Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Valentine's Day

2010. Dir: Garry Marshall. Starring: Ashton Kutcher, Jennifer Garner, Julia Roberts, Jessica Biel and Jamie Foxx. ●○○○○

I'm thinking perhaps the rating is a little harsh. Valentine's Day, for all it's many faults, did not make me angry. I did not consider asking for my money back, nor was I shouting at the screen at the iniquity of it. Unlike one film I went to see this year I was not seething afterwards. However it is a really bad movie - utterly inedt - to call it amateur would be an insult to amateur productions.

Let me explain: Valentine's Day follows an inderterminable group of LA'ers as they make their way through the romantic entanglements during the feast of St. Valentine. Naturally, as is always the case with large cast dramas, they all interlink on at least a superficial level (sometimes the level of co-incidence is unbearable) and they all have different feelings or experiences that relate to love. When taken as a whole we, as an audience, are meant to better understand the meaning and consequences of that four letter word. This movie ultimately wants to be an American Love, Actually and at this it fails spectacularly.

If you read on, please not this review has many many spoilers...

Why? Well I re-watched Richard Curtis' film to try and understand why one is charning, if lightweight, and the other is charmless. Here are the reasons I can find:

1. Passage of time. Whereas Love Actually (herein referred to as LA) takes place over a month Valentine's Day (VD, chuckle chuckle) crams the entire process within approximately 18 hours. Characters therefore have no time to consider things and grow, relationships don't develop they just happen. For instance Ashton Kutcher proposes to girlfriend Jessica Alba before breakfast, but they've split by the end of the working day. On hearing his wife has had an affair Hector Elizondo is so cut up it takes all of three hours to forgive her.

2. Thematic consistency. At the beginning of LA it sets up the airport arrival gate as a place to see love, then ends by showing that. In VD there doesn't really seem to be any flow. Events just happen at random. The only difference between the beginning and the end is that the scenes are shorter and the cuts quicker.

3. Demographics. I'm not so concerning about the ethnicity of the protagonists, as LA was virtually all white too (and this could have been easily fixed) but I did notice how beautiful everyone was. Essentially if you're not thin, silky haired and young you're doomed to spend VD alone. Where were the people like us? With a few extra inches on the waist and a few more grey hairs that we once had? I know Hollywood is always obsessed with beautiful people but when they're being paraded one after another it gets too much.

4. Unhappy endings. There shouldn't be many, but in a multi-character drama some stories will end badly. In LA Laura Linney and Andrew Lincoln do not get to experience a fulfilling and complete love. VD doesn't dare to give any major characters anything other than the type of happiness they want. Nobody really ends up alone (except for Patrick Dempsey's cheating doctor but he does deserve it for being a love cheat). This is dramtically uninteresting.

5. Set your jokes up. All of the jokes in VD are one line zingers (and nearly all of them appear in the trailer). Lines like "Young Love, full of promise full of hope ignorant of reality" are OK but it's nothing compared to the set up and then pay-off of Kris Marshall stateside holiday or even the goofball pidgeon Portuguese that Colin Firth launches into in LA. By slowly developing towards a punchline then the jokes will be funnier and we will remember them better - trust me.

6. Make it for adults. Why make a film about love and sex and make it PG-13? Why why why. It limits the jokes and the situations. If a scenario is meant to appeal to adults make a film for adults to enjoy and not one for kids.

7. Believeability. If you're going to have a situation that doesn't seem very likely make it completely off the wall (such as a Prime Minister caught kissing at a school nativity or a faded rock star having a Christmas number 1). Don't have a florist which appears to employ over 15 people (I've been to lots of florists and I've never seen one with mre than 3 staff) - and on that why were there Nuns buying flowers on VD? I would also like to object about the Football stars coming out, but more on that later*.

I could go on.

There were some minor elements I enjoyed. Jessica Biel is a surprisingly nice comic actress and I hope she gets a decent film to show that off in (was Nailed ever completed?) and Hector Elizondo stood out for me (his reaction to Emma Roberts annoucement is priceless).

The flowers were also generally gorgeous and well chosen to go with the giver and the given, so thanks to whoever sourced those.

In spite of not hating the film with so much wrong with it all I can do is give Valentine's Day, a well deserved 1 out of 5 rating.

*Please see next post.

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