Gloom Clouds Hollywood

I can’t be the only one to notice the hot new trend that seems to be taking the movie industry by storm over the past few years, can I? It is becoming increasingly more difficult to find movies in which a relationship remains firmly intact at the plot’s end.

Take, for example, the first five minutes of The Social Network, in which a defiant Erica Albright, scene stealer Rooney Mara, shatters the practically non-existent heart of self-absorbed Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg, played by Jesse Eisenberg. Also look at The Kids Are All Right, one of the year’s best comedies, in which Annette Bening and Julianne Moore’s characters find themselves at each other’s throats the entire film. Sure, Moore shares some lighthearted moments with Mark Ruffalo’s goofy and flawed Paul, the biological father of both of her children, but the brunt of the plot lies on the cracks that start to pervade their relationship.

It is also the case that the year’s highest honors in movies, tend to reward these darker films. It’s probably because it’s hard to play serious on camera, but I would counter that it’s just as hard to play funny. That’s why it was so depressing to see Angelina Jolie show up in the best-comedy/musical actress category in this year’s Globes. What about The Tourist was funny other than the fact that it was so laughably awful? The Best Motion Picture—Comedy or Musical—category was similarly bleak, stuffed with drivel like Red, Alice in Wonderland (in what regards was this anything close to a comedy?) and, once again, The Tourist.

While it is highly unrealistic that an audience exists that would demand Hollywood’s participation in this mope-fest, I still think it must point to some prevailing sentiment held by Americans today. I suppose the argument can be made that hard times could make it difficult to sit through funny movies, but how does that explain the success of the magnificent Easy A? Bubbly seems too, well, bubbly of a word to describe Emma Stone’s pitch-perfect take on prepubescent drama. The movie acknowledges all the cliches of the “high school comedy” genre early on, leaving them in the dust.

However, the aforementioned difficult times are also no excuse for Rabbit Hole, a melodramatic shouting-match of a movie that just plops itself in a puddle of pity and refuses to move. It’s a shame that director John Cameron Mitchell seems uncertain of how to handle a couple’s disintegrating marriage over the recent death of their four-year-old son. The play of the same name does so much with such difficult material, but here Nicole Kidman finds it sufficient simply to scrunch up her face the best it can still possibly scrunch (the answer: very little).

It is interesting to take a look at upcoming releases, but I find myself wondering if I actually want nothing but happy-go-lucky fare. I’m a firm believer that 2010 was a melodramatic mess of a movie year, but I don’t think that eliminating the melodrama is in the industry’s best interests. Unfortunately, at this year’s upcoming Sundance Festival,  Spiderman’s Tobey Maguire seeks to carry on this trend with The Details. The black comedy explores the test of Maguire and Elizabeth Banks’ marriage by infidelity. I say no thanks.

Then again, 2011 could see Hollywood success from significantly lighter fare. I couldn’t be more excited to see summer’s Winnie the Pooh (I am a Disney nerd after all) and Jim Carrey’s Mr. Popper’s Penguins hopefully won’t butcher the classic novel that much. Let’s just pray that the slate of superhero schlock,Thor, Captain America, X-Men: First Class, and Green Lantern, you’re all included in this, doesn’t dominate the year—the last thing we need is another Daredevil.


January 20, 2011
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