Earlier this week I rented The Matador, Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Haven't watched the last one yet, though based on some of the positive reviews it got, I'm looking forward to it.
I liked The Matador, though by the end I found it a little slight. It's about a hitman (played by Pierce Brosnan), who's starting to break under the pressures of his job. While doing a hit in Mexico City, he meets a businessman (played by Greg Kinnear), who's in town for an all-important pitch meeting that will make or break his career. Even though Brosnan's world-weary cynicism has made him into a drunk and a crass hedonist, he and Kinnear's square midwestern character manage to become friends. Back when it opened in theaters, The Matador was roundly praised for Brosnan's performance, and the adulation was deserved. He's excellent in the role and makes an essentially unbelievable character seem believable. I think Richard Shepherd, the writer-director of the movie, is to be commended for keeping his movie focused on his characters and their burgeoning friendship, but there were a couple opportunities they had to heighten the stakes of the movie, but Shepherd wastes, ostensibly to keep the stakes low and the circumstances suitably light-hearted. It's difficult to let on what I'm talking about without giving away some of the movie's low-key surprises, but I think that raising the stakes in a comedy is rarely a bad thing, and this movie could have used a little raising of the stakes. But aside from these blown opportunities, The Matador manages to be a fresh little comedy that made me smile a lot, even if it didn't make me laugh much.
I also watched the Sarah Silverman movie, Jesus is Magic. The majority of the film consists of one of her comedy shows in Los Angeles, and the rest consists of a bunch of little sketch-y vignettes that act as filmic riffs on the jokes in her show. None of these work too well, but the footage of her on-stage with a live audience is the heart of the movie, and she's hilarious in it. Silverman's whole on-stage character is an obliviously bitchy, racist Jewish girl. Most of her punchlines seem to involve one coyly-delivered revelation about her seemingly limitless racism after the other. Some critics have said her material is only funny because she's the one saying these racist things, and all of the "comedy" comes from the juxtaposition of the speaker and the speech, but I think she's funny because the person behind the persona is so angry, and, as with most successful comics, people respond to her underlying anger. She says in the bonus features, after she makes some off-hand cruel remark in her Sarah Silverman persona, and she smiles and shrugs and says, "I'm sorry. I'm always slipping into that cunty thing, but..." But it's her so-called "cunty" thing that people love. So when she says a joke like, "I think you always have to make fun of yourself. I'm constantly telling that to Asian people," what makes it funny is that it's cruel and it's pithy, but also that her naive, pretty girl persona makes the statement ironic, and therefore safe to laugh at. So all the racist jokes we hear that we feel offended by are now rendered safe because we're now laughing with Sarah Silverman at the person who would tell that joke and find it actually amusing instead of ironically amusing. And because she's made taken the teeth out of the hard racist edge of the materal, we can also, on another level, feel free to laugh with the "racist" at stuff we'd never laugh at under ordinary circumstances, and that freedom feels good. Maybe it's not as complicated as all of that, but Silverman makes it all look pretty easy and I laughed very hard pretty often. Ask Peggy, she'll tell you. Though she won't come right out and say it, she can get pretty annoyed by how loud I laugh sometimes. Big lungs, big laugh. How it is. Anyway.
Between the time I started this post, and the time I'm writing these words, I saw Monster House. I don't want to go into it now, but I will say it's an excellent movie. Judging by the reviews coming out today, seems like Monster House is a much safer bet than Shammy's Lady in the Water. Wow, is that one getting some bad reviews. Anyway, have a good weekend, er'rybody.