January 14, 2008

We saw The Orphanage on Saturday, which was watchable enough up to a certain point, if totally familiar. What I really liked about it was that every actor in the movie, in addition to being very talented, looked like someone you might actually see in the grocery store or sit next to on the bus. It was a refreshing change. So basically it was kind of like The Others mixed with Dark Water.

(It doesn’t do me any credit, but one of the high points of the movie was when the obnoxious group of audience members fled at the first hint of a subtitle. I’d been dreading them as they complained about all those stairs you had to climb to get to their preferred seats, screamed at each other for Raisinettes, and laughed raucously at and quoted dialogue from the Meet the Spartans trailer. As soon as they realized they’d have to read the movie, they took off for another theatre, and everyone was happier.)

That night, we watched Knocked Up, and I can’t tell you how pleasantly surprised I was by it. I’m not even sure why I rented it in the first place, because I learned from bitter experience (Sideways) that unanimous critical praise for a movie dedicated to developmentally arrested heterosexual males doesn’t mean I’ll enjoy a single minute of it, but this was a treat. Now I’m going to have to put more Judd Apatow stuff in the queue.

I’d also developed a weird resistance to Katherine Heigl, mostly because she’s the designated It Girl of the moment, and bitter experience (Kate Hudson) has led me to distrust such coronations. But she’s really good, combining the qualities I find charming in Gwynneth Paltrow and Lisa Kudrow without either’s pitfalls. Leslie Mann was a total revelation, combining qualities I enjoy in several actresses who have no pitfalls (Madeline Kahn, Deborah Rush, and Rachael Harris) but bringing her own distinctive style to the mix. It seemed to take Seth Rogan a bit to find his footing, but I ended up liking him a lot too.

But what I particularly liked about the movie was that it dealt with character rather than tired gender constructs. It used some of those constructs but mostly just to undermine them, which was nice. Everyone got to be right about something, and their moments of wrongness weren’t inexcusably obnoxious. I’m not articulating this very well, so I’ll just quote A.O. Scott from The New York Times:

“‘The 40-Year-Old Virgin’ and ‘Knocked Up’ are, primarily, movies about men, but Mr. Apatow is too smart, and too curious, to imprison the women in these films in the usual static roles of shrew, sexpot or sensible surrogate mom. Alison is not just Ben’s foil, and Mr. Apatow recognizes that her confusion and anxiety are, ultimately, far more acute and consequential than Ben’s. It’s her body and her future on the line, after all.”

The last movie we watched part of was The Invisible, which was crap. It’s about some obnoxious high-school kid who has to solve his own murder. It’s like a really long episode of The Ghost Whisperer but without any sympathetic characters, snappy dialogue, or endearing cheese. The movie did seem to have a big crush on Donnie Darko, though it didn’t result in anything worth watching.