Boiler Room

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

Seth (Giovanni Ribisi) wants two things very badly. He wants to make a lot of money quickly, and he wants the respect of his father (Ron Rifkin), a federal judge. Seth drops out of college to run a highly profitable business. His entrepreneurship and work ethic are impeccable. But his line of business — a casino run out of his home — is not.

A casino customer tells him about a way to make a lot of money as a stockbroker. At a huge cattle call of an interview, Jim Young (Ben Affleck) promises that everyone who stays in their program will become a millionaire within three years, tossing the keys to his Ferrari on the table as proof. Seth signs up as a trainee at J.T. Marlin, a Long Island stock brokerage firm.

Seth quotes a rap song that says that to make money fast “you have to have a jump shot or sling crack,” and adds that for white boys, the equivalent of slinging crack is selling stock. And the stock he sells, like crack, provides a giddy, addictive high while it is destroying the victim’s finances, and more. Seth finds that it can destroy the seller as well as the buyer.

First time writer-director Ben Younger creates a realistically edgy world that runs on rap music and testosterone. Rival brokers taunt each other like Sharks and Jets in Armani suits. They spend money on huge toys and empty mansions, and watch a video of “Wall Street” together, reciting the lines along with Gordon Gekko. And their mantra is taken from “Glengarry Glen Ross:” “ABC-Always Be Closing.” Each sale is a victory in a war against loneliness and loserdom. They just want to win. They don’t care at what, as long as everyone else loses.

These are lonely, insecure, immature men. The ironically named Jim Young points out that at age 27 he is one of the oldest people in the firm. When Seth asks Chris why he still lives with his mother, Chris does not understand the question. They travel in packs and except for Seth we never see them with families or on dates. They’re like Long Island Lost Boys, in a perverse Never Neverland.

Seth is drawn to this world in part because the masculine leadership and approval makes up for his emotionally absent father. But he is unable to turn away from his growing awareness that something is wrong and that J.T. Marlin is far more corrupt than his casino operation.

This movie has one of the best scripts in many months. In one superb scene, Seth is so proud of his skill as a salesman that he coaches a telemarketer who calls to sell him a newspaper subscription. Younger has a fresh and clever take on things and his music video experience lends a raw, hyper, thrill-seeking tone to the movie. The young performers do very well, especially Vin Diesel as Chris and Nia Long as Seth’s love interest.

Parents should know that the primary reason for the R rating is very strong language, including racist, sexist, homophobic, and anti-semitic epithets. Characters smoke, drink, use drugs, and beat people up. Two characters have an affair, though nothing is shown. Families whose teens see this movie should talk about how moral choices are made, how consequences are evaluated, and how difficulties in family communication can affect behavior outside the family. They might want to check out the film’s website before seeing the movie, to familiarize themselves with terminology like IPO, cold call, and rip.

Related Tags:

 

Crime Drama Family Issues

Hanging Up

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

There are movies where the writer and director focus on the emotions of the characters. Then there are movies like this one where they make the mistake of trying to focus on the emotions of the audience, and you can almost hear them saying, “A party at the Nixon library! And an old guy who tells dirty jokes and who wants to have sex! That will make them laugh! A parent dying! That will make them cry!” But it doesn’t. It doesn’t even earn our sympathy, much less our interest. We never really care about these selfish, charmless, and superficial people. The result is formulaic, inauthentic and manipulative, despite the best efforts of an irresistible cast.

Meg Ryan, Lisa Kudrow, and Diane Keaton (who also directed) play three sisters who try to connect to each other by phone through their father’s last illness. But as the title suggests, they more often disconnect. Meg Ryan plays Eve, the classic middle child, trying desperately to bring everyone together but stressed out and resentful because her sisters are not helping her. Diane Keaton is Georgia, a sort of cross between Martha Stewart and Tina Brown. Lisa Kudrow is Maddy, a soap actress still hoping for her sisters’ approval.

Sometimes the loss of someone we love is not as painful as the loss of our hope for what that relationship could have been. The three sisters have to understand that their parents are never going to be the loving, wise, supportive people they want them to be, but that they find that elsewhere, even in each other. In the movie’s best scene, Eve meets with Ogmed Kunundar (Ann Bortolotti), the mother of the doctor whose car she has crashed into. Ogmed is just the loving, wise, and supportive mother of everyone’s dreams, and she salutes Eve for her bravery and her grief. She shows Eve the gifts that she did get from her father and gives her permission to “disconnect.” That scene just shows us that it is a real shame that that this isn’t a good movie. It tries to deal with issues that deserve better.

Related Tags:

 

Drama Family Issues

The Man in the Iron Mask

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

It’s more than 20 years since the “all for one and one for all” days and the Three Musketeers and their friend D’Artagnan (Gabriel Byrne) have gone their separate ways. Athos (John Malkovich) is a loving father to his son, Raoul, himself a Musketeer, Artemis (Jeremy Irons) is a priest, and Porthos (Gerard Depardieu) is something of a libertine. Only D’Artagnan is still in service to the cruel and selfish young king, forever loyal to the crown, if not the man who wears it, and to his own true love, the king’s mother.

A mysterious prisoner in an iron mask turns out to be the king’s identical twin brother, and the original Musketeers free him so they can substitute him for the king, whose subjects are rioting in the streets to protest his neglect and abuse. The result is a respectable — if slow-moving — swashbuckler with teen idol Leonardo DiCaprio appearing as the twins. With double the roles he plays in “Titanic” and some good swordfighting scenes, this will have strong appeal for boys and girls in the 8-16 range. Parents should know, however, that there is coarse language, overheard sex, suggested group sex, and a young woman who kills herself when she finds out that the king deliberately caused the death of her beloved (Athos’ son Raoul) so that he could seduce her. Families who do see the movie should take the opportunity to talk about some of the issues of conflicts and loyalty it raises. Families may also want to share the delightful 1974 Richard Lester version of “The Three Musketeers.”

Related Tags:

 

Action/Adventure Drama Epic/Historical

Contact

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

This film, based on the late Carl Sagan’s novel about a young scientist’s efforts to make contact with intelligent life beyond our world provides a sharp contrast in tone to slam-bang shoot-’em-ups like “Independence Day” and “Men in Black.” Sagan, a scientist who consulted on the space program and hosted public television programs about the universe, raises important questions about the connection (and sometimes obstacles) between science, business, politics, and notions of God. If he does a better job of asking them than answering them, that is at least consistent with the scientists creed that the only sin is to be afraid to ask the right questions — and to be open-minded about the answers.

The movies’ heroine is Ellie, played by Jodie Foster. Devastated by the loss of her parents by the time she was eight, she yearns for contact with extraterrestrials, but shies away from contact with anyone on earth. Having been hurt by feeling, she relies entirely on science, on what can be proven. After a one-night-stand with Palmer Joss, a charismatic divinity school drop-out (Matthew McConaghey), she leaves, to continue to listen for whispers from the universe, despite short-sighted bureaucrats who cut her funding. When she finally hears something, the government steps in (including President Clinton, appearing courtesy of the same kinds of computer tricks director Zemeckis used in “Forrest Gump”). The message is to build a machine, apparently to be used to go to the source of the message.

Joss turns up as an advisor to the President who is assigned to the panel that will select the person who will make the trip. He does not believe that Earth should be represented by an atheist. And he does not want to lose Ellie again. Ultimately, she does make the trip, and finds that she is profoundly changed by it. She finds herself asking others to believe what she says without evidence, on the basis of faith. This is a thoughtful movie, and it provides a good opportunity to discuss how we know what we know, whether on the basis of faith or on what we can prove. Kids may want to talk about whether the reactions of the people in the movie to evidence of extra-terrestrial intelligence are what they would expect. Why do some people object so strongly to communicating with creatures outside our world? What do scientists think about God and what do theologians think of science? What is the role of government? What do they think of the way the extra-terrestrials shaped their communications to reassure Ellie?

NOTE: Parents should be aware that there is one episode of sabotage that results in violence, in addition to the one-night-stand (Ellie and Palmer shown in bed together), and some strong language.

Related Tags:

 

Based on a book Drama Romance Science-Fiction

Isn’t She Great

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

Hard to imagine myself saying this, but it would have been better if Jacqueline Susann had written this movie. It would have been dumb and unbelievable and even grotesque, but it would not have been boring.

The tag line for the movie is “Talent isn’t everything” and indeed, that is its theme. Bette Midler plays Jacqueline Susann, sensationally untalent-ed but best-selling author of the very sensational “Valley of the Dolls.”

Susann has just one goal in life — to be famous. She wants “mass love.” And that’s the problem with the movie. It has clever dialogue and bright direction, but it wants us to love Jackie as much as her adoring husband does (the title is taken from his favorite comment about her). We can feel sympathy for her. She has an autistic child and becomes very ill with breast cancer. It’s fun to see her triumph over her stuffy editor’s urgings on grammar, consistency, and taste. And it is always nice to see someone’s dream come true.

But this dream is so selfish, so trashy, so empty that we just don’t like or believe her. The movie’s point of view seems to be that a fantasy of fabulousness wrapped up in Gucci pantsuits and manicured poodles is enough to engage us. Jackie herself would never have created a character so shallow — not a female character, anyway.

Parents should know that in addition to a sour moral vaccuousness, this movie includes explicit sexual references.

Related Tags:

 

Biography Drama Family Issues Inspired by a true story
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2018, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at Rogerebert.com, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik