View Date: July 20, 2001
Directed by: Joe Roth
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I have to admit that I have a weakness for any film in which Hollywood mocks, pokes fun at, or spoofs itself, its principles or its ideals. In America’s Sweethearts, yet another typical love story, director Joe Roth throws in the edgy touch of also making light of those three things which make the town go around; image, perception and publicity. In doing so, the love story, which follows some predictable patterns and paths, becomes the framework for a humorous satirical look at how its not always how good something is, but how it appears to be.
What is the anatomy of a rumor or scandal, that we as the voyeuristic public seem so fascinated with? America’s Sweethearts explores and delves deeper and shows you the real story behind it. Gwen (Zeta-Jones) and Eddie (Cusack) were America’s super couple (think Tom and Nicole as a frighteningly fitting example) who have just broken up, and needless to say, this doesn’t sit well with anyone. Especially not with Eddie’s publicist (Crystal) who retrieves Cusack from a new-age retreat (led by a hilarious long-haired Arkin who spews mantras dripping in obvious obscurity). Meanwhile Gwen, the egotistical actress with little talent and concern for others (another example of the perfect casting) has taken up with a Latin stud (Azaria) while her publicist and sister (Roberts) copes with being the one in the shadows while still keeping both of their lives on track. The culmination of things is the premiere of Gwen and Eddie’s final movie together directed by an obscure, aloof, yet respected director (Walken, conjuring up not so subtle hints of Kubrick) who does his editing from Kazscinski’s shack. Most of the film takes place at the press junket for the film, where the focus becomes the art of deception, publicity, trouble shooting and manipulation of public comprehension of actions. These are handled effectively for the most part, with few stumbles (while the Backstreet Boy line was good, the following and subsequent canine references are a bit too lowbrow for this films attitude). The love story develops from a past encounter and a curiously introduced storyline involving Julia and her weight. While the chemistry between the two parties involved works, this aspect mildly bogs things down. However, since it is done with a light hearted and realistic touch, it’s forgivable in the grand scheme. Another helpful aspect is the insight and wit of the writers, throwing in some memorable dialogue (I’m schizophrenic, so I’m my own entourage) that is both insightful and funny. This delicate balance is what pushes the film over the edge from the average run of the mill romantic comedy, which this film could have drifted into easily. Instead, Roth and the writers show control and restraint at times, and excess, sappiness and sharp social satire in others.
In a world of make believe, where the main premise is usually to be someone else, each of the actors in the film is playing someone either close to their own personality, or similar to the characters that they’ve played and had success with before. These are not new and unique characters, since the masses do better with characters and reactions that can be easily related to. Julia is Julia, sweet, charming and the girl we always root for. Cusack is back at home playing the everyman romantic lead (which he strayed from in efforts like Con-Air and Pushing Tin) Jones is tolerable, because she’s playing a character who is not unlike her self; overrated, stuck on her own image and someone who’s bought into her own hype. Crystal is wisecracking, Azaria is over the top (with an accent straight from the Desi Arnaz school of pronunciation) even Walken, an actor usually hard to stereotype, plays creepy, yet intellectual like nobody’s business. Together, they have a chemistry that mirrors the films own general aura; an aura of sharp realism that contains just enough doses of humor and sarcasm to keep things original and real.
Ultimately, America’s Sweethearts is a light, but effective and intelligent look at the true mindset of stardom and the sides and aspects of Hollywood that are not immediately prevalent and visible. The creation an image to serve two purposes, to draw attention, of course, but also to distract from other occurrences which may detract from the desired message. In Hollywood, it’s not always about the quality of something, as much as how it looks, and what it will do for those involved. The film effectively shows all sides of this, from the celebrities, to the directors, the publicists, the lovers and the family members. Every side is approached, and dealt with in a manner that is never over the top, but is satirical and humorous without being sugar coated or overdone. The love story does tend to get in the way, but never enough to steal any of the movies charm or sharp wit. The romance aspect remains playful, if not painfully, but acceptably obvious. Yet another case of success that comes from not being afraid to laugh and mock the hands and wallets that feed you, while still maintaining a humorous and intelligent edge. The movie is pretty fearless, which fails it sometimes in the execution of some of the jokes, but for the most part, it’s a chance for the participants to bite back at the hand that feeds them, without repercussion. We get to look behind the scenes at how some of the ludicrous, and not so ludicrous, rumors and situations actually occur, and realize that what we’re watching, may not actually be the whole story, but this movie definitely is. ($$$$ out of $$$$$)
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