The year after Friends ended, Aniston made two films, one of which, Derailed we’ll cover in the coming weeks. The other is an odd identity crisis comedy/drama based on the idea of The Graduate being a true story related to Aniston’s character. Aniston pretty much carries the film, which, amongst the weirdness, almost saves it.
FILM: Rumour Has It…
DIRECTOR: Rob Reiner
CHARACTER NAME AND PROFESSION: Sarah Huttinger, Obituary Columnist
PLOT SUMMARY: Recently engaged Sarah and Jeff (Mark Ruffalo) fly to Sarah’s sister’s wedding in Pasadena. Sarah feels like an outsider in her own family and doesn’t know why, she’s also unsure about marrying Jeff. When he figures out that Sarah must have been conceived before her parents wedding, she insists that her mother (who died years earlier) must have had an affair with someone before she got married. Sarah questions her Grandmother, Katharine (Shirley MacLaine) and discovers that her mother ran off to Mexico and had an affair with a man called Beau Burroughs (Kevin Costner) before the wedding, and that this story became the basis for the book/movie/play, The Graduate. Sarah sets off to find out if Beau is her biological father.
CHARACTER TRAITS: Withdrawn, introverted, insecure, caring, thoughtful.
NOTES ON PERFORMANCE: Aniston underplays for the most part here, portraying Sarah as someone really lost, but trying to keep it together. She handles Sarah’s arc very convincingly, and any awkward moments seem more down to the screenplay and direction than anything else. (See the moment she thinks she might have slept with her Dad – 1. Why include this scene? 2. Why play her reaction for laughs when it’s clearly a horrifying prospect?
NOTES ON FILM: This is an odd one. The film’s writer, Ted Griffin previously penned Ocean’s Eleven and Matchstick Men, so clearly had some successes to his name, he’s also from Pasadena, which explains his interest in depicting the particular gossip mill of the area. Director Rob Reiner, is half responsible for When Harry Met Sally, one of the greatest comedies of all time, so the missteps in this film are curious. What’s good about it, is that it at least focuses on Sarah’s identity crisis, and leads towards her eventual closeness with her sister. What doesn’t work is the way this potentially thoughtful subject is explored – through perfunctory sexual encounters (with zero chemistry thanks to Costner) and ‘comedic’ incest issues. Sarah and Jeff do not seem like a good fit from the start, and the film doesn’t totally convince in concluding that Sarah just needs to appreciate what she’s got. One other note: Shirley MacLaine is excellent, as usual.
CONCLUSION: Aniston gets through it, and Ruffalo is charming, but this is just feels like Aniston testing out themes she’s explored better elsewhere (See Friends with Money, 2006).
Despite 2012 being the year Alfred Hitchcock was consistently celebrated; with a retrospective at the BFI in London, including restorations of his early, silent films – the ‘Rescue the Hitchcock 9’ project, which was part of the Cultural Olympiad; and two films The Girl (Julian Jarrold) and Hitchcock (Sacha Gervasi, released on 8 February), I still didn’t manage to catch up on the great director’s entire work. So, to continue my efforts The Trouble with Harry (1955) was this week’s Hitch selection. Set in a quiet and picturesque New England town, the film opens with Captain Albert Wiles (Edmund Gwenn) talking to himself as he seeks the victim of a morning’s hunt, whilst young Arnie (Jerry Mathers) plays alone nearby. The Captain’s chatter can be taken as an idiosyncrasy of the character or more likely – a self conscious way to guide the viewer as to his thoughts and motivations as he goes about trying to decide what to do with Harry’s corpse. A true dark comedy in keeping with Hitchcock’s oeuvre, but without any pretensions towards being his usual thriller; the main attraction in this uneven film is the debut of Shirley MacLaine as Harry’s widow, Jennifer Rogers – mother to Arnie. MacLaine manages to raise herself above what results as an unnecessary romantic through-line, pretty much upstaging the arrogant (and annoying) Sam Marlowe (John Forsythe) – at least until the inevitable matrimonial union. Its undoubtedly enjoyable and The Trouble with Harry may feature some gorgeous landscape shots, unusually for the studio-loving Hitch, but it can’t escape the throwaway nature of the script which tries too hard to tie up all loose ends.
Starting this week at Filmhouse and the BFI Southbank is a retrospective of works by esteemed director, Roman Polanski, including some lesser-seen early gems. Knife in the Water (1962), his first feature film as director is a tense tale with a very simple plot – a couple go sailing and take a hitchhiker with them. What results is a struggle of power as Andrzej (Leon Niemczyk) essentially shows off in front of their student guest, testing the loyalty of his patient wife, Krystyna (Jolanta Umecka). The claustrophobia of the boat – staying onboard and being confined by the water surrounding them – is suggested perfectly in Polanski’s use of deep focus, never letting the immediate interactions lose association with the activities of the other character(s).
There’s also a wry sense of humour on display such as a visual gag that sees the unnamed ‘young man’ as Christ, implying the initial parent-child dynamic of this unlikely trio. At the screening I attended in Edinburgh the audience were also most amused by the jibes at Krystyna’s inflatable crocodile and her unexpected deception of her oblivious husband. With a screenplay by Jerzy Skolimowski, one couldn’t help noticing his influences elsewhere, such as Andrzej listening to a radio broadcast of a boxing match and the liberal use of frenetic Jazz on the soundtrack for moments of high tension. Skolimowski also co-wrote the screenplay for Wadja’s Innocent Sorcerers (1960)in which he appears as a boxer, (alongside Polanski as a musician) making Knife in the Water a clear product of the director’s then regular collaborators amongst the Polish Film School.
Also watched: John Landis’ comedic take on The Prince and the Pauper, Trading Places (1983) which brought to mind the legacy of slavery (now with added pop culture thanks to Django Unchained) in its depiction of men’s clubs staffed exclusively by African Americans.