Volume 16 • Issue 30 | December 23 - 29, 2003


Koch on Film

“Something’s Gotta Give” (+)
This is an old-fashioned film brought up to date with sexuality front and center.

The sexuality aspect, its most endearing feature, involves a playwright woman in her 50’s, Erica Barry (Diane Keaton), and a 63-year-old businessman, Harry Sanborn (Jack Nicholson). Erica is the mother of Marin (Amanda Peet), a woman in her 20’s who intends to have a tryst with Harry at her mother’s home in East Hampton.

How Erica and Harry become involved is beautifully scripted, and because of the superb comedic talents of both Keaton and Nicholson, it is often hilarious. Harry suffers a heart attack, and instead of fear and sadness, the incident generates poignancy, self-deprecation and an inner awareness in Harry. He begins to value loving relationships rather than simply sexual ones. His use of Viagra, notwithstanding his heart attacks, is approved by a doctor who tells him the defining test for sex is whether he can walk up a flight of stairs.

Keaton and Nicholson are superb in their roles, as is Keanu Reeves who plays the role of Julian Mercer, a young doctor who treats Harry and is infatuated with Erica. Frances McDormand, playing the role of Erica’s sister, Zoe, is underutilized in her minor appearance.

While the movie is important in centering on the emotional needs and sexual intimacies of middle-aged and older couples, it will not be recalled years from now as a great picture. It is always interesting and funny, but in its totality, it is froth and bubbles. One moment that may be recalled years from now is the exposure of Nicholson’s butt as his hospital gown loosens. The sight is very funny.

This is a film that every generation can enjoy, but post-menopausal women and men of the Viagra generation will especially connect with the humor and drama.

“The Last Samurai”
I had to see this flick even though PT and AT told me it was a great disappointment. It is even worse than they led me to believe.

Historical dramas involving the Samurai, like those directed by the great Kurosawa, are matchless in affording pleasure and excitement. There was no pleasure for me in watching this historical drama. It is simply boring.

The young Japanese emperor depicted is at a crossroads. Should he listen to his business advisors who are corrupt and want to quickly westernize and grow rich with commercial contracts? Or should he move slowly as advised by his Samurai teacher and counselor, Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe)? The latter is the best actor in the movie having enormous gravitas. Physically, he reminded me of Larry Fishburne, particularly in his role in “The Matrix.”

Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise) is a former American Army officer haunted by his role in General Custer’s massacre of the Indians before Custer himself and 211 of his soldiers were massacred in the 1876 Battle of Little Bighorn. Algren is brought to Japan to teach the Japanese army modern warfare using guns and cannons. In a battle with the Samurai, he is taken prisoner, quickly comes to appreciate and respect his captors and ultimately joins them, an example perhaps of the first Stockholm Syndrome.

There is no love interest in the film other than one kiss between Algren and Taka (Koyuki) widow of a Samurai killed by Algren in battle.

It’s a pity that the film was so devoid of excitement and color. Cruise’s acting resembles that of a wooden stick figure rather than an American soldier learning how to be a Samurai. Cruise also produced this film. He has either lost his touch, is getting older and is losing his talent, or believes he can do no wrong when it comes to acting and selecting scripts. In this movie he demonstrates that he can do lots wrong. One more boring film, and he may be out of favor for a long time.

- Ed Koch


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