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Love Is In the Air
By Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

Q U I C K S C A N


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 clients.

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 relationship.

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 relationship.

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.

HIDALGO (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 line.

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.

JERSEY 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 his dad.

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 has known.

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 their lives.

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 centuries.

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.

 

CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE DRAMA QUEEN (A-2, PG): Lindsay Lohan (Freaky Friday, The Parent Trap) is back as a New York City teen refugee, Mary, whose family moves to New Jersey. The only way for Mary to survive is to change her name to Lola and create all the drama she can. Innocent, fun confection for teen girls.

TWISTED (L, R): A forgettable, raw, psychological thriller that has you guessing for a while but not long enough. Jessica (Ashley Judd) is a cop haunted by her father’s death and trapped in her own self-destructive behavior. Only the keenest fans of the darker dimensions of the genre will want to see this film. Problem violence, language and sexuality; not very entertaining.

DIRTY DANCING: HAVANA NIGHTS (A-3, PG-13): If you loved the original Dirty Dancing (1987), despite its moral flaws and ambiguities, you probably won’t like this one very much, even though Patrick Swayze appears as a teacher. Thin plot, flat characters, weak dramatic appeal and boring dancing.

 

A-1 General patronage
A-2 Adults and adolescents
A-3 Adults
L Limited adult audience
O Morally offensive

USCCB Movie Review Line: 1-800-311-4222, www.usccb.org/movies/index.htm

At www.CatholicMovieReviews.org, readers can search Sister Rose's and hundreds of other film reviews.

 


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