28 June 2009

Chick Flicks and Films for Fellas

The two films I saw at the cinema this weekend had very different audiences: Sunshine Cleaning at the Screen on Baker Street yesterday evening was mostly filled with women (as well as a few guys who had clearly been dragged along because it was date night and because at the Screen on Baker Street, there was a choice between Sunshine Cleaning and My Sister's Keeper and the former seemed like the better of the two), while the showing of Rudo y Cursi at the Cineworld near Piccadilly Circus was, conversely, mostly populated with guys (as well as a few girlfriends along for the ride).

The two films actually had a number of similarities and I wouldn't really describe Sunshine Cleaning as a chick flick or Rudo y Cursi as a lads' film. Perhaps this is partly due to the marketing. "Hey, come see this quirky, new indie film from the makers of another awesome indie film with sunshine in the title" (coincidentally, the little girl from Little Miss Sunshine is now a teenager and appearing alongside Cameron Diaz in My Sister's Keeper)," cry the posters for Sunshine Cleaning.

Rudo y Cursi isn't exactly another Y Tu Mama Tambien (of which I've still only seen the first half--this was long enough for me to determine that Alfonso Cuaron's new film is pretty different) but it definitely isn't targetting the, "wah-hey! Footie! C'mon, lads, it'll be great!" market either; indeed, the poster shows no trace of football, fast cars, fast women or gambling but rather just two guys--brothers--on an arty-looking beach with the tagline, "life is a coin toss." The Sunshine Cleaning poster has a different take on life in its tagline -- "life's a messy business" -- and shows two girls--sisters--carrying the film's title across some "crime scene; do not cross" tape.

And each film is really about the relationship between the two siblings it depicts and how different the siblings are. The two leads in each film do a good job. Amy Adams plays a former cheerleading captain/prom queen whose football captain boyfriend married someone else (although they are still having an affair). She is envious of her former school chums who are all married and living in McMansions with great jobs while she works as a maid, cleaning their houses, while raising her young son and trying to get herself through real estate school. After a hint from her toxic boyfriend (who could do with some industrial-strength cleaning himself), who is a cop, she and her slacker younger sister (Emily Blunt) start up their own company where they clean up after crime scenes ("removal of biohazard waste," as Adams's character puts it later). Their mother is absent and this obviously affected the sisters and their relationship with each other a great deal, with Adams's character often mothering her younger sister (and no, the film does not use the line, "you're not my mom").

Diego Luna and Gael Gorgeous Bernal, meanwhile, play the eponymous Rudo (rude/rough) and Cursi (sentimental/twee), two brothers working on a banana plantation in the Mexican countryside with their extended family until they get scouted by some dodgy talent scout from Mexico City and recruited into two big (fictional) Mexican football teams, hard-working, reliable Rudo as the goalie and attention-seeking, vain Cursi (as he is nicknamed by the press once fame sets in) as the striker. But even living in the big city, they still have their problems--Rudo quickly amasses huge gambling debts and misses his wife and children (still living back in the country), while Cursi dates a gold-digging tart and doesn't really care about his footballing success because he only wants to be a fame (the only song he sings in the film is a Spanish cover of Cheap Trick's I Want You to Want Me, which is so bad that he really oughtn't give up his day job).

Both films have their funny and their poignant moments (more poignant moments in Sunshine Cleaning--maybe this is partly because the leads are both female and are expected to be more cursa than the guys in Rudo y Cursi; maybe because it's hard for a movie to get too mushy when there is a Woody Allen-like voiceover from the dodgy talent scout on and off throughout Rudo y Cursi). Both were enjoyable, entertaining fayre, though.

I did not enjoy the fact that Cineworld cinemas leave one of the big lights on during the film for "safety reasons in case anyone falls over on the stairs." As my seat was closest to the light (I chose it in advance for optimal viewing) and as I've been to many cinemas in the past that don't have a huge light over the steps, I wasn't impressed. "People should sit in their seats watching the film while it's showing, shouldn't they?" I asked, before telling the staff I would try to avoid their cinemas in the future (good, they were probably thinking). To be fair it wouldn't have been so bad if I weren't watching a film with subtitles where the white text and light, sunny, Mexican backgrounds did not combine to provide great visibility.

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