"Three stars (out of four) from Roger Ebert. Did you two see the same movie?" That's from the comments section following my one-star slam of "One Day" in today's paper, and the truth of the matter is that, no, Roger and I didn't see the same movie. No one ever sees the same movie. You bring all that's uniquely you to each media experience: Your specific tastes, a backlog of all the films you've ever seen, an affection for or aversion to particular actors (one of each for me, in the case of Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess), the mood you're in, what you had for lunch that day. This is the wonder and pointlessness of criticism, that Roger can only describe the movie he saw, I can only do the same, and you, if you care, can only triangulate your own potential reaction from those fieldmarks (or from many more: here's the full spread at Metacritic).
In any event, what Rog saw as sparkling banter in "One Day" sounded forced and shallow to my ears. The emotions we're meant to invest in these two would-be lovers seem impossible given how uninteresting, even dull, they are. And the movie's all-thumbs manipulations become actively obnoxious once that lorry comes barreling along in the next-to-last act. There's a genuinely touching movie to be made out of the way time carries us along almost too fast for us to see our fellow travelers for who they are, but this isn't it. ("When Harry met Sally" probably is, though, and so is "Before Sunset.") Perhaps we'd have something if they'd cast Jodie Whittaker in the lead rather than as the best friend, or cast any actor with more soulfulness than the cute, pinched Sturgess, or forsworn the tired notion that random tragedy makes a love story deep so you don't really have to care about the characters. But they didn't.
So: A film adaptation of a best-seller that doesn't improve on the book? No surprises there. A remake of an '80s horror movie that's actually good? That's a shocker. Wesley really likes "Fright Night" and so do a lot of critics -- the magic ingredients appear to be Colin Farrell as the vampire and a director who cares about what he's doing. There's also a new "Conan the Barbarian" on the block, and it'd be a watchable enough pile of Cimmerian silliness if not for some truly execrable post-production 3D. And, don't forget, Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Moviegoer -- you get to pay extra for it.
Two fine documentaries arrive at the Kendall Square: "Senna," about the late Formula One racer Ayrton Senna, and "How to Live Forever," a cheerily entertaining investigation into aging and death. Doesn't sound like fun, but it is, and as such highly recommended for anyone interested in contemplating the big picture or this guy.
As a filmmaker, France's Catherine Breillat can blow hot or cold: "Sex is Comedy" is a terrifically wise essay on love, sex, and voyeurism, while "Anatomy of Hell" is bad conceptual art worthy of Leonard Pinth-Garnell. Lately, though, the director has been deconstructing classic fairy tales to delightfully surreal results, and her latest, "The Sleeping Beauty," lands at the Brattle for the weekend. Not for the little ones, but definitely for anyone curious about the intersection of "Alice in Wonderland," Bruno Bettelheim, gender theory, Walt Disney, and "Celine and Julie Go Boating."
It's not exactly a date movie, though, and neither is "One Day" -- for that, head to "The Names of Love," a sprightly French film at the Kendall and the West Newton. Because it's French, you get politics, nudity, and ideas with your romantic comedy. Deal with it.
Lastly, the intermittent Joseph P. Mankiewicz survey continues at the Harvard Film Archive. Friday and Sunday afford you a chance to see the original film version of "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir," and its delicately moving whimsy will come as a surprise to Boomers who only know the 1970s TV sitcom of the same name. The performances by Gene Tierney, Rex Harrison, and a very young Natalie Wood (in photo above, with Tierney) put this over; If you have a tweener girl at home, bring her along and expect her to be emotionally overwhelmed to the point of tears by the end. (That's what happened in my house, at least.) Also: Manks' rarely-screened "Dragonwyck" tonight (Friday) and all 243 groaningly lavish minutes of the Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton "Cleopatra" tomorrow (Saturday). Now there was a couple with charisma.
About Movie Nation
ContributorsTy Burr is a film critic with The Boston Globe.
Mark Feeney is an arts writer for The Boston Globe.
Janice Page is movies editor for The Boston Globe.
Tom Russo is a regular correspondent for the Movies section and writes a weekly column on DVD releases.
Katie McLeod is Boston.com's features editor.
Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at Boston.com.
Glenn Yoder is an Arts & Entertainment producer at Boston.com.
Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer for Boston.com.
Swati Sharma is an Arts & Entertainment and Things to Do producer at Boston.com.
Take 2 reviews and podcast
Look for new reviews by Ty Burr and Wesley Morris at the end of each week in multiple formats.