Three Romances from Alliance
Jane Eyre (August 15/11)
Based on Charlotte Brontë's famed (yet interminable) novel, Jane Eyre follows the title character (Mia Wasikowska) as she begins to develop feelings for her inscrutable employer (Michael Fassbender's Mr. Rochester) - with a key discovery inevitably threatening the pair's happiness. The familiarity of the narrative is, at the outset, not as problematic as one might've feared, as filmmaker Cary Fukunaga does a superb job of infusing Jane Eyre with a lush and consistently sumptuous visual style that proves impossible to resist - with the perfectly watchable atmosphere heightened by both Wasikowska and Fassbender's note-perfect work as the movie's central characters. There inevitably reaches a point, however, at which the limitations of the source material become more and more problematic, with the less-than-engrossing nature of the storyline compounded by Fukunaga's reliance on as deliberate and laid-back a pace as one could possibly envision. It's subsequently difficult to work up any real enthusiasm for or interest in the protagonists' successful coupling, although, having said that, the film does boast a handful of admittedly compelling and downright stirring moments - including an absolutely enthralling sequence in which both Jane and Mr. Rochester declare their love for one another. The end result is a decent adaptation of a hopelessly uninvolving novel, with the movie's minor success due almost entirely to Fukunaga's striking directorial choices and Wasikowska and Fassbender's magnetic performances.
Though it seems to possess all the ingredients for a passable romantic comedy, Loves Kitchen has been infused with an aggressively subdued feel that effectively drains the viewer of their interest and ultimately cements the movie's place as the cinematic equivalent of elevator music (ie its innocuousness eventually becomes oppressive). The familiar storyline follows Dougray Scott's Rob Haley, an up-and-coming British chef, as he loses his passion for cooking after his wife tragically dies in a car crash, with the film eventually detailing Rob's efforts at transforming a rundown pub into a full-fledged restaurant. (There are also subplots a-plenty sprinkled through the proceedings, including Rob's romance with Claire Forlani's snarky restaurant critic and an increasingly ominous threat from a would-be saboteur.) Loves Kitchen has been packed with a number of crowd-pleasing, comfortably familiar characters and plot developments, yet there's simply never a point at which the narrative's various attributes manage to cohere into a satisfying whole - as writer/director James Hacking employs an excessively deliberate pace that slowly-but-surely drains the life out of the proceedings. The passable opening half hour does, as a result, give way to a progressively interminable second half that's overflowing with underwhelming and flat-out pointless elements, and there's little doubt that the melodramatic third act is as tedious as one might've feared - with the sudden emphasis on the central romance essentially coming out of nowhere and smacking of desperation. (This is to say nothing of Hacking's eye-rolling decision to trot out such hackneyed standbys as the fake break-up and the race to the airport.) It's finally impossible to label Loves Kitchen - shouldn't there be an apostrophe in there somewhere? - as anything more than a well-intentioned failure, which is a shame, really, as it's clear that the movie could've (and should've) been a charming little romcom.
One Day (August 17/11)
The most entertaining and engrossing romantic film to hit theaters in ages, One Day details the comings and goings of platonic friends Emma Morley (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter Mayhew (Jim Sturgess) over a period of about two decades - with the movie catching up with the pair on the same day once a year. It's a decidedly unusual premise that's employed to consistently enthralling effect by filmmaker Lone Scherfig, as the director, working from David Nicholls' script, deftly transforms Emma and Dexter into likable, engaging figures right from the get-go - which, in effect, does force the viewer to immediately sympathize with and root for the would-be couple's ongoing exploits. The palpable chemistry between Hathaway and Sturgess undoubtedly plays a pivotal role in the movie's success, and there's little doubt that the episodic nature of the narrative, which admittedly does take some getting used to, ultimately proves instrumental in cultivating a remarkably complete picture of the ups and downs in the protagonists' lives. By the time the unabashedly tear-jerking finale rolls around, One Day has certainly established itself as an uncommonly captivating, thoroughly moving romance that stands among the best that the genre has to offer.