Two Quick Reviews

Two movies I’ve seen theatrically in the last few days:

The Secret Life of Bees
Hollywood makes terrific action movies and romantic comedies, but nothing helps you appreciate independent cinema like a major studio attempt at serious social drama. Gina Prince-Bythewood’s adaptation of Sue Monk Kidd’s novel (which I haven’t read) is well-meant, well-designed, and well-acted, but it’s just a little too precious and way too full of itself. The lovely, soft-focus photography made it look beautiful and nostalgic when the subject matter demanded a hard edge. And although the story had a couple of surprises (I thought that one scene set us up for a later disaster sequence that never materialized), you could see most of what was coming from a mile away. On the other hand, it’s nice to see that Dakota Fanning is maturing into an extremely talented actor.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno
Kevin Smith doesn’t make a porno, but he makes a very funny and very dirty comedy. And when all is said and done, I’d rather watch that. Following the Judd Apatow formula of raunchy-but-sweet (to be fair, the Farrelly brothers invented the formula in Something About Mary), and casting Apatow regular Seth Rogen, Smith made a decidedly silly movie, and one whose plot wouldn’t hold water if you thought about it. Making a porn film might make you some money, but you wouldn’t make it fast enough to avoid eviction. Yet both Rogen and Elizabeth Banks play likable characters, and it’s fun to watch them slowly realize how much they mean to each other. Besides, the movie is hysterically funny. It’s worth noting that Smith successfully appealed the MPAA’s original NC-17 rating; I would love to know the arguments he used.