The Michigan Daily - Monday, April 19, 1999 - 9
says goodbye to quality, hello to fluff
By Erin Podolsky
Daily Arts Writer
There isn't too much new ground to
cover in cinema these days, and "Goodbye,
hver" doesn't make any attempt to forge a
h through the underbrush. It's fluff, lit-
tie more than a overlong pile of sexual
intrigue and a smarter-than-thou attitude
towards its limited audience. But for all its
Jake's brother is Ben (Don Johnson), the
good sheep who, for example, plays the
organ at church. Sandra is having an affair
with Ben, getting off on the danger
involved with rendezvousing at the houses
she sells or beneath the church organ - or
is she? Jake is oblivious - or is he? And
then there's Peggy Blane, the apparent
the service of complica-
tions, it's really not so
bad if you enjoy a
bunch of bloodless
each other's blood.
Patricia "I don't have
a bigger career because
I pick films like this"
Arquette stars as
Sandra Dunmore, a
fiend who attempts to
fill the deliciously
malevolent shoes of
Linda Fiorentino in
1994's "The Last
"good girl" at Jake and Ben's public rela-
tions firm (they seem to have only one
client, a Senator Lassetter, who has a bas-
ketful of problems in the form of being
caught with his hand up the wrong trans-
vestite's skirt), who's in love with Ben.
Or is she?
That's where we're watching from at the
beginning of "Goodbye, Lover," but it's
about 10 football field lengths away from
where we end up. Characters end up in bed
with enemies that they don't even know are
enemies to begin with. Director Roland
Joff6 ("The Killing Fields" and the Demi
Moore demi-masterpiece "The Scarlet
Letter") lets twist after twist unfold with
all the subtlety of eau de chopped liver. He
also throws in a bunch of subplots (the sen-
ator, a serial killer known as "The Doctor"
- Ooh! Scary! - and, of course, the age-
old conflict between the Mormon detective
and the cynical detective) that never really
go anywhere but straight to the toilet. Ellen
De Generes arrives on the scene to dis-
pense her trademark wit at her absurdly
naive partner's expense as the two investi-
gate a series of "accidental" deaths.
The biggest twist of all, though, is the
small appearance of Vincent "We're span-
ning time" Gallo as the kind of man who
gets things done for the right price. Joff6e
would have done well to make Gallo a big-
ger part of the cast, but at least he bright-
ens otherwise dingily overwrought scenes
Courtesy of Regency Enterprises
Dermot Mulroney and Patricia Arquette potray husband and wife in "Goodbye, Lover."
uction." Key word: attempts.
Fiorentino's performance and character are
virtually unassailable, so why bother try-
ing? Arquette does an admirable job with
what she's got (and, boy, does she got), but
handcuffs and fishnets can only take you
Sandra, a real estate agent, is married to
Jake (Dermot Mulroney), an alcoholic.
"Who's the patsy now?" out for what feels
like ages but is actually less than two
hours. It's kind of fun to watch these
absolutely unappealing people screw each
other - literally and figuratively - but by
the 76th plot twist, it starts to wear a little
thin. If only the film had found a way to
humanize its game-players its push-me-
pull-you scheming might have meant a lit-
tle more. As it is, the plot is too convolut-
ed by half for its scope. There's a labyrinth
that's been constructed, but nobody is
around to play in it beyond a few inexpert
fumblings. We don't know any of these
people. And we don't want to. Goodbye,
Courtesy ofRegency Enterpi)ses
Mary-Louise Parker and Don Johnson take a stroll.
and plot developments.
"Goodbye, Lover" plays its
Murphy lacks pulse, humor in 'Life'
Altman reveals fortune of unique film life
By Matthew Barrett
Daily Arts Writer
Put Eddie Murphy and Martin
Lawrence together and you would have
the makings of a funny movie. Put
Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence
ether, send them to prison, take an
uccessful stab at mixing humor and
heavy-handed drama and you have
"Life." Combining comedy and drama
is always a dicey proposition, and even
more so here where the two leads are
not exactly known for their dramatic
As a movie, "Life" is lost - it has
no direction and no point. Things get
started when Ray Gibson (Murphy)
and Claude Banks (Lawrence) cross
s at a late night club. They seem to
be complete opposites - Gibson a
shady pickpocket resigned to a life of
crime and Banks an ambitious banker
with his first day of work right around
the corner. The two come together,
however, as a result of money owed to
the notorious Spanky Johnson (Rick
James - yes that Rick James), and
are soon headed
to Mississippi to
pick up some
liquor for the
* South the guys
At Sdarwood run into some
and showcase trouble and end
up being con-
victed of a
in prison. Up
until this point the comedy is very
slow and boring, and things fail to
pick up once the guys go behind
Ray and Claude pass the time in
prison by bickering, planning escapes
and tutoring a mute baseball prodigy.
Neither Murphy nor Lawrence is able
queeze much humor out of the
p'ton sequences - sure there's a
funny line here or there, but for the
most part the story lags and lags.
Movie critics describe a Robert Altman
film as having a unique vision. Film histori-
ans typify his films as having an idiosyncrat-
ic approach to material (overlapping dia-
logue, documentary camera and editing style,
character-driven, not plot-driven). Actors say
it's the way Altman creates a secure working
environment on the movie set.
To tell the story of "Cookie's Fortune,"
written by first-time screenwriter Anne
Rapp, Altman brought together a stellar cast,
including Glenn Close, Julianne Moore,
Ned Beatty, Liv Tyler, and Chris O'Donnell.
Altman likens casting to doing a puzzle:
"In fact, any little puzzle - the more pieces
you get in, the rest of them kind of define
"My approach is to get the best people
cast in a project, so that once the cast is set
it's turned over to them," Altman said.
"About 85 percent of my creative input is
finished and I'm just sort of following them
down the road.
"And I do follow them because I don't
know what I want to see. I want to see some-
thing I've never seen before.
"So. I have to kind of hope that they
deliver that. And if I give them enough com-
fort and freedom and confidence - that's
what they all became actors to do in the first
place - more than likely they perform"
"Cookie's Fortune" is set at Easter in
Holly Springs, Miss. The season wasn't
always intended to be so, but Altman said
the change works because the story symbol-
izes redemption and second chances.
"We lost our start date," Altman
explained. "It was originally set to take place
during Thanksgiving. It was going to have an
entirely different look. It would have been a
darker, wintry look. We just moved it to
"Actually, it was an improvement. We
were able to play against what was happen-
ing, although I made it rain on Easter -
just to get those people's dresses wet," he
- dram Thie Allentown Morning Call
- I- . , I
courtesy of Universal Pictures
Martin Lawrence meets Bernie Mac while exchanging punchilnes in prison in "Life."
Another problem is that the punchline to
one of the funniest bits in the entire
movie was given away in the film's
Hurting things even more is director
Ted Demme's tendency to blend goofy
over-the-top humor with serious,
hard-hitting moments. Several
sequences during the characters' time
in prison are heartbreaking, but they
just don't fit into the context and end
up coming off as silly. The worst of
these is a long montage of shots from
the prison that's intercut with footage
of important moments from the '60s.
Sure, it's a nice homage to the time
period but it sticks out like a sore
thumb in the middle of the movie.
Demme seems to have been striv-
ing for a story about characters mak-
ing the best out of a bad situation, but
he falls far short of pulling it off.
Equally awful are the two leads.
Teaming the two actors up may
have seemed like an exceptional
idea at some point, but it just does-
n't work. The main problem is the
weak script that puts the two perform-
ers behind from the start. The script is
muddled and just not funny, which is
criminal for something striving for
But all is not lost. Several of the
actors who play prison inmates
squeeze some humor out of the sappy
script, including Michael "Bear"
Taliferro as the fierce Goldmouth.
Another impressive thing about the
movie is its exceptional makeup work,
which is used to show 60 years of
aging on Lawrence and Murphy.
In the end, "Life" fails because it
isn't funny and its story isn't com-
pelling. Those behind the film, includ-
ing producer Brian Grazer, would
have been wise to take a look at
Murphy's "The Nutty Professor," a
movie that blended comedy and a seri-
ous story together for an enjoyable
result. So, unless you want to spend
what feels like a good hunk of your
"Life" in a movie theater, pass on this
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The elderly Eddie Murphy and Martin
Lawrence looked stunned at "Life."
Don't PanIc~ I
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