Friday, 4 January 2008

Christmas with Stanley Tucci

Contains spoilers for The Devil Wears Prada and Lucky Number Slevin (also contains a gratuitous Kylie Minogue insult).

After watching that absolutely godawful Kylie Showgirl Live thing that was on over Christmas (La Minogue’s voice sounds as if someone is doing something unspeakable to a small mammal with an out of tune clarinet), I decided to watch nothing but films featuring the great Stanley Tucci – not that I had a choice in the matter. This Christmas, whenever someone turned on the TV or slapped on a DVD, there he was, as ubiquitous as Elvis.

The Devil Wears Prada, directed by David Frankel, adapted from the novel by Lauren Weisberger by Aline Brosh McKenna. This is about the fluffiest piece of fluffy fluff it’s ever been my pleasure to sit through – not that I object to films like this, but the word ‘inconsequential’ seems specifically apt here. If you were being particularly cruel, you could describe the whole thing as a Disney-fied Shopping and Fucking. It goes without saying that Stanley Tucci is the best thing about it.

Curiously, although the screenplay feels adequately developed (inasmuch as you can see the 'stake in the ground' three act setbacks telegraphing themselves from about a hundred miles away), in several areas it felt lopsided and uneven. For instance, one crucial turning point (where Andy - the protagonist - has the belated realisation that the fashion industry isn’t quite her bag), revolves around the fact that she made a choice earlier in the film that supposedly demonstrated she was as hard-nosed and career oriented as her psychopathically driven boss, Miranda (Meryl Streep). Problem is, this so called ‘decision’ was forced upon Andy by Miranda herself, so in effect, it isn’t really a decision at all – this has the effect of making the conclusion to the film seem weirdly illogical. With a movie like this, you half expect the screenplay to be machine tooled to gleaming perfection, but instead all you get is a half whittled piece of wood.

That said, who cares about a coherent narrative when there are fabulous dresses and fashion shows to enjoy (good god, I sound like Liberace)?

Shall We Dance? – directed by Peter Chelsom, adapted by Audrey Wells from an original screenplay by Masayuki Suo. What is Peter Chelsolm – the writer and director of Funny Bones – doing heading up this garish load of warmed-over remade flapdoodle? And since American Gigolo, Richard Gere’s oeuvre has consisted almost exclusively of scripts that have had all the fun, subversion and joy surgically removed by unsmiling movie executives with hearts of coal. Shall We Dance is no exception. It even has Jennifer Lopez in it, not exactly your benchmark of quality. However, it does feature Stanley Tucci, who, of course, is fantastic.

ER – straight after Shall We Dance, I caught the trailers for the new series of ER, which prominently feature Stanley Tucci. I think the man is stalking me (albeit in a weird, audiovisual kind of way).

Lucky Number Slevin, directed by Paul McGuigan, written by Jason Smilovic. Apart from having the worst title in living memory, this isn’t half bad. Admittedly, in tone it’s a total Tarantino knock-off, replete with smart arse dialogue (that is way too smug for its own good), and the by now ubiquitous pop/cultural references (this time they're yakking pointlessly about Bond movies).

However, on the plus side, although the narrative takes an absolute age to get up and running (is it just me, or does the first act conclude at the fifty minute mark?), it's a surprisingly emotional ride – a quality that QT seems incapable of or simply unwilling to surrender to. Also, it looks mad – the production designers have seemingly trawled through a warehouse chock full of seventies wallpaper in order to decorate a series of retina scorching interiors.

And of course, Stanley Tucci is great – anyone who can effortlessly glide from high camp to corrupt cop gets my vote (and I bet he sings better than flippin’ Kylie as well).


Lucy said...

I misread this post, I thought you said the pile of steaming turd that is LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN is "not half bad" and I just KNOW as a man of impeccable taste Chip you would not disappoint me like that.

Chip Smith said...

By 'not half bad', I meant that one half is good and the other bad. Of course, there's a lot to dislike about it - Bruce Willis (goes without saying), a pointlessly contrived plot point involving Lucy Liu, a first act that takes an hour to get going, etc, etc. But then again, there's Stanley Tucci! The man is an icon amongst fools.

You could always put my opinion down to brain fever brought about by the onset of man flu ;-) That said, I saw American Gangster last night, which is incredible - makes LNS look like a Guy Ritchie film.

MJ said...

I was not enjoying 'Shall We Dance' until Stanley Tucci samba-ed on to the screen. Talk about scene-stealing! Apparently he's in 'The Lovely Bones' - which could be interesting. Enjoying the blog!

Chip Smith said...

Thanks MJ - before Christmas, I was only dimly aware of Stanley Tucci - and now he's everywhere!

If you enjoyed his appearance in Shall We Dance, then you should waltz over to The Devil Wears Prada. Meryl Streep got all the plaudits for her performance, but for my money ST wipes the floor with her. As long as you shut your eyes and put your hands over your ears when he's not on screen, you'll be fine...

MJ said...

(cough) I actually enjoyed 'Devil Wears Prada' even though it wasn't awfully demanding, mainly for Mr Tucci though!

Chip Smith said...

That's OK, MJ - I won't hold it against you! Weirdly enough, it is strangely entertaining (as long as you ignore the plot). I must be a closet fashionista or something...