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Review for Anywhere But Here--Threshold Productions (UT)

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Thurs., November 18, 1999

My Experience Watching Anywhere But Here

The other day I had to take my truck into Discount Tire to get a leak repaired in one of my tires along with getting my tires rotated. But as is always the case, they were busy and it was going to be at least an hour and a half before they would be finished.

In the event that this would inevitably happen, I had already planned what I would do in the interim. There is a new movie theater that had just opened down the street from their shop, and it's called the Jordan Commons. It has 17 screens, including a six-story tall I-max theater. Seeing as I had not gotten the chance to go check it out yet, I figured this would be the perfect opportunity for me to go check out the I-max produced film Everest. It had come out sometime about two years ago, and ever since it was reviewed in Entertainment Weekly Magazine (a preferred favorite of mine for in-depth film reporting) I had wanted to go see it.

The only problem was that previous to this new theater's opening, there were no I-max theaters here in Utah. The only other chance I had to see this movie was back in May when I vacationed out to Washington to visit with my "adopted" grandparents. There was an I-max theater there, but we had missed the last showing of Everest at that time.

So needless to say, I've been wanting to see this movie pretty badly. But the other obstacle that came in the way of my watching it this time dealt with my personal motivation to see it. Getting me motivated enough to watch movies is very difficult if I haven't seen the preview for it. I like to normally go off what my friends say if they've seen movies I haven't in order to judge accurately what movies are worth watching.

I know where they're coming from. I have so many friends that I've tried to get excited about seeing movies such as Titanic, but the majority of them were gone on their missions when the movie opened, so they never saw the previews for it like I did. I myself had seen the preview prior to my going to watch it, and after having seen the preview, I was so excited to see it that even with it opening over the Christmas holiday week back in ‘97, I still went and saw it even though I was on vacation in Florida. That ended up being the best thing about that Christmas for me that year, and it was all from the anticipation that was built up from watching the trailers for that film.

Now, having understood how excited one person who has seen previews for a certain movie can be compared to one who hasn't helps me realize that previews are the key to motivating others. They are the most persuasive tool to use in trying to sell a movie. Even if they're executed correctly, they can make the dumbest movie look just awesome.

Knowing this then, I still was not completely motivated to see Everest because that was the one thing that I was lacking–I still had not seen a trailer for the film. Even though it's been a mega-blockbuster success as far as I-max movies go, I still couldn't bring myself to buy the ticket for it the other day when I had the chance. But now in hindsight, I'm glad because of what happened.

I had arrived at the Jordan Commons and was trying to find out which would be the next movie to play that I could see. Anywhere But Here looked like the best choice, even though it didn't open to a very big weekend gross. I figured that the reviews for the actresses had won me over for that one and helped me decide that it should be worth it. Plus, I had seen the preview for it.

So I went ahead and got the ticket, and went into the theater. When the previews started, the best thing about the actual experience I had took place. Finally, after all this time, I was able to see a preview for Everest! It was very exciting! Some of the shots they had were absolutely gorgeous, while others made you tense just watching. I don't want to totally go into what shots they used or what dramatic elements helped add to the wonder of the experience, because I was so astounded by what was happening in the preview, that I don't want to diminish anyone else's anticipation of watching the film because they already know the best points about it. That's the one drawback for movie previews. You just can't tell people how the preview was and expect them to get as excited about it from you telling them as you were watching it personally. So that's just something that you have to experience for yourself.

Unfortunately, like I said, that was the most interesting part of this particular movie-going experience, because when it started, I could tell almost immediately that it was not going to be one of my favorites. The music didn't jump out and grab me like that in some movies do. It was this county-type song sung by a female, and if you know me you know that country is my least favorite music. But I tried not to let this be the deciding factor of how I would like the movie. I mean, the movie was only starting. And in the opening credits I did notice that Danny Elfman composed the music in the movie, so I was kind of excited about that.

As the movie unraveled however, it was pretty clear that it was just going to have these couple of females as the lead characters and nobody else. Now that's not bad just on it's own to have lead female characters. Steel Magnolias is a film that had pretty much only females as the lead characters, and that movie was great. The performances of the actresses were great, and the story that they told was very compelling. The most critical issues that women are faced with were brought out very well in that film, and I consider it to be one of the better movies made. Terms of Endearment was also an excellent film that shares the same qualities as far as acting and the importance of the message are concerned. A smaller film, but still equally as good was Marvin's Room, and it's message was also of great import and relevance to the viewing public.

However, Anywhere But Here was just a movie that pretty much told the story of a mother and daughter who don't get along much, yet learn to cope with each other because they love each other. This idea is good enough, but the actual execution of the premise was done with a certain lack of luster. The scenes in the movie weighed heavily on arguing and crying more than on happiness and good times, and the overall feeling that I got from watching it made me more depressed than uplifted by the end of the film.

The movie lacked in the areas of emotional draw, because when it came down to it, the characters were not drawn out enough to make you care about them more than hating them. Susan Sarandon's character was just some loose woman who unfortunately had to divorce her husband because he was gay, but would only later sleep with someone who she thought was strong and attractive. She gets hurt very much from the relationship, but can't bring herself to like two other men in the film that are caring and wonderful people that would've considered her to be the Queen of their households. At the end of the movie, she is still single, dating no one seriously, and you only wonder if she's ever going to humble herself enough to accept that the best men aren't necessarily the most attractive, but that they actually love and respect the women in their lives.

The other side of the equation that didn't help the movie was Natalie Portman's character. She played a distraught teenager that hated everything her mother did for her so much that there were moments of all-out rebellion. Her character said that the only thing that kept her going was knowing that one day she would leave her mother, and there were several instances in the movie that she almost did. This lack of respect disgusted me. Eventually at the end of the movie she did the right thing in waiting until she went off to college, but overall, the path that she took was an underhanded one that lacked of the essence of love and care for her mother.

One other part in the movie that I was absolutely disgusted with was a scene in which Natalie Portman's suitor calls her up on the phone while she's in a pit of depression. I call him suitor, because he just has a crush on her, and no real loving relationship is formed between the two. He talks dirty to her on the phone, and she obviously does what she thinks will help her feel better by inviting him over. When the boy finally arrives, she invites him in and almost immediately asks him to strip down to his underwear. He does so reluctantly (and you can tell he's just as ashamed to do it as audience members are to watch it). Fortunately he doesn't get completely naked, but for him to do that just to kiss a pretty girl who he doesn't really have anything in common with is degrading to me personally. Just seeing someone throw out all of their morals to satisfy their hormonal desires almost made me leave the theater. I stuck with it though in the hopes that their attitudes would turn around by the end of the film.

Unfortunately, this did not happen and I was let down. The most disappointing moment in the film revolved around the death of someone very close to Natalie Portman's character, and after that I seriously wondered what good the movie could be about. There was more sorrow and depression than anything else in the film, and for the movie to not perform very well at the box-office reflects accurately upon the general opinion of the public.

I just left thinking to myself that I'm lucky I have a great relationship with my family, and that I'm going to marry a beautiful and wonderful woman who knows where her priorities should be. I am going to try my best to be the most wonderful man in the world for her, and give her the home that she feels she is the Queen of my Kingdom. Women are the most wonderful people in the world, and they deserve more love and respect out of men than they are accustomed to getting. Give me another Steel Magnolias or Terms of Endearment any day, and I will be more than happy to see it and truly enjoy the thing that so many people in this world have forgotten: that personal relationships are the strongest bonds people can share, and that there will be nothing that can break the hold that fixes these kinds of people to real standards and morals.

-Carl Sticht

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