Monthly Archives: February 2013

Happy Birthday: Five Drew Barrymore Favorites

Let’s talk about Drew Barrymore. She occupies kind of a strange place in filmdom: she’s pretty much Hollywood royalty, coming from a family of celebrated actors. She was a promising child actor, but then she through an extended wild (and troubled) period. She’s sort of A-list as an individual, but I guess I would say most of her movies fall into the B-list category. Still, she’s come a long way, and these days she’s something of a media mogul. She directs, produces, and is by all accounts an accomplished professional. Good for her, I say. I actually used to find her extremely irritating, but at some point I became an unabashed fan. She’s a powerful woman in a business largely overrun by men, and she’s always been herself. For that, I salute her and wish her a very happy birthday (we’re the same age!), and in her honor, I’d like to feature some of her movies that I really love. They’re not high drama or exemplary film-making, but they’re entertaining and enjoyable; the kinds of movies you’ll come back to again and again. Let’s have a little fun on a Friday morning, shall we?

The Wedding Singer (1998)
Remember when Adam Sandler was charming? If you’re having trouble, I’d recommend a viewing of this adorable rom-com. It’s got all the goofy earmarks of a Sandler production, but the story is sweet, and Sandler and Barrymore have good chemistry as a pair of good-hearted dreamers. Drew is at her quirky, adorable best here, and if the climactic scene on the airplane doesn’t get you all sniffly, you don’t have a soul.

Ever After: A Cinderella Story (1998)
I think this is the movie that made a fan out of me. Sure, her accent is terrible. But Drew’s version of Cinderella is a delightful tomboy, a reader and a thinker who captivates Prince Henry (Dougray Scott, SWOON) by being unlike every other girl out there. Plus, Angelica Huston and Megan Dodds are deliciously villainous as the evil stepmother and sister, and I just love Melanie Lynsky as the more sympathetic sister. Looking for excellent pick-up lines, guys? Take some notes: Dougray Scott is on fire here. Seriously, how can you not love a Cinderella who wields a sword?

Charlie’s Angels (2000)
A fun, silly action flick starring girls? Sign me up. Barrymore joins Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu for this romp of a reboot of the popular TV show. The long list of supporting players includes Sam Rockwell, Tim Curry, and Bill Murray as Bosley. There’s good action, lots of comedy, and some memorable scenes (Diaz dancing in her Underoos! Lucy Liu dominatrix-ing it up!), too. I hear the sequel is pretty bad, so let’s just stick with this one, eh?

Music and Lyrics (2007)
Barrymore’s up to her usual quirky tricks here, but Hugh Grant shines as a washed-up pop singer looking for a return to the big leagues in this romantic comedy. The plot is pretty straightforward, but Barrymore and Grant have a comfortable chemistry, and it’s well worth watching for the various references and jokes about pop music. Basically, you want to see this movie for the opening credits, but sticking around will be fun, too.

Whip It (2009)
Barrymore’s directorial debut stars Ellen Page as a young woman looking to escape a life of beauty pageants and provinciality who finds herself through roller derby. Barrymore also stars as one of Page’s team members. Whip It is based upon a book written by a derby skater, and although it’s a bit sensationalized at times, I think it captures the fun spirit and camaraderie of the sport (derby friends are welcome to disagree with me). Pretty standard coming-of-age stuff, but there are nice performances throughout, and once again, it’s really all about girl power. The soundtrack’s also pretty sweet.

I want to have a Drew Barrymore marathon right now. How about you? I realize that I haven’t seen some of her bigger movies (Scream springs to mind), so what favorites of yours did I leave off?

Capsule Reviews

Becket (1964)
If you’re going to watch two actors duke it out (both in character and as actors), you can’t do a whole lot better than to watch Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole go at it as Thomas Becket and King Henry II of England. In this historical drama (adapted from a French play by Jean Anouilh), Henry is sure of the loyalty of his friend, Becket, when he elevates him to the position of Archbishop of Canterbury, and is astonished when Becket views the appointment as a higher calling and declares a greater loyalty. The film focuses almost entirely on the relationship between Becket and Henry, and allows both actors to perform at the very highest levels. O’Toole is grating but effective as the rather spoiled Henry; a fascinating contrast to his performance, only four years later, of the same man in The Lion in Winter. Clearly, O’Toole’s Henry does some growing up in the interim. Meanwhile, Burton gives an astonishingly deep and nuanced performance as Thomas Becket. He shows great intelligence and wit throughout, and when he takes the mantle of the Archbishop on his shoulders, he makes a marked change from disinterested aesthete to pious servant of God without missing a beat. Both are powerful performances, but Burton (and Becket) proves to have the upper hand, even in giving his life to remain true to his sense of duty. John Gielgud makes an entertaining appearance as King Louis VII of France, providing a bit of (sly and sophisticated) comic relief. As with most plays-turned-films, Becket is light on action, and a little slow at times, but worthwhile for fans of great acting.

Royal Wedding (1951)

I’ve wanted to see Royal Wedding since I was a kid. The “I Left My Hat in Haiti” number is featured in That’s Dancing, and I’ve long been interested in the colorful costumes and the performance of Jane Powell. However, the film as a whole is somewhat disappointing. Fred Astaire and Powell play a brother-sister duo who travel to London to perform against the backdrop of a royal wedding. They’re both marriage-shy, but of course they each meet and fall in love with their perfect mates (played by Sarah Churchill and Peter Lawford). There are some fun and imaginative numbers, the highlight of which is Astaire dancing with a hatrack, but the pace of the movie is slow, and there’s very little going on, plot-wise. Powell’s dancing is great, but her style of singing leaves a lot to be desired. It must’ve been popular at the time, though, because she gets no less than three solo ballads. Apparently, the original copyright for Royal Wedding was never renewed, and as such, the film is now available mainly in poor copy. It’s incredibly dark and in serious need of re-mastering, but as an inferior example of Astaire’s work, it’s probably not high on anybody’s list of priorities.