Who’s That Girl

(USA 1987)

“You gotta see me spend money to really appreciate me.”

—Nikki Finn

“¿Quién es esa niña?” asks the buoyant but trite title song, which topped the Billboard Hot 100 charts for a week during the summer of 1987. We all know the answer: it’s Madonna, of course. Perhaps a better question is, what happened with this movie?

Madonna is Nikki Finn, a playful gumcracking ex-con who just got out of jail serving time for a crime she didn’t commit. She’s rough around the edges but dead serious about her mission: she’s determined to find out who framed her for the murder of her boyfriend, Johnny.

Enter uptight humorless yuppie tax attorney Loudon Trott (Griffin Dunne), who works for Manhattan mogul Simon Worthington (John McMartin) and is about to marry his daughter, Wendy (Haviland Morris). Louden is charged with the task of picking up Nikki from the pen and making sure she gets on a bus to Philadelphia. Surprise: it’s not that easy with someone like darling Nikki, which becomes abundantly clear to Louden over the next 24 hours. Talk about causing a commotion.

Originally titled Slammer, Who’s That Girl is an homage of sorts to the screwball comedies of the 1930s and 1940s. It’s a total “summer movie.” Written by Andrew Smith and Ken Finkleman, and directed by James Foley, it shows glimpses of some okay ideas. It’s supposed to be fun, and to a degree it is. Madonna and Dunne concoct a believable chemistry, I’ll give them that. Dunne is a great straight guy, on par with his performance in After Hours. The problem is, Who’s That Girl just isn’t very funny. The jokes are lame, the laughs are far and few between, and the plot is predictable. The whole thing loses steam about halfway through. Murray the cougar (Murray) is a pointless gimmick that, sadly, doesn’t add anything.

The animated opening sequence is cool (and parts of it ended up in the music video for “Who’s That Girl”). The soundtrack is better than the film. Overall, though, Who’s That Girl is a pretty uninspired work. I love Madonna and I ran to the theater when this came out. I was underwhelmed then; after waiting almost 30 years to see it again, I’m underwhelmed now. Fun fact, though: Stanley Tucci and Mike Starr both have minor roles as dockworkers.

With Coati Mundi, Dennis Burkley, James Dietz, Bibi Besch, John Mills, Robert Swan, Drew Pillsbury, Liz Sheridan

Production: Guber-Peters Company

Distribution: Warner Brothers

92 minutes
Rated PG

(iTunes purchase) D+

 

The Devil Wears Prada

(USA 2006)

Some movies you watch just because they start and you’re too damned lazy to see what else is on. Such is the case with The Devil Wears Prada, which served as the end of my Christmas night movie binge.

Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) just finished school and moved to New York City to become a journalist. While seeking employment with more weighty publications like The New Yorker, she snags a one-off interview for Runway magazine. Surprise: she gets the job—working as personal assistant to ball busting editor-in-chief, Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep). Andy’s job duties and a chance meeting with handsome magazine writer Simon Baker (Christian Thompson) cause friction in her personal relationships, especially her chef boyfriend, Nate (Adrian Grenier). Is a job worth this much hassle?

Director David Frankel does a competent job with Aline Brosh McKenna’s screen adaptation of Lauren Weisberger’s novel even if the end result is nothing special. The acting is fine, particularly Stanley Tucci as caddy and nelly designer Nigel. It’s nice to hear Madonna’s “Vogue” in one scene outside Andy’s car. The problem I have is the script, which is formulaic and predictable girl movie stuff: awkward girl in the big city reinvents herself and not just survives but excels in the face of adversity. Of course, there’s a happy ending. The Devil Wears Prada is not my cup of tea: it’s cute, but that’s about it.

109 minutes
Rated PG-13

(Bravo) D+

http://www.foxmovies.com/movies/the-devil-wears-prada

Spotlight

(USA 2015)

The Roman Catholic Church sex abuse scandal of the early millennium shocked even far fallen Catholics like me. I remember the skeeves I got when I heard that one of the priests from my old parish was “involved”– and some of his accusers purpordedly were former classmates of mine. And it all came to light while we were still reeling from 9/11. O tempora o mores!

Sticking to a period of about eight months with a methodical, deliberate pace that slowly bubbles to a boil, Spotlight tells all the twists, turns, obstacles, and setbacks The Boston Globe’s special investigations team faced in exposing the systemic coverup within the Boston Diocese, executed by Cardinal Law (Len Cariou). No one believed it at first– not even The Globe, which as we learn had information years before. Spotlight grabs you from the get-go and locks you in, letting bits and pieces of evidence mount. The setup is what you’d expect from a film about investigative reporting.

Spotlight is an actors’ movie: drab, colorless sets and straightforward camera work let the ensemble cast work the drama. So, what about the actors? Not a single bad performance here. Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiver, Mark Ruffalo, and Stanley Tucci particularly shine. It’s nice to see Billy Cudrup again. Jimmy LeBlanc (Patrick) is a small but wrenching role, and I swore he was a brother of Chris Evans (he’s not). Rachel McAdams and Brian d’arcy James both work their roles, but their characters are superfluous. John Slattery is amusing, as usual; but his character is essentially Roger Sterling from Mad Men. Minor flaws aside, I see some definite Oscar potential here.

Side note: this was my first visit to the brand new ArcLight Cinema at New City. Not bad, though I need to see another film there to decide whether I like it.

(ArcLight) B+

http://spotlightthefilm.com