There are two and three hanky movies and then there are films like “Miss You Already” that demand more extreme measures. It’s one of those stories that is bound to inspire both happy and sad crying, so bring a box of Kleenex, or better yet, an absorbent towel.
Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette are Jess and Milly, childhood friends who have remained close even though their lives have taken different paths. Jess is an environmentalist, an earth mother who lives on a Thames houseboat with her husband Jago (Paddy Considine). Milly is a self-centered publicist, mother of two, married to a former roadie-turned-millionaire Kit (Dominic Cooper).
When Milly is diagnosed with breast cancer, her best friend is at her side but when the cancer comes back as Jess and Jago are expecting their first child the decades long relationship becomes strained.
“Miss You Already” begins as a light-hearted romp but develops into something deeper. As Milly’s cancer progresses the movie stays with her at every step, from disbelief, to anger, to denial and finally acceptance. It is unflinching—anyone who has experienced chemo will feel a twinge during the early scenes—and doesn’t pull any punches with its depiction of the treatments or its characters. Milly doesn’t become the poor sainted cancer victim we’ve seen in other films, instead she stays true to the character we met at the film’s start, likeable but not always loveable. Collette keeps it real as she works through the stages of the disease.
Barrymore brings her usual warmth and amiability but the real star is the portrayal of the effect of cancer on its victim, friends and family. “Miss You Already” captures the frustration and sadness inherent to the process but also the humour. “I look like a leopard,” Milly says as her thinning hair is shaved off. “A leper or a leopard?” replies her hairdresser.
“Miss You Already” has moments clearly designed to open the tear ducts but for the most part director Catherine Hardwicke doesn’t get maudlin, treating the material with respect but not with kid gloves.
Director Catherine Hardwicke’s last two films, Thirteen and The Lords of Dogtown, were edgy examinations of teenage life that dealt with young people in crisis. Her latest film, The Nativity Story, revisits the theme, but this time her young protagonists, Mary and Joseph, have larger issues than acne or a spotty report card.
Hardwicke draws on the gospel of Matthew for the story of the Immaculate Conception and the reaction of Joseph, her family and neighbors in Nazareth who, at first, were skeptical of Mary’s claims that she was pregnant with the Son of God. It’s an interesting and realistic interpretation that should open up the story to further character exploration and dramatic possibility but unfortunately Hardwicke pulls back.
Unlike her previous films that brim with energy, The Nativity Story is staid, as though she was overwhelmed with piety for the story. She is faithful to the bible—apart from using the Three Wise Guys… er Men as comic relief—and adds in some interesting period details, but it never feels like we’re watching a movie about real people. Nor does it feel like we’re watching an epic tale. Hardwicke rests somewhere in the middle, closer to mundane than interesting.
The acting brings to mind Sunday School Christmas Nativity plays and suggests that perhaps the Oscar nod that young Australian actress Keisha Castle-Hughes, who plays Mary, received a few years ago might have been a tad premature.
The Nativity Story is a well meaning, but dry attempt to tell the story of the birth of Christ.
Twilight, for the uninitiated, is Buffy’s worst nightmare. It is the first in an insanely popular series of books about seventeen-year-old Isabella “Bella” Swan who moves to Forks, Washington and finds her life in danger when she falls in love with ninety-year-old vampire Edward Cullen. The books are required reading for every sixteen year old girl on the planet and now those undead literary characters are coming to life on the big screen in what will undoubtedly be the weekend’s number one film. Vampires, despite Buffy’s best efforts, are hot again.
Twilight, directed by Catherine Hardwicke, stars Into the Wild’s Kristen Stewart as Bella, an average girl whose taste in men runs to the supernatural. She’s a sullen teenager sent to live with her father in rainy Washington state after her free spirited mother shutters their Arizona home to go on the road with her baseball player boyfriend. Life in the small town is sleepy until Bella meets Edward, a pale, otherworldly student who makes Casper the Friendly ghost look tanned. She’s immediately smitten, but he is aloof, friendly one moment, cold the next. “Your mood swings are giving me whiplash,” she says. Soon enough he reveals his true immortal self to her—he’s a vampire “vegetarian,” meaning that he doesn’t drink human blood—and the idea of getting close to a mortal, and her supply of blood, is a temptation he fights against. Rather than running away, afraid for her life, she is even more drawn to him. When a trio of nasty bloodsuckers moves into the area Edward must risk his undead life to protect Bella.
Twilight is review proof. Advance ticket sales have already surpassed the last two Harry Potter movies and guarantee theatre lobbies filled with screeching teenage girls and sold out auditoriums. It’ll be the number one movie of the weekend and not since The Dark Knight has anticipation run so deep. Lots of people have been sucked in by this vampire tale.
But is it a good movie?
I can best sum it up by paraphrasing an old beer advertising slogan. “Those who like it, will like it a lot.” Twilight is bound to please “twi-hards”—fans of the books. Robert Pattison, the unknown English actor hired to play heartthrob vampire Edward embodies the book’s romantic bloodsucker and Kristen Stewart does dreamy longing really well. Hardwicke, whose directorial career showcases her ability to portray teen angst in movies like Thirteen and The Lords of Dogtown, captures the cadences of high school life by surrounding her supernatural characters with average kids handing in natural performances. She’s distilled the 600 page book down to its basic elements, cut the fat—the most important component being the romance; that Edward goes against his natural instinct to kill because he loves Bella—and produced a romantic film that will appeal to the book’s enormous core audience.
For others, and that includes vampire purists—everyone knows that vampires can’t go out during the day and would never have a giant cross in their home—the movie may feel strangely stilted and well, anemic. Anyone expecting fangs, crazy vampire sex or even high tech visual effects will be disappointed. Twilight is about one thing and one thing only—romance. It’s a horror Harlequin, and while the constant starry-eyed craving between the two leads borders on caricature, without it there’d be very little left.