MAID IN MANHATTAN (2002)

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Christopher

This movie is a giant piece of shit! But mostly in a good way. If you think this movie is about Jennifer Lopez, a maid, falling in love with a well-known Ralph Fiennes, some politician, but he’s too high class to accept her love, then you are wrong. What this movie is is Jennifer Lopez meeting Ralph Fiennes, they fall in love, he wants to get with her, she hides being a maid, but once Ralph Fiennes finds out she’s a maid, he still wants to get with her! Only Jennifer Lopez won’t let him cause he has a better job than her? So where usually the more privileged one is the bad guy this movie switches it around so our protagonist is the villain, kind of. So you don’t give a shit about anyone!! Yay movie making!

Elizabeth

Here’s something I feel like we’ve run into a lot: how weird it is to see a shitty actor play against a good actor. I feel like acting can easily be something that you don’t know how good it is until you see how bad it can be. Case in point: Jennifer Lopez attempting to act near Ralph Fiennes in Maid in Manhattan.

I can’t fault Ralph Fiennes for this. He’s one of the most underrated and under-appreciated working actors, and the guy has to pay the bills. I can’t really fault Jennifer Lopez, either, because I mean, what is she going to do about it? I guess the biggest fault lies with the writers, but then again, at least they made something that was full of surprises.

I don’t mean full of surprises in the tagline kind of way . . . I mean surprises like: Marisa (Jennifer Lopez) is supposed to be the protagonist but is actually awful. Seriously! She has a job that she’s good at and is about to move up in, with co-workers she loves and good, understanding bosses. So . . . she steals while on the job? She meets Chris (Ralph Fiennes) and lies to him about who she is, but when he finds out he still wants to be with her because he doesn’t care that she’s a single mother who’s a maid with a different name. So . . . she turns him down? It’s weird. Marisa is pretty much the only person ever causing real conflict. There are other conflicts, but they’re minor and wouldn’t change anything. Instead, she just sucks.

Probably my favorite/most bizarre part was the very end sequence, when we’re told the characters’ futures via magazine covers. The last one shows Marisa and Chris with a headline like “A Year Later: Still Going Strong!” A year later? Couldn’t it have been five or ten years later? Or their wedding picture? Instead it’s just, “Still dating!” Cool? Glad we watched a movie about this relationship?

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MY DINNER WITH ANDRE (1981)

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Elizabeth

The first sentence of the plot summary on My Dinner with Andre’s Wikipedia page is: “The film depicts a conversation between Gregory and Shawn (not necessarily playing themselves) in a chic restaurant in New York City.” And that’s it. That’s really all the movie is. I think it’s probably impossible to make that sound not boring: Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory sitting in a restaurant having a conversation for nearly two hours. But here’s where some really legit magic happens: it’s not boring!

Granted, I think you can argue that the beginning of their dinner is a little slow, mostly because you’re trying to figure stuff out: who are these characters/why are we watching them/are they reliable narrators/etc etc. And as a viewer, it just takes some getting used to to just watch two guys talk to each other. It’s not as if the movie has only one shot or anything, but there’s no flashbacks or scene changes, except for the very beginning and the very end. I think as a film audience, we don’t expect to just watch a conversation, so it’s a little bit disconcerting. But ohhhh how it pays off.

There’s really something to be said for movies that rely solely on dialogue and acting. Maybe that’s my writer’s standpoint talking, but it’s just so interesting. My Dinner with Andre is pretty much the definition of this. The writing here is really unbelievable. And of course, the delivery is incredible, too . . . you wouldn’t think there’d be much “acting” involved in two men, playing themselves, having a conversation. But I don’t know. It’s incredible.

Christopher

I always wanted to see this movie but that was off of the impression that is was Wallace Sean having dinner with Andre the Giant. Unfortunately that was not the case. Fortunately however, this movie is fucking incredible. It’s in many ways it’s everything I want in a movie, it’s just two people, mostly just one, telling stories!!

I always try to get Elizabeth, the writer that she is, to tell me stories but she always refuses so it’s nice to have almost two hours dedicated to just that. [editor’s note – I tell Chris stories all the time]

The other thing I like about this movie is that the debate that unfolds at the end is interesting! It’s basically two people arguing which way they want to view life. And at multiple times I found myself on the side of each one. So there really isn’t a ton of conflict, which I like.

This is a movie I hope to see often. I actually think I might go back to the library soon to check it out again!

TOOTSIE (1982)

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Christopher

We watched this movie because Elizabeth loves it but also because it’s on the National Film Registry. I wasn’t really expecting to like this movie but it’s actually pretty funny and one thing I did not know is that Bill Murray is in it!

This biggest thing I have against this movie is that Dustin Hoffman really doesn’t look like a lady when he’s dressed up as Dorothy, he looks like Dustin Hoffman in drag. But I guess that’s kind of part of the story, no matter what you look like you should be given a chance. Dustin Hoffman is fantastic is in it, Bill Murray is fantastic, and the jokes are constant and effective.

I’m not sure if I will watch this again anytime soon but it’s easily something I would recommend to people.

Elizabeth

I’m really not sure what it is about men dressing up as women that I find so funny. I know that probably sounds offensive, like I laugh at crossdressers. But I really just mean men dressing up as women for comedic purposes. It kills me. Does it come from lots of secretly watching The Kids in the Hall when I was little? Or is it just something I naturally find funny? I don’t really know, but I do know that Tootsie is amazing already, made even more amazing by how funny I find Dustin Hoffman dressed as a woman.

There’s about a million things to love about Tootsie. One of them is how great Dorothy Michaels is, Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman)’s female alias. She sort of reminds me of Clair Huxtable, in that she’s always standing up for herself and women and telling men what’s up. The way Michael is affected by what he’s seen and done as a woman is also really interesting; he understands some of the difficulties of being a woman (like being hit on and wearing stockings) but not really enough to betray his male tendencies (like leading women on and having a one night stand with a long-time friend).

Tootsie also really makes me love Dustin Hoffman, even though I loved him already. When I think about how Dustin Hoffman is also Raymond from Rain Man and Captain Hook from Hook, and then Michael Dorsey/Dorothy Michaels from Tootsie, it’s clear how incredible his range is. I think a lot of actors get their inspiration from makeup and costumes when they play such a different character, as they should, but Dustin Hoffman always seems able to take it to the next level.

Also, this probably is weird, especially considering the fashion of 1982, but I loved how comfortable Julie (Jessica Lange) always looked. When she wasn’t in her nurse costume for the soap opera she’s on, she was always wearing sweatshirts or loose blouses or dresses or something and she just looked so comfortable. Not only do I think it made her character seem softer and approachable, but it was just nice to look at.