31 May 2009

Fireflies in the Lone Star State

There isn't a great deal on at the cinema right now--not even in London--it's that awkward, pre-summer phase, I assume. Of course, I have been keeping up with the movies I watch chez moi but it is still nice to go to the cinema on a regular basis. As such, I went to see Fireflies in the Garden, which was showing at the cinema across the street from my flat (it was a choice between that, State of Play (which I've seen) and Angels and Demons, so no choice at all really). I saw the trailer for Fireflies a few weeks ago and thought it looked like an interesting enough family drama, even though I couldn't work out what was going on and which people were related to one another (all of them, it turned out, although part of the movie including almost all of Julia Roberts's part is told through flashbacks).

Basically, Ryan Reynolds had a bad relationship with his father, Willem Defoe, who treated him pretty badly as a young teenage boy but luckily, his mother, Julia Roberts, was always around to defend him against her dick of a husband (Reynolds's character, Mike, is played by someone else in the flashbacks although Defoe and Roberts play both the present-tense and the 20-years-ago versions of themselves). Also, the much younger sister of Mike's mother, Jane, who is only a few years older than Mike himself, comes to stay with the family and they have a weirdly close friendship. Also, the reasons for her coming to live with Mike and his parents are somewhat mysterious. 

In the present, meanwhile, Mike is flying back to Texas for his younger sister Ryne's graduation. He's a successful writer now (which should show his dad, who was an English professor who didn't get tenure and whose books never sold) but is clearly having some issues as on the plane, he puts his wedding ring back on his finger. when the stewardess asks him to sign one of his books for her, he scrawls all over the dedication, "for Kelly," adding evidence to this theory.

This is when it starts getting confusing--for me, anyway--because Mike's aunt and buddy Jane is now living in Mike's childhood home with her husband two children (one is a teeage boy who is having some issues--sound familiar?--and the other a young, precocious girl, who turns out to be very much like Ryne). Tragedy then ensues and the whole family must come together to deal with the grief and their unresolved issues with one another. I say it's confusing becuase certain branches on the family tree mirror one another but because Jane is Mike's aunt and not his cousin (as might be expected), it doesn't always seem to work as well as it could. Also, I'm not sure Hayden Panettiere is entirely convincing as a young Emily Watson, although both actresses gave good performances.

Of course, there are similarities between Fireflies and both Garden State and Elizabethtown, with all three having the 30-something, male protagonist returning to his childhood home following a tragedy, which helps him to get his life back on track. I really enjoyed Garden State when it came out at the cinema but since then, Zach Braff has begun to really irritate me (his remake of L'Ultimo Bacio was the last straw) and although I still like the Garden State soundtrack, the film itself just feels too smug and trite for me to watch it without throwing things at it. I didn't get to the end of Elizabethtown; we were in Cannes one Christmas and the Head of Culcha (AKA Papa) recommended we watch it but the CEO (Maman) rejected it as "dull" after about 25 minutes. Given that the film stars Orlando Bloom, this may have been sensible. I do generally like Cameron "I never said I did good female characters" Crowe films (well, actually, I liked Say Anything, Almost Famous and Fast Times...I also liked Jerry Maguire and Vanilla Sky when they came out although over time, most Tom Cruise movies have come to annoy me more and more) but re-reading the summary of Elizabethtown, I'm beginning to suspect this wouldn't be one of them.

Fireflies, though, was decent enough, even though it seemed to want to be seen of as a higher art form than the Sunday-night-TV fodder it probably really is. Also, Ioan Gruffudd is hot although his role is small and he is also supposed to be playing present-day Julia Roberts's "older" lover but looks much younger, so isn't entirely convincing. 

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