Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews
- Category: Jacqueline Monahan
- Published on 13 November 2008
- Written by Administrator
Las Vegas Round The Clock - http://www.lasvegasroundtheclock.com
Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
These days, a promising title may be approached with anticipation, coupled with, unfortunately, more than a little trepidation. The great premise hinted at by HTLFAAP should have worked, and could have made a vehicle for showing us the glitzy, shallow, seemingly fabulous world of A-list celebrities and the exclusive events they attend – recorded by the ever-present entertainment journalists/sycophants who must forego more newsworthy pursuits for puff pieces designed to sell movie tickets and glossy, star-laden magazines.
Sidney Young (Simon Pegg) works for The Post-Modern Review, a gossip-filled tabloid rag in London. Run on a shoestring budget, Young is free to skewer his celebrity prey in all manner of irreverent ways. He’s suddenly plucked from across the pond to join the staff of New York magazine Sharps by Executive Editor Clayton Harding (Jeff Bridges) a cynical hipster who appreciates sarcasm. Co-worker and immediate supervisor Allison Oleson (Kirsten Dunst) dislikes the newcomer intensely, standard Hollywood formula that translates into eventual devotion by film’s end. In the meantime, the couple who don’t know that they are destined for one another spar and snipe incessantly so that we don’t know what the coming attraction is all about as well.
Young falls for rising starlet Sophie Maes (Megan Fox), whose publicist (Gillian Anderson) is an opportunistic viper in designer suits and stilettos that are no less deadly because they are shoes. Maes is a sexy newcomer, portraying the life of none other than Nobel Prize winning nun and sainthood candidate Mother Teresa in her own vacant, surgically enhanced kind of way.
Deputy Editor Lawrence Maddox (Danny Huston) doesn’t mind skirting all kinds of rules himself, never letting pesky morality get in the way of profit or marital fidelity. He drinks White Russians so we can identify him – there’s really no other way – he’s that interesting and pivotal a character.
At first, Young tries to inject his signature invective into his stories (isn’t that what attracted Harding to his work in the first place?) but gets nowhere until he gives in to the prevailing wind of kiss-ups and idol worshipers that thrive in the rarified climate of demi-gods existing on both coasts of the U.S. Then he prospers beyond his wildest dreams, but is he really happy? And what would make him happy? These two questions probably constitute a spoiler so I apologize in advance.
Young’s and we follow him because we’ve got no other choice, not because we sympathize, relate, or care. Material that could have had bite lapses into reliable slapstick mishaps and embarrassing misunderstandings with his landlady Mrs. Kowalski (Miriam Margolyes) and Harding’s wife (Jane Perry). Add a formally dressed pig on a leash to a black tie event and a deceased Chihuahua for extra laughs and you get the general level of the film’s humor.
Simon Pegg has turned in much better performances in Shaun of the Dead and Run, Fatboy Run, where he’s allowed to be a sympathetic square Pegg instead of an obnoxious celebrity shill. Kirsten Dunst and Jeff Bridges try to pull some integrity out of their thankless roles, but have to settle for being cinematic wallpaper. Bridges is fun to watch as the pompous Harding. Fox pokes fun at herself as the sexpot who plays Mother Teresa with a straight face despite the lip gloss and heaving bosom.
HTLFAAP is based on Toby Young’s 2002 memoir of the same name detailing his stint as a celebrity reporter for Vanity Fair. Young and screenwriter Peter Straughan (Mrs. Ratcliffe’s Revolution) translate his adventures to the big screen in a way that prizes broad stereotypical humor and predictability over any type of originality. Any subject matter can be made interesting in the right hands. Remember 1988’s Stand and Deliver? That was about the AP Calculus test, and who’d imagine THAT topic would hold someone’s attention more than celebrity worship? Yes, it can (and has) been done.
Director Robert B. Weide (TV’s Curb Your Enthusiasm) should know his way around a comedy and tries hard for a lift-off with a lot of promising material and a formidable cast. Somehow the whole thing just doesn’t launch into the world of celebrity satellites it’s supposed to expose, but stays earth-bound and static.
Perhaps a more appropriate title would have been “How to Lose Interest and Alienate Audiences.” It wouldn’t have improved the film but would have provided much better truth in advertising.