Another solid and touching effort by Sofia Coppola. Does it equal Lost in Translation? Probably not, but it is a more mature work.
Personally, I think Rashida Jones is underrated while Bill Murray is overrated (but much better in his later years than in his youth). Regardless, the chemistry was very good between the two leads. The plot gets a bit too implausible in the second half but it circles back and finishes strongly. Some minor characters were annoying and one, the self-absorbed mother of a young child, should have ended up on the cutting floor. Thankfully, there are many nice moments with just Jones and Murray. Oh, and it's set in New York City. These are more than enough reasons to catch "On the Rocks". Merely 96 minutes in length, the return on investment for each minute spent on this funny, emotional film is very good indeed.
"Maybe there's lots of things you haven't seen", says Lucille Ball's character to Louis Hayward's a mere five minutes into "Dance, Girl, Dance". Imagine how saucy and shocking this line would have been in 1940! Ball delivers it with an artless directness, a harbinger of the many role reversals in this gem of a film from the most prolific female director in Hollywood: Dorothy Arzner. Three years later, she directed her last film and walked away from Hollywood on her own terms. Nearly 80 years have passed and apparently no female director in Hollywood has equalled her output. [Insert social commentary here.]
Thanks to The Criterion Collection's Blu-ray release of Ms. Arzner's (as her ex-pupil Francis Ford Coppola refers to her), we can enjoy one of her best films. Ball definitely steals the show from Maureen O'Hara, who plays the straight-laced role of a rather uncompromising young woman who just wants to dance. The fates of the two women are intertwined, spanning men and money, and things in between. They have a complex, multi-faceted relationship that could very well resonate with two people who are best friends or even sisters. Laughs are aplenty but not at the expense of plot or characterization. Despite the passage of time, this is an enjoyable film that gives us a view into a not-so-distant past.
"Maybe," is the reply given by Hayward's character to Ball's baiting line, "Maybe there's lots of things you haven't seen". That would be a definite yes for me, including the other films of Dorothy Arzner. We get an introduction to this remarkable trailblazer, who wanted to be referred to only as a "director" (no qualifiers required), in the supplements including an interview with Coppola. I wonder if his daughter, Sofia, recognizes Arzner as her directorial grandmother. What is most remarkable is how none of the female characters are weak or won't speak their minds as a matter of course. You just didn't see that back in the day, or even in some films of today.
Not as good as Death on the Nile--Peter Ustinov's first appearance as Hercule Poirot--but another stellar cast with mostly very good performances, witty lines, and high production values make this worth your while if you are an Agatha Christie fan. The first two acts were much stronger than the third act, which was a bit too tidy and too far-fetched, even for the genre. Peter Ustinov is just as fun to watch in his second outing as Poirot, but the the real reason to watch this is to see the sparks fly between Diana Rigg and Maggie Smith. Honorable mentions go to Roddy McDowall and Jane Birkin. Last but not least, Cole Porter's music elevates the soundtrack.
Set in the early 1990s, How to Build a Girl's clever dialog is reminiscent of 1995's Clueless, except that the privileged Beverly Hills, California kids have transmogrified into working-class Wolverhampton, England ones. It might seem fictional but it's nearly biographical. The cast is terrific and the family scenes are outstanding. The God Wall is a bit of a Who's Who of both sets of the real-life characters and of the actors who play them. It's a fun romp through the '90s via the lens of a bright, teen-aged girl who is building the foundation of who she will be as an adult. Most of all, the film succeeds in making that romp equally enjoyable even if you've now got teenagers of your own. Alfie Allen's character declares, "Say one true thing." This film about a teen-aged girl was written by Caitlin Moran and directed by Coky Giedroyc, both of whom were once teen-aged girls themselves. So if the character of Johanna rings truer than, say, 99.99% of the female characters we see on film, then it's because she is a "one true thing".
1978's Death on the Nile is an old-fashioned who-dunnit. The cast is stellar, with Peter Ustinov's first turn as Hercule Poirot. The production values are high and the dialog does not feel too dated. It's well-paced, engaging, and thoroughly enjoyable. Those who have not read the book may be in for a little suprise when the mystery is solved.
Younger cast than the older film version. The scenes are gorgeous but not overdone. Given the length of the source material, the mini-series format allows proper pacing and does justice to Tolstoy’s classic.