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The Bottom Shelf #89

01.04.2007

Happy New Year, faithful JoBlo.com readers! By the time that this column debuts, we'll be 4 days into the almighty 2007. Most of you will have made resolutions about things that you wish to improve about yourself. Perhaps you're looking to do things in a way that you've never attempted before. To wander out of your comfort zone. In honour of that line of thinking, my selections this week feature a couple of men who are more famous for following a predictable path but chose to meander from it, if only for one film.

POSSESSION (2002)
Directed by: Neil LaBute
Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow, Aaron Eckhart

-- click here to buy this DVD at Amazon.com --
-- click here to rent this movie at NetFlix.com --

This movie is NOT for men, a fact that should completely floor most avid movie watchers who know LaBute for being the misogynist that his previous films have painted him out to be. The flick is dripping in old school sentimentality, perhaps the only kind that LaBute could wrap his fists around properly. This isn't a flowery love story despite the flowery language. Most women won't enjoy this movie because there are no overt declarations of undying love. You must read between the lines here, as the character Randolph Ash quite clearly is the fictional parallel to LaBute himself.

Two scholars (Paltrow & Eckhart) go in search of letters written by Ash, a famed poet of the late 1800's and his supposed lover, a woman by the name of Christabel LaMotte who was suspected to be a lesbian. As the two modern day characters discover more about their historical counterparts, a mysterious love story is revealed and a love affair begins to bloom between them. There are other moments in the movie which seem to have been thrown in to give the movie more bite, perhaps a move on behalf of the movie industry and its belief that a film cannot stand on romance alone if the players are speaking with British accents.

I firmly believe that LaBute wants people to understand that he isn't the whole of what his previous works have laid out. He's been known to produce some of the most caustic dialogue between men when discussing their beliefs on women. His vision is unsparing and at times outright vicious when dealing with the fairer sex. POSSESSION revolves around two people finding out that a poet whom all previously known information portrayed him as being a misogynist actually had a heart beneath his bile. And LaBute does. Sometimes love isn't something that can shine out in the sunlight. It is hidden, buried for those industrious enough to go in search for. And when that love is uncovered, it is far more delicious than any that could have been out in the open. POSSESSION is absolutely one of the most romantic pieces that I have seen in a very, very long time and I feel as out of breath as Paltrow and Eckhart did when they stumbled upon a new piece of the puzzle.

Favorite Scene:

Ash encountering the small child in the field when he goes in search of Christabel.

Favorite Line:

"You cut me, Madam."
"I'm sorry. I only meant to scratch."

Trivia Tidbit:

The movie is based on the book Possession: A Romance by A.S. Byatt

See if you liked:

PRIDE & PREJUDICE, HOWARD'S END, GOSFORD PARK

BUBBLE BOY (2001)
Directed by: Blair Hayes
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Swoosie Kurtz

-- click here to buy this DVD at Amazon.com --
-- click here to rent this movie at NetFlix.com --

After spending some time with relatives recently, I've discovered that my family is torn over deciding what constitutes "funny." Some are firm believers that the more oddball the better, preferring black comedy in the form of indie selections. Others go more the traditional route, opting for tried and true formulas with tired but reassuringly predictable punchlines. Both sides believe that the other side is stupid for liking the comedy movie selections that they do. Myself, I don't mind stupid comedies as long as they don't take themselves seriously. BUBBLE BOY most definitely does not take itself seriously.

The flick centers around Gyllenhaal's character Jimmy Livingston, a boy who was born without immunities and as a condition of such must remain in a plastic bubble to protect him from germs. His mother is an uptight woman hell-bent on protecting him from the outside world, feeding him cookies in the shape of the cross, home schooling him and leading him to believe that Land of the Lost is the only show that airs on TV. When Jimmy develops a crush on the hot blonde girl that moves in next door, he begins to want to experience more of what's beyond his enclosed world. When the girl leaves to marry the stereotypical jerk, Jimmy constructs himself a travel-sized version of his hypo-allergenic world and heads out to stop the wedding.

Along the way he encounters a shiny, happy cult lead by romance novel cover model Fabio, an always brilliant Danny Trejo as an understanding biker and twin old geezers who have been arguing for 86 years over who stole whose seductively named girlfriend. Oh, and don't forget the circus freaks! What would a movie about a bubble boy be without some circus freaks? BUBBLE BOY is stupid humor, a comedy that never reaches for the stars because it knows it's never going to rise above toilet humor. It thrives on the fresh-faced Gyllenhaal, long before he was the angst king or future Hollywood heartthrob. You've got to hand it to the actor who will attack a role, no matter if it's one detailing the lovestruck gay cowboy or the lovestruck immunity deficient walking punchline.

Favorite Scene:

Who doesn't love it when Asian Americans and their accents are the butt of a joke? Seeing Gyllenhaal scream "500 dollars!!" in his strange falsetto voice is instantly quotable.

Favorite Line:

"Well, you'll certainly be in my prayers tonight. And I'll be praying you get nut cancer!"

Trivia Tidbit:

Director Hayes met actor Verne Troyer (who plays "The Doctor" in this flick) while working behind the scenes on AUSTIN POWERS: THE SPY WHO SHAGGED ME

See if you liked:

DUDE, WHERE'S MY CAR?, BILLY MADISON, JOE DIRT

LaBute could stand to make a few more movies where he slightly (but only slightly) softens his view on women. Gyllenhaal might best be served to remember that he started out goofy and he was actually pretty damn good at it. We could all learn that diverting from the path we most commonly take is not only an adventure but an exercise is finding out what we're really capable of. But I still say New Year's Resolutions suck.

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