POSTED ON FEBRUARY 16, 2011:
Adam Sandler is hard not to laugh at while Javier Bardem is hard to forget
For years, I've had a soft spot for the comedies of Adam Sandler. My head tells me that the onscreen ridiculousness I'm witnessing isn't funny, yet I find myself chuckling guiltily through whatever film he's involved in. Until now this has been a private matter, but it seems I've just publicly "outed" myself.
Watching Just Go With It with a packed audience on a recent Friday night reminded me of all the wrongs and rights of the Sandler romantic vehicle: unbelievable, silly behavior with a torrent of jokes that fall flat at least as much as they hit their mark. Just Go With It is not good, but it's done with unrelenting and harmless affability. I eventually succumb to its very low-bar setting.
Sandler plays Danny, a successful plastic surgeon who pretends to be married so he can bed attractive women with sad stories about his doomed imaginary marriage. When he meets the young and beautiful Palmer (Brooklyn Decker), she believes he's married, which will cause Danny to fabricate an elaborate tale of an unhappy marriage on its last legs rather than reveal he's a sleazy "playa" with the ladies. He bribes his office manager Katherine (Jennifer Aniston) into pretending to be the wife. Naturally, the small lie spools out of control and suddenly there's the involvement of kids, friends and a jaunt to Hawaii in an expensive effort to keep Palmer unaware of the truth.
Laugh Track. Just Go With It is a comedy of excess. There’s no subtlety on display as the cascade of jokes never attempt to find any sort of sophistication. It’s cinema of the adolescent on permanent pause that lasts into the ‘30s and ‘40s.
There are no surprises in Just Go With It. It's the usual Sandler vehicle where he taps into the male dream of a regular, T-shirt wearing schlub who can get multiple attractive women to fall for him with his ever-present goofy smile and sense of humor. It's a well-worn conceit that has served Sandler well over the years. His comedies (Just Go With It included) are male-oriented fantasies that merge enough sweet elements with the raunchy to appeal to both sexes and teenagers. Sandler as romantic lead is an odd mixture of clown and sentiment. It's not believable in the slightest, but when is believability important to the slate of current romantic comedies?
Just Go With It is a comedy of excess. There's no subtlety on display as the cascade of jokes never attempt to find any sort of sophistication. It's cinema of the adolescent on permanent pause that lasts into the '30s and '40s. Danny's job as a plastic surgeon is dealt with in typical Sandler fashion -- over exaggerated jibes at people with various physical abnormalities due to their worship of being operated on. These people are freaks, but Sandler is often mocking them while they are in his office waiting for treatment. He can't resist himself and at times seems to nearly break character with that goofy smirk.
Every fiber of my being tells me I should loathe Just Go With It as it is an all too typical Adam Sandler comedy. It's lowbrow whenever possible and is structured around a messy, over-worked script that is too satisfied with its emptiness and formulaic quality. I know better, but I laughed despite myself. It's not something I'm proud of, but at least I don't have the shame of secrecy anymore. It's an Adam Sandler film -- what else would you expect?
Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu doesn't make it easy on the audience. Biutiful is the fourth film from the Mexican director and each one has been a journey into the desperate crevices of the heart. If you've seen his earlier work, Amores Perros, 21 Grams and Babel, then you know exactly the heavy, never-ending tone of misery that is at work in his bleak, powerful stories. Biutiful is no light-hearted romantic comedy and is a thrilling, intense, hard-to-forget film from one of the best directors currently working in cinema.
Uxbal (Javier Bardem) is trying to survive his Barcelona existence. It's not a hopeful situation as he's got an ex-wife who likes to get smashed and sleep around, two kids to feed and various jobs that are not exactly on the right side of morals or the law. When he's told he might be dying with a mysterious illness, it gets worse for everyone. Uxbal begins to fiercely search for money to look after his children when he dies while becoming more entangled in the lives of the illegal immigrants from which he makes money.
Javier Bardem is the most obvious reason to see Biutiful. One of the finest actors alive, Bardem has crafted another character to add to his increasing resume of greatness. There's so much depth to Uxbal that it's hard to take in with a single viewing. Uxbal is an incredibly complex person to know, full of sadness, hope, rage, good intentions and the crushing guilt that comes when bad things spring from them. Bardem is electric, in control of every single scene he's in and delivers a powerhouse acting performance that should not be missed.
Inarritu isn't solely concerned with Uxbal and those related to him. As he did in Babel, he branches off on a couple of tangent, but related, stories that give the film a larger scope. Tying in elements such as multiple strains involving illegal immigrants, Inarritu makes a statement about shady global economics that are perilous for people trying to make their lives better. Exploitation of workers isn't so black and white for the characters in Biutiful, but Uxbal's connection to these individuals might have a more devastating effect on him than the sickness that he is battling.
Biutiful isn't what you might call "good time" viewing, but in the world of Alejendro Gonzalez Inarritu, that is never the case. He's more interested in delivering a film where hope is hard to find and you feel exhausted when it is over. Anchored by the riveting performance of Javier Bardem, I'll take a depressing film like Biutiful over the mindlessness of say, my secret, guilty pleasure enjoyment of Adam Sandler-styled comedies every time.
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