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BY John LillySTEVEN D. GREYDANUS
Little Manhattan: PASS
Match Point: Much sexual immorality (no
explicit nudity); practical discussion of abortion; profanity and crass
language; non-explicit murderous violence. Little
A divorce in progress; minor profanity and rude language; brief gross-out
humor; much karate training and brief violence against a bully; pervasive
preadolescent romantic themes. The
Patriot: Bloody battlefield
violence and gore; slaughter of non-combatants; a few strong expressions.
has been hailed as a return to form for Woody Allen, harkening to the
director’s 1989 Crimes and Misdemeanors,
which treats similar themes of infidelity, murder and ultimate meaning.
Unfortunately, Match Point lacks the
earlier film’s sense of conflicted existential drama. In Crimes and Misdemeanors, when Martin Landau wrestled with the
enormity of his situation, he did just that: wrestle. In Match Point,
protagonist Jonathan Rhys-Meyers takes his self-serving approach to life for
granted, without a flicker of conscience or moral awareness. He never looks
deep within himself, nor does Allen. He’s a cipher, a pretty poster boy for doing
what you can get away with.
Late in the film, Allen pulls a
nearly Chestertonian reversal of expectations, so
that the very thing that could have pointed to God is turned back on itself. He
doesn’t just leave God out in the cold; he blows him a Bronx cheer. Is the
shift from being willing to live with having done it (Crimes and Misdemeanors) to getting away with it (Match Point) related to the vagaries of
Allen’s life over the last 15 years? Is Allen smirking over the universe’s
failure to punish him for his sins? Complacency doesn’t make for great art. Crimes and Misdemeanors is a messy
masterpiece. Match Point is a neat
diagram, with clean lines, photogenic leads, good acting, a terrific twist —
and no soul.
Recently released on DVD, Little Manhattan is a well-meaning but
misguided bittersweet look at puppy love. Ten-year-old Gabe
(Josh Hutcherson) still officially believes that
girls have cooties when he unexpectedly finds that 11-year-old Rosemarie
(Charlie Ray), his one-time kindergarten gal-pal, suddenly sets his heart to
pounding, his mouth to stammering, and his body to pratfalling.
running angst-driven voiceover narration wears thin early on, especially given
the overly knowing, world-weary adult sensibility of lines like “This much I
know firsthand: Love ends” and “The truth is, you come into this world alone,
and you leave it the exact same way.” Gabe should
know: His parents are in the process of divorcing, and his fifth-grade
incipient romance is doomed by summer-camp plans, if nothing else. Despite
engaging moments, Little Manhattan
comes off as grade-school prep for modern serial romance. Yuck.
The Mel Gibson vehicle The Patriot returns to DVD this week in
an extended cut with 11-odd minutes of deleted scenes reworked into the film.
The British take a beating in more ways than one in this sentimental,
manipulative, rousing action-movie take on the American Revolution that blends
meticulous period visuals with cartoonish historical
spares nothing of the horrors of war, and a heartfelt early speech against
going to war is striking. Yet the villainous British officers might as well be
Nazis — indeed, their worst atrocity, rounding up civilians into a church and
burning it down, was historically committed by Nazis, not Redcoats. Not a great
film, The Patriot is a well-made,
exciting popcorn flick with some worthwhile ideas, heartfelt sentiments and
striking sequences. The best of these is a riveting parley scene, with
punctiliously observed rules of civilized conduct under wartime offering a
welcome counterpoint to the savagery of the rest of the film.