Mini Reviews (October 2003)
Radio, My Life Without Me
Radio (October 24/03)
Though Radio isn't exactly a good movie, it does mark a step in the right direction for Cuba Gooding Jr. After squandering his obvious talent in movies like Boat Trip and The Chill Factor, Radio requires Gooding to actually act. He stars as the titular character, a mentally handicapped man who eventually catches the eye of a high school football coach named Harold Jones (Ed Harris). Radio initially mistrusts Jones, but soon becomes an integral part of the team. Radio is just the sort of sappy, over-the-top flick that most audiences eat up with a spoon; it doesn't take any chances, nor does it contain any surprises. Example: Try and guess whether or not the football player who doesn't like Radio at the beginning of the movie will still feel that way by the time the end credits roll. Simplistic plot devices like that are all over the film, making Radio an entirely predictable experience. But worse than that, there's nothing about Radio's life (the film is based on an actual person) that seems to warrant a full-length movie being made about him. He didn't heroically save anyone from drowning or overcome a huge obstacle; Radio's biggest feat is that he won over a small town and became the team mascot of a football team. Not exactly the stuff great movies are made of. Still, there are some small details in the film that work (Coach Jones' requisite trip to the local barbershop after every game to talk to the locals is a nice touch) and the performances are fine (though Harris is perhaps a little too intense for such a silly movie). And hey, it certainly beats watching Boat Trip again.
My Life Without Me (October 30/03)
My Life Without Me has received a lot of flack for being too sentimental and corny, but really, isn't that okay every now and then? Sarah Polley stars as Ann, a woman that finds out she has cancer and only a few months left to live. She decides to write out a list detailing all the things she'd like to do before she dies, such as make someone other than her husband fall in love with her. The film is one of those tearjerkers that pulls out all the stops to elicit the requisite emotions from the audience, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Director Isabel Coixet elevates the material by casting several excellent actors in key roles, including Polley, Mark Ruffalo (as the man Ann decides to have a fling with) and Scott Speedman (as Ann's well-meaning husband). The movie remains entertaining throughout, even during the more ludicrous plot developments (one of Ann's goals is to find a new wife for her husband, and wouldn't you know it, the perfect woman has moved in next door). But there are a number of very effective sequences, particularly the scene in which Ann learns she has cancer, making the film a somewhat less glossy version of the Michael Keaton weeper My Life.