I was going to extol the merits of Stephan Elliot’s Easy Virtue (2008), but the good Film Doctor has jotted down nine reasons for liking the picture, winning my agreement on most points. Critically and commercially unnoticed, it’s that rare thing, an improvement on a Noel Coward original boasting a superlative lead performance by Jessica Biel (yes, that Jessica Biel), to say nothing of excellent work by both Kristin Scott Thomas and Colin Firth. Hitchcock made a version of it in 1927 — a silent film of a Coward play — and I must admit that Elliot has indeed bested The Master.
I’ve long wondered why Maria Bello’s career hasn’t generated any heat. Mostly relegated to secondary parts since making her film debut in 1992 at the age of twenty-five (she initially studied to become a lawyer), Maria didn’t catch my attention until A History of Violence (2005) and The Jane Austen Book Club (2007). She’s capable, talented, attractive… so where’s the beef, the money shot? I thought I’d find it in The Sisters (2005), Arthur Allan Seidelman’s film of Anton Chekov’s The Three Sisters as reinterpreted by playwright Richard Alfieri. Not only was I wrong, but I found the thing to be depressing evidence of her thespic limitations. Alfieri’s dysfunctional family drama is ridiculously overwrought and artificial on its own, owing less to Chekov than to All About Eve, but Maria has been disastrously cast adrift in the Margot Channing part. Alfieri is no Joe Mankiewicz and Maria is most assuredly no Bette Davis. To borrow from the haughty vernacular, what’ta dump!
Above: Angie distracts Flickhead, Nelhydrea Paupér and Newton C. Smildge at their favorite diner
Needing a fix for my Angelina Jolie jones, I checked out Mojave Moon (1996). It’s a variation on the Something Wild formula, a square dude (Danny Aiello) swept up in the maelstrom of twenty-one-year-old free spirit Angie (as ‘Eleanor Rigby’). Michael Biehn overplays the Ray Liotta part, and lovely Anne Archer wanders about in a haze. It’s nothing special, but AJ shines in three or four choice moments, going the distance for her art by appearing gloriously topless in a shower scene. Her mountainous orbs are truly magnificent and without peer. On a related note, I’ve never been blown away by tattoos, but hers interest me. Here’s a site which deciphers them all!