“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.

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Favorite Movies Set in LAS VEGAS

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Below is a list of my favorite movies set in Las Vegas, Nevada: 

 

FAVORITE MOVIES SET IN LAS VEGAS

1 - Ocean Thirteen

1. “Ocean’s Thirteen” (2007) – In this third entry of Steven Soderbergh’s OCEAN’S TRILOGY, Danny Ocean and his co-horts plot a heist against casino owner Willy Bank, after he double-crosses one of the original eleven, Reuben Tishkoff. George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Al Pacino starred.

2 - Casino

2. “Casino” (1995) – Martin Scorsese directed this adaptation of Nicholas Pileggi’s non-fiction book about the clash between a professional gambler and a mobster sent to operate a mob-controlled Las Vegas casino. Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Sharon Stone starred.

3 - The Hangover

3. “The Hangover” (2009) – Todd Phillips produced and directed this hilarious comedy about four friends who to Las Vegas for a bachelor party. The groom-to-be ends up missing the following morning, and the three remaining friends search all over town to find him, despite having no memories of the previous night. Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha and Heather Graham starred.

4 - Bugsy

4. “Bugsy” (1991) – Warren Beatty and Annette Bening starred in this biography of mobster Ben Siegal during his time in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Directed by Barry Levinson, the movie co-starred Harvey Keitel and Ben Kingsley.

5 - Ocean Eleven

5. “Ocean’s Eleven” (2001) – This remake of the 1960 movie also served as the first entry of Steven Soderbergh’sOCEAN TRILOGY. In it, Danny Ocean and a group of thieves plot the heist of three Las Vegas casinos owned the current boyfriend of Ocean’s ex-wife. George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts and Andy Garcia starred.

6 - Rush Hour 2

6. “Rush Hour 2” (2001) – Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker re-teamed in this sequel to their 1998 hit, in which they go up against a counterfeit ring that takes them from Hong Kong to Los Angeles and finally Las Vegas. Brett Ratner directed.

7 - Diamonds Are Forever

7. “Diamonds Are Forever” (1971) – Sean Connery starred as James Bond in this adaptation of Ian Fleming’s 1956 novel. The British agent investigates a diamond smuggling operation that leads him to the crime organization SPECTRE and arch nemesis Ernst Stravos Blofeld. Directed by Guy Hamilton, the movie co-starred Jill St. John and Charles Gray.

8 - Viva Las Vegas

8. “Viva Las Vegas” (1964) – Elvis Presley and Ann-Margaret lit up the screen in this musical about a race car driver forced to find a way to raise money to enter a race in Las Vegas, while romancing a hotel swim instructor. George Sidney directed.

9 - Miss Congeniality Armed and Fabulous

9. “Miss Congeniality: Armed and Fabulous” (2005) – Sandra Bullock stars in this sequel to 2001’s “MISS CONGENIALITY”, as the now famous F.B.I. agent Gracie Hart. When two of her friends – Miss United States and pageant commentator Stan Fields – are kidnapped, she recruits the help of fellow agent Sam Fuller to help her. Directed by John Pasquin, Regina King and William Shatner co-starred.

10 - Honeymoon in Vegas

10. “Honeymoon in Vegas” (1992) – Nicholas Cage starred in this comedy about a man who loses a great deal of money to a professional gambler, while in Vegas to marry his girlfriend. The gambler agrees to clear the debt in exchange for a weekend with the girlfriend, who reminds him of his late wife. Directed by Andrew Bergman, the movie co-starred Sarah Jessica Parker and James Caan.

“INFAMOUS” (2006) Review

“INFAMOUS” (2006) Review

I have heard a lot about the two movie biographies based upon Truman Capote’s experiences while working on his famous non-fiction novel, “In Cold Blood”“CAPOTE” and “INFAMOUS”. I have watched them both, but have decided to discuss the second one . . . namely “INFAMOUS”, which was written and directed by Douglas McGrath. Although I could never compare the two movies, I might as talk about the one that featured British actor Toby Jones, as the diminutive writer.

To be honest, I did not know what to expect of “INFAMOUS”. Since it was the second Capote movie to be released, it failed to garner any prestigious critic awards or nominations – aside from an Independent Spirit Best Supporting Actor nod for Daniel Craig, who played one of the Clutters’ murderers, Perry Smith. After watching the movie, I found myself wondering why Toby Jones had failed to earn his own nomination. The man’s complex portrayal of Capote seemed all at once witty, sharp, manipulative, vulnerable and rather sad. In all, it was a brilliant performance. He seemed to revel in Capote’s legendary flamboyant wit and charm in all its glory. One of Jones’ funniest scenes involved Capote’s snappy repartees to prison inmates shouting lewd propositions at him, during his first visit to the prison. Yet at the same time, Jones also revealed the author’s talent for cold-blooded deception and manipulation, which he used to gain the trust of his New York friends, along with the citizens of Holcomb and the two killers, whose anecdotes he needed to complete his book. This talent for drawing out secrets . . . and disclosing them not only attracted the suspicion of Perry Smith, but also got Capote in hot water with his “swans” in the mid-1970s, thanks to an unpublished manuscript of his book, “Answered Prayers”. A few chapters managed to end up in the New York magazine, “Esquire”. But what is more interesting about Jones’ performance in the movie is that his experiences in Kansas ended up peeling away Capote’s flamboyant façade, forcing him to face the pain and sorrow created by an unhappy childhood.

Ironically, it was Capote’s encounters with convicted murderer, Perry Smith, which forced the author to face his personal demons. What can I say about Daniel Craig’s performance? Other than the British actor not only deserved his Independent Spirit Award nomination, but like Jones, he also deserved both a Golden Globe and Academy Award nomination. His Perry Smith was a brooding, quiet man who projected vulnerability, intelligence and brutal menace. It was easy to see how Capote and Smith had developed a close relationship. Both shared a taste for intellectual and artistic pursuits that allowed them to hide from unhappy childhoods that included suicidal mothers. Both actors created an dynamic screen chemistry through two contrasting personalities that seemed to share similar childhood experiences. Craig brilliantly projected Smith’s varying personalities in two scenes – one in which he expressed polite distaste at Capote’s gift of pornographic magazines; and in another, his terrifying anger at the “In Cold Blood” title, which led to a threat of rape of the author.

“INFAMOUS” could boast a first-class supporting cast led by Sandra Bullock, who portrayed Capote’s close friend and fellow author, Harper Lee (“To Kill a Mockingbird”). Many critics seemed surprised by Bullock’s excellent portrayal of the warm and wryly amused Alabama author. Apparently, they must have been deluded by some belief that Bullock was only capable of light comedy. The actress was given to showcase her dramatic chops in one “documentary” interview scene in which she expressed Lee’s bitter anger at the public’s demand for an endless supply of entertainment by talented artists. I also enjoyed Jeff Daniels’ wry and sardonic portrayal of the Kansas Bureau Investigations officer in charge of the Clutter case, whose family eventually befriended Capote. His performance was highlighted in a favorite scene of mine that featured the development of Capote and Dewey’s friendship over an arm wrestling match.

Lee Pace portrayed Dick Hickock, Smith’s partner and the alleged brains behind the attempt to rob the Clutters. I found his performance rather humorous and gregarious, yet there were times it threatened to be a touch frantic. Since “INFAMOUS” gave the audience a wide glimpse into Capote’s New York lifestyle, the movie also included his circle of “swans”, whom he developed a close relationship until his disclosure of their secrets in the mid-70s. Those “swans” included Babe Paley (Sigourney Weaver) – the wife of CBS baron Bill Paley; Diana Vreeland (Juliet Stevenson), the fashion magazine editor; Slim Keith (Hope Davis), the woman who was married to Howard Hawks and Leland Hayward; and Marella Agnelli (Isabella Rossellini), Italian-American princess who became a furniture designer and tastemaker. Also included in that group were publisher Bennett Cerf (Peter Bogdanovich), novelist and Capote’s rival Gore Vidal (Michael Panes). I was especially amused by Stevenson’s humorous portrayal of the vivacious Vreeland, who seemed proud of her own eccentric nature and appreciative of Capote’s attitude toward it.

Some reviews have criticized McGrath’s tendency to switch the movie’s setting between Capote’s glittering New York world and the somber atmosphere of Holcomb, Kansas. I understood why he did it. Both settings seemed like metaphors for the writer’s contrasting psyche during those six years he worked on “In Cold Blood”. It started out with a glittering night with Capote and Babe Paley at the El Morocco nightclub (with a sultry Gwenyth Paltrow singing “What Is This Thing Called Love”) and ended with Capote unable to keep the dark memories of Kansas out of his mind. In fact, once Capote had finally set eyes upon Smith, Holcomb’s bleak setting slowly threatened to puncture the frivolous façade he had created, whenever he was in New York. The emotional cost from the book and his relationship with Smith resulted in his inability to write his next book – “Answered Prayers”, as shown in the movie’s final scene.

The only problems I had with “INFAMOUS” were “documentary” interviews shown during the movie’s first half-hour. Frankly, I believe that the movie could have started out with these interviews, before segueing into the story. And aside from Capote’s tour of the Clutters’ home, I found the sequence featuring his interviews with some of Holcomb’s citizens a little dull and hard to watch. Fortunately, the arrival of Smith and Hickcock ended the dull sequence and from there, my interest in the movie remained constant until the end.

Whether you are a fan of the Philip Seymour Hoffman film, “CAPOTE”, I do recommend that you watch “INFAMOUS” . . . or at least give it a chance. Hopefully, you will discover that in its own way, it is just as fascinating as the 2005 Oscar-winning film.

9/10 stars