Oct. 11, 2002 -- Opening this week: Comedian Punch Drunk Love Knockaround Guys White Oleander Swept Away
Comedian — What's Jerry Seinfeld doing, playing a club in Cleveland? You have to walk through the kitchen to get to the stage.
Comedian — a seriously funny documentary — tracks Seinfeld cruising, schmoozing and choosing new material for his stand-up act.
It took Seinfeld three months to come up with 20 minutes of stage material. And the clubs, even on film, smell of stale beer and flop sweat. I wanted more jokes. But I'm never tired of watching the star. Grade: B+
Punch Drunk Love — As Barry Egan, Adam Sandler is angry, awkward, lonely, and lost. He buys $3,000 worth of chocolate pudding just to earn a million frequent flier miles. When Barry gives a phone sex operator his real name and Social Security number, he finds out just how expensive a toll call can be. But then Lena (Emily Watson) falls in love with him.
This is a genius romantic comedy. Twisted, but genius. Paul Thomas Anderson, who won Best Director at Cannes, aims smaller than he did in Magnolia. But he goes deeper. So does Sandler, who is as effortless playing serious comedy as he is at slapstick. Grade: A-
Knockaround Guys — John Malkovich is one of the greatest actors I've seen. And I've finally seen something he can't do: be believable as an Italian guy from Brooklyn. Add the phony accent to the sibilant hiss, and he sounds like he's speaking Castillian Brooklyn.
Even with Vin Diesel's help, Knockaround Guys got knocked around a few times too many. Grade: D. White Oleander — Michelle Pfeiffer's the not so obvious villain in White Oleander, playing a control freak who poisons her boyfriend.
The excellent cast features Renée Zellweger and Robin Wright Penn as foster moms and Allison Lohman as Pfeiffer's daughter.
Penn and Lohman deserve Oscar consideration. But the acting far surpasses the material. White Oleander is one of the those movies you watch and think, "Yeah, I bet the book was great." Grade: C+. Swept Away — In Swept Away, Madonna is so mean, so hateful, and so contemptible, you figure the only reason her husband took her on this cruise is because he wants to throw her overboard.
The rumor going around Hollywood is that in an earlier version he did, but the sharks threw her back on the boat. Madonna, playing an insufferably snooty socialite, gets stranded on a desert island. Imagine Castaway with Hitler instead of Tom Hanks.
Just when you think you can root for the deckhand, he becomes mean and abusive. He forces Madonna to call him master. He rapes her, and she falls in love with him. That doesn't get a passing grade from me in the 21st century. Grade: F.