Monday, June 25, 2007

Most Anticipated Films of 2007 [Part One]

Again, I'm quite aware that such a post is considerably "late" seeing as we are fast approaching the halfway mark of 2007, but has that ever stopped me before? Better late to the party than not attending at all. Besides, apart from Away from Her, Planet Terror, Spider-Man 3 and some festival leftovers from 2006, there was little to look forward to and celebrate within the January to April period. We all know that the good stuff is reserved for the latter part of the year more often than not, and this is around the time that I start to salivate at the promise of TIFF (the Toronto Int'l Film Festival) and its possible entries. Cannes was rather low-key this year, but that has not negatively affected my anticipation for titles such as Moore's Sicko, Van Sant's Paranoid Park and Sokurov's Alexandra. Like last year, I've organized my selections into four camps (dreading/interested in/honourable mentions/the top fifteen), so here we go...


Ocean's Thirteen (Steven Soderbergh) - Honestly, who asked for this sequel? Raise your hand, so I can physically hurt you. It's not as if the aging franchise has been super-successful of late, and I'm surprised that the filmmakers didn't take the hint from the second film's poor critical reception. 2004's dull Ocean's Twelve had its inspired moments, but I certainly didn't walk away from it desiring to spend any more time with these characters (as much as I enjoy the supporting actors like as Don Cheadle and Scott Cann.) In fact, I'd rather see a sequel that brings these sideline characters to the forefront and banishes the tiresome trinity of Clooney/Pitt/Damon to the margins. At the very least, one good thing will come out of this - everyone involved will be forced to move on. Hopefully. I pray. Ocean's Fourteen to follow? (EDIT: I wrote this entry before the film opened, so I realize my thoughts are a little dated.)

Stardust (Matthew Vaughn) - Although I was initially glad that the successful Lord of the Rings trilogy re-introduced fantasy to the public and industry suits, the current situation has me a little less gung-go about its future (see recent adaptations of The Chronicles of Narnia and Eragon, for example.) Granted, the unofficial trailer that was released recently is still a work-in-progress and features unfinished material, but the whole thing still looks extremely cheesy to me. Perhaps as the release date draws closer, I will warm up to the whole idea; that cast is certainly attractive regardless of my reservations!

Hostel Part II (Eli Roth) - I like horror quite frankly, but there's a limit to how much gore I can take in a film. It's not that the depiction of blood and guts upsets me, but I find it ungainly and lazy in this context - too easy (shock value.) The much-publicized scene in which Heather Matarazzo is hung upside town and tortured is even more worrisome to me. I don't know what lame justification Roth is offer for this, but I'm not too sure I care enough to make the trek to the theatre, or even watch it free later in the year on my movie network channel. I have better ways to spend my time that to watch young women be disemboweled for entertainment.

Rush Hour 3 (Brett Ratner) - Another story that I had (more than enough) closure with on film number one. And the less said about 2001's sequel, the better. Chris Tucker's high-pitched squawking and Jackie Chan's surprised expressions can work for only so long, and I think I've given Brett Ratner enough opportunities to impress me. Pass.

I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (Dennis Dugan) - A call for tolerance packaged in a buddy comedy in which gay panic is played up for laughs? Yawn.

Good Luck Chuck (Mark Helfrich) - Jessica Alba + Dane Cook = toxicity for Ali.

The Eye (David Moreau, Xavier Palud) - Jessica Alba + yet another Japanese horror film remake by Hollywood = toxicity for Ali.

Leatherheads (George Clooney) - I enjoy the Cloons in small doses, but his mug has been plastered everywhere I turn these days, and I'm quickly losing my love. Even more unnerving? Miss Zellweger plays his character's love interest (!), and I'm genuinely scared. But the inclusion of John Krasinski from the American "Office" series will be enough to get me in the theatre.

Sweeney Todd (Tim Burton) - Oh good grief, where do I even begin with this? Just as I'm having issues with the Scott-Crowe pairing (see below), Burton and Johnny Depp need to break up creatively for a little while. And Burton needs to stop casting his wife in all of his projects; it's getting seriously embarrassing for all involved. Pretty much all the actors seem miscast (minus Rickman and Spall), and the musical elements also have me worried. Will Depp and Bonham-Carter be able to pull it off? Will Burton deliver and make us forget about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory/The Corpse Bride?

American Gangster (Ridley Scott) - Scott and Russell Crowe teaming up again? I like it fine when proven talents re-assemble for more projects, but there has to be some space in-between the films. Where they, you know, work with other people? Take Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet for example: enough time has passed since the Titanic hysteria that I'm really looking forward to seeing them paired up again. This team though? Not as much. I'll be seeing it for Denzel though, who thankfully is not playing a cop for the first time in a while.


My Blueberry Nights (Wong Kar-Wai) - The director's 2046 left a bitter aftertaste, but not so much so that I can't recall the strengths of In the Mood for Love and Happy Together. I'm honestly sick to death of Jude Law (take an extended sabbatical please!), yet I'm interested in watching Norah Jones in her acting debut; plus, Rachel Weisz and Natalie Portman make appearances. Word at Cannes was divided, but I'm still keeping my fingers crossed.

Across the Universe (Julie Taymor) - I love Taymor and the passion she always brings to creating a visual experience for her viewer; still, I wish she'd pay more attention to everything else. Frida was a feast for the eyes, but rocky in scripting and even more problematic in performances (for the record: Alfred Molina deserved the nomination, not Salma Hayek.) This looks like more of the same with scrumptious eye candy and awkward... everything else.

The Other Boleyn Girl (Justin Chadwick) - Two likable but regularly uneven actresses in two extremely difficult roles. While Johansson has proved herself once before in period (Girl with a Pearl Earring), she has been... less impressive recently (The Black Dahlia), and as much as I adore Natalie, I can't say I'm a huge fan across the board. However, one casting decision I can fully get behind is Eric Bana as Henry VIII; he looks much more convincing as the figurehead than Jonathan Rhys-Meyers for sure.

Reservation Road (Terry George) - More downer dramas about accidents and post-trauma healing? Good cast with a potential comeback part for Mira Sorvino, but I feel like I've seen this film already. Five times.

The rest of them very quickly: Evening (great cast but that trailer is just a string of cringe-worthy moments), Southland Tales (I had Kelly's follow-up to Donnie Darko on my most anticipated list last year; but how will it hold up now following the disastrous Cannes reception?), The Darjeeling Limited (I enjoy Wes Anderson usually, but his last film did not click at all with me), The Golden Compass (again, too much fantasy of late, although the Kidman-Craig pairing sounds delish), The Brave One (Jodie Foster and Neil Jordan together is a tempting proposition, but the trailer all but gave us the final scene), Michael Clayton (the Cloonster again!) and The Invasion (Kidman plus Craig again, only this time with troubled production buzz... oh my.)


The Kite Runner (Marc Forster) - The popular book by Khaled Hosseini provides solid source material, so that's in Forster's favour already (although Troy's David Benioff acting as screenwriter? Ugh.) This director's filmography doesn't sit well with me, but I'm interested in how he keeps defying genres and trademarks. And I keep hoping he'll make the film that actually deserves the praise everyone lavishes on him (no, not even last year's Stranger than Fiction really clicked despite good intentions.) I pray that this doesn't turn into a Memoirs of a Geisha-like disaster where exotic culture is "performed" and displayed for North American audiences though.

The Nanny Diaries (Shari Springer Bergman, Robert Pulcini) - Two words: American Splendor. Plus, the combined talents of Laura Linney and Paul Giamatti are enough to place my butt in that theatre seat.

Rendition (Gavin Hood) - Gyllenhaal and Witherspoon drama aside, look at the supporting cast: Arkin, Streep, Sarsgaard and Simmons. Plus the concept sounds pretty neat, even if it might lead to sermonizing of the "Middle Easterners are people too" variety.

The rest of them very quickly: Youth Without Youth (the return of Coppola Senior), The Savages (it's the year of La Linney), Margaret (another holdover from last year with strange word-of-mouth, but it's Lonergan!), Hairspray (I know, I know, but it still looks like a lot of fun), Cassandra's Dream (McGregor and Farrell - 'nuff said), and Charlie Wilson's War.

See Part Two here.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


As a historian, I often find myself attuned to the problem of narrative itself - the specificity of voice, location, and accessibility. After spending four years immersed in theory about how history is written and deployed, particularly in the South Asian context (a framework unavoidably intertwined with the rise of English empire-building), I find myself unable to look at any representation of the past and its subjects in quite the same way. Within that politics, the question of the marginalized is raised, and how one can make an attempt towards uncovering silenced voices in the ongoing construction of the past. As I try and find ways to merge my two interests - the study of history and my love for the cinema - I find myself constantly aware of these issues. Shyam Benegal's revisionist "biography" Zubeidaa: The Story of a Princess (2001) fits nicely alongside Ashutosh Gowariker's Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (2001) and Mira Nair's Vanity Fair (2004) as films that explore this issue in relation to "India" and its not-so-recent transition towards independence. In the former film, Gowariker turns his eye to a group of village peasants who revolt in their own special way against the British raj (not violently with swords, but passionately with cricket bats), while Nair ingeniously re-inserts the story of colonialism alongside Thackery's epic novel about class hierarchy and greed during the Napoleonic wars. All three films have been extremely invaluable resources for my work in exploring these themes, and I hope to present my "findings" in a scholarly/academic medium at some point in the future.

Shyam Benegal's film, penned by screenwriter Khalid Mohamed as a tribute to his late mother, is equally subversive in making an absolute claim towards authenticity. Mirroring her son Riyaz's quest to "find" his mother in tattered remnants of oral and written history, we are constantly aware that we are not seeing Zubeidaa as she really was. She has now entered the realm of myth and what person can explain on conclusive terms who this woman was? Celebrated by some as an actress and cursed by others who saw her as a traitor to her position, by the end of the film we are left with more questions than answers. Zubeidaa forms the third chapter in an unofficial trilogy created by Benegal and Mohamed that began in 1993 with Mammo. The second film, Sardari Begum (1996), has little to do with this family, but the cinematic bookends specifically chronicle Mohamed's early life growing up without a mother. Part fairy-tale, part homage, the final installment Zubeidaa draws on several sources to weave together a complex story - the woman's diary, relatives' reminiscing and even archival documents that have been confiscated as a result of a cover-up. As the title character Zubeidaa is "seen" through various perspectives, Benegal and Mohamed offer us an endless list of possibilities about who she was, and why she left behind only shame and controversy for those who knew her.

The existing "facts" known about Mohamed's mother are these few: Zubeidaa was born sometime in the 1930s into a position of great wealth and influence, the daughter of a powerful film industry mogul. After dabbling in Hindi-language cinema in small roles and a failed marriage that produced solely one son (Khalid Mohamed himself, or his stand-in "Riyaz" in the film), she quickly captured the attention of a Hindu Rajput prince. Much to the anger of her father, who consequently disowned her, the Muslim-born Zubeidaa wed the the Maharaja of Jodhpur and moved into his palace in Gujurat as his second wife (he is the ruler of Fatehpur in Utter Pradesh in the film.) Tragically, both Zubeidaa and her husband soon were killed in a mysterious air plane crash that wiped her record clean from the royal family's history books altogether. Due to her disinheritance from both her own family and her in-laws', the specifics of Zubeidaa's life have been largely rendered invisible over the decades. Consequently, Mohamed spent his formative years raised by his grandmother and thirsting for concrete knowledge about his biological mother, and the reason why she seemingly abandoned him. This film is the result of that period of research and inquiry.

Working as an investigative journalist in the early 1980s, Riyaz (played by Benegal regular Rajit Kapoor) draws upon many sources to piece together a fabric detailing his mother's life. Zubeidaa's elderly mother (character actress Surekha Sikri-Rege, another Benegal favourite) refuses to divulge any information to her grandson, while others such as Zubeidaa's dance instructor (Shakti Kapoor, in an amusing cameo) and her father's mistress Rose (Monsoon Wedding's Lillete Dubey) are not so reluctant to revisit that period in their lives. Perhaps Riyaz's most valuable source of information is provided by the prince's first wife, Mandira Devi, who retains mixed feelings about her rival-friend but may provide the key to his biggest questions. Throughout the film, Benegal's editors Avinash Walzade and Praveen Angre artfully move back and forth across concurrent timelines without any glaring hiccups in the difficult transitions, achieving moments of tapestry-like brilliance. By drawing on a several number of perspectives, the film consequently asks its audience to reconsider how we ourselves remember, filter and etch the past. The plot is not exactly Rashoman-like in its trajectory, but there is a definite sense that each character adds various textures and layers to the tale. Yet as Riyaz draws closer and closer to the cover-up regarding his mother's life and unresolved passing, there is still an open-ended element to the closing scenes. Although one suspects Mohamed has his own opinion about his mother's suspicious death, there is room to see it from many different angles. Just as every participant has a particular spin on Zubeidaa as a character, veering from outright denial of her existence to loving and fond remembrances of her fiery personality, we as the audience are encouraged to form our own conclusions.

The film is also aware of its post-colonial context; the Rajput princes are faced with a dilemma in the wake of independence from imperial England. What is their place as antiquated aristocratic rulers in a country increasingly calling for democratic principles and voting rights of the people? The Union government in Delhi is posited against the Rajput coalition of royalty, who wish to retain their status as a clan of rulers. Zubeidaa's husband, Maharaja Vijayendra "Victor" Singh, is confident in trusting his farmer subjects to support him as a representative in the new state apparatus, while his fellow kings push for the autonomy of their own states. Benegal is also quick to point out that this discussion was largely held between men in elevated positions of power; it is no convenient plot point that Zubeidaa demands to be part of the political process herself. That India's narrative of decolonization is one "written" by an elite male subjectivity is significant; agency and ability is clearly restricted a privileged few. The issue of Zubeidaa's religious background is also of particular note; it is perhaps no surprise that the prince's family was rather eager to erase her identity from the record books. That Muslim-Hindu tensions are just as pronounced today speaks to the debate over her position as Rajput Hindu royalty. Partition itself is one of the reasons for the breakdown of Zubeidaa's first marriage, as her former in-laws decide to leave India for the Muslim-majority Pakistan.

Benegal's attention to period is masterful; barring some funny anachronisms littered throughout, the film looks as though it could have been produced during Bollywood's golden age. Often in period pieces, there is more effort placed upon providing eye candy than staying true to the time and setting (see 2002's Devdas remake.) Thankfully, art/set directors Narendra Rahurikar and Ravi Chauhan expertly support the era recreation, diversely furnishing decrepit shacks and ornate palaces alike without drawing attention to their work. The costume designers' creations are divine (by Mitali Dutta and Regina Pius); every tailor-made sari is worthy of notice, and Kapoor has never looked more majestic on-screen. Rajan Kothari's cinematography is always aware of characters as well as their surroundings, avoiding the most obvious moments to capture close-ups and instead keeping a distance when necessary. The makeup team does a marvelous job contrasting youthful exuberance and the physical marks of experience that come along with age and experience. But the true standout here is the haunting musical score by A.R. Rahman; each song is memorable, despite being utilized strictly in the background (only one song - "Dheeme Dheeme", celebrating Zubeidaa's newfound romance - is played out in its entirety.) Rahman's soundtrack overall is a masterpiece in itself - it has been in continuous play on my music player over the past few years and will likely continue to be in the future. It too seems like it was written decades ago, easily comparable to the likes of Naushad, who provided the industry with standard-setting tracks from the 1940s onwards.

Karisma Kapoor, just off her searing performance the year before in Khalid Mohamed's own earnest-but-spotty directorial debut Fiza (2000), proved to the Bollywood industry once again that she had more to her than playing romantic afterthoughts in candy-floss commercial fare. As the title character, Kapoor is able to play upon the various shades each participant in the narrative has brought to light - her childish stubbornness, the heartbreak she felt at leaving behind Riyaz, and her refusal to stay within the boundaries drawn around her as a daughter, wife and princess. Although Zubeidaa features a stellar ensemble of character actors, Kapoor manages to remain the focal point of the film throughout. Coupled with her work in Fiza, the performance is Kapoor's most impressive to date; the actress soon went into semi-retirement after a highly-publicized marriage and divorce, but hopefully she will appear in a film of this caliber again in her still-young career. The film also features three excellent supporting performances by female actors, the most impressive being Surekha Sikri-Rege's. As Zubeidaa's mother Fayyazi, Sikri-Rege is sympathetic as a conflicted mother in the flashback scenes, and marvelously cantankerous as a crotchety old woman in the "present". Equally good is Lillete Dubey as an actress past her prime; the juxtaposition between her youthful years as a friend to Zubeidaa, and her fate as a sad cat lady is striking to say the least.

Rekha is appropriately evasive as Victor's first wife; the actress seems to smartly mask her true feelings behind a dedication to proper etiquette and formality. Just as Riyaz seems on edge while interviewing her about his mother, we feel equally torn about this woman's motivations and alliances. Manoj Bajpai is charming as the Maharaja; the prince is clearly devoted to Zubeidaa, but still regards her as decorative property. The actor is able to draw out both of these characteristics, sketching a three-dimensional figure as opposed to fulfilling a mere plot device. The late Amrish Puri does as expected in his portrayal of Suleiman Seth, having now carved a niche in Bollywood playing domineering, abusive fathers; however, there are a few moments where the actor hints at regret for his harmful decisions regarding Zubeidaa's life. Rajit Kapoor only appears in a few scenes as the adult Riyaz, but is entirely believable as a intuitive, intelligent young man able to see through manipulative agendas in his quest for the truth. Other bit parts are filled in by Benegal regulars such as Seema Bhargava as Riyaz's loving childhood nurse Zainab, and Ravi Jhankar as Victor's corrupt brother who round out the cast. Worthy of special mention is Farida Jalal, who briefly reprises her role from Benegal's Mammo in this film as Fayyazi's sister who attends Zubeidaa's first wedding.

This production is admittedly an anomaly of sorts; it's not quite the hard-hitting Indian "parallel cinema" Benegal is typically known and acclaimed for. And despite its musical numbers by maestro A.R. Rahman and the casting of Kapoor in the title role, it's not a full-out Bollywood production either (its poor performance at the box office is surely proof of that, despite winning a National Award for Best Picture in the Hindi language.) As such, it exists in another space altogether, which makes it one of the most exciting cinematic ventures to emerge from India in the new millennium. Although I am usually reluctant to label anything a "feminist" piece due to the multiplicity of definitions attributed to that word, it's impossible to overlook the complexity of Zubeidaa's characterization here. She is not a perfect figure; she is prone to impulsiveness, to impatience and selfishness, but she is nonetheless endearing in her flaws and shortcomings. Her demands to be seen as more than a trophy wife are quite advanced for her time, and she gives a voice to those women who refused to remain silent in an era and culture that called for their complete omission from men's dealings (politics, money, and household decision-making.)

One of the film's most devastating sequences depicts Zubeidaa's first marriage as Rahman's cheerful "Mendhi Hai Rachnewali" (a song celebrating marriage and familial harmony) ironically plays over the desperate proceedings. Despite her ongoing resistance to apply henna to her hands and agree to the match forged by her father, she is forced to go through with the alliance.
As the mullah asks repeatedly for her assent as per the specifics of the Islamic marriage nikaah ceremony, she remains chillingly silent as the crowd uncomfortably looks on. Her defiant glare from beneath her beautiful gold-threaded headdress is breathtaking in its non-conformity. Her father Suleiman Seth obnoxiously accepts the proposal on her behalf, but Zubeidaa never bows down to this aggressive attempt to control her, always true to her insistence on doing things on her own terms. A

Monday, June 04, 2007

What Lies Ahead

Soooo... how come no one has commented on the new banner? ;)

In many ways, it doesn't really depress me that I've only squeezed out six blog entries since my (overkill) Oscar ceremony afterthoughts way back in February. In fact, I'm rather surprised that I was able to post that many; for an example of my no-flourish composition lately, I've barely been able to write e-mails to family and friends spanning more than a paragraph or two. And only then when I've received irate lectures about my lack of responsiveness. I don't think there's any point in blaming my post-Oscar season fatigue on any one reason, although I can certainly say that the last two months of my final term were quite hectic and demanding. I really have no interest in narrating my many hours spent pulling all-nighters in the library, or popping caffeine pills every three hours. Anyways, all the time and effort I had usually reserved for film-related writing was soon redirected towards paper writing, so that's likely the main reason for my blog negligence of late (laziness and poor time management were/are also at play.) Now that school is more or less over, with grades having been entered (3.7 Cumulative GPA) and graduation pending (eep - June 14th), I really have nothing else to use as an excuse.

Thankfully, since my last exam in mid-May, I've slowly been getting back into the swing of writing and film-watching. Trips to the movie theatre have been much more frequent (although I'm not venturing out for Shrek 3, Ocean's 13 or Pirates 3 - thanks, but no thanks), and I've been spinning "catch up" DVDs in my player non-stop. So I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm still very committed to making this blog work. I may not be able to match the regularity, wit and passion so many of my fellow bloggers are well-known for, but I'm going to try my best. Really. At the very least, you'll see something here once or twice a week, even if it's worthless filler (only the best for my readers, the two of you that are out there.)

If you've been stopping by frequently over the last few months in hopes of activity (in vain), you'll notice that I'm putting a lot more effort into writing full-length reviews (for Notes on a Scandal and Away from Her most recently.) Short paragraphs a la capsule reviews don't really cut it anymore personally, and I often find the overall results vague and bordering on summary. I also find writing long reviews much more fulfilling, and I'm able to get out all I want to say without worrying too much about length. I enjoy the process, even if it takes me longer to think through my thoughts/critiques (which is certainly a good thing.) So expect to find more of that in the coming weeks and months...

I also haven't forgotten about my countdown of the best male performances of the first half of this decade. It's a little embarrassing to think it's almost been a year since I began that project (and had originally planned to finish it by the end of the summer!). The main issue is that the movies I had re-watched during that time have largely faded from memory, so I really need to skim through certain films before committing my thoughts to "paper". But soon!

I also want to commit a lot of time to reviewing many more films from India. After reviewing the imdb database in terms of external comments and reviews, I've found these movie pages lacking in many respects. I also hope to convert many of my readers who are not familiar with these films a chance to see that Indian cinema does not automatically equal Bollywood. I look forward to churning out a lot of reviews soon - look out for thoughts on some of my recent favourites: Zubeidaa, Dil Se.. (best known in North America for featuring the song "Chaiyya Chaiyya", used in the opening and closing credits of Spike Lee's Inside Man) and the Oscar-nominated Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India.

Other projects in the pipeline? A reappraisal of Aronofsky's The Fountain (that has been pending since my grade change in November) and some commentary on 2007's most anticipated titles...

What else has occurred recently that may be of interest? Of special note is my re-evaluation of Lynch. Another lesson learned by Ali this year - stop judging directors on the basis of two or three films. After being less than wowed with Blue Velvet, Mulholland Dr. and Wild at Heart, I had angrily written him off for good. But with the double whammy of Inland Empire and The Elephant Man combined, he's more than back in my good graces (the former film is particularly awe-inspiring) - on to Eraserhead and Lost Highway! I may even have to give Blue Velvet a second chance, especially since Nick was taken aback by my thumbs-down evaluation recently.

It may seem contradictory after expressing my need to write longer reviews, but here are some other quick notes to jot down (sans plot summary):

Peyton Reed's The Break-Up is a surprisingly uncomfortable sit, fully capturing the rapid disintegration of a once-happy relationship. For a minute, I thought Reed was doing something quite interesting with the rom-com genre (take for instance the non-showy references toward class difference), but ultimately, the film's tone turns non-committal. Soon enough, we have sitcom-y type humour trumping the biting moments that were so promising, and a wish-washy conclusion. The supporting cast is something of a dream on paper, but none of them have enough screentime to make a lasting impression minus Judy Davis. C-

It's easy to understand why D.J. Caruso's Disturbia was a late spring sleeper hit - with its merging of current tween trends (YouTube, iTunes, etc) with the Rear Window formula, the lingo and banter of these bored suburban teenagers is instantly familiar. Shia LeBeouf will never convince me that he has much range as an actor, but he definitely has a commanding presence. In that respect, the movie works best in its exploration of lazy summer days and sexual discovery, and less so in its second-act slasher film turn. I enjoyed it for what it was, but I doubt I'll remember it in a few months, or that it will hold up at all on a second viewing. I hope that the film's success will point viewers in the direction of Hitchcock's classic at the very least. C+

Although it may cost me much credibility, I have no problems in stating my utter adoration for 2003's winsome Something's Gotta Give. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for Nancy Meyers' The Holiday, a Christmas turkey offered to audiences last December. Despite many friends warning me to pass it up, I plunked down the six dollars required to take in Kate Winslet's attempt at a rom-com on DVD. Happily, she's the best thing about the film, but she's unfortunately dragged down by the lines she's required to recite and the actors she's forced to work with. There's no spark here, no spontaneity - the magic of the Diane Keaton-Jack Nicholson vehicle has clearly been used up. Cameron Diaz provides a good case for her return to modeling as a career, and Jude Law seems more desperate than ever (although it's good to see him moving away from playing married liar-cheaters, even if this film sets that up as a possibility.) There's only one way I could ever consider re-watching this: if a director's cut centred solely around Winslet's Iris and re-wrote Diaz's character arc straight into a tragic plane crash en route to England. D