From the Chicago Reader (May 28, 1999). — J.R.
A tender and sometimes very funny romantic comedy set in a New England seaside town, this is also something of a parable about what overheated summers can do to romantic imaginations. An unsigned love letter falls into the hands of various individuals who make creative assumptions about the author and intended recipient; many of them work at a secondhand bookstore. I suspect that a fair amount of the wit derives from Cathleen Schine’s source novel, but producer and lead actress Kate Capshaw (who plays the owner of the bookstore and has never been better), director Peter Ho-sun Chan (Comrades, Almost a Love Story), and screenwriter Maria Maggenti (who wrote and directed The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love) make a wonderfully harmonious team. The other featured actors — Ellen DeGeneres, Tom Selleck (also at his best), Tom Everett Scott, Blythe Danner, Geraldine McEwan, and Julianne Nicholson — all seem to be on the same wavelength as well. (The music by Luis Bacalov also is quite appealing.) At times Chan’s quirky direction fudges the storytelling, but I didn’t mind. Esquire, Gardens, Lake, Norridge, Webster Place.
– Jonathan Rosenbaum
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.… Read more »
From the Chicago Reader (June 21, 1996). — J.R.
Welcome to the Dollhouse
Rating ** Worth seeing
Directed and written by Todd Solondz
With Heather Matarazzo, Brendan Sexton Jr., Telly Pontidis, Herbie Duarte, Daria Kalinina, and Matthew Faber.
Nelly and Monsieur Arnaud
Rating *** A must see
Directed by Claude Sautet
Written by Sautet, Jacques Fieschi, and Yves Ulmann
With Emmanuelle Beart, Michel Serrault, Jean-Hugues Anglade, Claire Nadeau, Francoise Brion, Michele Laroque, and Michael Lonsdale.
It’s hard to think of two stark depictions of blocked libido more dissimilar than Todd Solondz’s Welcome to the Dollhouse and Claude Sautet’s Nelly and Monsieur Arnaud. But they share at least one trait that deserves to be cherished — a trait that sets them apart from most other new movies. Both offer lively alternatives to the current lackluster, middlebrow exemplars of “literary” cinema — Cold Comfort Farm, The Horseman on the Roof, The Postman, Sense and Sensibility – clogging up our art theaters, beckoning us to feel more educated and civilized and thereby keeping out other movies that might address our everyday lives more directly. (I haven’t seen Moll Flanders, but I suspect that it and the horrendous Disney animated feature Hunchback of Notre Dame are mainstream versions of the same spreading disease.)
To be fair, all four of the pedigreed period pieces named have their merits, but they’re associated more with the illustrations and texts of coffee-table books than with the experience of reading novels and poems.… Read more »
Commissioned by a Spanish-language retrospective catalogue devoted to Richard Linklater. — J.R.
A prefatory caveat
My favorite Richard Linklater feature, Bernie (2011), is many different things at once, some of which are in potential conflict with one another. How we ultimately judge it depends on either reconciling or suspending our separate verdicts on how we judge it as fiction (and art) and/or how we judge it as fact (and justice). Because I’ve chosen to suspend my judgment on how we can judge the film as fact, for reasons that will be dealt with below, I can enjoy the luxury of celebrating the film as fiction and as art at the same time that I would maintain that it opens up factual questions about truth and justice that it can’t pretend to resolve in any definitive manner.
The film was inspired by a lengthy article, “Midnight in the Garden of East Texas” by Skip Hollandsworth, that appeared in the January 1998 issue of Texas Monthly, about the confessed murder of Mrs. Marjorie Nugent, an 81-year-old widow and the wealthiest woman in town, by 39-year-old Bernie Tiede, a former assistant funeral director in the same town (Carthage, with a population of 6,500) who had become her paid companion and the sole inheritor of her considerable fortune.… Read more »