Thank you Linda Holmes of NPR, for this heart-felt column about NOT TALKING IN MOVIE THEATERS. I think it is because people are used to watching movies at home or listening to director commentaries or checking their Blackberries in the middle of a conversation, but for goodness’ sakes, please, as they say in the movies, do not add your own soundtrack. I once sat next to a man who not only ate very noisily, he repeated every punchline (drowning out the next one). Holmes says:
I don’t want to be a bad sport. I’ve talked back to the screen at Honey. You’re not a bad person for wanting to goof around with your friends. But please, seriously: choose your moments. Because when you pick the wrong one, you take something away from everybody else in the room. This isn’t a stodgy etiquette rule run amok; it’s got a purpose.
It’s impossible to meet the gloriously beautiful, smart, and funny Alice Eve and Krysten Ritter without feeling that they are completely out of the league of any mere mortals. In “She’s out of My League,” Eve very believably plays a woman of such beauty and accomplishment that the main character, played by Jay Baruchel (“Knocked Up,” “Tropic Thunder”) is too insecure to handle the relationship. Ritter plays her cynical best friend. But they are also gloriously nice and made the interview a real pleasure.
Have you ever dated anyone you thought was out of your league?
Ritter: I’ve dated someone that other people thought was out of my league. But if you’re with somebody, you think they’re a 10.
Eve: I’m stealing that line. It’s true, if you’re with somebody you think they’re a 10. I always think that if I’m with somebody, they’re better than me. That’s why I love them. They’re amazing.
Do you think that men and women rate each other differently?
Eve: Women are less aesthetic than men.
Ritter: Men are more visual creatures and rate women based on looks. We like to laugh and be shown a good time. I’ve never rated anyone on looks.
You seem like real friends on screen. Did you know each other before?
Ritter: We are real friends now but didn’t know each other before. Alice was cast in the movie and I came in to chemistry read. It just worked.
The wisecracking best friend is always a great role, isn’t it?
Ritter: It is always a lot of fun. It’s a good time. You don’t feel like you’re under any pressure except to be funny. I think there was even more outrageous language in the original script but then the studio didn’t want quote unquote pretty girls saying awful things. But we got them in there. The “plane doctor” joke was cut from the script. The script had the character as unattractive, plain, frumpy best friend. But then I read and got the part and then they started to change it and get away from the really foul-mouthed and sarcastic lines. But then when we were shooting we decided to try it and it made it into the movie and the trailer.
You wear some beautiful clothes in the movie.
Ritter: You had standard, conventional fabulous, stuff. I had cooler, edgier, weirder stuff. The costume designer didn’t have the right sizes for me so we literally got in the car and went to all these boutiques in Pittsburgh and got all these great pieces. I wanted to keep everything especially the green one from the Andy Warhol party scene.
Eve: We had a lot of fittings I had to go back to New York for and the producers at Dreamworks were really involved in the look and what was right. I put a lot of work, sweat, and tears in those fittings and it has been so rewarding to have it pay off because we’ve had such great responses to the costumes. They clothes show that she is very successful, she’s got taste, she’s got money. It’s an inch by inch process, do you like this, maybe we’ll try this one for now, it can be a very long process.
Tell me about working with Jay.
Eve: He’s so great! The dramatic stuff, the comedic stuff, a lot of intimate stuff, we put work into it. it’s about building the right kind of relationship together and knowing that the energy you have together keeps that alive for the duration of the film.
You’re playing a character who is supposed to be just about perfect. And a lot of what you are doing is reacting in the middle of some outrageous behavior. How do you make that work?
Eve: I felt like she was an honest, straight, calm, nice, person. So you have a whole plethora of choices, and it was incredibly refreshing to me because you don’t have to be the bitch or the slut or the clumsy one. It was a lovely thing to have that role. At the time I was outraged when they cut out all the swearing in the original script but in retrospect I think it was the right choice.
In “Lucas,” Corey Haim played a smart, sensitive boy who has bravado but struggles to find confidence, ultimately finding the hope of love and a place to be himself. I wish his real life had as happy an ending. For decades, this talented actor and his friend Corey Feldman were better known for failures off-camera, and then on-camera in their can-they-make-a reality show, “The Two Coreys.” And now he is dead of an apparent drug overdose. He is probably best remembered for a vampire film, “The Lost Boys.” Today, that title feels sadly apt. “Lucas” is an outstanding family film, and I am glad we have that to remember him by.
To the list of the biggest lies of all time (“The check is in the mail,” “I’ll still respect you in the morning,” etc.) this must now be added: “All the answers are in your packet.”
No, they aren’t. Many answers are in the packet you get handed after someone tells you that your position at work no longer exists, but they do not tell you anything about the questions you care about most: Will I get another job? How will I pay my bills? Did anything I did here mean anything at all?
Most people in that position will not be asking questions about the person who is handing them the packet, but “Up in the Air,” based on the novel by Walter Kirn, he is our hero. Close enough, anyway, as he is played by George Clooney, whose sleek movie star glow and perfect tailoring give his character a surface perfection that contrasts with his struggle to hold onto his freedom and make sure nothing holds onto him. For him, being a professional brought in by corporate management to fire people in massive layoffs is the perfect job, each relationship with an almost-immediate ending.
Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a man who is most at home away from where he lives. Even the most generic of hotel rooms has more personality than his apartment, too personality-less even to be considered spare. The 290 days he spent on the road last year were the ones where he felt most connected, most authentic, most at home. In his apartment, he feels rootless. What he loves about travel is the thousands of micro-encounters, all encapsulated into tiny predictable pieces. His affinity points at hotels and airlines gets him an extra “Nice to see you again, Mr. Bingham!” with a smile as fake as Bingham’s assurances that the answers are in the packet. But it is the very fake-ness of it that makes Bingham feel at home because he understands it and it understands no more about him than he wants it to.
At one point in the movie, his sister, who is about to be married, sends him a cardboard cut-out photograph of herself with her prospective husband so that Bingham can take pictures of it in different locations for a scrapbook they are creating instead of the honeymoon trip they can’t afford. Reitman creates a nice, understated contrast between the artificiality of the “travels” by the cardboard duo and Bingham and his fellow road warriors.
Bingham is not the first person and certainly not the first movie character to think that he can get through life with maximum efficiency, with as little weighing him down or holding him back as possible. He has systems for maximizing momentum and minimizing inertia from a small group of impeccable and virtually identical suits to the formula for getting the most out of frequent flier miles. When he finally meets a woman (Vera Farmiga) who speaks his language — their flirty banter about who has more prestige points and which hotels have the best amenities is more delicious than a warm chocolate chip cookie at your check-in — part of what makes it fascinating is that neither Bingham nor the audience can tell at first whether this is just one more frictionless encounter or a connection that will make him re-think his attachment to being unattached. Farmiga matches two-time Sexiest Man Alive Clooney’s rhythms perfectly, and watching these two glossy creatures circle and parry is one of the great cinematic pleasures of the year.
In one respect, Bingham harks back to the iconic American cowboy, alone in the wilderness. In another he is the essence of 2009, in the one sector of the American economy that is benefiting from the catastrophic avalanche of failure that will forever identify the end of this milleneum’s first decade. Co-screenwriter/director Jason Reitman (“Thank You for Smoking,” “Juno”) shrewdly puts Bingham in the middle between his tantalizingly silky no-strings counterpart and a spooky, Scrooge-like vision of another aspect of himself. A young, ambitious newcomer (a superb Anna Kendrick) to his office has an idea about how to save money by being even more ruthlessly efficient. Why do all that flying when you can fire people by video chat?
Reitman continues to populate his films with characters we want to know better and actors who make even small parts into gems of poignancy and meaning. Melanie Lynskey, Danny McBride, Jason Bateman, and J.K. Simmons are irresistible, but there is also a mosaic of reactions from the newly terminated that is even more unsettling when you find out that these are real-life survivors of lay-offs, recruited by Reitman for what they thought was a documentary about the impact of the economic crisis. And be sure to stay through the credits for another telling real-life moment.
“Up in the Air” is very much of its time but it is also one of the best films of the year for its sympathetic and layered understanding of the issues that affect us in good and bad economic times and its recognition that it is here, in these stories, where the questions left unanswered in the packet are explored.