Monday, May 16, 2011

Homo Box Office

Here's a quick roundup of three movies I saw over the last two weekends:

Of the three, "Beautiful Darling" was by far the best. Director James Rasin chronicles the life and times of Candy Darling, the groundbreaking transgender actress who dreamed of being a blond goddess movie star as a little boy on Long Island and, for a while, actually kind of was. Darling went from becoming the toast of Andy Warhol's underground scene (she was the inspiration for Lou Reed's "Take a Walk on the Wild Side") to attending -- in utter awe -- the premiere of her film "Women in Revolt" at Grauman's Chinese Theater to having Tennessee Williams write a play for her. She was also the queen of crashing on friends' sofas and earning money in questionable ways, a chilling reminder that things aren't always as they seem. ("Beautiful Darling" is particular interesting to watch against the backdrop of the Chaz Bono story, and shows how ahead of her time she really was.) Director James Rasin was given a huge head start in that Jeremiah Newton, Candy's former roommate and best friend, appointed himself guardian of her legacy in 1974, after her death from leukemia at 29. He saved every scrap of memorabilia associated with his friend, and recorded interviews with every person of significance in Candy's life. (He even got Tennessee Williams!) This, along with Chloe Sevigny providing the haunting voice of Candy Darling -- reading from Candy's private diaries and letters -- while Patton Oswalt stands in for Andy Warhol and Truman Capote makes for a most compelling and touching documentary. (TRAILER)

"Skateland" is sweet little movie, about a group of friends in small-town Texas circa 1983 spending the summer after graduation partying before deciding what's next. Shiloh Fernandez is completely charming as Ritchie Wheeler, a talented but under-motivated writer who clings to his job as the manager at the local roller rink and can't make a decision about nearly anything. (Bonus points for the best film soundtrack in decades!) (TRAILER)

And finally, we saw "Bridesmaids" in a packed theater in Chelsea on Sunday afternoon. The film was a lot of fun, but by no means the instant classic I'd hoped for, even for the genre. I liked that they developed the characters a bit, but when your plot is so formulaic -- was there ANYTHING that wasn't exactly pulled from another film? -- I think it's important to keep the laughs coming at a pretty quick pace. These were more intermittent, and sometimes even took bits a step or two too far, undermining the effect. In addition to shamefully underusing Wendi McLendon-Covey -- the funniest woman in improv -- I thought some editing would have gone a long way. Still, we had fun. And it's nice to see funny women taking the lead in comedy. (TRAILER)

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