“TWO WEEKS NOTICE” (2002) Review

“TWO WEEKS NOTICE” (2002) Review

If I must be brutally honest, the age of Hollywood romantic comedies had bid its farewell a long time ago. Although the film industry has released a small share of movies in this genre in the past thirty or forty years, a good number of them simply failed to measure up to the numerous romantic comedies that came from the Hollywood studios – especially between 1934 and 1965.

But . . . there have been a handful of these comedies released in the last thirty years that managed to catch my eye. One of them is the 2002 comedy called “TWO WEEKS NOTICE”. Written and directed by Marc Lawrence, the movie starred Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant. “TWO WEEKS NOTICE” was a box office hit, but it attracted mix reviews from the critics. I have only read one review of the film, in which its writer described the film as flaccid. But after watching the film, I do not think I could agree with this assessment.

“TWO WEEKS NOTICE” is about the relationship between a liberal lawyer named Lucy Kelson, who specializes in environmental law in New York City; and George Wade, an immature billionaire real estate tycoon who has almost everything and knows almost nothing. When Lucy meets George in an attempt to stop the destruction of a Coney Island community center, he hires her to replace his former Chief Counsel on the promise to protect the community center if she agrees to work for him. Within a year, Lucy not only ends up working for George’s company, but also giving advice on all aspects of his life . . . literally becoming his indispensable aide. But when George tricks her into leaving a friend’s wedding because he is unable to choose an outfit for an event, Lucy decides she has had enough and gives him her two weeks’ notice of resignation. However, matters become difficult when George blocks Lucy’s attempt to find another job. When he finally agrees to find a replacement, George considers an attractive law school graduate named June Carver . . . and Lucy is surprised to find herself becoming jealous.

Remember when I had earlier stated that I disagree with one critic’s opinion that “TWO WEEKS NOTICE” was flaccid? I am sticking with my assessment. It is not the kind of comedy that produces belly laughs. Although, I admit there were quite a few in the movie. And if I must be brutally honest, it is not exactly what I would call an original romantic comedy. I have come across movies with a similar style or characterizations. But I still managed to enjoy the movie. A lot. Original or not, I liked Marc Lawrence’s story very much. I thought he did a very good job in not only developing Lucy and George’s characterizations, but also their relationship. The movie featured some very funny scenes – including George’s first meeting with Lucy’s father and disapproving mother, George’s interruption of the wedding that Lucy was attending, their night at a New York Mets game, Lucy’s attempt to manipulate George’s brother (the senior executive in the Wade organization) into firing her, George’s mistaken assumption that one of the job applicants was pregnant, and the entire tennis party sequence that ended with George helping Lucy find a bathroom or restroom on the road back to New York City. Damn, that is a lot. But the best thing I liked about “TWO WEEKS NOTICE” were the leads Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant. I do not know if they ever liked each other behind the scenes (and honestly, I do not care), but it seemed obvious to me that on screen, Bullock and Grant were magic together.

“TWO WEEKS NOTICE” was not perfect. Like I had earlier stated, it was not particularly original. Neither was John Powell’s score. I enjoyed the songs not written by Powell a lot more than I did his music. And I am still confused over how George’s older brother, the humorless Howard Wade, managed to threatened George’s loss of funds if the latter did not drop the project to save the Coney Island community center. I suppose other critics were able to find more faults with the movie. However, this was the best I could do.

I have already praised Bullock and Grant’s on screen chemistry. But I never said anything else about their performances. Lucy Kelson is one of my favorite roles ever portrayed by Bullock. On paper, a hardcore liberal attorney might seem like an ideal role. Thankfully, Bullock did not portray Lucy as ideal. She skillfully included many of Lucy’s faults as well, making the character a fully fleshed character. On the other hand, George Wade IS my favorite Hugh Grant role. Before “TWO WEEKS NOTICE”, Grant had became known for his collection of stammering, yet charming characters that made him a star. He broke out of this rut with his portrayal of a womanizing rogue in 2001’s “BRIDGET JONES’ DIARY”. George Wade was a interesting mixture of his stammering charmers and his roguish character from the latter film. More importantly, he did an excellent job of developing George’s character from this likable, yet self-involved man to one who had to learn to grow up in order to be with a woman he truly loved.

“TWO WEEKS NOTICE” also featured some excellent supporting performances. Both Robert Klein and Dana Ivey were wonderful as Lucy’s parents – the easy going and slightly sarcastic Larry Kelson and the no nonsense Ruth Kelson, who proved to be even more hardcore than her daughter. Alicia Witt gave a charming performance as Lucy’s possible replacement, who forced the other woman to face her true feelings about George. Dorian Missick was rather funny as George’s friend and chauffeur, Tony. He was especially hilarious in one scene in which his character tries to explain the “mystery of women” to George. Francie Swift gave a brief, yet funny performance as George’s bitchy soon-to-be ex-wife. And both David Haig and Charlotte Maier proved one could be funny while portraying George’s humorless and staid brother and sister-in-law, Howard and Lauren Wade.

I suspect I am among the minority who genuinely like “TWO WEEKS NOTICE”. But you know what? Who cares? There is no law that I have to agree with every movie critic or the opinion of every film fan that catches my attention. I enjoyed “TWO WEEKS NOTICE” very much. I enjoyed its story and humor, thanks to Marc Lawrence’s screenplay and direction. I enjoyed László Kovács’ beautiful photography of New York City and I especially enjoyed the performances of the cast led by Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant. I enjoyed “TWO WEEKS NOTICE” and I feel that is nothing to feel ashamed about.

Top Five Favorite “HOUSE OF CARDS” Season One (2013) Episodes

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Below is a list of my top five favorite episodes from Season One of Netflix’s series, “HOUSE OF CARDS”, a remake of the 1994 BBC miniseries that was based upon Michael Dobbs’ 1989 novel. Produced and developed by Beau Willimon, the series stars Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright. 

 

“TOP FIVE FAVORITE “HOUSE OF CARDS” SEASON ONE (2013) Episodes

Chapter 5

1. “Chapter Five” – Congressman Frank Underwood’s feud against a union over the Education Bill threatens his wife Claire’s charity gala and her own ambitions. And journalist Zoe Barnes mixes work with play.

Chapter 11

2. “Chapter Eleven” – Angry at Frank, Claire reconnects with former flame, photojournalist Adam Galloway. And when junior Congressman Peter Russo wrestles with his personal demons and considers confessing his and Frank’s sins, the latters decides that he has become a liability that needs to be eliminated.

Chapter 2

3. “Chapter Two” – Utilizing Zoe’s help, Frank plants a story that loosely ties Michael Kern, the President’s pick for Secretary of State, to an anti-Israel editorial that appeared in the college newspaper Kern edited.

Chapter 6

4. “Chapter Six” – Frank strikes back at the striking teachers by undermining the credibility of the teachers’ union representative, Martin Spinella. Claire is caught off guard by a deathbed confession from one of Frank’s personal bodyguards.

Chapter 13

5. “Chapter Thirteen” – Frank accepts the recently vacated Vice-President post from the President. Claire learns that she is being sued for wrongful termination by a former employee. And Zoe becomes increasingly aware of Frank’s plots in this season finale.

“THE GREAT GATSBY” (2000) Review

 

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“THE GREAT GATSBY” (2000) Review

I am amazed at how long I have ignored F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 opus, “The Great Gatsby”. I saw the 1974 movie adaptation of the novel years ago, but I found it difficult to appreciate the story. It was not until I saw Baz Luhrmann’s recent adaptation that my full interest in the story was finally ignited. After watching that particular film, I came across this adaptation that aired on the A&E Channel in 2000. 

Directed by Robert Markowitz and adapted by John J. McLaughlin, “THE GREAT GATSBY” is a 90 minute teleplay set in the early years of the Jazz Age. The movie told the story of a mysterious young millionaire named Jay Gatsby, who settles in a large house on the West Egg side (for the newly rich) on prosperous Long Island. Narrated by Gatsby’s neighbor; the well-born, yet impoverished Nick Carraway; audiences become aware of the millionaire’s desire to woo and win back the heart of Daisy Fay Buchanan, an old love he had first met during World War I, who also happens to be Nick’s cousin. However, standing in Gatsby’s way is Daisy’s wealthy and boorish husband and Nick’s former Yale schoolmate, Tom Buchanan; Daisy’s own uncertainty about a serious relationship with the lovesick Gatsby and the latter’s questionable origin of his fortune. This clash between class and romantic aspirations leads to an emotional clash in a New York City hotel suite and later, tragedy and death.

There are some aspects of “THE GREAT GATSBY” that I found admirable. The best aspect of this television movie proved to be the showdown between Jay Gatsby and Tom Buchanan for the love of one Daisy Fay Buchanan. I thought it was well-acted – especially by Mira Sorvino and Martin Donovan as the Buchanans. And director Robert Markowitz injected with a good deal of intensity. I was also impressed by Markowitz’s handling of the tragic hit-and-run of Myrtle Wison, Tom’s working-class mistress, near her husband’s Valley of Ashes gas station. This is the only version in which a distraught Daisy is briefly distracted by the infamous “Eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg” billboard before she avoids an oncoming car and kills Myrtle, while driving Gatsby’s white convertible. I suspect this was an addition created for this movie, not featured in the novel. By allowing the billboard to indirectly lead to Myrtle’s death struck me as inspired writing on McLaughlin’s part, or inspired direction from Markowitz. Who knows? And it seemed a pity that no one else – Fitzgerald included – never considered it. The Nick Carraway-Jordan Baker romance had never seemed as sexy as it did in this movie. In fact, this is the only adaptation in which their relationship seemed to radiate with any real sexuality.

But despite these virtues, “THE GREAT GATSBY” seemed marred by a great deal of flaws. Perhaps too many flaws. There is so much about this movie that seemed off. One could tell at first glance that this production was lacking in serious cash. I realize that “THE GREAT GATSBY” is supposed to be a television production. But I find it odd that a production financed by both the A&E Cable Network in the United States, and Granada Productions in Great Britain; could look like a poor man’s version of Fitzgerald’s novel. The costumes designed by Nicoletta Massone left me shaking my head in disbelief. The clothes worn by wealthy characters such as Gatsby, the Buchanans and Jordan Baker seemed more appropriate for middle-class characters of the same era – the early 1920s. In one scene, Tom Buchanan made a snarky comment about Gatsby’s wardrobe. Mind you, the latter was not wearing the infamous pink suit (much to my disappointment). But the cream-colored suit with the dark tie, white socks and dark shoes even made wince. Since the Nick Carraway character wore a similar outfit in the same scene, I found myself wondering why Tom did not extend his contempt to his cousin-in-law’s wardrobe. Although elegant, the Buchanans’ home struck me as more quaint than opulent. The exteriors of Gatsby’s home seemed more opulent, but it had an elegant quality that seemed beyond Gatsby’s tastes. And the interiors struck me as somewhat drab and middle-class. So much for the ostentation – and somewhat tasteless – mansion owned by the mysterious millionaire. I really enjoyed Carl Davis’ score for this movie. But it seemed more appropriate for a neo-noir movie like “L.A. CONFIDENTIAL” or “MULHOLLAND FALLS”, instead of a period drama like “THE GREAT GATSBY”.

Although I had complimented Markowitz’s direction in two sequences, I found most of his direction rather flaccid and uninspiring. There were moments I felt that he was simply going through the motions. And both he and McLaughlin did not do the audience any favors by including flashbacks of Gatsby and Daisy’s World War I courtship. Those scenes were not only shot in soft focus, but also nearly put me to sleep. My God, they were boring! The parties held by Gatsby disappointed me, as well. Most of it – with the exception of the party attended by the Buchanans – struck me as mediocre and a ghost of those parties featured in Fitzgerald’s novel and the other movie adaptations. And why on earth did McLaughlin’s screenplay begin with Gatsby’s murder? Was he and Markowitz trying to be different? Unique? It is bad enough that Fitzgerald’s prose, in the form of Nick’s narration, hinted that Gatsby was no longer around. Why wipe away the mystery altogether by starting the movie with Gatsby’s murder? But if there is one thing that nearly tripped up“THE GREAT GATSBY”, it had to be its casting.

Due to Granada Productions being a co-producer of the film, it was inevitable that a British actor or actress would be cast. That person turned out to be Toby Stephens, who was given the leading role of Jay Gatsby. Before I continue, I want to say that I have been a fan of Stephens for years, thanks to his outstanding work. Unfortunately, I cannot view Jay Gatsby as one of his best performances. He simply seemed so wrong for the role. Not only did he portray Gatsby with a stiff and unconvincing American accent, but also with a grin that threatened to form a smirk. Aside from a few emotional . . . or semi-emotional moments, I found his portrayal of Gatsby rather cocky. Paul Rudd could have made a decent Nick Carraway, if it were not for the bored expression on his face that occasionally marred his performance. I realize that Nick harbored some contempt toward Gatsby when they first met. But that contempt had disappeared by the time he arranged Gatsby and Daisy’s afternoon reunion. Unfortunately, Rudd’s Nick maintained that same contempt even throughout the reunion and did not really disappear until the blow up at the Plaza Hotel. What the hell? I wish I could simply blame Rudd, but I cannot. As the director, Markowitz should have realized what was going on and put a stop to it. He failed to do so. Martin Donovan gave an excellent performance as the brutish Tom Buchanan. However, he still proved to be the wrong actor for the role. Donovan’s Tom never struck me as an egotistical ex-jock . . . merely an ill-tempered Moaning Minnie with too much money on his hands. Not only did I also have great difficulty in viewing him as a ladies’ man, but also Nick’s classmate at Yale. Martin Donovan and Paul Rudd are a good deal twelve years apart. And it shows. Jerry Grayson’s brief portrayal of gambler/gangster Meyer Wolfsheim did not strike me as memorable. On the other hand, I will never forget William Camp’s portrayal of Myrtle’s loser husband, George Wilson. I found it incredible bad.

The three actresses in “THE GREAT GATSBY” fared better. Somewhat. I enjoyed Mira Sorvino’s performance as the very feminine and flaky Daisy Buchanan. She did an excellent job of recapturing Daisy’s warm, flirtatious personality and shallowness. My only problem with Sorvino is that she utilized a Northeastern accent to portray Daisy. And the latter came from the Upper South – Louisville, Kentucky. Thankfully, Francie Swift, who hails from Texas, used a soft Southern accent in her portrayal of Daisy’s Louisville friend, golfer Jordan Baker. Mind you, Swift’s Jordan did not strike me as a female athlete. But she gave a sly and sexy performance that I found satisfying. In fact, she might be the best Jordan Baker I have seen on screen – despite the Dutch Boy haircut and dull wardrobe. Heather Goldenhersh did a pretty good job of portraying the vulgar and ambitious Myrtle Wilson. I said good . . . not great. The actress portrayed a high, light voice that I would not associate with a character like Myrtle. And I did not find her desperation to escape from a life with the dull George Wilson particularly convincing. But I was impressed by Goldenhersh’s one scene in which she conveyed Mrytle’s account of her first meeting with Tom.

“THE GREAT GATSBY” had a few virtues – including some well done performances from the movie’s three leading ladies and two exceptional sequences. But the flaws overwhelmed the virtues – including lackluster direction from Robert Markowitz and the producers’ miscasting of Toby Stephens in the leading role. I have seen at least three versions of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel. I hate to say it, but this 2000 television movie has to be the least impressive I have seen.