Movie Monday: Somewhere in Time


By Alexandria Harris

Normally romantic movies are not my thing, but the allure of seeing Christopher Reeve NOT play Superman was too much. Plus I’m a sucker for time travel. And Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. So Superman plus Dr. Quinn and time travel equal a good time.

Premise: A Chicago playwright uses self-hypnosis to find the actress whose portrait hangs in a hotel

This movie was a mash-up of The Time Traveler’s Wife, The Lake house (especially because of the Christopher Plummer link), and a dash of The Phantom of the Opera.

Quote:
“Evening, Ms. McKenna. You don’t know me, but you will.”

Richard Collier is a budding college playwright, and has just finished debuting a successful play. While he’s basking in the glow of his success, an elderly woman moves through the crowd to him, pushes a pocket watch into his hand and whispers “Come back to me.”

Awkward. Especially because he has no idea who she is and everyone becomes silent to watch the awkwardness.

Even more awkward is having to watch the old woman go to the Grand Hotel, shut herself in her room, and cradle the playbill to her chest in a rocking chair because we immediately flash forward eight years.

Richard has now written many plays, but has apparently hit a rut because he decides to go on a vacation after breaking up with his girlfriend and hasn’t finished his newest play.

And of course, he ends up staying at the Grand Hotel. The bell hop Arthur provides a nice example of overly helpful customer service and has a weird case a deja vu where he thinks he might have met Richard before.

Richard settles in and wants to eat something, but apparently he arrives forty minutes before the dining hall opens. As he tries to kill time, he notices something called a Hall of History (which I now wish all hotels had) and goes through it.

After browsing a few things, he’s mesmerized by an unidentified portrait of a gorgeous woman. He tracks down Arthur, the eager to please bellhop, who tells him all about the woman, Elise McKenna.

Then the audience witnesses his not-so-slow descent into obsession when he goes back to mope at the portrait, then ogles the pocket watch in the middle of the night, stares at the portrait more, tosses and turns in bed, then take a wild guess at what he stares at again.

Next (I would consider this modern Facebook stalking but she’s dead so I guess she can’t care about it) he goes to the library to dig deeper into her life because he found out from Arthur that Elise was a famous actress. After more digging into her later years, he comes across a picture from the end of her life. It’s the same woman who gave him the pocket watch.

*gasp* Dun-dun-DUN! Sorry wrong movie genre.

But now we take obsession and stalking up one more notch and he visits the woman who wrote the book about Elise’s last years and who was also with her the night she died, eight years ago, on the opening night of his play.

She has a sharp reaction to seeing the pocket watch and by this point, I really just wanted to know how far we were going to go down the rabbit hole. The more Richard learns about Elise and her life, the more I wanted Jane Seymour to just come out in all her glory.

Richard finds a book about time travel that his philosophy teacher wrote that Elise apparently read non stop. A music box Elise had made plays the soul wrenching musical score evident throughout the movie that is Richard’s “favorite music in the whole world.”

This drives Richard back to his old philosophy teacher, who suggests self-hypnosis and mind suggestion via some scientific yada, yada, yada as a way of time travel.

The most lovely part of this is that during this conversation, you literally see Christopher Reeve snap, disregarding the dangers and entranced by the whole possibility. And afterward you get to see glaring evidence of just HOW hard he snapped.

I have to say, watching the scenes of Reeve trying to hypnotize himself were worth seeing the movie alone. It was like watching Superman fight against the effects of kryptonite. He was truly a fish out of water in a different time, which made for some very funny material.

Also, the manager-actress relationship could have been a prequel to the Christine-Phantom relationship from Phantom of the Opera. Reeve makes a great Raul and Plummer has the stern, “I’ll kill you in your sleep” intimidating demeanor down pat.

You’ve got cryptic dialogue, creepy stalker dialogue, laugh out loud moments, the danger element, a sense of mystery, and the taste of an epic period romance with some modern sprinkled in. All of this made it a little more than your run of the mill romance. And the time travel helped.

Jane Seymour and Reeve had fabulous chemistry, there was a wonderful sense of spontaneity. I really enjoyed that the movie outlined the pressures of being an actress, of having the responsibility of bringing someone’s world to life.

I mean there was an Inception-like moment/inconsistency that I felt was Christopher Nolan worthy and usually happens with many movies trying to tackle time travel. Who had the pocket watch first?

I have to give this movie a 6/10. I wasn’t too fond of the ending because the movie gradually grew unconvincing. Furthermore, it took them about an hour to show Jane Seymour in action. Who does that?

It also didn’t really get into Richard being a playwright-he just happened to be a playwright who was in love. So basically the moving was less about writing and writing processes than I thought it would be. I thought I was really going to like it, but it made for an adequate love story, plot-wise. The good news–the talent and the soundtrack were fabulous.

Alexandria Harris is a writer and former reporter on WSUM 91.7. When she isn’t watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, she tweets regularly as @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Movie Monday: Missing


By Alexandria Harris

Premise: An American writer goes missing in a Latin American country and those close to him spend the entire movie trying to find out what happened to him.

Best Quotes:

“They can’t hurt us, we’re Ameericans!”-Charlie

“I guess he’s trying to be a writer.” -Mr. Harmon, when asked about his son’s occupation.

“Sometimes I honestly think that that boy is incapable of doing anything, except of course give idealistic speeches or write novels that will never be published.”-Mr. Harmon

I honestly don’t know what I was expecting out of this movie. In the very beginning, they had a voice over stating the movie depicted true events and names had been changed to protect people and the film. It was hard to be funny or lighthearted about the film because it made no attempt at being one. It was chilling and was almost separate from any emotion I tried to muster up to connect with it.

It starts in chaos. We’re in an unnamed Latin American country (supposedly Chile) and fear is in the air. Latin American military troops are everywhere, killing, sacking, and keeping order. For some reason, tons of Americans are in this Latin American country and trying to leave.

In the first scene, Charlie Harmon and his friend Terry are rushing to get back before curfew. They stay in a hotel because they can’t get home. Terry asks Charlie if he thinks it’s a good idea to be taking a lot of notes, to which he makes an entry saying that very thing.

In the morning, they go home to Charlie’s wife Beth. She was very worried about them because gunfire could be heard everywhere. Beth wants to leave with Charlie and Terry and so all three of them go to try and get to the airport.

Beth goes on ahead of them while Charlie and Terry try to leave another way. They are stopped by the military when two men have Terry at gunpoint and walk her over to a secluded area where they search her.

Terry and Charlie get out of that situation safely and take advice from a freelance writer from New York to hole up in a safe place until they can get out of the country and not to go to the consulate because it’s a mile away and the streets were literally murder.

Beth goes to see Frank, who is a friend of hers and Charlie. Frank is an American and explains that the country has turned into a free fire zone.

She leaves, but misses her bus and isn’t able to get another. She tries to get a taxi, but they are either hurrying trying to get back before curfew or they won’t take her where she needs to go.

The curfew announcement sounds and Beth sticks to the shadows, hiding along buildings. She bumps into a store display and the lights come on because the store owner is hiding there. She begs him for help, but he refuses so she hides in the street between buildings.

She arrives home to meet Charlie, but the house is ransacked. A neighbor comes to tell her that the soldiers came in the night. He did not see Charlie, but warns Beth to leave because they might come back.

Meanwhile, Charlie’s dad Mr. Harmon is trying to find him through efforts in Washington but isn’t getting anywhere through various state departments. He decides to go down to the country and meet with the ambassadors to find out what’s going on.

Charlie hasn’t been captured by the military, he isn’t in any hospitals, and all the neighbors have been interviewed. He seems to have literally disappeared.

Mr. Harmon does not trust Beth, because she is married to Charlie and apparently has the same idealistic spirit that he does.

Beth is rude to the ambassador and U.S. government officials when visiting them because they have stonewalled her for the past two weeks. Mr. Harmon thinks she is being unreasonable and is irritated with her.

The two meet with Terry, who describes the last time she saw Charlie and how they ran into a man in the navy who was pretending to be French and apparently spilling military secrets with them. They took notes, and Terry explained that Charlie told her how odd it was that the American navy man would tell them so much.

Terry and Beth tell Mr. Harmon about meeting an American official who told them if they needed anything to call him. They do so after Charlie disappears, but the intoxicated man tries making passes at both of them. They lock the door to their room and hide from him.

With this Mr. Harmon finally believes that things are not what they seem in this unnamed Latin American country.

Suffice it to say, I was bored forty minutes into the movie and I had another hour and forty minutes to go. It is very dark and has the same monotonous tone through the whole thing.

The audience can tell who the villains are, but that there is no hope. The thing that holds the movie together is the relationship between Beth and Mr. Harmon as they try to find out what happened to Charlie.

The movie is very political–and the art of writing is portrayed in a negative light. Mr. Harmon seemed to imply that Charlie had gotten himself into the whole mess because he was a writer  I would also argue that writing is just another metaphor for freedom. In the same way Mr. Harmon disapproves of Charlie’s writing and idealism, the Latin American government disapproves of their people having freedom of expression.

It’s very interesting that the beginning of the movie says these are all true events and the end of the movie has an official statement by the Department of State declaring that these events never happened.

I didn’t enjoy this movie because it was more about the shadow of a writer instead of how writing affects our lives. Mr. Harmon didn’t approve of his son’s writing and it made for a toxic relationship. The movie was also way more political than I thought it would be.

The emotion was there, but because of the corrupt nature of the government, you already knew what was going to happen. You know there’s not a happy ending and the road there is just shy of suspenseful, just slightly off kilter. Sissy Spacek and Jack Lemmon give great performances, but if I evaluate it from my current system, I’d have to give it 3/10 stars.

Alexandria Harris is a writer and former reporter on WSUM 91.7. When she isn’t watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, she tweets regularly as @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Movie Monday: American Dreamer

By Alexandria Harris

So far we’ve done a period movie about a playwright and an autobiographical movie about a novelist. This week I was feeling a little restless and the title seemed fitting because we’ve just ended the Olympics in London. Be prepared for some twists and turns in this week’s movie.

Premise: a woman is trying to win a writing contest. The prize–a week in Paris for two. Sounds like a dream right? However, she may get much more than she bargained for.

Quotes:
“I don’t know what’s real anymore. I don’t even know if you’re real.” Alan/Dimitri

“I should’ve taken her to a hospital but why is she starting to make sense?” Alan/Dimitri

It starts out with a bang, almost literally. A man dressed as a woman and a woman dressed head to toe in furs pursues him and cuffs him with a gun. Of course then the audience finds that this is all a part of the writer’s book.

Cathy is a very likeable main character. She’s really invested in her craft, a mother of two fun loving boys who encourage and support her writing. However, she’s cursed with a dull husband, Kevin, who only has eyes for his work and sounds completely disinterested in everything. His motto is “let’s think on it.”

Cathy wins the contest, the reaction to which is worth watching the movie alone (the silent “I won, I won” is endearing and precious). But big surprise here, Kevin doesn’t want to go because of his job and then has the audacity not to want her to go to Paris alone. And all this arguing is done while sweat covered Kevin exercises on a flimsy stationary bike that clearly isn’t helping him.

Cathy basically tells her sexist husband to kick rocks and makes future generations of women everywhere happy when she packs her bags and goes to Paris.

The audience goes on a tour of all the sights of Paris you typically see in a movie involving Paris but in the middle of all the excitement, a biker swipes her camera and Cathy, desperate to preserve all her rose tinged memories, runs after him and gets hit by a car.

She wakes up as Rebecca Ryan, a character from the books the contest is named for, and this is when the action gets kicked into overdrive.

Picture a sophisticated Bonnie with amnesia and without Clyde. It’s the most hilarious case of the author stepping into the shoes of a character instead of a character being formed by bits of the author. A who-dun-it adrenaline rush that keeps the energy and laughs soaring.

What struck me most about this movie is that was the story of a dreamer, a talented woman who didn’t give up and in the end didn’t settle for half-living her life. She went from pleasing other people to pleasing herself and even though the journey to that wasn’t conventional, it made it was done creatively and with a refreshing twist.

I would give this an 8/10. It was hilarious, had its sweet moments, really pushed the envelope between fantasy and reality, and immersed its audience into the world of a book. The only reason I gave it an 8 is because I don’t really agree with the ending, but it ended well enough and nothing is perfect.

Alexandria Harris is a writer and recent college graduate. When she isn’t writing, watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, or working in her father’s company, she tweets regularly on her account @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin