Four Comedies from Hollywood Pictures
Holy Matrimony (August 9/14)
Holy Matrimony follows felonious couple Peter (Tate Donovan) and Havana (Patricia Arquette) as they're forced to hide out inside a Hutterite community after pulling off a daring robbery, with the movie detailing the fish-out-of-water exploits that ensue as Arquette's character is forced to marry Peter's adolescent brother (Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Ezekiel). It's a silly yet promising setup that's employed to consistently underwhelming and middling effect by director Leonard Nimoy, with the movie's pervasive absence of laughs merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of its many, many problems. This is not for a lack of trying on Nimoy's part, as the filmmaker effectively pummels the viewer with a variety of jokes and gags - although, as becomes clear almost instantly, there's just nothing here that's even remotely funny or amusing. (It doesn't help, either, that there's an air of desperation to virtually all of the movie's attempts at levity, with Nimoy's increasingly frantic efforts to elicit laughs from the viewer growing more and more obnoxious as time progresses.) And while Arquette is fine as the irritable central character, Gordon-Levitt delivers a hysterical, absurdly over-the-top performance that's essentially the cinematic equivalent of nails on a chalkboard - with the actor's ongoing difficulties at stepping into the shoes of his one-dimensional character compounded by an accent that remains unconvincing from start to finish. The end result is a hopelessly misguided comedy that just never manages to find its footing, which is a shame, certainly, given the seemingly can't-miss nature of its larger-than-life premise.
The Marrying Man (June 14/15)
Written by Neil Simon, The Marrying Man follows Alec Baldwin's Charley Pearl as he walks away from his engagement to Elisabeth Shue's Adele Horner after meeting a sultry nightclub singer (Kim Basinger's Vicki Anderson) - with the film subsequently detailing the couple's consistently tempestuous relationship and their multiple marriages to one another. It's ultimately not surprising to learn that The Marrying Man was plagued by behind-the-scenes problems and mishaps, as the movie's erratic sense of pacing is compounded by both a seriously overlong running time (115 minutes!) and a relentlessly episodic narrative - with, in terms of the latter, the ratio of compelling to pointless sequences aggressively low. And while there's no denying the palpable chemistry between Baldwin and Basinger, The Marrying Man never entirely gives the viewer to wholeheartedly care about the relationship between their respective characters - as Simon layers the proceedings with one madcap interlude after another. (Problems ensue as it becomes more and more clear that none of this stuff is actually funny.) The lack of momentum ensures that the movie runs out of steam long before it reaches its inevitable conclusion, and it's finally obvious that The Marrying Man could've seriously benefited from a more judicious editing style.
Straight Talk (June 15/15)
Straight Talk casts Dolly Parton as Shirlee Kenyon, an affable small-town girl who makes the impulsive decision to leave her lazy boyfriend (Michael Madsen's Steve) and head for the comparative glitz and glamor of Chicago. Once there, however, Shirlee discovers that opportunities are hardly as plentiful as she might have hoped (and expected) - with the never-say-die character's luck taking a turn for the better after she's accidentally placed on the radio as a radio-show host. Problems inevitably ensue as an intrepid reporter (James Woods' Jack Russell) becomes suspicious of Shirlee's qualifications, though it's not long before the two disparate characters find themselves falling for one another. Straight Talk undoubtedly fares best in its breezy first half, as filmmaker Barnet Kellman has infused the proceedings with a lighthearted and completely watchable vibe that's generally difficult to resist. Parton's charismatic (if one-note) turn as the central character goes a long way towards initially capturing the viewer's interest, and the casting of Woods as a romantic lead certainly holds appeal purely as an out-of-the-box novelty. (it is, however, hard to deny the distinct lack of chemistry between the two actors). The progressively formulaic storyline, coupled with a palpable spinning-its-wheels narrative, ensures that one's interest steadily wanes in the buildup to the predictably upbeat conclusion, which confirms Straight Talk's place as an agreeable yet hopelessly forgettable little romcom.
V.I. Warshawski (June 17/15)
Based on a series of books by Sara Peretsky, V.I. Warshawski follows Kathleen Turner's title character as she reluctantly agrees to investigate the murder of a former football player - with complications arising as the daughter (Angela Goethals' Kat) insists on accompanying Warshawski on her investigation. It's immediately evident that Turner isn't looking to deliver anything resembling a subtle performance here, as the actress offers up a scenery-chewing turn that vacillates wildly between somewhat charming to aggressively annoying. There is, as such, little doubt that one's interest in V.I. Warshawski is almost entirely dependent on one's tolerance for Turner's work, as the film is otherwise devoid of elements designed to capture and sustain the viewer's ongoing attention. The biggest issue here is the thoroughly by-the-numbers storyline, with scripters Edward Taylor, David Aaron Cohen, and Nick Thiel placing a heavy emphasis on the protagonist's hopelessly generic investigation (ie there's nothing here one hasn't seen countless times on Law & Order). Filmmaker Jeff Kanew attempts to liven things up by including a handful of forgettable action sequences, yet such efforts serve only to perpetuate the movie's decidedly desperate atmosphere. It is, in the end, not difficult to see why V.I. Warshawsky was unable to kickstart a series of movies involving the central character, with the film's profound failure due almost equally to Turner's nails-on-a-chalkboard performance and the narrative's paint-by-numbers execution.