Do Clooney and Zellwegger Pull It Off?

Metro critic Daniel Holloway discusses the weekend's new movie releases, including the period piece Leatherheads, Wong Kar-Wai's My Blueberry Nights and more.

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ALISON STEWART, host:

OK Rachel, it is Friday.

RACHEL MARTIN, host:

Woohoo.

STEWART: And it is the last block of the show.

MARTIN: Woohoo.

STEWART: Which might explain this suggested intro that I received for our movie segment.

MARTIN. OK. Go for it Ali.

STEWART: Movies are like pictures that come alive and move and you watch the pictures and you eat while you watch them and they are good to watch. Yep, that's the intro Ian came up with for this segment, one more sign that it's Friday and our brains are burnded. And he also just wrote burnded.

Mr. DANIEL HOLLOWAY (Film critic, Metro Newspaper): Burnded?

STEWART: And I readeded it because my brain is burnded. I think we're burned out. We need a break.

MARTIN: We need a break.

STEWART: We need to go to the movies. As always, Mr. Daniel Holloway is here to tell us about if we can all retain our crushes on George Clooney.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Yes.

STEWART: He's starring and directing in "Leatherheads." Whether Jodie Foster can handle slapstick comedy in "Nim's Island."

MARTIN: No.

STEWART: Silence. And if singer Norah Jones can act. Oh, I got a thumbs up there. Daniel's a film critic for Metro Newspaper. Hi Dan.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Hi.

STEWART: So let's start with "Leatherheads." The premise is Clooney plays a man who plans to legitimize football and needs to recruit this hoity-toity Princeton player to do so. And they end up fighting for the affection of a gal.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Clooney does indeed play a man in this movie, Alison.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Yeah, that's about.

MARTIN: But does he play a pregnant man?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HOLLOWAY: No. No pregnant men in this movie.

STEWART: So it seems like sort of half period piece, half comedy, half sports movie. That would be three halves. But a third of each of those.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Yeah, it's all those thirds coming together for one very good whole, I believe. It's a period comedy set in the 1920s before professional football was legitimized. And it is equal parts slapstick, romance, and kind of surprisingly, deft commentary on the current and former state of pro sport.

STEWART: Well, the clip that we have reminds me sort of is that patter-heavy Tracy-Hepburn movies, back and forth. First of all, do you think Clooney and Renee Zellweger pull it off as these two, sort of, yeah, I'm a dame and you're a guy, and we're witty.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Clooney's done this sort of thing before. He did it pretty well in the Coen brothers' movie that I can't remember.

STEWART: "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"

Mr. HOLLOWAY: That one. And also the one that they followed that up with, that was him and Catherine Zeta-Jones, that no one saw.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HOLLOWAY: And I can't remember. But yeah, he's done this before. This is kind of him doing his Clark Gable bit, and he's very good at it. Renee Zellweger also very good at it. Her face is a little frozen in this film, but she's still Renee Zellweger, and she's still really good at this sort of thing. So...

STEWART: Well let's listen to a clip.

(Soundbite of clip from "Leatherheads")

Ms. RENEE ZELLWEGER (Actress): (As Lexie Littleton) Well, if it isn't Dodge Connelly, middle-aged boy wonder.

Mr. GEORGE CLOONEY (Actor): (As Dodge Connelly) Why, Lexie Littleton, breaking curfew.

Ms. ZELLWEGER: (As Lexie Littleton) I won't tell if you won't.

Mr. CLOONEY: (As Dodge Connelly) Let me introduce you to Miss Belinda Whippleworth (ph).

Ms. ZELLWEGER: (As Lexie Littleton) Pleasure.

Unidentified Actress: (As Belinda Whippleworth) Charmed. I have to pee.

Ms. ZELLWEGER: (As Lexie Littleton) Enchanting girl. I thought you had to be 21 to get into a place like this.

Mr. CLOONEY: (As Dodge Connelly) She's 21.

Ms. ZELLWEGER: (As Lexie Littleton) I meant her I.Q.

Mr. CLOONEY: (As Dodge Connelly) I wasn't planning on running her for Congress.

Ms. ZELLWEGER: (As Lexie Littleton) No? What were you planning on doing with her?

Mr. CLOONEY: (As Dodge Connelly) You know, the usual.

Ms. ZELLWEGER: (As Lexie Littleton) Put her in shoulder pads and a helmet and knock her brains out?

Mr. CLOONEY: (As Dodge Connelly) I think someone beat me to it.

Ms. ZELLWEGER: (As Lexie Littleton) She'll do well in Congress.

Mr. CLOONEY: (As Dodge Connelly) Well, you're only as young as the woman you feel.

Ms. ZELLWEGER: (As Lexie Littleton) How quiet it must be in Algonquin with you here in Duluth.

(End of soundbite)

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Oh, I like it.

STEWART: That was funny.

MARTIN: I like it. The name of the movie, "Intolerable Cruelty." Jacob Ganz, our director, for the win on that one. Thank you, Jacob. So, you've got these two big stars, these two Academy Award winners. Then there's the support guy, John Krasinski, who plays the Princeton guy. Does he get lost in the mix?

Mr. HOLLOWAY: No, no. He's good. In fact, I was a little surprised because Krasinski, of course, is known for playing Jim on "The Office." And...

STEWART: Oh, that's where I recognize him from.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Yes. He's the dude from "The Office." And he's a good comedic actor, and in this movie he plays the straight guy. He is the upstanding Ivy Leaguer, you know, who Clooney convinces to leave Princeton to come play professional football, which at this time is populated by coal miners and you know, drunkards. Just kind of the guys at the bottom end of society. And his character sort of legitimizes it. There's a really interesting scene - the movie was co-written by Rick Riley, who was the back page columnist for Sports Illustrated, now works at espn.com.

There's a really interesting scene in the film where Clooney is - Clooney and Krasinsky are talking, and Clooney is telling him, oh, you're such a big star, because he is. He's the most famous football player in America, but he plays college ball in Princeton. You're such a big star, what must it be like to have people surrounding you all the time? He's like, oh, well, you know, it's a lot of work, and blah blah blah. He goes, and what do you get for living under that kind of pressure? You get to pay tuition to Princeton. And you see this mirrored in the plight of college athletes today.

MARTIN: All the basketball kids who bail after a year.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Right. Right. So it's interesting in that it works as slapstick, but also it works as commentary on a lot of stuff that people still complain about in pro sports.

STEWART: I think you like this movie.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: I like this movie, I do. It comes apart a little bit in the third act. The big game feels a little rote, and like it's just there because you need the big game at the end of the sports movie. But for the most part, yeah, pretty fun.

MARTIN: You don't like our next movie, which breaks my heart, because my girlfriend's in it, Abigail Breslin, who played "Little Miss Sunshine." Her new film is "Nim's Island." All right, give us the plot before you rip it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Do I have to?

MARTIN: Yes.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: I wasn't aware the movie had plot.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: There's an island.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: There's an island, and Abigail Breslin lives on this island with King Leonidus from "300," and who's her father. And they have a weird, creepy relationship, where she only wants to live on this island with her father. He's the only other human being she's ever seen. And somehow, they also have Internet access on this deserted jungle island.

STEWART: Well, there you go.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: And, anyway, he goes off to - he leaves her alone on a deserted jungle island with an active volcano on it for two days while he goes off on a sailboat to find plankton. But he doesn't use his Internet access to check the weather report.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HOLLOWAY: He gets lost at sea. And she writes an email to Jodie Foster, who is an OCD paranoid schizophrenic adventure writer, who she convinces to come and help her find her dad. They don't - well I won't spoil it beyond that. Listen, I like Abigail Breslin a lot, too - I was just like totally going off here, aren't I?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HOLLOWAY: I like Abigail Breslin a lot, but there are laws in this country that protect children.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: And this movie breaks these laws?

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Yes. It breaks - the people who made this movie had four writers and two directors. The people who made this movie need to be prosecuted under those laws for doing grievous harm to Abigail Breslin.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Or at least her career.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Yeah. At least - probably her person, too. I mean, this had to be traumatic experience.

MARTIN: Well, it has Academy Award winner Jodie Foster attempting to be slapstick funny.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Yeah, she kind of - you know, she's picking up a paycheck. Which I don't know why, because that's not something Jodie Foster normally does. She only does about one movie a year.

MARTIN: But if she's trying to make movies for kids?

Mr. HOLLOWAY: I think that's what it is. This is, you know, this is her "Kindergarten Cop."

STEWART: Yeah.

MARTIN: Well, let's play a clip of this atrocious film.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: And this is Breslin and Foster.

(Soundbite of clip from "Nim's Island")

Ms. JODIE FOSTER (Actress): (As Alexandra Rover) What's this?

Ms. ABIGAIL BRESLIN (Actress): (As Nim Rusoe) Well, these are mung beans and gobo root.

Ms. FOSTER: (As Alexandra Rover) You know, I'm just going to - I'm just going to stick with my soup.

Ms. BRESLIN: (As Nim Rusoe) Your soup?

(Soundbite of slurping and chewing)

(Soundbite of burp)

Ms. BRESLIN: (As Nim Rusoe) Sorry about that.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: The seal farts later in the film, too.

MARTIN: Oh, that's really nice. So a seal burping and farting.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Yeah.

MARTIN: And I see what you mean about Abigail Breslin, yeah. Jodie Foster plays this adventure writer who never leaves her home, and she's supposed to come and save, and I'm sure learn about herself through the eyes of a child.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: She does, yes.

MARTIN: How did I know that? Let's just move on to the next movie.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: "Blueberry Nights", "My Blueberry Nights" has this really great cast. Natalie Portman, Jude Law, but the curious thing, Norah Jones, the singer, gets top billing.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Norah Jones was recruited by director Wong Kar-Wai, who we know from "Chungking Express" and a bunch of other Hong Kong films. This is his first movie in English. No acting experience, she - he encouraged her not to take acting classes before she did the role, and she is absolutely spectacular in this film.

MARTIN: Really?

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Yeah. She plays a sort of wounded young woman living in New York, wounded in the sense like romantically, who meets a potential love interest and then goes off on a kind of classic American road trip to go find herself. The early parts of the film with her are really pretty incredible, because she's playing a frantic woman who just lost her man to another woman, and her face and everything about her performance, she just exudes this incredible sense of unpredictability, where she seems desperate, but not cheesily desperate. It seems like genuinely frayed.

MARTIN: Authentically desperate.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: And like anything could come out of her at any moment.

MARTIN: Let's listen to a clip. This is Norah Jones and Natalie Portman in a scene from "My Blueberry Nights."

(Soundbite of clip from "My Blueberry Nights")

Ms. NATALIE PORTMAN (Actress): (As Leslie) How'd you wind up in this hellhole?

Ms. NORAHJONES (Actress): (As Elizabeth) The bus just dropped me off here.

Ms. PORTMAN: (As Leslie) Where'd you come from?

Ms. JONES: (As Elizabeth) New York.

Ms. PORTMAN: (As Leslie) You came all the way here from New York on a bus? Sounds awful.

Ms. JONES: (As Elizabeth) Actually, I was on quite a few of them.

Ms. PORTMAN: (As Leslie) You must love buses.

Ms. JONES: (As Elizabeth) I want to get a car, but it's not easy saving money.

Ms. PORTMAN: (As Leslie) How much you got?

Ms. JONES: (As Elizabeth) About 21, 2200.

Ms. PORTMAN: (As Leslie) Hey, Beth. I've got a proposition for you.

Ms. JONES: (As Elizabeth) What kind of proposition?

Ms. PORTMAN: (As Leslie) See, I need a stake. There is a man I could call in Vegas, but I don't want to do that. I'm a stronger player than any of them.

MARTIN: I sense that this movie is very dialogue-driven.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Yes, very dialogue-driven.

MARTIN: Is it tedious, or?

Mr. HOLLOWAY: No.

MARTIN: No?

Mr. HOLLOWAY: No, it's, you know, she meets a, you know, sort of motley cast of characters along her travels. And a lot of the movie is based on her interaction with those characters. And it's a little vague what they're necessarily teaching her about herself, but is preparing her for the next phase of her life. But all their interactions are interesting. I will say this, David Strathairn and Rachel Weisz are in this film, as is Jude Law. They all give great performances, Natalie Portman not so much.

MARTIN: All right. Daniel Holloway, our movie guy, and Metro's as well. Thanks, Daniel.

Mr. HOLLOWAY; Thanks.

STEWART: Thanks, Daniel.

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