Besides "schandenfreude" and "15 minutes", there is one more expression that has exceeded its …ummm…15 minutes: The incessant practice of referencing the Japanese film "Rashomen" when describing another film. Well… here we go again!
Which is actually the very essence of "Rashomen".
In case your brain has been asleep for more than you-know-how-long, "Rashomen" told the same story over and over (and over and over) from different points of view: Think of a circle-jerk "Groundhog Day", or, perhaps, the Old and New Testaments.
Adhering to the "Rashomen" formula, from the very beginning of "November" you're exposed to the plotline that runs throughout the film. A photographer's boyfriend is killed during a robbery in a convenience store while she waits in the car. After the murder, she continues teaching at a local college, visits her therapist and meets her mom for lunch. Already obviously unhinged from the tragedy, she really loses it after a weird slide shows up in the carousel of the projector she uses in class.
Then this arty ambitious thriller slams you back, over and over and over…
Actually, even more than "Rashomen", "November" reminded me of a combination of Dario Argento's "Susperia" and my all-time favorite "Twilight Zone" episode. "Susperia" is a rather infamous psychological thriller from 1977 where a ballerina (Jessica Harper) was basically scared out of her wits by a soundtrack. As for the "Twilight Zone" episode: A man comes into a bar. He tells the bartender about a disturbing dream he had the night before. The next night, he returns to the bar and tells the bartender again about a dream he had the night before. It's the same dream, but more happens. Each night, the guy returns to the bar. Each night, the guy tells the bartender about the dream he had the night before. It's always the same dream, but more is revealed each time. The guy who has the dream is getting more and more agitated by the recurring dream. Finally, the man's dream reaches a chilling conclusion…that is when the nightmare begins for the bartender. And if I tell you anymore, I would be a very very bad girl.
Better to be a tease than a downright whore.
The acting in "November" is wonderful. Courtney Cox Arquette (the photographer) manages to be fragile and neurotic without being irritating or overly mannered. James Le Gros (the boyfriend) is incredibly charming. Nora Dunn plays the earnest therapist, which is a nothing sort of reactionary role. Ann Archer (Courtney's mom) has aged beautifully and has really fabulous lips. She has little more to do than eat lunch and be lightly annoying.
You WILL be engrossed. Whether the payoff is worth the cost of a ticket (or two)…well…to be perfectly honest, I would wait for it to appear on TV. I'm sure that "Bravo" is panting for it. Of course, if you're a huge "Friends" fan, you might choose to rent it. Whatever your decision, points go to Courtney Cox Arquette for choosing something unslick and interesting. I'm sure she was offered lots that were all warm and fuzzy. This pic is definitely NOT warm & fuzzy.
And neither is…
…despite it's title.
This is Lisa Kudrow's newest. Of all the "Friends", I've always enjoyed Kudrow’s movies the most. I'm still conflicted about her HBO series, "The Comeback", but even though this alleged comedy makes me so uncomfortable and gives me the willies, I can't stop watching it. Kudrow is at her best when she plays unlikable …which, to her credit, is usually the case, bless her.
One of her best roles was in "The Opposite of Sex", which was directed by Don Roos, the writer and director of "Happy Endings". Roos also wrote "Single White Female" and "Boys on the Side", so he writes chick flicks even chick-flick haters love. And, to be nice, we won't mention his remake of "Diabolique" or the horrid "Bounce". Though, naturally, I just did (slap slap).
Again, the casting is wonderful. There's Jesse Bradford, who is having a good year, having been terrific in "Heights" (which only I seemed to enjoy) (oh…and Stephen Uhlhorn, who is part of the research team here at Patrick McMullan's) and my old pal Bobby Cannavale, who is also having a good year, what with his starring role in the theatrical smash, "Hurlyburly". We have two Gay couples, Charley ("24 Hour Party People's" Steve Coogan) and Gil (David Sutcliffe) versus the two Mommies, Pam (a very strident Laura Dern) and Diane (Sarah Clark from "24"). I guess it really helped to be involved in some project with the number 24 in the title in order to be cast in this picture? Anyway, there's an incredibly skinny (almost unrecognizable) Jason Ritter, who plays the son of the incredibly loveable Tom Arnold, who are both dupes for Jude (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a sleazy opportunist.
Actually, nearly character is guilty of being an opportunist and devious, which levels the playing field on good versus bad. The two who steal the movie are Gyllenhaal, as the worse of the worse, and, due to his deft portrayal of comparative innocence and sincerity, Mr. Arnold.
As for how happy these characters' endings are, that’s for me to know and you to, possibly, find out. Should you spend your hard-earned dollars to see this? Depends on how many dollars you're bringing in and how big a fan you are of the cast members.
I enjoyed it.
By the way, do any of you remember that the movie Liza Minnelli starred in in "New York New York" was called "Happy Endings"? Try out THAT little bit of trivia on those you see this movie with. Come to think of it, unless they’re Gay, I doubt that they'd really care.