Don’t worry about spoilers in the OP, because quite frankly I couldn’t tell what the hell was going on most of the movie, and didn’t care during the rest.
I got to see this for free last night at an advanced showing. I didn’t see any other threads, so here goes…
Sean Penn was atrocious. His accent was one of the worst fake Southern accents I have ever heard in a movie - in fact, he even managed to be worse than everyone else in the film as well. All he did the whole movie was yell and scream. I’ve seen some people online say this will win him an Oscar. I couldn’t disagree more. There was absolutely no depth to his character or his acting.
Jude Law was the one thing that kept me from walking out. I could actually understand him most of the time, and he looks quite nice on the movie screen. But I couldn’t really tell you what the hell his character was there for.
Anthony Hopkins was barely on screen. He wasn’t too bad.
The story was horrid - probably because there really wasn’t one. All of these people were thrown together, with huge leaps repeatedly taken, and I wish I had walked out after the first 15 minutes.
I’m somewhat familiar with the New Orleans accent - I traveled there before the hurricane, for example - but I found what was in the movie to be absolutely atrocious. I’m sure they were making the accent thicker than what you normally find in people today, but that resulted in near complete incomprehensibility.
Oooh, I’m glad somebody saw it, because I watched an awful review of it this morning, and I was sad because it’s one of my favorite books of all time. Some things the reviewer said raised some flags with me, and I was curious if the problems were with the film or with the reviewer.
First, the reviewer said
This is an ultra-simplistic take on the original character. In the book, Stark does indeed want to serve the people, and he does. He serves the people pretty well. But from the beginning of his career, it’s clear that he wants to have what the politicans have… he wants the power, he wants to be the one making the decisions about what is best for the people, he wants the perks associated with being an official, and he wants to put his friends into key positions in order to advance his agenda. He makes no bones about this whatsoever. He does get progressively more ruthless in his methods, but even from the get-go he believes he can do all of the above and still serve the people well.
The reviewer also says
This really got my goat, because as far as I can tell, the WHOLE POINT of Jack’s character is that he isn’t moral. He’s not really immoral, either. He’s one of those characters who is detached from the whole morals thing. He doesn’t know why he goes along with Stark, either. The events of the story do bring him to a point where he has to dig deeper to confront his own morality, but he’s not there willingly. Utlimately, the question of why Jack sticks with Stark is an exercise left to the reader, but in broad strokes, it’s because Jack’s moral pivot point is hypocrisy. Stark’s actions are only hypocritical if you believe that he thinks what he’s doing is wrong, but does it anyway. For most of the story, Stark really does think he is right.
So, obviously the film didn’t succeed in communicating either of these points to the reviewer. I’m wondering if you think the film attempted to convey these elements, but failed, or if the director decided to go for the most simplistic (and IMHO, wrong) interpretation of the story possible.
I have never read the book and did not even know there was an earlier film. Sorry!
delphica - I’m not sure if the answer to your questions are spoilers or not, so I will go ahead and put them in a box.
[spoiler]There was no in-between with Stark. He went from someone supposed to be moral (although I don’t fell that this was explained or shown very well at all) to someone who was completely corrupt. If there was some sort of downhill slide, I missed it completely (which is totally possible).
As for Jude Law’s character, I didn’t get the feeling he was moral or immoral, but pretty ambiguous. But since there is this lack of morality (or immorality) to him, the movie never explains just why Law continues to follow Stark.[/spoiler]
This next bit is definitely a spoiler for the ending, for those of you unfamiliar with the story in all of its manifestations:
What I found very bothersome was the movie completely fails to explain why Law would even consider turning on the man that has been a father-figure in his life because the guy he works for, for whom he claims to have no loyalty to, demands it. I just couldn’t buy it.
17% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. If the critics are right, that movie stinks like a pot o’ crawdaddies left out in the sun too long, you know what I mean?
I saw the trailer for this when I saw The Wicker Man, and I wondered how these lovely British actors would fare with their Loosiana accents.
Maybe their participation in this fiasco is karmic payback for the incoherent American remake of “Wicker”.
New York Times review said that all of the big-name actors were badly miscast for the roles. Personally, I can’t stand Sean Penn. Shouting does not equal acting, but it seems that’s the case for Penn and Pacino. The first version of the movie won three Oscars, so I’m not sure why anyone thought it needed to be redone.
It was supposed to be released something like November/05 and I was very excited. Last fall, I found out that it tested absolutely terribly and that they were pushing it back until now. That zapped all the enthusiasm I had for it. I might rent it, but I’ll probably wait until it’s on the Movie Network next year.
I’m somewhat surprised at the bad reviews. To be honest, the previews left me a bit wary (Sean Penn’s over the top performance), but this movie had the look and feel of a prestige pic, and prestige pics are usually at least competently done, if not pretty good.
I’m disappointed though, because I just saw a documentary about Huey Long (the Ken Burns one), and it’s a fascinating story that I would have liked to see in a good movie.
Sean Penn CAN be an effective actor, but he’s utterly wrong for the role of Willy Stark/Huey Long, because he’s utterly lacking in charm.
Even if you ultimately conclude that Stark/Long was evil or dangerous, you have to concede that millions of people LIKED them. And Sean Penn has never been a likable guy (except in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”).
A populist politician has to be able to smile at you, to shake your hand, to make you feel like the most important person in the room, at least while he’s trying to win your vote (or obtain a favor). Oh, he may show a more vicious and ruthless side if the charm fails, but that’s a fallback tactic.
Huey Long could put on a warm, folksy act, and make voters think he was jes’ a regular ol’ boy with their best interests at heart. Sean Penn could NEVER pull off that kind of act.
I just saw a trailer for this and was completely flabbergasted, because why would they take a great movie and remake it as a mediocre one?
And I like Sean Penn, think he’s done some great work, but he is not Willie Stark. Nor is Jude Law the right person for the reporter. (Aside: He often gets miscast IMO. I thought he, and not Matt Damon, should have been Ripley in The Talented Mr. Ripley .) I would have put him into this as Sugarboy, maybe.
liirogue, to answer the question posed in your second spoiler box: In the book (which I consider a great book) Jack investigates the Judge because he thinks he will not find anything, and he is presented as kind of a seeker of truth even if it’s an unpleasant truth. When he does find something he confronts the Judge with it before he tells his boss. But this is not the first unpleasant truth he’s unearthed.
I can’t believe they did this to such a classic. If I rent it I will probably have to see the original immediately afterward as it was a damn good movie, probably even good enough to drive out the lingering stink of a bad remake.
They do it all the time. Broderick Crawford originated the role of Willie Stark in the classic movie, and had everything the character demanded of the actor, folksy charm, early idealism which melted into corruption, and real menace that came from intensity and not merely from volume.
Another Crawford role was redone in Born Yesterday by John Goodman. That included Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson. If I hadn’t seen the original starring Judy Holiday with Crawford and William Holden I would have thought it was okay. But the original was far better than the remake.
I’m just guessing, but sometimes they remake old b&w films in color (and with better fx) thinking that they will be an improvement. They almost never are. If they ever remake The Wizard Of Oz or Gone With The Wind, or god forbid, Casablanca (and periodically I’ve heard remakes of all three were thought of) I’d not only not see them, but probably picket the local theatre that showed them.
I thought the original movie was ok, but I absolutely love and adore the book. I hope all you folks who are hating this new movie version will take the leap and read the book. It’s really worth it.
(I wasn’t planning on seeing this new version unless the reviews were terrific; no way I’ll bother to part with $ for it now.)
In all fairness, I should also mention what I liked about the movie - the atmosphere. I do think they caught the look of the times really well. The costumes were great, and several of the scenes were shot in bars or restaurants. They captured the feel of the time really well.