Amy Adams

The Wedding Date (2005)

the wedding date

If you think of The Wedding Date as an early showcase for Amy Adams, then the film is worth the time and effort. Adams, in a supporting role as the lead character’s half-sister, also called Amy, steals the show in more ways than one. It’s her wedding that is at the center of all this, and the already shaky relationship between the two sisters is further threatened by a secret she’s been keeping. By the time it all comes spilling out, the actress lets loose a dramatic range that makes you realize why she’s gone on to star in movies of every genre and to earn five Oscar nominations. At first chipper, jealous, and grating, she transforms into a fragile woman, penitent but unsure how to atone for her mistakes.

Adams’s performance excepting, however, there’s little to recommend this film about a woman who hires an escort to pose as her wedding date in order to get back at her ex-fiancé. Longer than its short running time suggests, it’s terribly morose for a romance and is not at all the comedy the trailer makes it out to be. The film is instead preoccupied with a seriousness that has little meaning. Besides her stepdad (Peter Egan), Kat (Debra Messing) is not fond of her family and goes to her sister’s wedding in London out of obligation. To make matters worse, Jeffrey (Jeremy Sheffield), the fiancé who dumped her right before their wedding is there as the best man to Ed (Jack Davenport). She figures the best solution is to bring Nick (Dermot Mulroney), whose services cost a cool $6000.

An emotional pallor dampens the whole affair with almost none of the relationships bringing light to the proceedings. Kat is understandably determined to make Jeffrey pay, but once she’s in that position, she’s not sure what to do or how to do it. Her relationship with Nick is similarly muddled. She doesn’t have the confidence to orchestrate their fake romance to her liking and, because it is just the thing to do, finds herself falling for him. Adams’s strong performance makes me wish for an emphasis on the sisters, since that’s where the real conflict seems to be anyway.

Overall, The Wedding Date is a dull party, one that can’t even make use of its picturesque filming location. Its occasional and awkward intrusions into romantic comedy territory, like when Kat pours water down her shirt to catch Jeffrey’s eye, misfire. The cast does a poor job juggling the script as well. Messing mimics a certain gravity, but you can sense her comedic senses ready to break out. Mulroney, also unsure how to balance his character’s smugness and sensitivity, just smolders, so much so that he puts out all the fire. Then again, there wasn’t much to begin with.

Released: 2005
Prod: Jessica Bendinger, Paul Brooks, Michelle Chydzik, Nathalie Marciano
Dir: Clare Kilner
Writer: Dana Fox
Cast: Debra Messing, Dermot Mulroney, Amy Adams, Jeremy Sheffield, Jack Davenport, Sarah Parish, Peter Egan, Holland Taylor
Time: 85 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2016

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

miss pettigrew lives for a day

They don’t make ‘em like they used to but sometimes they come pretty close, and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day does its best to play up its classic screwball comedy roots in this 24 hour whirlwind of a story. Set during the eve of wartime London, the buoyant romance twirls and skips from one scene to the next thanks to a snappy script and a complementary acting duo in Frances McDormand and Amy Adams. The latter gives the film much of its levity, once again playing the part of a radiant whippersnapper who needs some gentle prodding to get her head from out of the clouds. McDormand, meanwhile, is the eponymous Miss Pettigrew, a mousy assistant who unexpectedly adventures through London’s high society.

Adapted from a 1938 novel, the film unfolds with theatrical precision. In one of the opening scenes, singer and aspiring movie star Delysia Lafosse (Adams) juggles two of her three lovers (Tom Payne and an underused Mark Strong) in one cavernous art deco flat. As she attempts to keep them from crossing paths, the perpetually unemployed Guinevere Pettigrew arrives as Delysia’s new social secretary and is unwittingly drawn in as her co-conspirator. It’s all a little Boeing-Boeing, and one can imagine the stage directions instructing actors to fly from one room to the next or shuffle half naked in and out of successive shots.

Things soon settle down but only momentarily because this quick moving farce wastes little time scooping its players up from one scene and depositing them into the next. It’s a high-end lingerie show hosted by Delysia’s friend Edythe Dubarry (the ever-steely Shirley Henderson), who is also no stranger to extra-curricular liasions which she carries on behind the back of her fiancé (Ciarán Hinds). As an alarmed Miss Pettigrew tries to extract herself from the Delysia’s topsy-turvy world, she can’t help but also be drawn in by the sudden material comforts her new position allows. An occasional patron of the local soup kitchen and a dowdy, stern nanny by trade, she tries to suppress her moral judgments about Delysia’s lavish lifestyle and adulterous entanglements and help her employer survive the day with dignity intact.

But a little discipline is exactly what the flighty girl needs and no more so than in the area of love. While Delysia tries to play two of her lovers off each another – one so she can score the leading role in a West End play and the second so she can live a life of luxury like the star she is destined to be – her true paramour is clearly the penniless piano player who can offer nothing except his music, his heart, and the dashing handsomeness of Lee Pace. It’s hard to dismiss Adams’s contribution to this film that is ostensibly about Miss Pettigrew. The actress literally glows in one point, and I am consistently surprised by how she bares her characters’ apprehensions without losing their bright-eyed innocence or joie de vivre.

This isn’t to say that Miss Pettigrew or McDormand get sidelined. Rather, the two work in harmonic tandem. In a bit of a role reversal, the titular character starts off more than a little bewildered by her sudden circumstances, unsure if she’s stumbled onto a patch of good or bad luck. It becomes clear though that she’s the only one thinking straight, and McDormand, neither too matronly nor condescending in this role, draws the movie back to reality. There is plenty of fun and frivolity, but it all happens under the long shadows of war, and there is just enough seriousness to blow away the excess froth.

“If I Didn’t Care” by Amy Adams and Lee Pace:

Released: 2008
Prod: Nellie Bellflower, Stephen Garrett
Dir: Bharat Nalluri
Writer: David Magee, Simon Beaufoy
Cast: Frances McDormand, Amy Adams, Lee Pace, Ciarán Hinds, Mark Strong, Tom Payne, Shirley Henderson, Christina Cole, Stephanie Cole
Time: 91 min
Lang: English
Country: United Kingdom
Reviewed: 2015

The Muppets (2011)

the muppets

Somehow, I missed the Muppet moment growing up. Even though I had a steady diet of Muppet Babies, I was too young for the original TV show and movies and too old or preoccupied for the later incarnations. Images of Kermit strumming his banjo or Gonzo vaulting through the air don’t give me an immediate nostalgia trip, which is why I was wary of buying into the film’s hype. The Muppets, however, is so winsome and warm-hearted that it’s guaranteed to hit your childhood soft spot.

Writer-actor and avowed Muppet-lover Jason Segel teams up with co-writer Nicholas Stoller to reboot the franchise for a new generation. That the beloved characters are out of step with the kiddie zeitgeist is one of the many self-reflective jokes that the film employs. These days, it’s shows like (the fictional) Punch Teacher that grab the largest market share with little room for zany but family friendly programming.

The fading Muppet brand is what prompts this latest adventure. Gary (Segel), an overgrown kid in a chaste relationship with his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams), takes a trip to Los Angeles to celebrate their 10-year anniversary, but he also brings along his Muppet brother, Walter. Besides hitting up the usual tourist sites, the main attraction, especially for the brothers, is the old Muppet Studios.

Walter is disappointed to say the least when he discovers the studio in disrepair. He is more shocked, however, when he overhears gazillionaire businessman Tex Richman’s (Chris Cooper) plans to bulldoze the studios in order to drill for oil. It’s a race against time as Gary and Walter try to round up the ol’ Muppet gang and help them find enough money to buy back their former stomping grounds. They organize a national telethon and bank on the public’s appetite for 70s and 80s nostalgia in order to raise $10 million.

The movie is a little piece of magic for audiences of all ages. While family films try hard to attract parents with wit and cheeky asides, The Muppets bounces by on sheer exuberance and good will. There’s not a cynical bone in this furry, felt body. It helps to have Adams, who’s gotten good at playing wholesome, wide-eyed innocents, as one of the human leads, but she’s matched by Segel, who gives Gary a pure-hearted, Smalltown, USA glow. Even when he’s grinning ear to ear, it never feels like he’s feigning affection or playing down to the crowd.

The warmth of the script and attentive direction by James Bobin (Flight of the Conchords) give the film the vibrancy of a Crayola multipack. Music director Bret McKenzie (also Flight of the Conchords) adds to the mood with jubilant new songs, including the effervescent “Life’s a Happy Song” and the disco-y, upbeat pityfest “Me Party”, that will truly make you laugh out loud. But the movie doesn’t just coast on good feelings. There are poignant lessons in self-confidence and learning to value what, and who, you truly love. McKenzie’s Oscar-winning “Man or Muppet” hilariously but affectionately embraces the existential question posed by Gary and Walter, both of whom must grow up and into their own identities. Additionally, Walter’s fanboy obsession over the Muppets is about more than a case of an awestruck groupie. It’s about fitting in, and with his idols, he gets a sense of belonging that not even his devoted brother can give. In the end, the film really does deliver “the third (and fourth) greatest gift ever,” behind children and ice cream – and that’s laughter and love.

“Life’s a Happy Song” by Jason Segel and Walter:

“Me Party” by Amy Adams and Miss Piggy:

“Man or Muppet” by Jason Segel, Walter, Jim Parsons, Muppet Gary:

“The Rainbow Connection” by Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy:

Bonus “Life’s a Happy Song” by writer Bret McKenzie and Kermit:

Released: 2011
Prod: David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman
Dir: James Bobin
Writer: Jason Segel, Nicholas Stoller
Cast: Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Walter, Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Chris Cooper, Rashida Jones, Jack Black, Jim Parsons, Fozzie Bear, Animal, Gonzo, Rowlf, Miss Poogy, Alan Arkin, Emily Blunt, Kristen Schaal
Time: 103 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2015