Posts Tagged ‘State of Play’

Ben there, done that: How Ben Affleck survived an era of overexposure

nyet402-717_2014_111600_highBy Richard Crouse – Metro In Focus

This weekend Ben Affleck returns to theatres as the star of the hotly anticipated Gone Girl, an adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s bestselling novel about a man whose life becomes a media circus when his wife (Rosamund Pike) disappears and he is the prime suspect.

It’s a welcome return for the star who once almost wore out his welcome on the big screen.

For a few years in the early 2000s, Affleck was the textbook definition of over-exposed. Between 2001 and 2004 he released a staggering 11 films, took a year off and dumped four more into theatres in 2006. Then (when the tabloids weren’t naming him Sexiest Man Alive, as People Magazine did in 2002), they were detailing the every move of the couple known as Bennifer, a mash-up of Ben and fiancée Jennifer Lopez’s high-wattage names.

You couldn’t go to a theatre, turn on a television or pick up a magazine without seeing his handsome face, and soon enough that ubiquity worked against him.

The Wall Street Journal did the math, reporting Affleck’s recognition factor jumped from 75 per cent to 82 per cent in 2003, but noted the percentage of folks who didn’t like him climbed from 12 per cent to 18 per cent.

In 2004 talent agent Patrick Whitesell told Los Angeles Times writer Kim Masters, “That kind of [media] coverage robs movie stars of their mystique.”

After that period of wild tabloid overexposure ruined his credibility with movie-goers and very nearly turned him into an industry in-joke, Affleck took some time for self reflection — “I was a little bit exhausted of myself,” he said — stopped saying ‘Yes!’ to every script that came his way and earned a second act.

In front of the camera — in movies like State of Play — and behind it, directing the critically acclaimed Gone Baby Gone, the man who had made four dozen movies since 1993 rebuilt his career, focusing on quality rather than quantity.

His next film saw him on both sides of the camera, directing, co-writing and starring in The Town, a crime drama that returned him to the scene of his first success, the Boston of Good Will Hunting. The Oscar-winning Argo followed and soon he’ll be seen as Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

The days of overexposure have come and gone, and he survived to have a thriving career.

“Now I think I’m kind of seen as just sort of somebody in Hollywood who works,” he says.

RACHEL McADAMS, “dawdler and a daydreamer” By Richard Crouse

state-of-play-rachel-mcadamsOn-screen and off Rachel McAdams defies categorization. A bundle of contradictions—she describes herself as “a daydreamer and a dawdler,” and “a very serious person” who has “always been kind of girly”—she lives in Toronto despite having a thriving career in Hollywood.

The common thread that links her movies, from the über-romance of The Notebook to the bawdy comedy of Wedding Crashers and the intrigue of State of Play is a simple, yet indefinable quality: intelligence. Her intellect informs every role she takes, even in a completely silly comedy like The Hot Chick, her first hit. It takes smarts to suggestively deliver a line like, “I hear it’s good for the skin if you take your towel off,” to a sauna full of women while playing a boy trapped in a woman’s body and still have a career once critics get through with the film.

“That brain is substantial,” says Diane Keaton of her frequent co-star, “and if you have that along with a face you can’t take your eyes off, it’s so compelling. It’s rare.”

She is a rarity, one of the few gilded members of young Hollywood who has made her work the focus of her career and avoided becoming a tabloid punching bag like her Mean Girls co-star Lindsay Lohan.

“I want to pick good projects,” she said in 2004, “I want to work with great directors and try not to put too much pressure on myself and just read things for the story and recognize when I’m drawn to something for the right reasons.”

After years of figure skating at ice carnivals, working at MacDonald’s in southwestern Ontario, studying drama at York University and appearing in forgettable TV shows (Shotgun Love Dolls anyone?) the smart and funny exposé of high school caste systems Mean Girls was the movie that put her on the map.

She modeled the flamboyantly wicked Regina George on Alec Baldwin’s performance in Glengarry Glen Ross. Spitting out lines like, “So you think you’re pretty?” through a cobra smile, she won critical praise and very nearly stole the show.

Then, just when audiences thought they had her typecast along came 2004s The Notebook, the deeply romantic Nicolas Sparks story. Given the script just one day in advance of the auditions McAdams beat out nine other actresses (including Ashley Judd, Britney Spears and Reese Witherspoon) for the now iconic role of Allie, the woman who finds freedom in the arms of a man (Ryan Gostling) her mother calls “trash.” Roger Ebert said her performance contained “beauty and clarity” and suddenly Hollywood had a new “it” girl.

Although she admits to being a “sucker for sweeping love stories” she didn’t capitalize on the breakout success of The Notebook by churning out a series of cookie-cutter romances or taking advantage of the huge offers coming her way—she turned down the role of Bond girl Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale—instead she opted for a variety of projects, none of which was a romance in the traditional sense.

She made waves as Owen Wilson’s love interest in the raunchy comedy Wedding Crashers, became an action star in Wes Craven’s thriller Red Eye and played the outspoken daughter of Diane Keaton and Craig T. Nelson in the critically lauded ensemble family drama The Family Stone.

Then, as quickly as she came to prominence, she was gone. For almost two years she was absent from screens until she took on the role of Kay, the platinum blonde focus of a love triangle between Chris Cooper and Pierce Brosnan, in the suspenseful psychological thriller Married Life. It’s the film she credits with rejuvenating her interest in filmmaking after some time off.

Since then she’s been a mainstay at festivals and multiplexes playing everything from a soldier whose boyfriend was killed saving her life in The Lucky Ones to the titular spouse in the sci fi romance The Time Traveler’s Wife and Sherlock Holmes’s beguiling Irene Adler opposite Robert Downey Jr.

Her best reviews of 2009 came with State of Play (which airs on TMN and Movie Central this month), a political drama in the spirit of All the Presidents Men. She co-stars with Russell Crowe and Helen Mirren as a Washington Post blogger working with Crowe’s investigative reporter to unravel clues in the murder of a congressman’s mistress.

With a full slate of films announced for the next couple of years—including Morning Glory with Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton and a project with legend Terrence Malick—it seems the chameleon spirit of Rachel McAdams is just as restless as ever.

“It’s fun to experiment,” she says, “I’m always kind of a slave to the character. Whatever kind of vision comes to my head I just have to go with it.”


state_of_play02State of Play is an all star two hour movie based on a popular six hour British miniseries. It’s not unheard of for films to be inspired by television serials, Brideshead Revisited is a recent example, but usually it’s the other way round. Remember The Shining miniseries that riffed on the Stanley Kubrick film? Or how about Traffic: The Miniseries? The question State of Play raises is how can director Kevin The Last King of Scotland Macdonald convey the miniseries’s six hours of intrigue, tension, detail and dazzling complexity of plot in just 120 minutes?

The trick he’s tried to pull off is to condense and change certain aspects of the original 6-part program while maintaining the integrity of the story. Fans of the miniseries will be relieved to hear that he has retained most of the main characters and much of the plot, but may be less enthusiastic that he’s switched the location from Britain to the United States.

The film tells of Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe) a dogged Washington Post journalist investigating the suspicious death of the mistress of his old college roommate, Congressman Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck). Collins is a rising star in his party (the movie doesn’t make it clear which); a seemingly incorruptible politician fighting against a multi-billion dollar deal to privatize homeland security by Pointcorps (think Halliburton). Torn between his responsibilities as a journalist and his loyalty to his friend Cal must find the correct angle with which to cover the story. As he digs deeper, with the support of his testy editor Cameron Lynne (Oscar-winner Helen Mirren) and fellow reporter Della Frye (Rachel McAdams), he becomes involved in a massive and dangerous cover-up. “It’s not a story. It’s a case,” says Det. Donald Bell (Harry Lennix) as the action heats up.

State of Play does a good job of boiling the six hour miniseries down to it bare essentials. Director MacDonald keeps the pacing tight and presents enough plot twists and turns to keep fans of the longer version satisfied. Less pleasing is the introduction of clichéd, hardboiled reporter dialogue. If you took a drink of “Irish wine”—that’s the Jamesons that Cal drinks throughout—every time a character said something like, “Now you have blood on your hands!” you’d be drunker than Hunter S. Thompson in the depths of a three day Chivas binge, but that is a small quibble when the action and suspense are this good.

State of Play is informed by the films of the 1970s like All the Presidents Men and Capricorn One, movies that exalted the fourth estate, exploring journalistic independence and the sometimes tenuous relationship between politicians and the press. It’s an ode to journalism and the fading art of newspaper reporting. As newspapers watch their circulation nosedive and newsrooms slash budgets it’s interesting to get a glimpse into a world where the public’s right to know is paramount, no matter what the cost or circumstances.

At the center of this old school approach is Crowe’s character Cal who has all the qualities legendary journalist Gay Talese says all top reporters must possess: the ability to pry “into other people’s affairs, [chase] after information [and wait] outside the doors of private meetings for official statements.” He’s the kind of intrepid reporter who only actually exists in the movies but Crowe pulls it off, creating a real character out of a pile of newsman clichés.

State of Play is a fast-paced thriller—with a scene stealing performance from Justin Bateman—that harkens back to the grand old days of investigative reporter movies like The China Syndrome which mixed complex, compelling stories with action and suspense.

Films break the news By JON TATTRIE FOR METRO CANADA April 15, 2009

FILM_All_The_Presidents_MenAs newsrooms slowly die across the country, one journalist is hunting for the killer. Well, a killer. In Russell Crowe’s new movie, State of Play, he stars as a grizzled hack dodging bullets to track down a murderer, rekindling our love affair with silver screen ink slingers in the process.

Anne McNeilly, assistant professor of journalism at Ryerson University, thinks movies set in newsrooms are so popular because the work itself is exhilarating.

“As soon as news happens anywhere, you know about it first. 9/11, how exciting was that? A hostage taking downtown, you know about in a second. It’s a buzz.”

McNeilly started in small papers before working 25 years for the Globe & Mail and Ottawa Citizen. It was movies like All The President’s Men that drew her to newspapers.

“Journalists get hooked on that adrenaline rush, because it’s like a drug. You get so addicted you can’t leave the biz,” she explains. That excitement translates to the viewer.

“I love movies about newsrooms,” she says, citing His Girl Friday and Deadline USA as favourites.

“What’s so unnerving (at Ryerson) is that lots of the students now have never heard of Woodward and Bernstein. They don’t even know what Watergate is,” she says. “They brought down a president! What’s a bigger story than that?”

While her students retain some of the idealism of previous generations, they are already jaded and prefer a different kind of fictional news hound. “They like Jon Stewart or Rick Mercer. Some of them think what they are doing is journalism.”

Richard Crouse, Metro’s movie columnist, cites All the President’s Men and another Crowe movie, The Insider, as great examples of the genre.

“The reporters in these films act as surrogates for the viewer. They ask the questions the viewer would ask,” he explains. “You’ve got newspapers who are bringing down big, evil corporations or taking on city hall and winning. It really appeals to people.”

Crouse highlights Billy Wilder’s 1951 movie Ace in the Hole as a newsroom flick that got too close to the truth. Kirk Douglas plays an out-of-luck journalist who risks lives to stretch a news story that could save his career in Wilder’s follow up to Sunset Boulevard.

“It’s a terrific movie, but it bombed really badly,” he says. “Movie historians think the journalists who were reviewing the film were so offended by it that they trashed it.”

All the news that’s fit to film
Looking to investigate the journalism-on-film genre a little more closely? Here are Metro’s suggestions:

• Shattered Glass
• The Killing Fields
• The Paper
• All the President’s Men
• Broadcast News
• The Insider
• Absence of Malice
• Good Night and Good Luck
• Salvador
• Wag the Dog
• Blood Diamonds
• Capote
• Citizen Kane
• The China Syndrome
• The Year of Living Dangerously