Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Help, Stupid, Crazy Love and The Change Up


I went to see it for Ryan Gosling and Julianne Moore and came out liking it for the story itself, the most entertaining comedy I've seen since the wonderful Midnight in Paris.  All the actors were good, but the sweet, sexy effortless performance by Ryan Gosling was my favorite.   The man can act and he was a great foil for Steve Carell's well acted, shellshocked, sad sack husband coming to terms with his wife's infidelity and the possible end of his marriage.

This main plot line is about relationships, how they start and fall apart and how one person's leavings is another person's gold.  About how it is never too late to remember who you were when you first started out in a relationship and perhaps somehow reclaim enough of yourself to put it back together again.

The family babysitter, played by Analeigh Tipton and her charge,  played by Jonah Bobo were both very good and the story arc for these two characters, entertaining.  And of course the wonderful Emma Stone, who is everywhere this year (like peer Jessica Chastain) was also very credible in this intelligent and well directed romantic comedy with a few predictable cliches, but a very nice center.  Kevin Bacon did a wonderfully smarmy turn as Julianne Moore's co-worker and one night stand and Marissa Tomei was very funny as a love starved teacher who is Cal's (Carell) first date and, unbeknownest to him, his son's teacher.

I was very pleasantly surprised and recommend it.


The Help, is chock full of academy award worthy performances and a good story for the times.  In case anyone has forgotten how bad it was in some places in the segregated south (and for those of you who lived through it) this will make you grit your teeth and sincerely want to punch a few people in the mouth.  I sat through it wanting to throttle Bryce Dallas Howard every second she was on the screen....that is how evilly good she was as the horridly racist and pretentious Hilly Holbrook.

But hateful as she was and as wonderful as Emma Stone was in the role of the caring and intelligent Skeeter, the stand out powerhouse performances belong to the very talented Viola Davis as Aibileen Clark,  the long suffering maid who raised everyone's babies while mourning the loss of her own, and the wonderfully acerbic and funny Minny Jackson, her best friend, played by Octavia Spencer.  The naturalness of these two actresses is what makes this movie the gem it is.

Last but not least there was a lovely little performance by Jessica Chastain (another natural) as the new bride in town, the likable (but not to the society ladies) and tormented Celia Foote.    Like Ms. Stone,  Chastain seems to be everywhere this summer with roles in The Tree of Life, Coriolanus, Wilde Salome and Texas Killing Fields.  She is easy to watch and makes the most of her part in this.

There were also some very memorable moments by Sissy Spacek and the always good Allison Janney as Skeeter's ailing mother.

Directed with a sure hand by Tate Taylor, the story is sad, sweet, humorous and depicts the Mississippi of the late 50's early 60's, beautiful, sultry and riddled with enough injustices and inhumanity of segregation to make your hair stand on end.  As the title implies it is about the trials of the women who worked as maids to a southern town's white collar - upper class families and the humiliations they had to endure while trying to feed their families and take care of their own as told by a young white girl in her attempts to become a journalist and shed some light on the other side of the color barrier.   It is also about the resilience of the human spirit in the face of so much ignorance and the little bits of humor and friendship that helps people get by in the worst of times.

At the end, there is also a little bit of the the very sweet justice of a revenge when the stories are published in anonymous book form and the nasty characters start recognizing themselves and realizing that one of their own has turned on them.

If in the end it is tied up somewhat neatly when, Aibileen, in a final showdown with the nasty Hilly, finally gets the impetus to say "enough" and walk away with her dignity and perhaps a new perspective, we forgive the story the extra fancy bow on the package because the rest is so well played.

On a one to five scale, this movie is a strong 5.  Despite the furor over the portrayals of the black characters in this movie, the movie deals with just one aspect of the wrongs perpetrated by segregation and does not attempt to be all things definitive in the hard fought struggle of the civil rights movement by so many brave black men and women of the era.


After dropping D (who has been visiting for a week) off for a party in Laurel Canyon, I decided to grab a late lunch at Pain Quotidian on Melrose and took my writing pad along with me to make notes on a new story.  To my surprise I discovered I had grabbed an old pad and a screenplay I had sketched out and started caught my eye.  After reading over the five or so pages, I realized I loved what I had written and decided to proceed with the story, a period love story based on an encounter with an elderly, patrician lady at the Garden Court in San Francisco's Palace Hotel a year after my husband died.  It is a fictional version with added back story of some things she had told me that day, celebrating her 90th birthday.

After a very fruitful  two hours of writing, I headed to The Grove to catch another movie.
Wheaton Cuff Bracelet
The next one up was The Change Up, so I bought a ticket and then headed to Nordstroms to kill time before it started.  That was an unfortunate thing to do, as I had one of those rare moments come over me (so happy I was that I was working on something new), I impulsively tried on a beautiful, wide David Yurman cuff bracelet in the silver rope pattern with the two small strands of gold that went with the Yurman 3MM Crossover hoop earrings I was wearing.  The woman who waited on me knows I always browse his stuff and have my eye on certain pieces.   She is a very sympathetic (not to mention savvy) salesperson.

Well it was her lucky day as,  after leaving my things on the counter,  I walked to the full length mirror and admired the very perfect way the cuff bracelet added that little extra touch of class to my outfit.  It is one of those classic pieces, like the earrings, that you wear forever.  I like mixing gold and silver, so I am always drawn to pieces that incorporate both.  I have a very skinny silver mesh bracelet linked with small gold medallions I fell in love with on a trip to Chicago.  I usually wear it on the left hand with the eighth grade graduation ring my parents gave me, dainty silver with a black pearl.  I have thin wrists and small hands and on my right I usually wear either a gold diamond solitaire or my wedding ring, designed by a jeweler in Marina del Rey, which looks like vines encrusted with several different sized diamonds...not your normal wedding band, but interesting.

Well needless to say, without much thought to the consequences, I bought the damned, but classically beautiful cuff.  The only thing I could think to make sense of it (besides the joy of owning and wearing the piece right away...squeezing it to fit my wrist) was that I was helping the economy and hopefully putting some dollars into the nice saleswoman's pocket.

With still time to kill, I walked over to The Whisper Lounge, found a seat on center of the curved banquet, ordered a refreshing short Campari and Soda, a bottle of flat water and a wild mushroom, gruyere cheese and truffle oil flat bread to ponder my new purchase (and how well it looked) and celebrate the, so far,  very productive (if expensive) afternoon.    The man seated next to me in company of two girls, noticing I was drinking Campari and Soda, started a conversation, glad to meet another person who also relished one of his favorite drinks.   I told him the week before, when I had gone there to see Loston Harris, the lovely cafe au lait piano player from The Carlyle whom I used to sit and listen to years ago who was playing there for two weeks,  they had torn the place apart to try and find the last bottle of Campari in the joint.  Apparently they had stocked up and good for us they had.

I finally asked for my bill and headed over to see the movie and extremely glad for the "reserved seat policy" they instituted a while back, which lets me pick my usual aisle seat when I go alone.

Well, finally, to the movie:   The Change Up.    While the performances were very good, this raunchy (with lots of bathroom scenes and humor) little piece was entertaining.   While watching it, all I could think of was the fact that if I was a younger man today and watching this movie, I would shy away all the more from committing to matrimony.  Why the heck would any man in his right mind work his butt off and then have to go home and deal with a bossy wife and apparently three quarters of all the housework, shopping, and parenting chores (diapering, feeding, bathing, etc...) of a pair of twins?

The incongruity of the movie was that after a time of sleeping late, enjoying his leisure time with few obligations, being ogled for his tall, nice body and finally dating Olivia Wilde's elegantly gorgeous and smart, but  underneath off beat character he's had a secret crush on, although some valuable lessons were learned by the two parties in the switch, in the end the exhausted house husband/lawyer-accountant happily goes back to his harried life in a typical Hollywood ending.

Yeah.  Right.  And if you believe that, I've got a bridge....

The saving grace of this movie were the two actors, Jason Bateman playing the harried attorney and Ryan Reynolds as his best buddy and still juvenile, aspiring actor.   I've never been a Reynolds fan (love Bateman), but he was actually very appealing in this movie.  A nice turn by Olivia Wilde as Bateman's sexy law clerk and Leslie Mann as his wife  rounded out the main cast.

This movie is entertaining, but if you are a young woman and are holding out for marriage, this is not the movie you want to take a boyfriend to unless he adores children and wants lots of them and adores you enough to put up with the rest of the things this movie presents as the wonders of married bliss.

Songs out of tune, the words always a little wrong...Canzoni Stonate

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