ali_wildgoose: (Default)
Go make some new disaster. ([personal profile] ali_wildgoose) wrote2011-08-16 04:09 pm

Adventures in Netflix InstantWatch: The Associate and Mansfield Park

Now that I'm back to working on my comic full-time again, I've also returned to the only thing that keeps me sane while doing so: watching enormous piles of movies in the background. Not everything is particularly well-suited to this method of keeping-my-ass-at-the-desk -- the media I consume can't have subtitles, has to be relatively dialog-centric so I can follow it even when I'm only occasionally glancing at the screen, and has to be engaging enough that I don't pause it every thirty seconds to check my email.

In my desperation for entertainment, I end up watching a lot of films that I probably wouldn't have bothered with otherwise. Sometimes this leads to muddy mediocrity, and sometimes I discover a nugget of gold buried amongst the crap.

I'm going to try my hand at writing short reviews for the films that I have something to say about. Particularly when what I have to say is, "THAT WAS UNEXPECTEDLY AWESOME!"

The Associate
starring Whoopie Goldberg and Dianne Wiest
On Netflix

This is not a perfect movie -- it's a bit of a farce at times, for reasons I kind of don't want to spoil, and it's a little too neat and tidy in the manner of so many other mid-90s "message" films.

Whatever. I don't care.

Let me lay the basics out for you: this film is about two awesome, under-appreciated ladies who've struggled for years on Wall Street, trying to get their male colleagues to take them seriously. Whoopie Goldberg plays a genius businesswoman who's stabbed in the back by the up-and-coming dude she'd taken under her wing, passed over for promotions and generally punished over and over again for being professional and decent. Dianne Weist plays a middle-aged assistant whose intelligence and skills are barely acknowledged, constantly sent off on humiliating errands and denied any chance of advancement beyond her role as a glorified secretary.

This movie is about those two ladies becoming friends, starting a new company, and shaking the foundations of the business world.

I loved this movie.

(It's also super New Yorky, which grants it infinite bonus points in my book.)

Mansfield Park
starring Frances O'Connor
on Netflix

Up front: I have not read this particular Austen novel! All I know about it comes from having read a wikipedia article and spoken to [ profile] jlh.

That said, I really enjoyed this film. I watched the 1999 adaptation, and it was CHARMING AS ALL GET-OUT. They made the interesting decision of turning the heroine, Fanny Price, into a sort of Jane Austen self-insert -- they credit her with many of Austen's actual letters, as well as the children's history of England that she wrote, and Fanny is an avid and talented storyteller. Combined with O'Connor's understated but engaging performance, I found myself instantly on Fanny's side, and wholly drawn into her troubles whether they be domestic or romantic in nature.

The film also takes the novel's passing reference to business matters in Antigua -- a plantation, farmed by slaves, which provides the main characters' income -- and brings it wholly and unflinchingly to the forefront. This change is made skillfully enough that it doesn't feel at all tacked on -- rather, it adds nuance and complexity to the characters and their relationships with each other, as well as grounding the story more firmly in its place in history.

Which isn't to say that it's handling of such issues is flawless, of course -- but I seriously appreciate the efforts made, and think they were mostly successful.

In short: Excellent cast, great direction, smart adaptation, absolutely worth watching.
jlh: (gents: Hercule Poirot)

[personal profile] jlh 2011-08-16 08:42 pm (UTC)(link)
You have a DVD player in that machine, yes? Because I should lend you these 30s/40s movies I have because they're very very talky.