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The Bottom Shelf #120

08.09.2007

I'm feeling like a girl lately. It could be attributed to a number of things, but more likely than not it's because I like a boy. Amazing how we have all this progression over hundreds of years and we're (or perhaps it's just me) still back at square one with our hormones and desires to bump the uglies. In any case, here are some girlie picks for this week's column.

THE SPITFIRE GRILL (1996)
Directed by: Lee David Zlotoff
Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Marcia Gay Harden

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I've often made the claim that I'm not into chick flicks. I've decided that I need to reevaluate what exactly a "chick flick" is. See, in my opinion it usually has to do with some love story, a sappy romance where love triumphs over all obstacles and the girl always gets the handsome guy of her dreams. Either that or it'll have something to do with the unstoppable friendship between two women, spanning decades and lousy husbands. That, and they always make you cry. This movie really is neither of those two things, but it did make me cry. So I have to ask: Is this movie really a chick flick? And do I now need to turn in my "cool chick" merit badge that allowed me to hang out with the boys because they thought I was different?

The movie follows a young woman recently released from a prison where she'd been working the phones as a part of her stay. Her job was to handle questions for the people who were considering traveling to Maine, letting them know of hotels and the like. When she is paroled, she heads to a small town where they're unaccustomed to strangers. Luckily she ends up working for the cantankerous woman who runs the local diner, someone who needs her just as much as she needs a fresh start. There is hinting at what she was in prison for but it isn't until the movie is nearly over that you understand the pain of her crime, making her previous query of whether it was more painful to heal than the cause of a painful wound.

Call me a sucker, but I cried. Since I see a great deal of movies there really isn't a whole lot that moves me anymore. I would like to think that I haven't lost my sensitivity to certain things, but I know that watching such a wide variety has caused me to not buy into the same crap that makes the Lifetime channel so damn popular. There isn't a whole lot to this story if you're looking for action. It's just well told and very well acted. Marcia Gay Harden is one of those actresses that you can always count on to turn in a rock solid performance, making you forget who she is or what you might have seen her in prior. The main character is played by a woman named Alison Elliott, a previous Ford model who doesn't have a great deal on her acting resume but is really the core of this film. Her accent is adopted but entirely believable and the pain in her eyes goes deep. It's really a shame that this didn't turn her into more of a star. If there wasn't such a stigma around chick flicks, I think it would have. And rightfully so.

Favorite Scene:

It's more of a brief shot, where the camera pans to Harden's baby and she's smiling up at the person as if they're an idiot.

Favorite Line:

"Most folks would rather hear a colorful lie over the truth any day."

Trivia Tidbit:

Kieran Mulroney, the actor who plays Joe, is the brother of Dermot Mulroney.

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FRIED GREEN TOMATOES, PLACES IN THE HEART, WHERE THE HEART IS

PLAYING BY HEART (1998)
Directed by: Willard Carroll
Starring: Sean Connery, Angelina Jolie

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It was really hard deciding which two actors to list as having been in this movie considering that the cast is comprised of a great deal of people who are noteworthy. While they managed to secure Angelina during her earlier years and Ryan Phillippe during his pre-US Weekly bad ex-husband, how could you do that to Reese years, the movie also contains a laundry list of other stars who are worthy of watching in most everything they do. Although it also seems like this was the last real outing for Gillian Anderson and Jon Stewart in anything that resembled trying to have a serious go at being movie stars.

The movie follows so many different people that it's easy to get lost (and bored) along the way. Once all of the pieces fall into place you realize that Gena Rowlands and Sean Connery are a couple on the verge of their 40th wedding anniversary, dealing with his brain tumor and purported infidelity from 25 years prior. They have 3 daughters, all of whom are relationship impaired, from the eldest who is unfaithfully married to an "unimaginative" man who spends his acting class time pretending to be people that he's not, to a middle child with control issues who can't be bothered to trust a man who really shouldn't have any interest in her after she brushes him off so harshly, to a drama queen baby of the family who goes chasing after the one man who doesn't seem to want to give her attention.

While there are some things in this movie that I really liked, there is also an ache in the pit of my stomach after watching it. With a cast this good, you'd think that they'd have done more with them. There's this great feeling of unfulfilled potential here that causes me great pause. However, the movie is filled with small bits and pieces that can't be ignored. The fact that in a movie filled with so much fantasy (the bullshit that Anderson and Stewart go through in their courtship, with him being affluent and successful and yet willing to take her unprompted abuse is just ridiculous) there is a whole lot of truth. From Connery opening up with the line about having really wanted to have slept with the woman his wife assumed he slept with to Ellen Burstyn telling her dying son that she never really loved his father and why, I have to admit that the movie took a few chances. It's just sad that they didn't pay off as a whole. On the upside, this is probably the best that Angelina has looked in her entire career (in my opinion), so drink that in and call it time well spent.

Favorite Scene:

Phillippe meeting Blanche the cat for the first time. Brought back memories of a similarly ocular impaired feline that I knew back in the day.

Favorite Line:

"Some girls like you to say things like that to them."
"Some girls like you to take a dump on them. I'm neither one of those girls."

Trivia Tidbit:

Writer/director Carroll has the largest private collection of L. Frank Baum and Wizard of Oz related material in the world.

See if you liked:

LOVE ACTUALLY, 200 CIGARETTES, CENTER STAGE

I'm singing The Waitresses lately (if you don't get that reference, you're too young to hang around making me feel all old) and putting on more make-up than usual. Damn penis people!

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