Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
Much like any play-turned-film, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a towering monument of serious Acting. From the very first line to the very last, it just doesn’t let up, and the result is awesome. Tennessee Williams’ story of the dysfunctional Pollitt family actually translates pretty well to the screen, and is more creatively staged than a lot of similar projects. Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman remind us all that they are definitely more than just pretty faces (and boy, what faces), and I had no idea that Burl Ives was a serious actor, but he is absolutely phenomenal as Big Daddy. I promised my husband that this would be better than A Streetcar Named Desire, and it definitely delivered. Fans of the stage play may be a little put off by a certain amount of “Hollywoodization” (less ambiguity, slightly happier ending), but this is still a classic worth watching. If nothing else, you can just sit there and marvel at the absolute gorgeousness of Taylor and Newman. They are at the top of their game here.
The Player (1992)
Oh, Robert Altman. Sometimes you’re just so weird. The extremely meta nature of The Player seems to me to indicate vintage Altman. Tim Robbins plays a Hollywood executive who’s being stalked by a disgruntled writer whose story idea he rejected. Suddenly, he finds himself in the midst of a murder investigation, some power struggles and turnovers within his company, and a budding romance with the murder victim’s girlfriend. Hilarity ensues? There are definitely plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, but most of the laughter is of the “no wait, seriously?” variety. The fun part is that everyone is in this movie. Half of them are “playing themselves,” since this is a satiric look at the industry, but that’s ok. The late 80s/early 90s fashions are also fun to look at. I didn’t love the sub-plot involving Whoopie Goldberg and Lyle Lovett (it tried to be funny and was mostly just bizarre), but beyond that, this is a pretty solid, if weird, movie.
Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)
This “rom-com for grown-ups” boasts a really strong cast, and a mostly enjoyable (if rather unrealistic at points) storyline. Cal (Steve Carell)’s wife Emily (Julianne Moore) admits to an affair and asks him for a divorce, and so he turns into a sad-sack haunting the local bar until ladies’ man Jacob (Ryan Gosling) decides to teach him how to get his manhood back. In the meantime, Cal’s son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) is in love with the baby sitter (Analeigh Tipton) who’s got her own crush, and Jacob himself is intrigued by the fiery redhead (Emma Stone, natch) who doesn’t fall for his lines. All of these different strands get tangled together in some interesting and mostly hilarious ways, and maybe the best thing about the movie is that it doesn’t neatly tie them all off at the end. Life and love are uncertain, and Crazy, Stupid, Love keeps that in mind. Julianne Moore and Emma Stone spot-on here, as always, and Steve Carell generally manages to be charming when he’s not trying so hard to be “funny.” Ryan Gosling and Jonah Bobo are both excellent; probably the best characters in the movie, in my opinion. Great supporting turns by Kevin Bacon as Cal’s competition and Marisa Tomei as a slightly crazy lady he takes home from the bar really add to the solid acting chops of the whole ensemble. The story gets a little bogged down toward the end, but is ultimately redeemed by the fact that all of the characters are fleshed-out individuals that you feel sympathetic toward, so in the end, it’s a really fun movie.
Up next: Rear Window and Calamity Jane. My mind is slightly boggled by the combination of Doris Day and Howard Keel. What’ve you been watching?