Thursday, January 15, 2009


One of my favorite movies is an obscure film called Girl in the Cafe, which I think was made for TV. The story is simple yet full of surprises; it's a quiet film with understated performances, and genuinely moving. It was written by the guy who wrote and directed Love Actually, which I seem to remember getting a lot of attention when it came out a few years ago. Lots of friends have recommended it. So, J and M and I watched it last night.

It's dreadful. I enjoyed parts of it, the cast is a treat: Laura Linney, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Bill Nighy (great actor, who was also in Girl in the Cafe), and lots of other really fine actors. But the accumulation of syrupy-sweet triumph of love moments was just too much and in the end rang false.

What really put me over the top was one particular storyline (there are about 10 interwoven stories in the film) featuring Liam Nissan as a single father whose wife has recently died, leaving him to raise an unnaturally articulate little boy, who confesses to his father one day that he is "in love." The boy learns to play drums so he can play in a school concert where his beloved is the featured singer (of course, she has that weird, forced but very popular these days little girl voice like a cross between Andrea McCardle, Whitney Houston, and the sound of letting the air out of a balloon slowly), and after the concert he chases her to the airport where she is getting on a plane to somewhere. I don't think they ever say where she is going, but that's not important. What's important is getting the movie to the airport -- airports are very dramatic, you know.

Basically their story consists of the father pushing the boy (who is all of about 8) to pursue a sexualized relationship with the girl, which he, the father, can enjoy vicariously because his wife is dead and he regrets that he never adequately professed his love to her. Is this a normal way for fathers to interact with their prepubescent children? I found it very creepy.

Maybe my expectations were too high, since this was one of those movies that are "supposed to be good." I was also disappointed after seeing Kenneth Branagh's film adaptation of The Magic Flute earlier this week. I loved his films of Frankenstein and Hamlet and Henry V. The Magic Flute was fun, sort of, but I guess I expected it to be thrilling (because the music is) and it wasn't. The biggest hindrance to my enjoyment I think was the fact that it didn't make any sense. Is the whole thing a dream? Is the story as bizarre and impenetrable in the original, or did Branagh make it that way? And what exactly is magic about the flute?


ep said...

I remember catching Girl in the Cafe on cable and really liking it. I like the actress in it. She and the little boy from Love Actually are in as weird little kid movie written by (and sort of) starring Emma Thompson, who can do no wrong,called Nanny McPhee. One of the kid's fave flicks...

I saw Love Actually when it was in the theaters - yes, I admit it, I have a Hugh Grant fetish, and am not seeking help for it. The plotline I remember was Alan Rickman, another screen god, cheating or trying to cheat on his wife, and some elaborate shopping scene in a department store? I do remember being creeped out by the Liam Neeson/son thing at the time. But Liam Neeson is one of those actors who's better in theory than in practice. Saw him in SoHo once, very tall, very handsome...

Steven said...

That's Kelly McDonald. She's been in a few things recently, including I think No Country For Old Men. Is that right? Anyway, she's great.

I'm right there with you on the Hugh Grant thing. I think he's incredibly sexy.