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Film Openings

Week of November 23, 2005

OPENING

Bee Season. (PG-13) Sixth-grader Eliza Naumann (Flora Cross) lives with her parents (Richard Gere, Juliette Binoche) and favored older brother Aaron (Max Minghella) in the Oakland hills. With its burnished wood walls, the home stands for solidity and gravity: Here is a serious family engaged in noble pursuits. But that image unravels soon enough. Family dynamics begin to shift when Eliza, a shy girl who knows her place, reveals a talent for spelling. Once father Saul gets wind of her gift, he takes her into his office for lessons, brushing aside Aaron and his violin. Saul is a student of ancient Jewish mysticism, and he uses it to teach Eliza to divine orthography. He promotes the mystical idea of mending the shattered vessels of the world; meanwhile he drives his family to pieces. Based on the best-selling novel by Myla Goldberg, Bee Season is largely a mistake of an adaptation, burdened with miscasting (Gere, a Jew?) and with such obsessively belabored metaphors that it's likely to turn people against the idea of healing altogether. (Melissa Levine) RON, STCH, TV

Côte d'Azur. (Not Rated) Sex is on everybody's mind in this breezy, insouciant French film from writer/directors Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau. A comedy — not a farce, thank heavens — about confused identities, misunderstandings, hidden truths, and sexual shenanigans, it's well acted by an unusually likable cast. Béatrix (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi), her husband Marc (Gilbert Melki), and their two teenage kids are summering on the Riviera. When her son's out-of-the-closet friend comes for a visit, Béatrix decides that Charly, too, is gay. She thinks it's sweet, while Marc is upset by the thought. Secret rendezvous, bold indiscretions, and unexpected reunions up the ante for everybody. Bruni-Tedeschi is delightful, Charly (Romain Torres) exudes an appealing naïveté, and the incredibly sexy Jean-Marc Barr, who plays the gay plumber Didier, will send audience members gay and straight into paroxysms of lustful fantasy. The film's ending, when the entire cast breaks into song and dance à la Jacques Demy, is too far over the top, even for this confection. (Jean Oppenheimer) TV

Forty Shades of Blue. (Not Rated) Rip Torn has become so familiar as a comedy face in recent years that it's an eye-opener to see him do something more serious, even if the role is a bit of a hoary standby: the larger-than-life crotchety father who was seldom there for his now-bitter adult son (Darren E. Burrows). Unfortunately, the focus of Ira Sachs' film isn't Torn — it's Russian actress Dina Korzun as his lover, who briefly becomes involved with the son as well. Sachs isn't that concerned with narrative, telling his story in a slow-moving portrait style reminiscent of David Gordon Green, but he's not operating at the same skill level. Korzun and Burrows give such blank, inexpressive performances that it's tough to care. Of course, the fact that we never really do get into their heads may allow some viewers to project their own feelings onto the characters, and thereby think the movie is "deep." It isn't. Only Torn feels remotely like a real person. (Luke Y. Thompson) TV

The Ice Harvest. (R) (Reviewed in this issue.) ARN, CPP, CC12, DP, GL, J14, KEN, MR, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, WO

In the Mix. The good thing about being just mediocre is that no one expects that much out of you. Usher should've thought of that before he unwittingly saved the life of a Mafia princess in In the Mix. Because then he gets stuck with the job of protecting her, like, all the time. He should have just gone back to being the city's hottest DJ. But what kind of movie would that be, friends? (not reviewed) ARN, CGX, CC12, DP, EG, EQ, J14, KEN, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, WO

Just Friends. (PG-13) Ryan Reynolds is a slick music exec named Chris Brander, still traumatized at having gotten the "Let's just be friends" speech from the girl of his dreams when he was younger and fatter; Anna Faris is an insane model-turned-singer named Samantha James, a nightmarish hybrid of Paris Hilton and Ashlee Simpson who insists on being taken seriously as an artist and harbors a deranged crush on Chris, who slept with her once and regrets it. Reynolds and Faris play off each other beautifully, but unfortunately that's not the point of the movie. Faris pretty much disappears about a third of the way through so that the story can focus on Chris and the girl he was once "just friends" with, Jamie Palamino (Amy Smart). Desperate to right all the wrongs done to him when he was uncool, Chris relentlessly beats up on his younger brother and resorts to childishness in dealing with others, including Jamie, because he can. It's a funny movie, but a lot funnier when it's Reynolds-Faris rather than Reynolds-Smart. (Thompson) ARN, CGX, CW10, CC12, DP, EG, EQ, J14, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, WO

Rent. (PG-13) (Reviewed in this issue.) ARN, CPP, CGX, CW10, CC12, DP, J14, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, WO

Ushpizin. (PG) A good-hearted movie aimed at Orthodox Jews who don't normally go to the movies, Giddi Dar's film feels more inclusive and accessible to outsiders than similar movies aimed at specific faiths — which is the whole point. It's about welcoming outsiders during the Succoth festival, when true believers build and live in temporary shelters as a reminder of the nomadic history of the Jews. Moshe (Shuli Rand) and Malli (Michal Bat-Sheva Rand) are a penniless couple who can't afford to build a shelter, then happen to find one along with a handsome cash donation. But Moshe has a dark past as a violent criminal, and when a friend from the old days (Shaul Mizrahi) shows up with a shady cohort (Ilan Ganani), having escaped from prison, tradition requires Moshe to be a hospitable host, a duty that pushes him to the breaking point. The film extols the virtues of charity and generosity without sugar-coating the difficulty of same, and if it opens viewers' eyes to a strange culture, so much the better. (Thompson) PF

Yours, Mine & Ours. (PG) (Reviewed in this issue.) ARN, CGX, CC12, DP, EG, EQ, GL, J14, KEN, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, WO

 
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