A Life Less Ordinary
(15) 101 mins *irhk
It's an impossible task to follow Trainspotting, a book/film that long ago outgrew its origins and became a phenomenon. Irvine Welsh tried with Marabou Stork Nightmares - a better novel by far - but the public stumbled over its daring sense of fantasy and imagination, clinging tightly to the passages that trawled the same housing scheme paths as its predecessor.
There will also be a sense of audience disappointment at Danny Boyle/Andrew Macdonald/John Hodge's cinema follow-up, primarily because A Life Less Ordinary dares to be different. Gone is the super- realism of Renton's heroin landscapes; in comes Heaven as a pure-white police station, a Dennis Potter-style song 'n’ dance routine in place of the expected sex scene, two angels in the shape of bounty hunters. Some of these elements fall flat, but this is a romantic comedy, where love works its own illogical magic. And viewed as a romantic comedy, A Life Less Ordinary leaves its Hollywood peers standing.
Ewan McGregor is Robert. an office cleaner and would-be trash novelist who impetuously kidnaps his boss‘s daughter Celine (Cameron Diaz) when his job is taken over by a robot. Unable to even phone in a ransom demand, Robert is helped
through the process by Celine, who sees an opportunity to get back at her cold, super-rich father (Ian Holm). Gradually, perpetrator and victim change places and, inevitably, fall in love, which is just as well for the matchmaker angels (Holly Hunter and Delroy Lindo) on their tail, who won't be allowed back upstairs if their
Cupid's arrows fail to hit their mark.
The filmmaking team's quirky trademarks are present
Cameron’s highlander: Ewan McGregor and Cameron Diaz in A Life Less Ordinary
everywhere, in the luscious photography, the flawless design and the use of music (check how 80er turns the opening of Orbital's 'The Box' into an Ennio Morricone spaghetti western stand-off). Good on them for taking hold of a whole legion of cinematic styles and genre cliches, and somehow managing to twist and embrace
them at the same time. (Alan Morrison)
I General release from Fri 24 Oct. See feature, pages 8-13.
(18) 135 mins *HHH:
Once in a while, a grown-up crime movre comes along that does more than recycle the same old genre cliches or retread familiar, formulaic ground. The Usual SuSpects was the most recent example, LA. Confidential is the latest. Adapted from James Ellroy's neo-nOir novel, it tones down the book's psychotic violence while brilliantly evoking its jaundiced view of a glitzy 1950s Los Angeles underpinned by an all-pervasive, festering corruption.
24 THE lIST 23 Oct~6 Nov 1997
Law unto themselves: Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce in LA. Confidential
Usual Suspects star Kevm Spacey plays celebrity cop Jack Vincennes, sartorially smooth advisor to a hit TV show and bent partner of tabloid editor Sid Hudgeons (Danny DeVito), who sets him up With celebrity drug busts in order to photograph the arrests for his magazine. 8ch White (Russell Crowe), by contrast, is the real article, a street cop who's the muscle behind Captain Dudley Smith (James Cromwell), a pragmatic police chief prepared to bend the rules if it will stop out-of-town gangsters moving in on his patch.
Finally there is born politician Ed Exley
(Guy Pearce), ruthlessly ambitious son of a hero cop; at all times, the college- trained Exley has one eye on the case in hand, and the other on the career advancement it will facilitate. A mass killing in a late-night diner threatens to blow the lid off the whole thing, and all roads seem to lead to Pierce Patchett (David Strathairn), a wealthy businessman with a stable of hookers cosmetically butchered to look like movie stars, including Veronica Lake lookalike Lynn Bracken (Kim Basinger). It’s a dark, labyrinthine tale involving corrupt businessmen and politicians, femmes fatales, sleazy tabloid journos, boom town hoodliims, opportunist cops, violent cops, racist cops, celebrity cops and careerist cops — everything, in fact, except the clean living, glamour and honesty promised in the burgeoning City's promotional adverts, feature films and TV cop shows. The dialogue crackles, the actors burn up the screen, and director Curtis Hanson stitches it all together With the skill of a cosmetic surgeon. In short, one of the few films one would dare mention in the same breath as the definitive Chinatown. (Nigel Floyd) I General release from Fri 37 Oct. See feature page 75.
Fools Rush In (12) 109 mins 1H:
Mexican chalk meets all-American cheese in this romantic comedy which generically attempts to convince us that love can triumph over polar differences when man meets - and drools over - woman. In this particular instance, the unlikely lovers are a dark- eyed Mexican firebrand named lsabel (Salma Hayek) and an uptight, uncharismatic nine-to-fiver called Alex (Matthew Perry of Friends fame).
While Alex stampedes non-stop in and out of New York offices, the luscious-looking lsabel lollops in soft focus around verdant scenery. Their paths eventually collide — rather ignominously — outside a toilet where flirtation reveals that lsabel has a deep spiritual awareness of fateful pre- determination, in contrast to Alex's more pragmatic disposition towards probability and chance. After a brief phil050phical exchange, a one-night stand and a pregnancy, the two double-up to battle out the gamut of cultural, spiritual and personality differences that lie between them.
The film’s failing is that these differences are so coarsely depicted — what could have been a valuable opportunity to deal humorously with the contemporary theme of multi-racial relationships wastes away into crazy caricatures and howling cliches. Alex is a wimp and a die-hard sceptic, crassly tarred with the brush of Western atheism. As a North American, he lacks any greater cultural distinctiveness apart from an unbridgeable distance from his family. lsabel, for her part, is more Mexican than the Mexicans. She not only demonstrates a fiery nature and a cod South American spirituality, but is loud, proud and as hot as a chilli burritos. A visit to her home reveals a pack of swarthy, over-protective brothers, a vast extended family and muzak that befits a local Chiquito's restaurant.
By way of consolation, the film has a dreamy soundtrack, filled with the euphonious tones of Elvis Presley, and some magnificent shots of canyons. But these positive features do not manage to redeem the film from triteness. Though a newly gift-wrapped comedy, you will have seen it before, time and again. (Arifa Akbar)
I General release from Fri 31 Oct.
Friend in need: Matthew Perry in Fools Rush In
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STAR RATINGS it it Hr * Unmissable * at * * Very good it t * Worth a shot it * Below average 1? You've been warned