January 24, 2003
In response to Natalie's despairing pleas to "post something, for fuck's sake", I've been diligent these past few days in sending stuff in.
Today, it's a heartlessly bitchy movie review.
As one of the unemployed and an aspiring shut-in, I've been watching quite a few films lately and recently had the misfortune to be subjected to one entitled "Forever Mine".
I knew nothing about this movie when I took it out from the library, which is how I prefer it. I've discovered quite a few gems this way. There are those times, however, when the whole thing goes horribly wrong....
This masterpiece, about a love triangle involving a sinister older man, a gelatinous ingénue and an obsessed cabana boy stars Ray Liotta, Joseph Fiennes and Gretchen Mol.
I actually liked Ray Liotta in one thing - Field of Dreams - but that was only because it was filmed during the 5 minutes he could remotely have been considered hot. Middle age has descended upon Ray like a particularly pitiless sledgehammer. He plays Mark Brice (or Bruce, I wasn't paying attention), the menacing politician husband of the female lead, Gretchen Mol.
I'd barely heard of Gretchen Mol (who plays "Ella") and after seeing her work in this, I'm grateful I managed to avoid her this long. She is blonde and banal, with a face on her like a slapped arse and at least two plainly discernible chins.
The "hero" is Alan, played by Joseph Fiennes - brother to the immensely irritating Ralph. Theirs is apparently a family with a great tradition in the theatuh and his background really comes out in this film - and not in a good way. Both brothers routinely give overwrought and operatic performances and both are so campy that I suspect neither will be pestering their parents with requests to babysit the kids.
Look - I live in Toronto. All Toronto women have extremely well-honed "gaydar" and I'd bet my bottom dollar that this boy is on the other bus. Not that there's anything wrong with that - unless you insist on filming him in bed with a woman. Yes, yes, I saw Shakespeare in Love I'M still not buying it. Maybe Gretchen smells, but all through the sex scenes, buddy looked like he'd rather be having a chat with the Staszi.
But on with the tale.
The movie starts by introducing us to Alan, a callow cabana boy employed at a luxury beach resort. One day, as he is handing out towels to a guest, he looks out to the ocean to see a woman emerging from the waves - it's Ella (Gretchen and her chins, making their wobbling debut in this deathless oeuvre). Alan is smitten. Ella is married. Mark is ominous and volatile and determined to keep Ella's chins all to himself.
Alan strikes up a flimsy acquaintance with the toothsome young bride and proceeds to subject her to his oily charms. She succumbs with what appears to be palpable dismay and before you know it, the pair embark on the most dreary shagfest ever committed to film. (Just as an aside, aren't the really easy chicks supposed to enjoy it more?) Watching the grisly duo writhe in simulated lust, I actually felt a moment of compassion for poor old Gretchen. Perhaps she had bills to pay but as Fiennes grudgingly clutches at her, you can tell that her heart really isn't it in. You can see it in her eyes: she's cursing herself for doing this movie instead of a commercial for Preparation H.
I can't really blame her - Fiennes comports himself like the worst lay you've ever had or even heard about. He is reluctant and eager at the same time, poking and kneading at her with grim resignation, apparently determined to get the damn thing over with. I felt a stab of pity as I watched Gretchen gamely endure his inept attentions but after a moment, I had to look away. Oh the humanity.
The affair continues despite the dark secret that causes Ella to bless herself all the time -she's Catholic. In grand Catholic girl tradition, she shags him rotten (and I do mean that literally) despite her guilt, then gives him her rosary as a keepsake. (As a Catholic girl myself, this was the only part of the movie I enjoyed: it's so kinky.)
She must let him go, she tells him and for some reason (insidious Catholicism?), she tells her husband Mark all about her fling.
Mark doesn't take the news at all well, which I suppose is understandable since he and Ella have only been married for 8 months. Mark makes her promise never to see Alan again, and then proceeds to set the hapless cabana boy up in a rather contrived drug bust.
As he faces his rival at the police station, Mark snarls:
"Listen to me. The police are awaiting your records from Dade County. I understand that's going to make you a second time offender." (The first offence presumably being his performance in this) "You'd be well advised to make your peace with me. We can proceed to trial or we can drop it on a technicality. It's up to you."
Alan stares back unflinchingly into Mark's face, pauses and launches into the following speech (produced here verbatim):
"Everything has a purpose. It is my purpose to be with Ella. Nothing can change that - not you, not the police, not the courts. It's just a fact....like plants turning to the sun or death or taxes..."
"What is this gibberish?" interrupts Mark, asking the most rational question in the whole movie (and the one I'd been asking myself since I hit "play"). "Nobody talks like this! Make sense!"
Sadly, Alan declines to accept this extremely sensible advice and winds up in jail (where the choice of sexual partner is no doubt much more to his liking).
Through some ridiculous plot contrivance, he is busted out of jail in the clutches of Mark's goons who have been ordered by their boss to "rub him out". They spirit him away to a "remote location".
Now I'm generally pretty squeamish about movie violence and usually fast forward through it. This time, however, I was determined - no, eager - to see the boys put the boots to Alan, preferably with satisfying thoroughness. However, all they did was shoot him in the side of the face and dump him in the foundations of a building.
If there is indeed a merciful God, you'd think that would be the end of it. But no - Alan miraculously makes his way out of this predicament. The next few scenes find him in the company of a drug dealer friend. We are spared the full extent of his smarmy earnestness through the judicious use of a bandage that covers most of his face.
I should add that in this getup, he looks exactly like an uncircumcised penis, which leads me to believe that the director either had a sense of humour or some insight into the quality of his project. But I digress.
Alan predictably vows vengeance on Mark and overcomes his scruples sufficiently to become involved in a huge coke deal - conduct he had previously eschewed as dangerous and ill-advised. Well, principles are one thing but buddy's got his blood up and makes an apparently effortless transition from loser horndog on the run to an underworld "fixer" of legendary power and status.
Years pass - Alan has acquired a cheesy name ("Escobar"), a really bad Colombian accent and a goatee that belongs on a muppet. This disguise, however, is sufficient to baffle Mark completely when Mark engages "Escobar" to keep him out of jail following some political misdeeds.
"Escobar" is invited to Mark and Ella's home for dinner. He approaches the house and watches hungrily through the window as Ella and her chins descend the staircase. She opens the door -nothing. Now apart from a receding hairline and a lame prosthetic on the side of his face, he looks exactly the same. Wasn't this the man of her dreams? Doesn't she even notice a passing resemblance to the cabana boy she was shagging a few chins ago?
"Escobar" makes some lame come on that wouldn't have sounded coherent to a cougar after 14 tequilas, but slapper that she is, Ella goes for it. She agrees to see him again.
Several days later, they meet for a drink. "I'm not sure why I'm here", she says. "I got the impression that you were Catholic", he replies. Understandably affronted by the implications of this remark, she storms from the bar, but in her haste she forgets her keys. He rushes after her and gives her his card. They part.
The next scene has Gretchen reading a fairy tale to a group of drooling old women in wheelchairs - a bit of business so obviously out of place, I can only conclude that it's a preview of the next acting job she'll get.
We are then treated to several views of Ella's quivering chins as she agonizes about what to do. Shag a complete stranger yet again? Well, why argue with success? She calls him - but he's not there.
As luck would have it, he's wandering around her darkened house (Jeez, for a guy with Mark's connections, you'd think he'd have better security), casting brooding glances around him as he slips into her gloomy bedroom and returns her rosary to her nightstand.
But wait! She's home - "Is anybody there?" she calls out in a tremulous voice. "Who is it?"
At this, "Escobar" steps manfully from the shadows. "Why are you here?" she asks.
"I came for you," he replies. "I don't care if your husband goes to jail. You're all I care about. I came for you. Think about it - this time."
"Alan?" she whispers, barely daring to hope.
"Yes," he replies, to a swell of violins. She throws back her chins and plants one on him.
"You will never be as loved as you are at this moment", he declaims, repeating the line that got him laid all those years ago. He drops his accent, then his drawers and in no time at all, they're at it in her marital bed - the scene being slightly less bearable a spectacle than watching your grandparents have sex.
Again, the lovers part, and this time Ella keeps her mouth shut.
"Escobar" meets with Mark the next day at his office and in short order, the boys get down to business. He's worked out a plea deal for Mark that would see Mark go to the Big House for 1 to 3. "There's one other condition", says "Escobar". "I want to take your wife. I love your wife and she loves me."
Mark goes berserk (what can that girl do with those chins?! Must be compelling indeed) and orders his henchmen to discover his erstwhile advisor's provenance.
Meanwhile, our hero decides he's going to take the money and the girl and "disappear". Now, I realize that there are ugly people everywhere, but this guy would stand out at a sideshow. Where exactly does he expect to blend in?
Mark races home to find his wife already on the run with her One True Love. They've driven off into a cabin in the woods, where Mark tracks them down. Ella is off somewhere and Mark finds Alan alone. He's looking for vengeance. "Fucking cabana boy" he snarls, the penny having finally dropped. "I should have killed you myself!"
"Think what would happen to you" pleads Alan, in a desperate attempt to reason with the enraged cuckold.
"I don't care what happens to me!" he yells. "Fuck me!"
"I didn't recognize you" he continues, then shoots our hero in the hand. Wounded, Alan falls back into a chair but Mark is on him like a tiger, stabbing the muzzle of the gun into Alan's face. While most people would realize that this might be a good time to shut up, Alan is oblivious. "You don't love her" he says to Mark, "Love is pure, unselfish -"
And right about now, I'm thinking I could forgive Liotta for this entire performance if he would just pull the trigger but he teases us by shooting Alan non-fatally. At this point, Ella shows up with a shotgun and I think she kills Mark. Someone does anyway, and Mark dies.... but the damage is done.
Alan is dying, predictably in her arms. The music swells as we see Ella, her chins waving nobly in the breeze, gaze out soulfully into the horizon while cradling her dead lover in her arms. All her money, all her possessions, none of it will be of any solace to her because It Is All So Meaningless Now.
What a piece of shit.
Till next time,