The Films of Norman Jewison
The Million Dollar Incident
40 Pounds of Trouble
The Thrill of It All
Send Me No Flowers (August 9/07)
Send Me No Flowers, the third and final pairing of Rock Hudson and Doris Day, is unquestionably the duo's least effective and most uneven effort, as director Norman Jewison - working from Julius Epstein's screenplay - has infused the proceedings with a plodding sensibility that's compounded by an egregiously overlong running time. The premise is certainly not at fault; Hudson stars as an obsessive hypochondriac who becomes convinced that he's dying, and the majority of the movie follows his efforts to find a new husband for wife Judy (Day). It's the sort of wacky setup that could (and should) have resulted in a fun and frenetic romantic comedy, but Jewison's refusal to keep things moving at a brisk clip transforms the movie into a distinctly interminable experience (with the stagnant and needlessly drawn-out third act only exacerbating matters). Hudson and Day are fantastic together, of course, and Tony Randall does his usual scene-stealing thing - yet there's no doubt that Send Me No Flowers ultimately comes off as a desperate attempt at recapturing Pillow Talk's charming and effortlessly delightful atmosphere.
The Art of Love
The Cincinnati Kid (July 17/11)
Based on a novel by Richard Jessup, The Cincinnati Kid follows Steve McQueen's Eric Stoner as he prepares for a pivotal poker match against, among others, Edward G. Robinson's Lancey Howard and Karl Malden's Shooter - with Eric's ongoing efforts threatened by a very sinister, very wealthy figure named Slade (Rip Torn). There's little doubt that The Cincinnati Kid starts with a great deal of promise, as filmmaker Norman Jewison opens the proceedings with an engrossing sequence detailing Eric's encounter with an especially sore loser - with the scene's effectiveness heightened by McQueen's charismatic and downright commanding turn as the title character. It is, as a result, rather disappointing to note that the movie subsequently morphs into a slow-moving melodrama, as scripters Ring Lardner Jr and Terry Southern emphasize Eric's relationships with two very different women (Tuesday Weld's Christian and Ann-Margret's Melba). The inclusion of a fairly unpleasant (and thoroughly needless) cockfighting sequence wreaks havoc on the film's tenuous momentum, with the narrative's uneven nature persisting right up until around the one-hour mark - after which point Jewison stresses the big poker game that the various characters have been waiting and preparing for. The high-stakes match, which essentially dominates the movie's final 40 minutes, has been packed with a number of engrossing episodes and interludes (eg Robinson's character destroys an opponent without breaking a sweat), with the electrifying, enthralling final showdown between Lancey and Eric ensuring that The Cincinnati Kid concludes on an unexpectedly positive note. The end result is an erratically-paced yet stirring drama that benefits greatly from McQueen's mere presence, though it's hard not to get a kick out of the movie's impressively-populated supporting cast.
The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!
In the Heat of the Night
The Thomas Crown Affair
Fiddler on the Roof
Jesus Christ Superstar
...And Justice for All
A Soldier's Story
Agnes of God
Moonstruck (April 24/06)
Moonstruck casts Cher as Loretta Castorini, a brassy Italian-American who is engaged to marry a likeable schlub named Johnny Cammareri (Danny Aiello). After Johnny leaves for Italy to inform his mother of the impending wedding, Loretta is left with the task of inviting Johnny's black-sheep brother Ronny (Nicolas Cage) to the ceremony. Problems emerge once Loretta finds herself falling for said brother, despite the objections of her mother (Olympia Dukakis) and sundry family members. Director Norman Jewison - working from a screenplay by John Patrick Shanley - emphasizes the neighborhood within which Loretta lives and singles out several quirky inhabitants, often focusing entirely on their off-kilter exploits (ie Loretta's father's affair with a dim-witted waitress). Such digressions ultimately lend the proceedings a distinct vibe of unevenness, and there's little doubt that the film would've benefited from a more pronounced emphasis on Loretta's budding relationship with Ronny. And although the film is never boring - Cage's strangely over-the-top performance goes a long way towards keeping things interesting - Moonstruck is generally unable to live up to its reputation as a classic romantic comedy.
Other People's Money
Dinner with Friends (April 2/02)
Based on a play by Donald Margulies, Dinner with Friends follows two couples as they explore the treacherous landscape that is marriage - with success of one pair (Dennis Quaid and Andie MacDowell) counterbalanced by the struggles of the other (Toni Collette and Greg Kinnear).
Apart from a flashback sequence in the middle of the movie, Dinner with Friends relies entirely on the conversations of the quartet to propel the story forward. They talk - a lot - about varying things, ranging from their love of food to what they perceive to be the meaning of life. And unlike some movies adapted from plays, the dialogue here doesn't sound forced or stilted. These conversations seem genuine; the sort that good friends would have with one another (not to mention couples in the privacy of their bedrooms).
Despite the presence of noted energy-killer Andie MacDowell, the performances are all note-perfect. Even MacDowell herself manages to create a well-rounded character. But the real surprises here are Quaid and Kinnear. Quaid is just as charming as ever, playing this man who oftentimes must acquiesce to his wife's decisions. And Kinnear, saddled with the most complex role, peels back the layers of someone who initially comes off as a sleazy adulterer (we slowly find out there's much more to the story).
Dinner with Friends is by no means perfect - it goes on a touch too long and yes, it's quite talky - but in this era where dumb comedies and mindless action flicks rule, it does provide a refreshing change of pace.