I was debating a friend a couple days ago who wonderedaloud why no one makes movies about platonic friends.
I said, "Who would want to see a movie about a guybeing told 'Let's be just friends'?"
A similar question could be posed regarding "Metrola=nd":Who would want to see a movie about being complacent and content in suburbia?
Now, you minivan drivers, don't jump all over me -- I havenothing against the lifestyle. I just don't see the point of making a movie-- especially a movie as predictable as "Metroland" -- that directsso much of its energy into a strenuous defense of settling down, as ifthe director were on some kind of defensive crusade.
"Metroland" is about a happily married, dullfullyemployed young father (Christian Bale) who is visited by a free-wheeling,bohemian friend from his past (Lee Ross). In reaction to this so-calledfriend's resentful ribbing, he begins to question the decisions that ledhim from a youthful, sex-mad, boho life in 1960s Paris to where he findshimself now (the 1970s) -- with the wife (Emily Watson), the baby, thesteady job, the mortgage and the Volvo station wagon.
Heavy on paint-by-numbers dialogue and inevitable confrontationswith his wife and his insolent (read: insecure), arrogant, globe-trottingfriend, the film improves considerably when, for a fat chunk in the middle,it rewinds to the '60s. There we meet a fresh, rebellious, younger Baleand trace his path from the Left Bank to the "bourgeois dormitory"of an outer-London bedroom community.
Directed by Philip Saville and adapted from Julian Barnesnovel of the same name, "Metroland" boasts such seamless (yetsubtle) production design that the picture doesn't just look like the 1960sand '70s, it takes on the auras of those eras. Even the cinematographymatches the style of the day.
The movie's other major plus is its magnetic leads. Baleexudes the languor of the commuter life and delves into the complexityof his character's surfacing regrets about his diminished sense of adventure.
Watson, who in my book just about walks on water as anactress, makes her character unexpectedly enticing, even though she's amiddle- of- the- road English girl with designs on traditional settlingdown. Watson onvincingly spirits Bale's affection away from his more exotic,giddy, sexy French girlfriend (Elsa Zylberstein, a Jennifer Aniston typewho is also pitch perfect in her role).
Ross is a bit of a weak link, but only because his characteris so fundamentally unlikable that one can't help but wonder why Bale doesn'tjust recognize that they've grown into different people and say goodbye.
But one thing that can be said for all three of them: Theyall are just as convincing playing 20 years old as they are playing 30.
There is nothing inherently wrong with "Metroland&qu=ot;or its nesting-as-virtue message. In fact, it's quite refreshing to seea happy, functioning marriage at the center of a feature film.
Also, to be completely forthright I should tell you thatthere was a definite generation gap amongst the critics at the screeningI attended: The Baby Boomers liked it, but the Gen Xers were bored.
I think you can guess which group I was in.
Run time: 101 mins
In Theaters: Friday 21st August 1998
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Production compaines: MACT Productions, Arts Council of England, Blue Horizon Productions, Eurimages, European Co-production Fund, Filmanía S.L.
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 64%
Fresh: 18 Rotten: 10
IMDB: 6.5 / 10
Director: Philip Saville
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