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film reviews ‘Movies’ continued from page 25

Dano). Calvin is the timid, self-doubting, bookish type. He had a commercial and critical debut novel when he was 19 and hasn’t been able to write much of anything since. When his therapist (Elliot Gould) gives him a writing assignment, he decides to write about the woman of his dreams (literally). He names the woman Ruby, and this character becomes his muse. With a new found voice and creative juices flowing, Calvin busts through his writer’s block and rapidly begins to crank out the pages of his second novel. About this time, Calvin starts finding ladies items scattered about his house. Puzzled, he thinks his dog must be bringing them home. He continues writing, inspired by his muse, until one day said muse is standing right in front of him. Calvin thinks he’s suffering from a kind of Harvey-esque delusion until he realizes other people can see her too. For some inexplicable reason (which wonderfully is never explained) Calvin has manifested the woman of his dreams right off the pages of his manuscript, and whatever he writes, Ruby does. Ruby is Calvin’s ideal woman and, at first, their relationship seems equally idyllic. Ironically however, even with the ability to control and change her every mood and whim, the dream is fraught with reality and reality isn’t such a dream. This is where the film both soars and fumbles, but over all manages to stay its own unique course. The guts of the story are nothing new; it’s how the story plays out that makes Ruby Sparks interesting. The film could easily have stayed comic and light (albeit slightly quirky) and still have been good, but there is more emotional heft to the story than one initially expects. Fortunately for us, said heft is delivered as organically as the rest of the story. For such a hipster, indie-style film, there is a distinct lack of pretense, and it never falls prey to being too impressed with itself. Its heartfelt performances keep it engaging for the viewer. Dano lets loose in this role more than in others and it suits him. Kazan wrote herself a lulu of a role and she shines throughout. The fact that Kazan and Dano are a real life couple lends itself well to Calvin and Ruby’s ups and downs. The supporting cast including Chris Messina as Calvin’s upwardly mobile brother, Annette Benning as his new agey mother, Antonio Banderas as his mother’s vivacious, dope-smoking lover, and Steve Coogan as his self aggrandizing literary agent, all turn in fine performances. Ruby Sparks won’t have mass appeal, but if what you’ve read here sounds at all interesting, you are likely its target audience, and you will likely enjoy it. Rated R for language, including some sexual references and for some drug use.

REVIEW BY MICHELLE KEENAN

Sleepwalk with Me ∑∑∑∑ Short Take: This American Life contributor, Mike Birbiglia, takes his semi-autobiographical, one-man show about a struggling comedian with commitment issues and a sleepwalking disorder to the big screen.

REEL TAKE: Fans of This American Life

are likely familiar with Mike Birbiglia. This self-effacing stand-up comic / storyteller has been evoking laughs from public radio audiences for several years. He’s known for telling somewhat embarrassing, slightly peculiar stories culled from his own life experiences, with a believable boy-next-door kind of likeability.

Chip Kaufmann’s Pick: “The Blue Bird”

This American Life contributor Mike Birbiglia stars in the semi-autobiographical Sleepwalk with Me.

September DVD Picks

The Blue Bird (1940) It’s always risky for a performer to go against type. Silent movie fans didn’t like it when Mary Pickford stepped out of her little girl roles. When Bill Murray played it straight in the remake of The Razor’s Edge (1984), it tanked big time. The same thing happened to the 1940 version of The Blue Bird when Shirley Temple, at the age of 12, played a selfish, mean spirited little girl. It was her first box office failure and marked the end of her career as a child star. That’s too bad because if you enjoy old school fantasy films then The Blue Bird has a lot to offer. Essentially the film is 20th Century Fox’s answer to The Wizard of Oz. Shirley Temple was to have originally played Dorothy but the deal fell through when Jean Harlow died so Fox dusted off the Maurice Maeterlinck fantasy which had been made into a celebrated silent film in 1918 (which is still the best version and also readily available). The story concerns two children, Mytyl and Tyltyl, who are sent on a quest to find the Blue Bird of Happiness. Along the way they visit the Land of Memory where they visit their dead grandparents (“We’re only dead when we’re forgotten” says the Grandmother), the Land of Luxury (where they have everything but are still unhappy), and the Kingdom of the Future (where they meet children who have yet to be born). They eventually find the Blue Bird but where they least expect it. The production design is sumptuous recalling the paintings of Arnold Bocklin and Maxfield Parrish and the supporting cast of Eddie Collins, Gale Sondergaard and Nigel Bruce is excep-

30 September 2012 — RAPID RIVER ARTS & CULTURE MAGAZINE — Vol. 16, No. 1

tional. The musical score by Alfred Newman is memorable as is the cinematography. It’s no Wizard of Oz but The Blue Bird doesn’t deserve its current obscurity. You can rent the DVD locally or from Netflix or see it on a big screen in Hendersonville on September 30 (see Hendersonville Film Society listings).

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (2012) Salmon Fishing in Yemen was a delightful film out earlier this year. Everyone I know who saw it thoroughly enjoyed it, but with a title like that, I don’t think many people really went to see it. Now available on DVD, I’m making the oddly titled flick my pick of the month. This charming little film isn’t one of the best film’s of the year, but it is one of my personal favorite films of the year thus far. It also has a broader appeal than one may think. When it’s time to spawn, salmon perform the challenging feat of swimming upstream to do procreate. When mild mannered British fisheries expert Dr. Fred Jones (Ewan McGregor) receives a proposal from investment consultant, Harriet Chetwode-Talbot, (Emily Blunt) on behalf of a sheikh (Amr Waked) to bring salmon fishing to the Yemen, he finds the idea

With a successful track record as a stand up comic, radio contributor, and writer, Birbiglia is set to tackle the film industry with his semi-autobiographical, directorial debut Sleepwak with Me. As a comedianturned-writer/director, one can even imagine Birbiglia becoming a Woody Allen for a new generation. However, unlike Allen and many other slightly neurotic, self deprecating comedians and writers, Birbiglia’s comedy is not whiny. This may be part of his charm and appeal. In Sleepwalk with Me, he’s a mess, but he’s a likable mess. Birbiglia plays Matt, an aspiring comedian with a fear of commitment and ‘Movies’ continued on page 27

Michelle Keenan’s Pick: “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” ludicrous and politely declines. However, when the Prime Minster’s press secretary (Kristin Scott Thomas) gets wind of the idea, she seizes the opportunity for a good will story, makes it a matter of state, and there is no turning back. The result is an upstream journey to make the impossible possible. Fred is the central figure and the narrative voice. Bonding over the love of fly fishing, Fred is charmed by the sheikh and won over by his faith in life and his belief in the impossible. As Fred, Harriet and the sheikh work together friendships are forged and it seems nothing will get in the way of making the sheikh’s dream come true. That is nothing except maybe civil unrest, terrorism and a war. There is an underbelly to Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, that is ever present and serves as a sad but true political commentary. While said belly is mostly played out in satire, it’s and odd but fitting tone. It’s a tone that I didn’t initially think they pulled off, but over time it has become less of an intrusion and more a part of the landscape of the film. Ewan McGregor gives one of us his best performances in years. Emily Blunt is perfect as Harriet, and she and McGregor play well off of one another. Amr Waked is lovely as the philosophical, fly fishing sheikh. But the scene stealer in this film is Kristin Scott Thomas. She plays the brash, over zealous press secretary with wicked abandon and is a horrid hoot to watch Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a delight. If you didn’t get a chance to see it in the theatre, by all means rent it and enjoy.

September 2012 issue  

Magnetic Theatre-MILF..p3; NC Stage-R. Buckminster Fuller..p6; Asheville Lyric Opera-La Traviata..p4; Asheville Area Piano Forum..p6; Ashevi...

September 2012 issue  

Magnetic Theatre-MILF..p3; NC Stage-R. Buckminster Fuller..p6; Asheville Lyric Opera-La Traviata..p4; Asheville Area Piano Forum..p6; Ashevi...

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