby, thinks it to be, nor does it seem tacked on or gratuitous. While the barfing pie-eating scene in Stand By Me is completely tacked on and gratuitous, the Bridesmaids scene is less about having to poop in the street than Wiig’s having to fight back her nausea while pretending to want the inane Jordan almond. 

What some (perhaps not always female) reviewers miss is that the comedy lies not in the Barfing, but in Lady Macbeth’s attempt to Hide Her Symptoms of Imminent Barfing from her nemesis, the Bridesmaid Iago.

Hence the close-ups of Wiig’s knitting brow as it exudes a River Thamesful of sweat that both shampoos her hair and makes her eye liner drop to her cheeks.  Symptoms which, if barfing were sex (which it surely is when Wiig schtups the horrid Jon Hamm), would be known more simply as foreplay.

The only tacked on and gratuitous part is, of course, the Happy Ending. I know comedies have to have Happy Endings, but in a movie that hollers such rarely heard truths about female friendships, desires, and acts of self-sabotage, it’s sort of jarring to see Wiig suddenly turn from the wrathful, outrageous Lady Macbeth into the young dewy Juliet, saved just in time by Perfect Cop Romeo. 

Which I don’t think ever happens in actual life, and if it does, please don’t tell me about it.