Monday, 26 July 2010

Casablanca (1942)

Sure, it was a nice play on the title ("Casa... Blanca"... White House) but having Victor Laszlo become President of the United States in the last scene strains credibility a little too far. Despite an impassioned monologue in which he tells of being born in a Cleveland tenement and of his parents then immediately immigrating back to Prague, Paul Henreid never quite convinces the viewer that he could have won the Republican nomination so quickly. (And the cheap mock-up of the Rose Garden - a testament to the new wartime rationing - doesn't help either.)

This is not to knock Henried, a fine actor in his own right. Rather, the blame has to fall on Jack Warner. Though the ending appeared neither in the play that the film was based on - or any of the several screenplay drafts - the mogul insisted on inserting it at the very last minute, in a misplaced burst of patriotic fever.

While Casablanca remains a beloved favorite of film aficionados everywhere, this is the classic example of a twist that went a little too far.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Shattered Glass (2003)

Obviously, when you base a film on real life events, you're going to take liberties. Still, having a final scene where New Republic journalist Stephen Glass wins the Pulitzer - as a packed auditorium at Columbia University stands and cheers - was going a little too far.

Even the renowned Ted Kotcheff - sparkling in his role as loveable publisher Marty Peretz - is unable to save this zany comedy as it goes off the rails.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Gainsbourg (2010)

For the most part, this account of a brigade of French volunteers who crossed the ocean to fight for the Union in the American Civil War is quite entertaining. However, unfortunately, the film breaks down as it nears the climax at the Battle of Gettysburg (or "Gainsbourg" as it's translated into the Gallic tongue.)

While history isn't my strong suit, I think it was stretching it to have the brigade beat back Pickett's Charge all by themselves (and then go on to capture Robert E. Lee, singing and dancing all the while.) And the final line from Captain Pierre (Jean Reno), delivered as word comes of a second group of French soldiers conquering Richmond, is a bit too much: "Washington, nous ici!"

Yes, while our two countries have had a long and close relationship, I think endings like these do it a bit of disservice.

Monday, 5 July 2010

The Boxer (1997)

Sometimes a film strains too hard for a poetic effect. Having Danny Flynn (Daniel Day Lewis) leave the gritty streets of Belfast at the end, to retreat to a forest glade, where he stands, crying out in anger and shame, "I am leaving! I am leaving!" is one of those times.