Saturday, 11 April 2009

Movie Review - Laws of Attraction

From the trailers I’d seen, Laws of Attraction looked like one of those movies that was either going to be excellent or awful. As it turned out it was neither, being more of the nondescript but relatively enjoyable variety. (I had the same impression from seeing the trailers for “Intolerable Cruelty”, but cannot offer a comparison of the films as I decided against going to see that one.)

Daniel Rafferty and Audrey Woods are rival Divorce Lawyers (as Daniel Rafferty describes it, “the mould growing underneath the scum that ordinary Lawyers are), who end up becoming more fierce business rivals. In the middle of all this they find themselves representing either side of an odd couple seeking a divorce – a rock star and a fashion designer. In the midst of all this something very strange happens to them, something that will change both their lives forever… or will it?

That sums up the basic plot quite a way into the film, but is cryptic enough not to contain any real spoilers. It’s a decent enough storyline with nothing particularly special about it . Which overall sums up the whole film – relatively good but nothing more. There are a couple of surprises but it’s still basically predictable fare, unfortunately.
The main problem I had with this movie is that the love affair and subsequent “real love” felt by Daniel Rafferty for Audrey Woods was totally unbelievable. There is just no adequately explained reason for Daniel Rafferty to fall for Audrey Woods, who has no noticeable redeeming qualities and is, at best, only moderately attractive. (The complete lack of chemistry between Brosnan and Moore just compounded this problem.) I quite liked the fact that these were slightly older characters, but this fact was not exploited at all. Despite an admirable attempt by the scriptwriters to differ from the normal formulaic storyline of this type of film, but unfortunately still end up with a cliché-ridden plot – it’s all the same old worn-out clichés, it’s just in a slightly different order.

Pacing is also a problem with this film. Not a lot happens really, and when it does, it happens sloooooooooooooooowly. This wouldn’t be a problem if the intervening scenes were either genuinely funny or genuinely touching, but sadly they are neither – again, mainly due to the lack of chemistry between the characters, and the general apathy I felt towards Audrey Woods.

There are moments that threaten to take the film to a higher level – Daniel Rafferty’s speech to a group of young lawyers, practically every time Michael Sheen (Thorne Jamison) is on the screen, some of Fisher’s exasperated counselling to her daughter – but there’s not enough of them to make this above average. There are no real belly laughs to be had, and while there quite a few chuckles to be had and one or two “laugh out loud” moments, it should be funnier than it is. I was disappointed, but it’s not a terrible film – it’s just not a good one. In fact, it’s decidedly average.


Cast

Daniel Rafferty – Pierce Brosnan – 7/10 – Brosnan puts in a pretty good performance here and shows that he is well suited to gentle humour , though I’m not quite so sure about romantic comedy. Initially reminded me of Peter Falk’s Columbo, then for the rest of the film was scarily reminiscent of fellow Bond actor Roger Moore. Appeared to be practically sleep-walking through some of the film’s more painfully drawn-out sequences.

Audrey Woods – Julianne Moore – 4/10 – I know this is going to sound really cruel but most of her attempts at emotion would have only been convincing if she had been portraying someone suffering from acute constipation. There is no really chemistry between the co-stars and I felt that this was because Moore gave Brosnan precious little to work with. Her character was initially meant to be boring and indeed this was accurately portrayed, however when she was supposed to get more interesting I still found myself bored by her character.

Thorne Jamison– Michael Sheen– 10/10 – an absolutely brilliant performance by Michael Sheen as a very stupid rock star nearly raises this film above mediocrity. He’s dense, obnoxious, and has the moral sensibilities of a toad, and you’ll love him for it. (Or at least, you’ll love his role in the film – I’m not suggesting that this is the sort of person you’d love in real life.)

Serena – Parker Posey - 7/10 – Posey does a pretty good job as Thone’s wife, though some of her acting seems forced.

Frances Fisher - Sara Miller - 9/10 – playing Woods’ mother, Miller is good for quite a few laughs and puts in a very solid performance.

Judge Abramovitz – Nora Dunn – 8/10 – also good for a few laughs, could have been a bit better, could have been a lot worse.

Crew

Director – Peter Howitt – 7/10 – adept use of visuals and site gags, but the pacing was all wrong.

Screenwriters – Arline Brosh McKenna & Robert Harling – 6/10 – the idea of feuding legal practitioners in it has a great deal more potential than was reached here.

Costume Design – Joan Bergin – 7/10 – not an awful lot wrong with it, but considering one of the main characters was a fashion designer, you’d think it would be more impressive.

Composer – Edward Shearmur – 6/10 – came up with the sort of bouncy, repetitive tune that all comedies claiming to be funnier than they actually are seem to have.


Overall

You could do worse than watch Laws of Attraction, but you could also do a lot better. For some suggestions try my Top Ten Romantic Comedies list.

See also my Review of 2004 Movies.


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