Thursday, April 24, 2008
GEORGE CLOONEY AND LEATHERHEADS
When I played football my freshman year in high school, it was for the junior varsity team they called “the rinky-dinks.” And the school was either so cheap or poor or disorganized, that some of us had to use old equipment that included leather helmets from what I assumed was the 1920s, but who knows.
In some ways, football in the old days was more fun. The point of the movie, LEATHERHEADS. Although the movie’s about how professional football was more fun before the 1920s! After which it had too many rules (the creation of a “commissioner”) and too much money, so it became more about profit than avoiding getting pulverized.
I stopped watching professional football, and most football, years ago. I was especially affronted by the technical innovations in equipment, which made it possible for pumped up players to head butt each other and not get concussions or break their necks, or think they won’t.
It’s like the players went from being a combination of sports cars (running backs etc.) and pick up trucks (linemen etc.) to being SUVs and Hummers. You either suffered little in the crashes or you came close to losing your life.
Anyway, LEATHERHEADS stars and is directed by George Clooney, reprising his comic character from O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? to some extent. It’s been mostly panned by the critics, and my grown son and daughter-in-law found it partly engaging and fun but mostly mediocre, while my nine-year-old grandson and ten-year-old youngest son ended up wrestling in the aisles of the move theater we had to ourselves and running in and out to the rest room and refreshment stand.
But I laughed a lot, felt charmed and entertained, and even gave up my dislike of Renee Zellweger, whose pinched, prune-face smile seems to have become more contorted and either out of her control or so controlled it looks painful. But within a few scenes, I bought her character, she’s a terrific actor after all, and I accepted the premise of the movie, which seemed to be, life was crazy and fun in the 1920s, and here’s a movie that does it’s best to emulate that crazy fun.
Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t think of a time I’ve seen George Clooney on screen, either TV or film, that I haven’t been entertained in some way. It’s like he gets the bottom line of film-making is it’s a show, an entertainment, an opportunity to make an audience respond.
In some of his serious flicks, the response intended is fear or sadness or pity or insight or etc. and he seems more than capable of evoking those responses (see SYRIANA and MICHAEL CLAYTON to name just a few). But more often his roles combine an old-style, Hollywood-star-quality charm and comic insouciance, with some or all of the above (see O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? and OUT OF SIGHT to name a few).
I love watching the guy. In LEATHERHEADS, he does some of what have become typical Clooney-comic-character moves, like the double takes and funny faces etc., but he does them so well, they crack me up every time. Maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s my personal history, maybe it’s my Hollywood experiences, whatever, I find the guy one of the reigning geniuses of film.
And as with another reigning (some would say fading) genius, Woody Allen, some of Clooney’s films are lighter, or of less consequence, let’s say, like LEATHERHEADS. But for my taste, they’re no less satisfying. In fact, they seem to come along just when I need them, like flowerless dark chocolate cake after a more substantial meal from a great chef.
So, if you want some light fare, some easy entertainment, that includes some great comic performances from a crowd of familiar and new faces, you too might enjoy LEATHERHEADS. But, you can probably wait to see it on cable or DVD.
[PS: That's me in the third row with the tilted head, after we got better equipment]