Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Movies that bite off more than they can chew

Ok, I just watched two very well made movies, interesting movies. Both of them should have been much, much more.

The first is Love Actually by Richard Curtis, a first time director, but very successful writer of many popular British comedies. It seems like he got overambitious on his first directorial work and tried to make every story he had sitting in his pile.

Now, thematically, he was trying to show that love is all around us, we just have to look. Quite a nice idea really.

And he mentions in his introduction to the deleted scenes that the first rough cut was over three hours. Personally, after watching the deleted scenes - most of which were as good or better than the scenes included - I can't help thinking that going all out and making the full-on Short Cuts style version wouldn't have worked a lot better. It already had the intermingled characters in various stories who meet and bump into and connect in a variety of ways. A longer cut could not only have developed each of the stories more, but the deleted scenes show that the theme could have been much better shown

As it stands, it's cute enough, but overcrowded and underdeveloped. Some segments work a lot better than others... and some work well, but seem unclear what the resolution is. Not to spoil for anyone, but does anyone know what happened between the second to last and the last scene between Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman? That didn't make sense to me.

It's a movie that made me laugh, brought me into its world, so I can't say it didn't work... but somehow it didn't quite. I can't imagine wanting to revisit that movie.

Well, unless they release the three-hour version on DVD. I'd be interested in seeing if that was all that I think it could have been.

I also just watched The Long Riders by Walter Hill. The trailer calls it "as close to the truth as legends get", and, yes, it suffers from the kind of anecdotal problems that movies trying to get too much truth in so often do.

It tells the story of The James-Younger Gang starting in after their exploits have already begun.

The conceit of having sets of acting brothers (2 Keaches, 3 Carradines, 2 Quaids and 2 Guests) was a nice touch, and it serves the movie well, especially since all of them are fine actors.

The film focuses most of its attention on the Younger brothers. I liked that. Certainly the James's have been covered to death. It was kind of funny, since James and Stacy Keach, who play Jesse and Frank James co-wrote and co-produced the movie. I certainly expected to see more James brothers.

The Carradines are all in fine form, though. I love all three, and it was very cool to see them together onscreen, especially in such wonderful parts.

Ultimately, the movie doesn't add up to a lot, aside from being pretty accurate, having some fun performances, and some well staged action. I wasn't disappointed exactly, since I wasn't expecting much more than a fun novelty and it certainly achieves at least that.

Again, however, I can't help wondering if a longer version couldn't have fleshed it out more.

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