LAWS OF ATTRACTION (A-2, PG-13): Audrey (Julianne Moore) is a beautiful,
prim and proper, high-powered Manhattan divorce attorney. Opposing
counsel is dishy and disheveled Daniel (Pierce Brosnan). Neither
of them has ever lost a big case and they don’t intend to now.
When Audrey represents a rock singer named Thorne Jamison
(Michael Sheen) and Daniel represents Thorne’s wife, Serena (Parker
Posey), in their divorce, an obstacle to an amicable settlement
arises: Both parties want their Irish castle. So Audrey and Daniel
make haste to get to Ireland to gather evidence in favor of their
They get caught up in a local Irish festival, have too
much to drink and end up getting married. When they wake up in the
morning, Audrey is extremely distressed to see a ring on her finger.
But Daniel is pleased.
Back in New York, the news of their marriage mysteriously
makes the paper. They have to do damage control and agree to a platonic
Laws, a throwback to the era of Tracy-Hepburn
and Cary Grant romantic comedies (1930s–1960s), plays off the attraction
of opposites. It’s a combination of fairy-tale, farce and fun: more
dessert than main course. Known for their dramatic and action roles,
both Moore and Brosnan effectively play against type.
Frances Fisher as Audrey’s eccentric mother, Sara, is
the wisdom figure who gently tells her daughter that marriage is
not easy, it’s work—and worth the risk to create a loving, lasting
Though the rating alerts audiences to certain aspects
of the film, as a media educator I think the film should also carry
a caution about junk food and too much product placement. Implied
sexual encounters, crude gestures, alcohol and problem language;
not a perfect film but it is about the good of marriage and a pleasant
enough treat for Mother’s Day.
(A-2, PG-13): Frank Hopkins (Viggo Mortensen) wins cross-country
endurance horse races on his trusty mustang, Hidalgo. He is also
a courier for the U.S. Army, and in 1890 he delivers orders to
the cavalry at Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota.
The Army is to disarm the Sioux Indians and move them
to a reservation. Hopkins misses the signals of the impending massacre
and rides away. When the shots begin, he returns, too late to help
his people: He is half-Indian.
He gets a job riding in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show
and is often drunk. Alone, and with nothing much to live for, he
accepts the challenge of a visiting Bedouin emissary to ride in
a 3,000-mile race along the Persian Gulf to Iraq and overland to
Damascus. The purse is $100,000.
Hidalgo is set to race against purebred Arabian
steeds. Sheikh Riyadh (Omar Sharif) welcomes Hopkins. But the other
horse owners and riders, including a wealthy British woman (Louise
Lombard) and Prince Bin Al Reeh (Saïd Taghmaoui), who seeks Sheikh
Riyadh’s daughter Jazira (Zuleikha Robinson) as his fifth wife,
conspire to defeat Hidalgo. Jazira is kidnapped, traps are set in
the desert and Hidalgo is seriously injured on the way to the finish
For a change, the hero seems ordinary and humble. Hidalgo,
the mixed-breed Spanish mustang, is a metaphor for the man, Hopkins.
This film, as with all sports movies, is a metaphor for the virtues
that test the limitations of a person’s life: endurance, tolerance
and humanity. The central theme is framed by the horse race and
racism issues. The film questions the sources for authentic nobility:
bloodline or human dignity.
Although Hidalgo is supposedly based on a true
story, this is hotly contested. Action violence; watch this lengthy
film (136 minutes) for itself and contemplate the cinematography,
the man and the quest.
GIRL (A-3, PG-13): Ollie Trinke (Ben Affleck) is a workaholic
music publicist. He marries Gertrude (Jennifer Lopez) in 1994. When
she dies in childbirth, Ollie’s life falls apart.
He soon gets fired from his job and moves from New York
back to New Jersey to live with his dad, Bart (George Carlin), who
has been caring for the baby. Ollie gets a public-works job like
Gertie (Raquel Castro) grows up and goes to Catholic
school. Seven years later, Ollie and Gertie meet Maya (Liv Tyler),
the clerk at the local video store. Maya pursues him but Ollie really
wants to work again in Manhattan. Gertie argues with her dad because
she doesn’t want to move away from the only home and family she
For the last 10 years, Catholic director/writer Kevin
Smith has been annoying mature Catholic audiences with his Generation-X
films such as Clerks, Mallrats and Dogma. His incessant
use of scatological humor, crass language and references to pornography
as normal often questioned the Catholic culture, faith and morals
he was taught growing up.
Jersey Girl is no different in these respects:
There is enough offensive material to irritate some viewers. Several
Catholic references and images can seem more like props than part
of a way of life. Smith shows us more than we want to know about
changing diapers and the psychosexual development of seven-year-olds.
Yet the heart of what has turned out to be Smith’s only
attempt at classic filmmaking, and perhaps his best film so far,
is the blessing of fatherhood and family (even though the wife dies
early in the movie). Jersey Girl marks a distinctive growth
spurt in Smith’s worldview and professional work because he is now
a married man with children of his own. He hasn’t sold out his principles
as the leader of young seekers who question everything they have
been taught, but he’s grown up.
There is a wonderful scene in the movie when Ollie and
Will Smith (playing himself) have a conversation about family and
children. We know that Ollie—in addition to Will and Kevin—has chosen
the better part. Problem sexual content and frank language; only
see this if you are interested in exploring life from the perspective
of kids who grew up alienated and who continue to seek meaning in
JAPAN: MEMOIRS OF A SECRET EMPIRE (PBS, May
26): This three-hour special, narrated by Richard Chamberlain, is
a welcome commentary on the country’s history and the samurai class
in particular. Remember that two Oscar-nominated films were about
Japan this year (The Last Samurai and Twilight Samurai)
and Samurai Jack is a popular series on the Cartoon Network.
This once mysterious land and its people, the development
and influence of the Shogun governments, the conflict between Japanese
culture and the West, the arrival of the Jesuit missionaries, the
persecution of Christians and Japan’s isolation period are all explored
in this elegant and literate history, between the 16th and 19th
CROSSING JORDAN (NBC, Sundays): Dr. Jordan
Cavanaugh (Jill Hennessy, formerly of Law & Order) is
a Boston medical examiner. But, with her independent ways, she spends
more of her time solving mysteries and annoying her boss, Dr. Macy
(Miguel Ferrer), than doing autopsies.
Now in its third season, Crossing Jordan is another
prime-time series with Catholic sensibilities about crime-solving,
although Jordan doesn’t practice her faith as much as Detective
Woody Hoyt (Jerry O’Connell) does.
Like all crime dramas, violence is part of the equation.
Luckily, so is the search for truth and justice.
THE SOPRANOS (HBO, Sundays): Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini),
with his family and the mob, is back for a fifth season. Recently
separated from his wife, Carmela (Edie Falco), Tony is in pursuit
of his former therapist, Dr. Melfi (Lorraine Bracco).
Meanwhile, an assortment of gangsters who have done their time
are released from prison. At the heart of this social soap opera
are the seven capital sins, plus an ongoing conversation about what
makes a person human, the nature of morality as well as the personal
and social consequences of the choices the characters make. Another
conversation is about stereotyping cultures. That's a concern for
all the media.