Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tourist Crap

The Tourist is the kind of movie that Alfred Hitchcock could have directed effortlessly. Or, rather, he would have worked very hard for months and years scouting the right locations, perfecting the script and working with a group of talented, experienced actors to make a movie that looked as if it was made with no effort at all and that a quality film about this subject was simply part of the natural order. Sadly, this director of this movie is not Alfred Hitchcock and what I described above was beyond the abilities of writer/director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck who, for the sake of my typing fingers, will be referred to for the rest of this review as Rick.

This movie should have been a real winner for director Rick. He had two huge stars in his leading roles, an experienced and competent supporting cast and the real city of Venice to use as his stage. Someday I'll write a lengthy article about this but I would like to see movies and television swap places. So much of television is still stuck in the 1970s. You still have gimmicky detective shows filled with dumb plots and lame jokes and sitcoms with laugh tracks as well as more lame jokes. Every time I think we're moving away from old fashioned television we get a Hawaii Five-O or a Mike and Molly. Movies, on the other hand, need to move back toward the 1970s and embrace some old fashioned techniques such as having real people do real things in real places and not have everything take place inside some guy's Macintosh.

This brings me to the parts of the movie I liked. Beautiful locations and some honest-to-God stunt work were a pleasure to see on film as they are something of a rarity these days. Rick was probably going for a cross between Hitchcock and the Bourne films but sadly achieved neither. The Hitchcock comparisons come from the basic plot premise of Chasing The Wrong Man. Angelina Jolie plays Elise Ward, a beautiful and sophisticated character who, in the 50s, would have been played by Ava Gardner or Grace Kelly. Angelina Jolie plays the role perfectly. It's a shame the movie wasn't all about her. Sadly, the focus was Johnny Depp's Frank Tupelo. I'm not sure if Frank Tupelo as portrayed in the movie was Rick's idea or if Depp wanted to play him as depressed and poorly groomed and Rick just didn't feel he could stand up to a star like Johnny Depp. Depp is known for making gutsy and controversial acting choices that studio executives hate but that doesn't mean he's always right. Hell, I've seen teenage girls use the word "hot" when describing Depp, a guy who is pushing 50, yet someone decided he should look like this:

What Bea Arthur would have looked like if she'd had a beard.

Angelina Jolie's Elise is being followed by Interpol through Paris because they are looking for her boyfriend, Alexander Pierce, a fellow who has embezzled $2 billion. Elise receives a note from Pierce telling her to choose someone his height and build and hang out with him so that Interpol will think that poor schmuck is Pierce after extensive plastic surgery. Apparently, Frank Tupelo fits the bill and he can't believe it when someone like Elise sits down and starts talking to him. Cary Grant would have played this meeting scene the way Jolie does, like a movie star who knows this isn't realistic so she acts and behaves like a witty and glamorous person instead of a realistic one. Depp, on the other hand, acts the way I would if Angelina Jolie sat down and started flirting with me. He acts awestruck and tongue-tied. We're supposed to eventually accept the idea that Elise Ward starts to legitimately fall for this guy and feel guilty for getting him into the trouble he's in but would you?

Also, there's a surprise ending that I saw coming a mile away but that's not what brought down the movie for me. Oh, it's not horrible. It just wasn't a good old fashioned international mystery made in the vein of Alfred Hitchcock like it should have been. I'm not sure who today could have pulled that off but it certainly wasn't Johnny Depp or his director, Rick.

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