Kinda lightweight family-crisis drama, but that’s welcome after the too-heavy Rachel Getting Married. This one also tweaks the formula in important ways, using music scenes (Meryl Streep’s Ricki fronts a pub-rock band) for emotional impact, letting the entire songs play out. Streep is great, but she’s out-acted (if not upstaged) by daughter Mamie Gummer, who plays both touchingly depressed and comic-caricature-depressed, depending on the scene.
Streep has abandoned her own family, now tries to return and fix things when her daughter is abandoned by her husband. The two sons are having none of this, and Streep loses a power struggle with ex-husband Kevin Kline’s wife Audra McDonald, and refuses to commit to boyfriend/bandmate Rick Springfield, then between the visit home for Mamie’s divorce drama and Streep’s belated invitation to her son’s wedding a few months later, she manages to change just enough for a happy, all-dancing ending.
Written by Diablo Cody, with Kevin Kline as husband/father. Pretty much none of the critics liked it except Scott Tobias: “Against the machine-tooled blockbusters of summer, Demme’s film stands out for its modesty of scale and its abiding interest in the untidy business of being human … Typical of many Demme films, there are no villains here, just the natural conflict between fundamentally decent people whose choices have put them at odds with one another.”
It’s not hard to find a Shakespeare play I haven’t read/seen/acted, but that never stopped Katy from exclaiming “really???” whenever I claimed total unfamiliarity with Midsummer, so we finally rented her favorite version. I liked it… of course, it’s no Much Ado About Nothing with Emma Thompson, but what is? Less zany and complicated than I’d expected. Shakespeare could’ve learned something about comedy from Howard Hawks – or maybe it’s Hoffman, director of dullsville drama Game 6 who could learn something. Fortunately he keeps things much more animated here, seems to do a good job with the so-wide-it’s-squintingly-small-on-my-TV cinematography, though there’s mysteriously no participation by Kenneth Branagh or Michael Keaton (at the time they were busy filming Wild Wild West and doing nothing whatsoever, respectively).
Ally, Bale, McNutty, Friel:
Okay, Dominic West (The Wire‘s McNulty) loves Pushing Daisies star Anna Friel (who doesn’t?) but her fun-hating parents insist she marry boring Christian Bale (toning things down after Velvet Goldmine) who is being stalked by Calista Ally McBeal Flockhart. Unconnected to any of that, Kevin Kline’s cheesy theater group (including Sam Rockwell) is preparing a play to be performed at the royal court. And all of this would probably end badly if not for the meddling of elf king Rupert Everett (Dunston Checks In) who sends puckish Stanley Tucci to prank fairy queen Michelle Pfeiffer, and along the way he turns Kline into a half-donkey and screws with the four lovers. Mud fights and bicycle rides ensue.
Rockwell is a woman, Kline is a ham, the guy behind them is a wall:
Convincingly elvish elf Tucci with mopey Rupert:
In the end everything is sorta normal except that Kline’s play is a hit, McNutty is allowed to be with his girl, and Bale magically loves Ally. I was surprised that McNutty and Ally gave the best performances of the four, even edging out all the magical beings (well maybe not Stanley Tucci), and Kline is excellent, bringing a touch of sadness to his mostly ridiculous comic-relief role. So where’s he been hiding this decade? Prepping for a comeback, hopefully.
Donkey-Kline and Queen Pfeiffer: