Tomorrow would’ve been Adrienne Shelly’s 50th birthday so I’m going to be posting reviews of some of her movies. Yesterday I began with her Hal Hartley films The Unbelievable Truth & Trust (reviews HERE) and tomorrow I’ll review her own film Waitress, which she wrote & directed and in which she also starred.
I explained yesterday why I’m reviewing Shelly’s films so I’m going to copy that explanation again here. I’ll just add that her independent films are very hard to get a hold of so today’s movies are unfortunately not very good & I’m sure she’s been in better ones. However, Sleeping With Strangers was a bit of fun and worth the watch as she has a big role & I’m definitely now a fan but she disappointingly only has an extremely small role in Factotum. Here’s what I said yesterday:
First of all, I’ll say a little bit about why I’ve chosen to devote a few days to Adrienne Shelly’s films. I became interested in checking out more of her work after watching the fantastic film Waitress, which she wrote & directed and in which she also starred. I watched Waitress while pregnant just like its main character (played by Keri Russell) and the movie just “spoke” to me in that special sort of way that I know only fellow diehard film lovers might understand. I’d seen her in nothing before & sadly didn’t even know her name until news of her murder just before the film’s release.
Anyway – I won’t go into Waitress now as I’ll be reviewing that on Friday but I so loved the movie & its mix of quirky characters (including Shelly’s role) that I wanted to see the films she’d starred in previously. Wow – they’re hard to get hold of! The one I’m most interested in (Sudden Manhattan, which she also wrote & directed) isn’t available. Of what I could get, I have to say that I liked Waitress far more than the films she only starred in. It’s sad to think of the other fantastic movies she could have made had she not been so cruelly taken from her family, her friends, and the filmmaking world.
Sleeping With Strangers (1994)
Directed by William T Bolson
Written by Joan Carr-Wiggin
Starring: Adrienne Shelly, Alastair Duncan, Kim Huffman, Shawn Thompson, Scott McNeil
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
A popular actress (Shelly) and a rock star (McNeil) come to a small Canadian town with two competing hotels next door to each other. The rock star is escorted into one of the hotels and the actress checks into the other. Daniel (Duncan), the owner of one of the two hotels, is trying to stay afloat. The other hotel owner, Mark (Thompson), is trying to steal away Daniel’s business and his fiancee (Huffman). The paparazzi arrives in town and makes everybody wonder, who is sleeping with whom?
I have to begin by saying: Who the HELL are those people on the movie poster??? You know you’re watching some low budget movie with no big names when they just stick some random people on the poster. That picture has nothing whatsoever to do with the movie – I’m assuming it was an “assignment” where they were given nothing more than the movie’s title & told to take a photo. Stupid. It’s not even the right number of people – the movie’s main characters are two women & three men. Even my DVD has a stupid cover – it’s a picture of two pairs of feet sticking out of a blanket. I prefer that, though, because at least you can almost pretend the feet belong to people who are ACTUALLY IN THE MOVIE.
*Why does Adrienne Shelly’s name have an extra E in some movie posters? I’m wondering if that’s an error or if she started out spelling it that way. Hmm… Yes, these are the little things that bother me in life.
Rant over! Okay – I just spent a paragraph bitching about the poster as I don’t have much to say about the actual movie. I guess it’s a romantic comedy, which is rarely my favorite type of film in the first place, but it’s not exactly the worst I’ve ever seen in this genre. I mean, at least Kate Hudson isn’t in it (or, you know – the 1994 annoying equivalent of Kate Hudson).
*As I said, this must officially be the most obscure movie I’ve reviewed as there are no photos from it online besides the one I used at the very start. So here’s the lovely Shelly on a DVD cover for The Unbelievable Truth…
I only watched this movie for Adrienne Shelly anyway & I’m glad I did as she has a very big role as a famous actress staying at an inn in a small village. Okay, maybe it’s because I’d say I’m a fan now but she’s the best thing about the movie. Her character isn’t really meant to be “liked” but you do warm to her & want nothing more than for her to hook up with the Scottish inn-owner (Alastair Duncan, who is clearly meant to be your favorite character & the one whose inn you want to stay in business). These two are good together & have a nice chemistry while the rest of the characters felt like a waste of time.
Well, Kim Huffman was also good as Duncan’s cheating fiancé – she strikes me as a good actress who just hasn’t gone on to be in anything big. The other two male characters, though, were pointless. The other inn-owner had zero development (he was only there to add drama by being the competition & sleeping with the fiancée) and the rock star boyfriend of Shelly’s sctress was an embarrassment. He was all “Duuuude” and “Whoaaaa” – just a stereotypically sexist hard rocker with big hair. I mean, I love those dumb dudes sometimes (I adore Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure!) but it was just a bit too silly & the dumb comedy involving this character distracted from an otherwise simple story of some small town folks. There were some lesser characters, such as an old lady who lived at the inn & thought she was Queen, who could have been quite endearing if they’d been focused on a bit more. I often like quirky, small town dramedies (I’m thinking of things like Local Hero). If this movie had leaned more toward drama or actually had some good comedy, it would’ve been a much better film. Oh well. It wasn’t the worst movie ever & I’m glad Shelly had such a large role.
My Rating: 5.5/10
Directed by Bent Hamer
Based on Factotum (1975) by Charles Bukowski
Starring: Matt Dillon, Lili Taylor, Marisa Tomei, Adrienne Shelly, Fisher Stevens
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
This drama centers on Hank Chinaski, the fictional alter-ego of “Factotum” author Charles Bukowski, who wanders around Los Angeles, CA trying to live off jobs which don’t interfere with his primary interest, which is writing. Along the way, he fends off the distractions offered by women, drinking and gambling.
This movie, unfortunately, was a huge waste of my time. Luckily, it was super cheap! Which is why I bought it since it had Shelly listed as an actress in it. Damn – I didn’t realize what an extremely small role it would be. But I also love Lili Taylor (Say Anything! Mystic Pizza!) so I figured “what the hell – it’s cheap & has two actresses I like”. Ugh. I can’t say I got any sort of enjoyment whatsoever out of this movie, which is quite rare. Even ones I absolutely HATE usually have a little something about them that I can appreciate. This was worse than those I hate – it was just a “So what?”.
This movie is based on the book Factotum by author Charles Bukowski & Matt Dillon plays Bukowski’s “fictional alter-ego”. I’ll readily admit that I’d never even heard of Bukowski before watching this movie then reading about it online. I’d say that this film was probably made solely for fans of his writing so, if you’re a fan, you might as well give this a go. If you aren’t, I honestly can’t recommend it. I found it utterly pointless & completely boring considering its main character is supposedly a somewhat controversial figure who doesn’t conform to social norms. Perhaps it would’ve been better in its original setting of the 1940s as in the book since his behavior doesn’t feel shocking in the movie’s 2005. It feels like there IS a story here but, for whatever reason, the movie fails to make it watchable. I’m assuming the book is more interesting as the author appears to have plenty of fans.
Everyone does a decent enough job with the material, however. The movie stars some big names and Matt Dillon, Lili Taylor & Marisa Tomei all give it their usual best. Dillon basically mopes around, writes a bit, jumps from job to job, and has loads of sex with Taylor. For a while, he has sex with Tomei instead. Tomei & a couple other women apparently hang out with a rich old dude just to have a place to stay & sometimes get rides on his yacht (and on him, you assume). Adrienne Shelly plays one of those women. I’m not sure if she even had a line…
I’m not against this sort of film, where you have an unsympathetic central character that most people won’t be able to relate to in any way. But there have been plenty of similar films which didn’t feel like such a huge waste. I don’t expect some Disney ending where everyone learns the error of their ways but I do expect to get a little something out of a film, whether it’s some sort of emotion or if it’s just plain entertainment. I’m thinking of things like Leaving Las Vegas or The Wolf Of Wall Street – both are excellent films with central characters who most people won’t be able to relate to but one film manages to be very emotionally draining while the other is sure as shit entertaining. I’m now curious to see the film Filth to compare – that one certainly looks more interesting than Factotum. I hate to end on a downer but, hey, it’s not like this is an Adrienne Shelly film & I’ll be finishing on a far more positive note when I review Waitress tomorrow. 🙂
My Rating: 4/10