On paper, the treacle-meter for The Soloist is nearly off the charts. But while Wright (Atonement) hasn't fashioned anything like a classic, and the screenplay by Susannah Grant (Erin Brockovich) is frequently thin on motivation, the film is not even close to the disaster that it should have been. This is higher praise than it may sound.
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I use the word "nice" because the characters come close to having personalities, but back away politely; their lives are so caught up in this admittedly life-changing event that the outside world doesn't seem to exist. The movie is realistic enough to show Gray moving out of her new house because she can't afford to pay the rent on her own, but not so unsparing that any of the characters, rich or poor, have employment that qualifies as anything other than a mild distraction. For a few movie-days, the free time looks like mourning; an hour in, it begins to resemble, well, one of those movies where no one has a real job.
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It's only a mild heresy to turn a beloved children's book and animated film into a star vehicle for the wee Miss Fanning, the go-to child actress who has become Hollywood's only A-list star under the age of 13. The only real surprise is that she doesn't have her own production company yet.
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If you're ready to buy in to the writer-as-alcoholic cliché, you should just love 28 Days, which pulls out every stereotype in the book. Sandra Bullock stars as Gwen, the aforementioned drunk writer (living, naturally, in New York City), who ruins her sister's wedding by insulting her during the toast, falling on the cake, and wrecking the "just married" car by crashing it into a house! Off to rehab for her, where she meets a cast of characters drawn so broadly they could populate a sitcom on UPN.
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To say your siblings are terrifying is an understatement; they are either young enough to physically torture you and mentally annoy you with the precision of a mime or they are old enough to make you really worried. Rose Feller (Toni Collette) shares my torture in abundance, if not more so. She has been looking after and taking care of her younger sister, Maggie (Cameron Diaz), since their mother died. We meet Maggie while she is getting nailed in a bathroom stall at a high school reunion. Sparks fly when Rose catches Maggie screwing Jim, the man she is seeing, and throws her out of the apartment they've been sharing. Unable to go anywhere else, Maggie goes to her father's house where she uncovers years of hidden birthday cards from a grandmother she thought was dead. So Maggie packs her bags and heads to Miami to bunk up with grandma Ella (Shirley Maclaine), the grandmother who was cast aside by her father. Meanwhile, Rose starts seeing a fellow lawyer, Simon (Mark Feuerstein), starts a dog-walking business and sets out to reconnect with Maggie.
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In real life, Pocahontas was an Algonquin Indian who is said to have prevented the execution of colonist John Smith in 1607 by her father when she was only 12 years old. Since Smith couldn't speak Powhatan, his interpretation of the events may be mistaken, but it's generally thought today that the story is true. In thanks, Pocahontas was later captured by settlers at Jamestown, taught English, and taken to England where she was celebrated as an "Indian princess" and married off. Before much time could pass, though, she got smallpox (or some other disease) and died at the ripe old age of 23.
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It won't be for its aura of jurisprudence. As a primer on the U.S. legal system, Erin Brockovich is not terribly compelling. The legal mumbo-jumbo is all there and feels accurate enough, but the heart of the movie simply doesn't rest with the details of the case, which features Pacific Gas & Electric poisoning 600 people in a small California town with chromium (and then telling them it's good for them).
Continue reading: Erin Brockovich Review