First, a note on my ratings. I will rate from four to one, with a four being a movie of excellent quality receiving my highest recommendation, and one being reserved for movies bearing an unfortunate resemblance to Home Fries. Ratings will also be based on my enjoyment of the movie, rather than its objective worth; Just to warn you, in addition to my love of Braveheart I have a weakness for Get Over It and some other movies at which many would scoff. So take my ratings with a Stewart's Soda of caution.
Life or Something Like It:
At the end of Life or Something Like It, I noticed something I don't normally notice. I was interested in seeing the credits to catch the names of the folks who were involved in the movie. Yet I was moved to immediately leave, a sentiment shared by the meager crowd after the film. Wallowing in this feeling for a moment, I thought of Braveheart, and my all time favorite movie, The Red Violin. After those movies I was so taken in I didn't think of moving from my seat until the curtain drew, and even after did so without full faculties. And this is what can be held against Life or Something Like It; it had no power, no depth that captivated. The concept is compelling, if unoriginal, and the preview left me with some amount of hope that the movie could shine. Yet it did not. The first culprit is the script. One of my major grudges against movies is that they paint background with a steamroller. Angelina Jolie, never a favorite of mine, has a character given no adequate drive in a role that demands it, and she does not provide the complexity herself. Her relationships and her past are charicatures that belong in a textbook or Lifetime Movie of the Week. No other character in the film is given more. As such, the movie is a disappointment. Ironically, though, the very lack of depth and intensity keep the movie from being horrid. And there are good points. Edward Burns shows what an actor can do with his body and face to overcome the script and deliver an resonating portrayal of a character, the movie generally avoids sappy poignancy about its theme of impending death, and the moments of reflection play well. Indeed, it is easy to find little wrong with such a movie; and I considered treading more lightly. Yet the point of the movie was a philosophical rebuttal of shallow materialism for substance and truth, a point undermined by the movies shallow tone. An adequate movie fine for a summer snack but useless for a winter night. I give this movie a 2.
Murder by Numbers:
Some movies grab your attention immediately and draw you in or turn you off. This is not one of those movies. Not until around the hour and fifteen minute mark of this movie did I realize that I was enjoying myself, and immediately begin wondering why. It was not the plot, which I view as a modern fictional take on the famed Leopold and Loeb murder (with its Clarence Darrow saga). It was not the writing, which was passable but lacking in brilliance. It was not the acting, which was good, and highlighted by an excellent performance by Ben Chaplin. It was not the company of my friend, though her stillness through the movie was shocking for someone who leaves her chair with the alacrity of a cat. I'm still not sure what exactly it is, but I'll credit the direction of Barbet Schroeder. The finest feature of the film is its patience. The movie moves at a pace dictated by the flow of the movie, giving it a natural feel in an era of MTV edits. The pace can be languid, and the movie is susceptible on that account; yet I enjoyed it. Also a fairly subtle movie, save the mostly regrettable Sandra Bullock subplot. For a movie that deals with murder and morality, it is amazing in its ability to avoid coming to a conclusion. It does not seem to work to avoid the issue; rather it seems that the direction focuses on the characters and stories so tightly that there is no time for its consideration, and it produces a feel that is eerie in its comfort. Perhaps a comment on our apathy to morality, more likely not, yet it enhances the story and the believability of the characters. I rate this movie a three.
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