The good thing about being in the Screen Actors Guild is that we often get to see films before they are released into theaters to the general public. Last night I had the pleasure of viewing Alexander Payne’s Nebraska (separate review coming) and the adaptation of Tracy Lett’s 2008 Pulitzer Prize and Tony winning play, August: Osage County in the comfort of my own home. I loved the movie, I really did. However, I think that both the play version and the movie version are two separate entities. Oftentimes, I kept finding myself comparing it to the stage version, but then I realized that the majority of people who will be viewing the film have never seen the stage play. That being said, as a stand-alone film, August: Osage County can almost put the mirror up too close the nature. At the same time, the family dynamic is actually believable which makes it a refreshing change from the cookie-cutter family movies out there. At the helm is the matriarch of the family, played by none other than the magnificent Meryl Streep. She’ll probably beat her own record again with Oscar nominations for this one. And, as a pleasant surprise, Julia Roberts gives a solid performance as Barbara Weston, a role for which Amy Morton garnered a Tony nomination. Roberts’ portrayal, as well as Streep’s are worthy of the SAG nominations they received. In the supporting cast, you have the likes of Margo Martindale, Chris Cooper, Misty Upham, Abigail Breslin, Julianne Nicholson, Bendedict Cumberbatch, Ewan McGregor, Dermot Mulroney, and Juliette Lewis. Sam Shepard is the pivotal role as Beverly Weston. Each and every one of the cast members are great actors, so to see them all together in one film is a real treat. Taken out of the confines of the stage and put on location, the film still has the element of a frustrated and fractured family, sometimes more so because the characters are actually put into the elements of the Oklahoma county in which it takes place. Streep’s vocal and physical transformation is a far cry from the woman who danced and sang her way through Mamma Mia! or took home the Oscar for playing one of England’s toughest women. There’s a weakness, fragility, and all out strength that Streep brings to Violet Weston that makes the film 1000 times better. In the hands of a lesser actress, it would just be another film about a dysfunctional family. The film opens on January 10th everywhere and needs to be seen for its sheer verisimilitude.
Certain movies can make turn any frown upside down. In light of Reese Witherspoon’s recent DUI arrest, maybe she should watch Pleasantville or Legally Blonde to help her get through her legal woes. Here’s a list of movies that always put a smile on my face and are worth checking out to help kick off your weekend with a smile of your own.
- Babe (1995): Pigs, especially talking pigs, are adorable. Plus, it has one of the best lines in movie history, ” That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.”
- Amélie (2001): It’s French, it’s fabulous, and it ALWAYS puts a smile on my face. Visually stunning too.
- Clue (1985): I could watch this movie all day. In fact, I have watched this movie all day on several occasions just to watch the three endings the way they were meant to be seen. It’s also one of the funniest movie ensembles ever with Michael McKean, Christopher Lloyd, and the late Madeline Kahn at its helm. Kahn also delivers one of the best improvised monologues I’ve ever seen.
- Pretty Woman (1990): Who wouldn’t want to have an endless supply of pizza while they go on a shopping spree? And bag Richard Gere (from his glory days) in the process? I also wanted to give those salesgirls a piece of my mind.
- Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997): Success is the best form of revenge. Too bad they had to make most of it up. But it’s hysterical in the process. Plus, I really want to know WHO actually invented Post-Its. And, there’s the kick-ass dance number with Alan Cumming, Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino.
- Noises Off… (1992): Christopher Reeve, John Ritter, Carol Burnett & Michael Caine in ONE movie. And it has constantly made me laugh every time I watch it. If you’re involved in theater, or have seen the play, it’s definitely worth checking out.
- The Philadelphia Story (1940): It’s one of the best movies ever, with three of the biggest stars ever.. It’s classic. And Katharine Hepburn has a scene where she gets drunk. It’s hysterical.
- Barefoot in the Park (1967): Neil Simon’s classic play adapted for the screen in one of the funniest movies about becoming a newlywed.
- Nine Months (1995): Joan Cusack, Julianne Moore, Tom Arnold, Hugh Grant and a hysterical performance by Robin Williams. The miracle of life gets funny, especially when Julianne Moore’s character goes into labor.
- The First Wives Club (1996): Jennifer Lawrence got her “I beat Meryl” line FROM this movie. And it’s hysterical. Divorced women seeking revenge is ACTUALLY FUNNY in this case.
Matt Damon made his film debut in Mystic Pizza, a small indie film from 1988 starring Julia Roberts (whom he later co-starred in Ocean’s 11,) Annabeth Gish, Lili Taylor, and Vincent D’Onofrio. He had one line: “Mom, do you want my green stuff?” He is now one of the most successful screenwriters and actors ever. Mystic Pizza has always been one of my favorite guilty pleasure movies. It’s a movie I go to in order to unwind. It’s also a movie that makes me crave pizza and lobster. Do you ever notice that when you watch something, if the actors are eating, you might just end up wanting whatever they are having? Sort of like the old woman in When Harry Met Sally, without the fake orgasm. There also happens to be a REAL MYSTIC PIZZA in Mystic, CT. It’s where screenwriter, Amy Holden Jones got the idea for the movie in the first place. Since the movie, business boomed and you can even find your own Mystic Pizza in the freezer section of your local grocery store. Then, you can go home and eat while you watch the movie, Mystic Pizza. How very metaphysical. So kick off your weekend with this movie and a slice of pizza. Throw in a cold beer while your at it.