MOVIES: Dec 05, AU Edition

Reece Witherspoon’s latest fails to thrill, while Russian Dolls is more than just kid stuff

Xavier and Wendy in St Petersburg on boat_cmyk.jpgRussian Dolls
Release: December, 2005
Rated: M
French with English sub-titles
3 stars

Russian Dolls is a sequel to the very popular 2002 French flick, The Spanish Apartment. In The Spanish Apartment a group of 25-year-old students come to discover life isn’t all about meaningless sex and realize that they have to grow up. Set five years later, Russian Dolls has the group on the cusp of thirty discovering they really, really have to grow up.
The storyline is predominantly explained through voiceover from the lead character Xavier (played by a cute but slightly dull Romain Duris). He’s no longer working in finance and is now doing crappy freelance writing for romantic TV movies. So as he writes he fills in plot gaps: “I wrote a book called L’auberge Espanole five years ago, but haven’t been able to find a publisher.” It’s a clever way to bring you up to speed with the lives of his friends over the past five years.
Basically the gang all get back together for the wedding in St Petersburg of English stagehand William (played charmingly by Kevin Bishop) and Russian ballerina Natasha (Evguenya Obraztsova).
Two stand out roles are Xavier’s ex-girlfriend, Martine (played by the captivating Audrey Tautou), who has a young son by a never-seen father, still carries a semi-torch for Xavier and, like all the characters on display, is searching for true love. And current girlfriend Wendy (played by the magnetic Kelly Reilly) a gifted writer getting over an abusive relationship.
Enter Celia (played appropriately woodenly by Lucy Gordon), a top fashion model whose life story is being ghost-written by Xavier. She’s beautiful and dumb – making her the perfect woman in Xavier’s eyes.
My question is why do all these beautiful and smart women fall for a neurotic no-hoper wreck? Sure Xavier is handsome and French – but come on girls, we all know he’s a commitment-phobic disaster.
If you liked The Spanish Apartment you’ll like Russian Dolls. It’s nice to have films that grow up with you.

JL05_cmyk.jpgJust Like Heaven
Release: December, 2005
Rated: PG
3 stars

Look, I love Reece Witherspoon. And I think Mark Ruffalo is a big spunk. But the new movie they are starring in, Just Like Heaven, leans a bit too heavily on their sweetness to make up for its failings.
Basically Elizabeth is a type-A, work-obsessed woman who has no time for love – not much of a stretch for a Reece Witherspoon character. David is a depressed yet gentle man trying to get over the death of his wife – again, Mark Ruffalo could play this with his eyes shut.
The catch is Elizabeth is a spirit that no-one but David can see. Yup, it’s a pretty dumb plot alright. The scriptwriters obviously hope viewers will make the leap of faith before you run from the room screaming Ghost. Myself, I struggled with it.
Anyway, our two leads have to figure out why Elizabeth is a spirit and only David can see her so they can hopefully fix the problem. There are some funny bits. While Elizabeth is trying to convince David to help her, she seals the deal by arguing, “Look, you have two realities to choose from. The first is a woman has come into your life in a very unconventional way and she needs your assistance. The second is you are a crazy person talking to himself on a park bench.” Fair point.
Of course this is a romantic comedy so they fall in love – even though she’s not real so he can’t touch her and she can walk through walls and furniture. Hmmm.
If you’re looking for a dumb chick flick to distract you this summer Just Like Heaven is for you. But I prefer my spirits mixed with with orange juice.