LA BUCHE (1999) proves the French can do Christmas Family Gathering Films as well as Americans, though not any better—I stopped watching midway through, but that was more the Christmas Eve time crunch than a failing in the film.
While I enjoyed Allen’s early crime comedy Take the Money and Run, serious crime films (Crimes and Misdemeanors, Match Point) are not his strength. Case in point, the noir wannabe CASSANDRA’S DREAM (2007) wherein ambitious working-class brothers Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell try to touch up uncle Tom Wilkinson for some financing, only to learn that he expects a favor in return (“I cannot afford to have him testify, and he isn’t amenable to reason.”). While this has all the ingredients to work, Allen’s style is too naturalistic to really work with the material. Hayley Attwell (the MCU’s Peggy Carter) plays McGregor’s lover. “If you look at anything up close, you reveal all the ugly imperfections!”
VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA (2008) transfers the typical Allen romantic entanglements and neurotics (as the title women, both Rebecca Hall and Scarlett Johannson are versions of the Frustrated Intellectual Woman Diane Keaton played so often) to Barcelona, where they get to bed artist Javier Bardem despite his crazy ex Penelope Cruz turning up. Unfortunately the pretty locations and pretty people are bogged down in pretentious intellectual discussion about feelings, making this so tedious I’d double-bill it with the nigh-unwatchable September. “She speaks my language—you and I would be at each other’s throats in a moment.”
NEW YEAR’S EVE (2011) was an earlier entry in the same Grand Hotel cycle as Christmas Eve, showing various characters (many of whose stories intersect as we reach the finish) dealing with various crises and challenges on Dec. 31. Can Hilary Swank pull off the Times Square ball drop? Will Josh Duhamel reach New York for his midnight kiss with a mystery woman? Will Jon bon Jovi and Katherine Heigl ever reconcile after he dumped her a year earlier? Will holiday cynic Ashton Kutcher and backup singer Lea Michelle connect when they’re trapped in an elevator? And what about single mother Sarah Jessica Parker and terminally ill Robert deNiro? Not groundbreaking, but enough pieces work that the whole thing gets a thumb up. “It’s not a kick, it’s a core tenet of my being!”
THE FEMINIST AND THE FUZZ (1971) are pediatrician Barbara Eden and sexist cop David Hartman, who despite finding each other Obnoxious and Irritating agree to become roommates in one of the few affordable apartments in San Francisco — he works nights, she works days, so obviously there won’t be any problems or complications, right? Actually more annoyingly sexist than I remembered it in having Hartman be consistently right about everything, where Eden, like most feminists of the era, is irrational about everything and flies off the handle (and her feminist friends, led by Jo Ann Worley, are even worse). However I did like Eden’s explanation of how going from shy nerd to sexy turned her feminist (“The only thing that made men back off was when they realized how smart I was.”). Well cast, with John McIver as the clueless landlord, Harry Morgan as Eden’s father, Julie Newmar as a hooker and a pre-fame Farrah Fawcett as Hartman’s Playboy bunny girlfriend. All rights to the image remain with current holder. “Like the little old lady said, you have bulges.”