+ "Ellie Parker": Scott Coffey‘s micro-indie was expanded from a 2001 short that starred a friend of his, the then-struggling actress Naomi Watts. It’s one in a long line of "Hollywood is Hell"-type films, and several critics note it’s brief nods to "Play It as It Lays," "The Day of the Locust" and "Living in Oblivion." Melissa Anderson at the Village Voice notes another film connection:
[W]here this trifle fascinates most is in its connections to David
Lynch‘s masterpiece ["Mulholland Drive"]. With the sunny, can-do attitude of Betty Elms,
Ellie [Watts] dons a lavender hoopskirt to impress the dissolute Russian
producers during her callback for a risible Civil War pic. And like
abject Diane Selwyn, Ellie is sexually betrayed, catching her boyfriend
(Mark Pellegrino, who played the hit man Diane hires to kill Camilla
Rhodes in MD) in bed with a low-level casting assistant (Jennifer Syme,
who died in a car crash and to whom Lynch dedicates MD).
Anderson finds the film a bit slight and clumsy, a sentiment echoed by Michael Koresky at indieWIRE, who likes it even less (of the reviewers he’s paired with, Kristi Mitsuda is exhilarated by its bleakness, and Nicolas Rapold thinks it’s all very community access sketch showish). Ella Taylor at LA Weekly acknowledges that it’s nothing we haven’t seen before, but that it still works, for what it is ("If you
still want to make it in the business after seeing this, youâ€™re a very
Both Stephen Holden at the New York Times and Andrew O’Hehir at Salon like the film considerably. Holden calls Watts’ performance "a small, brave acting tour de force," and notes that "Ellie Parker" explores the dark, underlying psychological wear of auditioning and acting. O’Hehir devotes quite a bit of ink to getting all kinds of gushy, pointing out that the film is "one of the most proudly and genuinely low-budget features I’ve seen in a long time," as well as "the sharpest, most authentic portrait of Hollywood life made in the last several years."
Despite the interesting reviews, we think we’ve reached our limit on inside-the-industry satires for the year (and this most certainly was a year for the topic).
+ "Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic": If you haven’t had a chance to read any of the many interviews with Silverman out there today (including one on our own site, by gum), our nation’s critics attempt to give her some context. Who is this Sarah Silverman?
J. Hoberman at the Village Voice: "In the realm of stand-up Jews, she’s neither a Lenny Bruce philosopher nor a Sandra Bernhard performance artist. Borderline tiresome, Silverman’s racial and sexual obsessions might suggest Jackie Mason with a pretty face. But really, she’s a verbal Jerry Lewis, shamelessly willing to say anything."
Enlightening? Well, the critical consensus is solidly mixed â€” pretty much everyone likes Silverman, enjoys her jokes, but finds the movie mixed and a little tiresome (if any feature with a 70-minute runtime can be accused of being too lengthy). Also, it’s universal: the scattered songs throughout? Sucked.
The dissenting voice is Roger Ebert, who, in a somewhat odd negative review, dissects what he finds wrong with the film and Silverman’s delivery in an almost scientific way. Summing it up: "I liked everything about it except the writing, the direction, the editing and the lack of a parent or adult guardian."
+ "Pride & Prejudice": Can a Jane Austen movie by a guilty pleasure? Because that’s really what we’d call the appeal of Joe Wright’s new adaptation, for all of the talk of its high aims of social realism, and that may be why every critic seems to love it despite itself. Ella Taylor at the LA Weekly admits as much:
Elizabeth and Darcy may start out the very embodiment of the class and gender wars, but they end up its happy (and, not so incidentally, loaded) resolution. Even as I chortled at the virginal ending, in which the sun rises between two sets of puckered lips, I was tickled to see Lizzie having her feminist cake and eating it too.
Stephen Holden is far less abashed:
In its final
minutes, it makes you believe in true love, the union of soul mates,
happily-ever-after and all the other stuff a romantic comedy promises
but so seldom delivers. For one misty-eyed moment, order reigns in the
Roger Ebert similarly felt a warm, glowing, warming glow ("an almost unreasonable happiness"), while David Edelstein at Slate admits he had his doubts after seeing the purplish advertising campaign for the film, but deems it "marvelous," particularly liking Donald Sutherland‘s performance as the harried Mr. Bennet, and Keira Knightley‘s as Lizzie. Stephanie Zacharek at Salon and Jessica Winter at the Voice are both pleased with the film as well.
Anthony Lane at the New Yorker may have the most interesting review of all. Underneath the typical froth he works himself into attempting to channel Dorothy Parker is a true and injured sense of the proprietary over Austen (we feel a bit sympathetic, having written many a paper about many an Austen novel). Lane makes plenty of fun of how "Jane
Austen has been BrontÃ«fied" (our favorite line: "He
has donned a long coat, which sways fetchingly in the mist; obviously
it was copied from a Human League video of the nineteen-eighties, but
Iâ€™m damned if I can remember which one."), but his ultimate issue may be this:
question is not whether the director was justified in that
transmutation but whether he had the choice; whether any of us, as
moviemakers, viewers, or readers, retain the abilityâ€”not so much the
scholarly equipment as the imaginative clairvoyanceâ€”to see Austen
clearly. Maybe we are doomed to view her through the smoked glass of
the intervening centuries, during which the spirit of romance, and the
role of the body within it, have evolved out of all recognition.
Fair enough. After reading so many overwrought reviews we wondered if we’d been too hard on the film ourselves (we certainly enjoyed it, regardless) in our expectations for a version of a book that may be impossible to capture. But then we thought back to Matthew MacFadyen‘s Darcy striding out, shirt half unbuttoned, into a field at an extremely lavender, soft-focus dawn to find Knightley’s Lizzie already there, telling him that she couldn’t sleep, and we think no, it’s true, this is a very silly film. Deliciously silly, but, like, silly.