A couple of comfort movies

This photo provided by Warner Bros. Pictures shows, Anne Hathaway, left, as Jules Ostin, and Christina Scherer as Becky, in scene from the comedy, "The Intern," a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (Francois Duhamel/Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)
This photo is provided by Warner Bros.

There’s no denying that candy is comfort food and it’s affordable. Dylan Lauren, the daughter of clothing designer Ralph Lauren and owner of New York City’s Dylan’s Candy Bar

While Michele was improving her mind at Bioneers, I saw a Nancy Meyers’ movie, The Intern, at an early afternoon matinée, with a smallish group of other old people. I’m almost certain that there were only old people in the audience – it was 2 o’clock on a Friday afternoon which might be a small factor – and I think we were all there for the same reasons. To see a good upbeat movie – that requires very little exertion – done well and to watch a comfortable old guy be the hero (played by Robert De Niro channeling a bemused Gary Cooper). It lived up to my expectations .  

It was fun and very forgettable except that I am still thinking about it. The colors were bright, the music was great, and everybody lived in a perfect, very covetable, house or loft. As an aside, according to The New York Times  Nancy Meyers has an almost cult following, her interiors are fetishized by moviegoers and Architectural Digest alike. End aside. The movie stars Anne Hathaway, the CEO of a company that she started, with her likability and cuteness cranked up to eleven  and the plot revolves around her investors being worried that the company is growing too fast and they want to hire a seasoned CEO.

I liked Meyers’ terrific craftsmanship, the Norman Rockwell storytelling and optimism. There are no villains, only people who are misled and there is no violence. The movie starts with a great hall-of-mirrors video tape being made by De Niro and zips right along after that. If this sound like condemnation by faint praise, I don’t mean to, I liked the movie, it is the kind of movie that I am a sucker for.

Before I talk about Bridge of Spies, I have a disclaimer, in the spring of 1981, I went to a sneak preview of an unidentified movie (one of those deals where you fill out the form about the movie after the movie). We thought we were going to see something else which had been cancelled and we were given the choice of the sneak or go home so we watched the sneak. When we walked out, we agreed it was one of the worst movies of all time. It was only a couple of months later, when we learned the name of the sneak movie was Raiders of the Lost Ark which had come out to rave reviews. The New York Times said  ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark” is one of the most deliriously funny, ingenious and stylish American adventure movies ever made. Maybe if I had know it was a comedy, I would have liked it or, maybe, I just don’t have the same timing as Spielberg. I’m inclined to lean towards the latter so any comments on a Spielberg movie should be adjusted for that. Bridge-of-Spies-8

Last Saturday, at a late matinée, Michele and I saw Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies in a packed theater. In many ways it was the polar opposite of The Intern, it was much darker, I remember it raining or snowing in almost every scene and the oppressiveness of the late 50s, early 60s America was claustrophobic. The cold war fear, with children practicing ducking under their school desks to wait for their doom, permeates the movie and it makes a judge not being fair, at least understandable if not likable. To Spielberg’s credit, he is able to both show that the fear is real and rational and that it is also imagined and paranoic.

When I think of Spielberg, I think of the suburbs, like in ET, but Bridge is urban. Somehow, with all the rain and snow, with the paranoia and fear, Spielberg still maintains his signature Midas-touch ability to find grounds for optimism everywhere, to quote theguardian. Spielberg is also able to lay down a dense image, especially a desaturated image, better than anybody. Tom Hanks – channeling Gregory Peck channeling Atticus Finch – is great, he is the decent man being fair in a world afraid to be fair or decent.

The movie opens with a Russian spy – we are soon to find out – Rudolf Abel, played by Mark Rylance, who played Cromwell in Wolf Hall, painting a self portrait. It is a wonderful opening sequence, The Spy in white shirt and tie, his Reflection in a dirty mirror, and his portrait showing a more relaxed, American,  Rudolf – maybe Rudy – Abel in an open shirt. Still, this is not a movie I loved. I really do think it is a matter of having a different sense of timing – or, maybe, degree is a better word – than Spielberg. It just seems to be raining a little too much, there are two or three too many cars in the street scenes. In a shot of the Berlin Wall being built, an obvious dolly shot just goes on and on until I started thinking,  how long does this fake wall have to be to make the point? how big is the set? just how big is this budget?

I guess, in the end, I admired the movie, I was engrossed, and I think it is 10% too obvious.


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