Thursday, August 20, 2015


Elisabeth Moss stars in an indie drama titled like a festive sci-fi movie from the 1950s. And I wish it was.  It's an interesting title for a dreary movie full of upscale Caucasian angst.  This is a Millennial's version of a Woody Allen drama that was heavily inspired by psychological Ingmar Bergman movies.  Like Woody Allen's Interiors.  But it's nowhere near as good in the writing or direction. It's just days of whine and neuroses.
Moss, who created a memorable character on Mad Men with her excellent work as Peggy Olson, is very good in this feature.  There are other good actors in the cast.  However, they're playing some annoying upscale young adults who will not shut up with their neurotic complaints while relaxing at a big, comfortable lake house.  These are the kind of people who would find nothing wrong with paying nearly ten bucks for a buttered whole wheat bagel and a medium coffee at Whole Foods, but it would never occur to them to devote a couple of hours each month to doing volunteer work for the needy in financially-challenged neighborhoods.  And that's exactly what they should be doing so they could get over themselves.
If these irritating people were at the Last Supper with Jesus, He would've pulled the waitress aside and whispered "Forget the wine.  Bring me a Scotch.  Straight.  Make it a double.  And separate checks."

The movie opens with Ms. Moss in close-up as Catherine.  She's been crying. She's miserable.  She asks, "Why did you do this to me?"  There's drama regarding her father, apparently a celebrated artist who suffered from depression.  She's spending time with her best friend.  They grew up together but now they've started to grow apart.  They drink  coffee and complain about their love lives.  Two guys are on the scene too.  And there are confusing flashbacks to a previous vacation.  We don't quite learn what the drama regarding the father is -- and we should.  The best friend, Virginia, criticizes her friend, telling the guys "..she's hiding in her father's shadow."
They complain, drink coffee.  Complain, drink coffee.  But it is fascinating to watch Moss at work.  She goes from miserable to chipper to caustic and then seems to have a breakdown.  She's had MRIs.  But, as one of males tells her, she's seen several doctors and all her ailments seem to be psychosomatic.  That male is played nicely by handsome Patrick Fugit.  It's good to see him onscreen again.  You may not know the name, but he played the high school rock journalist on the road with a 1970s band called Stillwater in Cameron Crowe's wonderful Almost Famous.  You'll recognize him in the trailer.
Near the end when Moss' character says "I don't deserve this," I felt the same way about having to sit through the picture.  Queen of Earth is a bad title for this film.  Kvetch would be better.  The film opens August 25th.  It runs about 90 minutes.  Good actors, tiresome script.  If you use this as a date movie, you won't get laid.  Not unless your date is a New York shrink.

If want to stay in and rent a classic which has characters who feel they've emotionally or culturally outgrown someone once close, here are 5 DVD Tips:
1.  It's Always Fair Weather (1955).  Gene Kelly, Cyd Charisse, Dan Dailey and Michael Kidd (who choreographed Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse's numbers in Band Wagon) star in a musical about friendships and how they change as we change.  Three GIs who served in and survived WW2 celebrate the end of the war.  The promise to meet at the same bar ten years later to the day.  They do and they seem like strangers to each other.  We see how the three former buddies learn to bond again. Great dance numbers.
2.  Old Acquaintance (1943).  Two actresses who couldn't stand each other off-camera play best friends who grow up and grow apart.  Bette Davis, at the height of her Warner Bros. studio fame, plays the serious writer -- sort of like a Joyce Carol Oates.  The critics love her but she doesn't rack up major sales with the public.  Her somewhat featherheaded best friend decides to write and cranks out Jackie Collins-like books that are bestsellers.  There's love, marriage, career jealousy and the aging process that make this a fun movie to watch.  Miriam Hopkins (right) plays the novelist who's got more money than writing talent.  And she's the actress that Bette Davis wanted to whack upside the head with a skillet.
3.  Holiday (1938).  One of the movies Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant made together before The Philadelphia Story.  She comes from a wealthy family but has a working class charm and sensibility.  So does Johnny, her sister's charismatic, sincere fiancé.  Julia wants Johnny to fall in line and be like her father -- worship money and "the right kind of government."  She expects him to accept a job from her father and do as he's told.  Julia and her father seem to abhor liberal, independent thought.  Linda (Hepburn) realizes how much she's grown apart from her sister as she falls in love with her sister's fiancé.  And he secretly with her.
4.  Alice (1990).  Mia Farrow has never received an Oscar nomination.  Not for her outstanding work in Rosemary's Baby and not for any of the golden performances she gave in Woody Allen films.  Her performance in the sophisticated comedy/fantasy Alice should've earned her an Oscar nomination.  She's a rich, pampered, timid Manhattan wife whose life and priorities change when she takes an herb that enables her to become invisible.  When she can't be seen, she begins to see how she's grown apart from her cheating husband and how she's grown apart from her catty girlfriends.
5.  Angels With Dirty Faces (1938).  Warner Bros. was the top studio for gangster pics and social issue dramas in the 1930s.  This is one of the best with James Cagney in peak form.  Two boys grow up together in the mean streets of New York City.  Jerry, played by Pat O'Brien, grew up to become a priest.  Rocky, played by Cagney, becomes a notorious gangster.  They're still friends.  The priest works with tough kids to keep them from drifting into lives of crime.  But they see Rocky the gangster as glamorous role model.  Will Rocky go straight for his priest friend and possibly keep poor kids from going bad like he did?  Watch and see.  Cagney's last scene is a knock-out.

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