ROMANTIC COMEDY SWEET HOME ALABAMA (12A) 108min eee
Great vehicle for Witherspoon
It’s a magical day in Manhattan for fashion designer Melanie Carmichael (Reese Witherspoon). Her debut show makes her the talk of the town and just to add perfect to peachy, the JFK Jr-like scion of the mayor of New York has just proposed to her. In Tiffany’s, no less. But wouldn’t you just know it? Happily ever after is not going to happen after the first five minutes of this romantic comedy; before Melanie can stake her claim to the sweet smell of success, she must first return home to her disowned Southern roots in sweet home Alabama to get a divorce from her childhood sweetheart.
Hence the drive of this rom-com relies on the culture clash between north and south and whether Miss Carmichael will choose a great guy or the right guy. The right guy is Jake (Josh Lucas), the blue eyed country boy with a heart of gold who’s been in love with our Melanie since lightning struck them on the beach when they were kids. They survived, of course, but will their love survive now that Melanie’s turned into an uppity city slicker?
Anyone with half a brain will fathom the answer to this question but it’s nonetheless enjoyable to watch Witherspoon alternately playing bitchy and adorable as she makes peace with her poor Southern background. A good supporting cast including Fred Ward, Candice Bergen and Patrick Dempsey lends weight to the action and director Andy Tennant (Anna and the King, Ever After) shows skill in manoeuvring the albeit predictable twists and turns of the rom-com formula.
Already a huge success Stateside - the film grossed $37m in its opening weekend, the most ever made by a romantic comedy - Sweet Home Alabama is to this decade what Pretty Woman was to the last. A great vehicle for its leading actress - is Witherspoon the new Julia Roberts? — the difference here is that instead of being a prostitute lucky enough to bag a rich dude, the heroine is already successful in her own right. Which, sadly enough, makes for politically correct cinematic gold dust
these days. (Catherine Bromley) I General release from Fri 20 Dec.
THRILLER BLOOD WORK (15) 108min O
In recent movies such as Space Cowboys. Clint Eastwood has taken to commenting wrny on his advancing years. In this preposterous crime thriller, he does it again. playing a retiree with a dodgy ticker while still trying to bluff his way through action scenarios he should now leave well alone. After succumbing to a heart attack while pursuing a killer. FBI profiler Terry McCaleb (Eastwood) is given a transplant. Two years later, the sister (Wanda De JesUs) of the organs original female owner turns up for a little emotional blackmail, wanting the now retired agent's help in finding the person who murdered her sibling. Eastwood is convincing as a sick. old man. His voice is quieter and more grizzled than ever, in the chase sequences he looks like he's
32 THE LIST 12 Dec 2002*2 Jan 2003
running into the wind (even with a stuntman clearly doing the fence climbing for him). and you fear the obligatory love scene will put him back in hospital. Unfortunately, age also seems to have affected his filmmaking. Blood Work is scrappin directed and sloppily edited. with Clint's standard one—take shooting style here doing no one any favours. And the dialogue. adapted by LA Confidential Oscar-winner Brian Helgeland from Michael Connelly's novel. flops onto the screen rather than zings. Stick Jack Klugman or Raymond Burr up front and this COuld be any 70s TV crime series currently filling the weekday schedules.
While Eastwood is pretty much his usual stolid acting self — like it or lump it — the rest of the cast fail to do themselves justice. Comic cops Paul Rodriguez and Dylan Walsh stand around pointlessly. Anjelica Huston is plain
Could be any 705 TV series
embarrassing as a disapproving cardiologist and only the reliable Jeff Daniels. playing McCaleb's layabout neighbour. gives the script the lack of respect it deserves. (Simon Wardelll
I General release from Fri 27 Dec.
THRILLER DIRTY PRETTY THINGS (15) 96min on
It's not that this gritty tale of London's illegal irrirriigrants is neither an interesting drama nor a film with a worthy message (it's both), it's just that Dirty Pretty Things has two fatal flaws. First up. director Stephen Frears' film, written by Steven Knight (rather ironically best known for creating Who Wants to be a Millionaire?) suggests there's a secret London where immigrants work unobserved by the rest of us. as taxi drivers. hotel doormen. Cleaning women etc. This just ain't the case: take a trip to the big smoke and there are immigrants slogging away. earning a pittance in full view. everywhere.
The second problem with Dirty Pretty Things is that Knight wrote it. and Frears was happy to direct it. as a romance-thriller complete with attendant genre cliches. Thus. the story of two refugees. Nigerian Okwe (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Turkish Senay (Audrey Tautou), is framed by a plot concerning the sale of human
organs out of the hotel in which Okwe and Senay work nights. Okwe discovers a heart stuffed down a toilet. Macabre enough, but why it's there is left unexplained. Two immigration officers sniffing around for a reason to eject Senay from Britain are cartoon Villains. right down to unshaven chops and porno ‘tache. When Senay is forced to give the owner of a sweatshop she slaves away in by day a blowjob. the guy on the receiving end is an ugly fat bloke. And when Okwe and Senay separate at the end of the film. you'll see his parting words to her coming a mile off.
Still. the leads are good. particularly Ejiofor, who elicits real Sympathy as the wary. weary Nigerian. Tautou. too. impresses. speaking our foreign tongue with a Turkish accent no less! Frear's knows how to get good performances out of his cast. despite few of the principals knowing their way round English. and the veteran director can tell a story visually with his eyes shut. It's just a shame none of the above talents were served wrth a decent script. (Miles Fielder)
I Selected relmse from Fri l3 [)ec. See feature. pages I?" 73.