Mike Kueber's Blog

October 28, 2014

Saturday Night at the Movies #130 – The Notebook

Filed under: Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 12:15 pm
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I watched The Notebook (2004) several years ago and enjoyed it. But I recently saw it listed as one of the most romantic movies of all time, and that didn’t match my recollection, so I decided to watch it again. The list was right and I was wrong.

What a movie! It is told in a series of flashbacks from the perspective of an old guy, James Garner, and his lifelong love, Gena Rowlands, who does not seem very lovable because of her losing struggle with dementia. Their younger versions are played by the movie’s stars, Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams.

It took a few minutes into the movie for Gosling to grow on me, but McAdams is fabulous from the get-go. And their relationship is magical. He is poor and humble and she has a status-conscious rich family. The essence of the movie is encapsulated in this line from old-guy Garner:

  • “I am nothing special, of this I am sure. I am a common man with common thoughts and I’ve led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten, but I’ve loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me, this has always been enough.”

Although the storyline might seem predictable, it is actually nuanced with excellent performances and characters played by McAdams’s mother, Joan Allen, and dad, David Thornton, plus McAdam’s competing beau, James Marsden. By contrast, Sam Shepard as Gosling’s dad, and Kevin Connolly as Gosling’s best friend, are mere fillers.

I’ve blogged recently about a four-pronged approach to life (head, heart, body, and soul), and Garner’s sole focus on the love of his life is not consistent with that. But in this classic romance movie, it works. The Rotten Tomato critics score the movie at only 52%, but the audience score is 85%. I like it even better than the audience and give it four stars.

March 16, 2014

Saturday Night at the Movies #105 – Steel City, Inside Llewyn Davis, and Blue Valentine,

Filed under: Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 5:48 am
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Steel City (2005) is a disheartening drama set in a depressing area that looks remarkably like Jimmy’s college town of Steubenville, OH, a dreary, dying steel-mill town hard on the banks of the Ohio River.  Steubenville was the setting of 1978’s Deer Hunter, another gloomy movie about miserable people. Despite its awards, I didn’t like the big-budget Deer Hunter and I didn’t like indie-movie Steel City.  Character-study movies like Starting Out in the Evening can be great, but the characters need to be likeable. The Steel City characters weren’t.   The Rotten Tomato critics loved Steel City at 83%, but only 52% of the audience liked it.  I’m with the audience and give it only two stars out of four.

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) is a depressing drama by the Coen brothers about a young folk singer in Greenwich Village 1961 struggling to make a living.  In an interview, Joel Coen admitted the film didn’t have a plot.  It stars Oscar Isaac as an irresponsible, undisciplined guy mooching of friends and family who barely tolerate him.  Like Steel City, the Rotten Tomato critics loved Inside Llewyn Davis at 94%.  But the audience, not so much at 76%.  I think the audience was too generous, and I give it only two and a half stars out of four.

Blue Valentine (2010) is a depressing drama about a young woman (Michelle Williams) who has fallen out of love with her husband (Ryan Gosling), and he is desperately trying to figure out how to fix it.  The movie reminds me of 500 Days of Summer because it starts in the current time with a couple not in love and flashes back to scenes in the past when the couple was in love.  Although both stars are sort of losers (she is traumatized from her parents’ dysfunctional relationship and he has no ambition), they are likeable losers.  The Rotten Tomato critics loved it at 87% and the audience almost as much at 77%.  I agree with the audience and give it three stars out of four.