Sunday, March 23, 2008

Malkmus, Miss Pettigrew

So, you know those accidentally perfect, Virginia Woolf-esque dinner parties that you have once or twice a year, if you're lucky, with good friends? The kind where all the planning comes together effortlessly, everyone looks fantastic and says wonderfully astute and witty things, the food is tasty and satisfying, and everybody goes home a little bit drunk, if not on alcohol then on the joy of companionship? That's how the Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks show at the Vic felt to me on Friday night. It didn't rock my face off or blow my mind the way shows from young, hungry bands sometimes do. It just felt warm and full and good. Malkmus was occasionally (slightly) physically demonstrative as a guitar player, but I kind of liked it best when he just turned in profile and played his solos like he was standing there brushing his teeth. He's also, I needn't remind you, an astonishingly beautiful human being. Joanna Bolme has this cute little shuffle-back-and-forth walk that she does when she's really getting into her bass lines. She's also funny as hell with the audience banter. Mike Clark wore a gold lame track jacket, which was slightly disconcerting, but I have mad respect for anyone who plays both keyboards and guitar with equal facility. And Janet Weiss...holy hell. I was never into Sleater-Kinney when they probably would have meant most to me in my early/mid-twenties, so shame on me for that, but that just means I get to discover her now with fresh ears and eyes. She's phenomenal. So foxy and so fierce. I feel like she could play the part of the lady pilot in Neko Case's song "Lady Pilot." Or, perhaps she could be the den mother for a troop of cub scouts composed of actual bear cubs.

NI and I caught an early evening showing of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day tonight and both agreed on the way out that it felt basically equivalent to a frothy bit of piffle we could have done as a play in high school. The editing was a bit lax, and it got weirdly slow in some parts (as if waiting, as NI said, for Boss to call "bllllllllllllackout!"), but it picked up enormously whenever Shirley Henderson was on screen. She's such an interesting actress, with so many shades of mournfulness that she's capable of portraying so economically, though I wish Hollywood would learn how to use her the way the Brits do, which is to say as more than just the bitchy, sniping friend. Amy Adams--charming, gorgeous, etc., etc. She oversells the part a leeetle bit, esp. at the beginning, but I guess that can also be chalked up to character decisions. Though I love Frances McDormand to bits, she felt oddly miscast in this. I think it was a bit of a waste to cast an actress with sooo much joie de vivre as such a repressed character. I guess it was all gesturing toward the end when she eventually learns (yawn) to live and love again, but some of her full-faced smiles in the final minutes of the movie felt so brain-smashingly beautiful that I wished she hadn't been just tottering about politely for the preceding ninety minutes or whatever. Though, because I am apparently a basket case who will cry at everything, if given the opportunity, these days, I have to say that I forgive anything questionable in this film for the moment when she's telling the Amy Adams character about a man she'd loved who died in WWI and she says, "But he smiled every time he saw me, and we could have built a life on that." ::quietly weeping:: Though Indian-born director Bharat Nalluri has mostly English-language films to his credit on the IMDB, I sensed a bit of Bollywood splendor in his direction, esp. when he started using those vertigo-inducing swirling camera shots in the party and musical sequences toward the end. Those shots, weirdly, helped contextualize the movie for me a little better, as far as reframing it as, basically, an elaborate dance between camps of female and male characters as they eventually find a way to merge in matrimony.

Did everybody read that amusing article in Esquire where they get George Clooney to Google himself? It's nothing earth-shattering, of course, I just felt like it was kind of a clever conceit.

"As he struggled to edit his story down to just *three* words, Hemingway's frustration grew. '"For Sale: Baby Shoes...." FUCK!'" --Merlin Mann


Anonymous said...

My basket case moment came at the very end when both women told each other that they would never forget the day they spent together and then Amy Adams tells Frances McDormand, "I love you." People say it all the time, but I believed she meant it.


Anonymous said...

You captured the sound of Boss's lighting cue so well here that I could smell the pipe smoke (and Merlot, dammit!).