Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The Boys Are Back

I imagine there is a segment of the movie-going population in the world that will not only want to see this picture (as opposed to being compelled to watch it in the course of doing one’s job), but that will also enjoy the movie once they have seen it. I reckon most of those are going to be women - at least as much because the male lead is the very, very pretty Clive Owen as because the weepy family story appeals to people who like to have everything work out in the end.

Of course, everything works out in the end - and no, that doesn’t take anything away from the enjoyment of the movie for those who are going to enjoy it. This is the kind of movie that has to work out in the end - there’s not some question of what’s going to happen because it is not at all a challenging film. (Most of the people who are going to think that this is a movie they would like to see are people who are not going to be interested in being challenged by the movies they see.)

And yes, I’m pretty much just going to trash this movie - so if that doesn’t interest you for whatever reason, you’ll probably want to move on after this paragraph. The movie is about sports writer Joe Warr (Owen), who quite suddenly loses his second wife to cancer. This forces him to start participating in the upbringing of his young son Artie (I’m pretty sure that, at one point early in the movie, someone called this kid Danny - but I could be wrong), something he has not done much of in the almost seven years of Artie’s life. Joe brings home the bacon, and his wife Katie raises the kids and keeps the house in order. The fun quirk? Joe has another son by a previous wife (whom he left when he got Katie pregnant), and it’s time for that kid to come round for a visit, just at the moment when all of this other stuff starts to go to hell. Doesn’t it just figure?

Like I said, everything works out in the end. Don’t even worry about it. There are a couple of loose ends - including Joe’s fate at his job and the status of the relationship between Joe and his new friend Laura, who has a little girl who is Artie’s age - that director Scott Hicks leaves hanging; but most of the plot points are neatly resolved, as they are supposed to be. Does it matter that the main conflict in the movie, apart from Katie’s sudden death, turns on a couple of improbable incidents - losing a cell phone in an unlikely (and brief) bar fight, say - that make you wonder how much of the story screenwriter Allan Cubitt had to fabricate from Simon Carr’s memoir? Not really. Does it matter that there are seemingly interminable shots of the vast Pacific Ocean that seem meant to indicate how lost Joe fears he’s going to be if he actually has to try to be as good a father as his wife was a good mother? Not really.

It’s all just fluff and too many close-up shots that are either hastily or simply poorly composed, too many lines uttered in measured melodramatic cadence, and not nearly enough gnats and flies in a kitchen that Joe never makes much - correction, any - effort to clean up. “The place looked better when Artie’s mother was alive,” he says. There are a handful of genuinely moving emotional moments, about half of which occur in the surprisingly effective opening that kills off Joe’s wife; but most of the emotional punch is overwrought, and by the time we get around to an ending that is so cloyingly sweet and completely inorganic, you may have to be reminded that this film was based on a true story - because most of what you have seen smacks of bad fiction. Really bad fiction.

No comments: