' Cinema Romantico

Friday, June 24, 2016

Friday's Old Fashioned: Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956)

As “Earth vs. the Flying Saucers” opens, Dr. Russell Martin (Hugh Marlowe) and his brand new bride Carol (Joan Taylor) are driving through the desert. He’s dictating into a tape recorder about various scientific concerns which seems pretty misplaced considering they just got hitched. Carol lets him know it. So they canoodle, a little, and then, wouldn’t you know it, he goes right back to dictating. A domestic drama beckons. Then, an ominous sound appears. It is a flying saucer, looming right out their rear window, up to who knows what. And this immediately reveals the overall intention of director Fred F. Sears. He never seeks to draw out suspense regarding the existence of flying saucers. I mean, why would you when they are right there in the title? So they are right there in the beginning, and because they are, they immediately upstage the two primary characters, rendering their backstory moot not more than a few seconds after it’s been established. No one came to the theater (put in the DVD) to watch The Newlywed Game.

The film’s DNA is in the litany of 1950s movies that imagined invaders from other planets, like Mars, for instance, which is never name checked as the homeland of these flying saucers but still feels like the place from where these loping robotic invaders with human beings clearly inhabiting their alien cinematic spacesuits feel like they must hail. Perhaps that observation is merely an extension of having seen Tim Burton’s 1998 “Mars Attacks!” first, a droll and sporadically brilliant comedy which seems to have drawn at least partially from “Earth vs. the Flying Saucers”, although the latter’s determination to play it completely straight never even threatens to crumble despite the thoughts of a mugging Pierce Brosnan and a preening Tom Jones that were dancing in the back of my head.

That successful seriousness can be attributed primarily to the supremely effective visual effects engineered by the legendary Ray Harryhausen. The saucers, plain as a sketch in the notebook of a little kid dreaming about extra-terrestrials, are not scary, not exactly, but they never feel pre-programmed, beholden to strokes on a keyboard. Instead they seem to move of their own scary free will, dropping or sliding into the frame, often over stock footage of national landmarks and battleships at sea and remote desert locations, as if they may have always been there, lurking. And the sound design, that incessant buzz that grinds its way into the back of your brain, heightens the sensation. Those big spaceship behemoths in “Independence Day” sought to generate awe; these regular ol’ UFOs in “Earth vs. the Flying Saucers” seek to put a pit in your stomach. They do.

Though many of the sci-fi invasion movies of 50s often employed their alien invaders as allegories, “Earth vs. the Flying Saucers” is generally free of such pesky metaphors. Oh, it flirts initially with the idea of the military resistance jumping the gun, as men in combat uniforms immediately open fire at the first sign of alien visitors. The movie then dangles the idea that perhaps the aliens come in peace, but that's quickly revealed as a mere feint. They do not come in peace; they come to destroy. America, and then the rest of the world, must stand up to them, and do, though to be fair, “Earth vs. the Flying Saucers” does not fetishize the military and instead makes science the focal point of the resistance, as Dr. Marvin and his team must deduce what these invaders are up to and then fashion a more intelligently methodical means of combatting them. It’s a healthy bit of screenwriting chicanery rather than simply going nukes ‘round the clock.

The characters, from Russell and Carol on down to the rest, all of whose names could be anything, are pawns of the plot. But admirably, after that opening, the screenplay also more or less refuses to even try and give them dimension beyond what they need to do to deal with and stop the flying saucers. And that’s actually a pretty smart decision, making the movie that much more compact and heightening the pace, while also intrinsically putting forth the idea that once the aliens do finally invade our blue planet, any and all human interest stories will fall by the wayside.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Emmerich-ized Reaction Shot Extravaganza

Tomorrow, of course, "Independence Day Resurgence", the long-gestating sequel to Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin's Kansas Corn cinematic faux-classic "Independence Day" (or ID4 for the marketing gurus), is finally set to drop after a twenty year wait. I'm so excited, even if the buzz on it has suddenly plummeted toward Ice Age temperatures. 

Hey, speaking of the Ice Age, I briefly considered returning to this blog's beloved (is that the right word?) tradition of posting "Independence Day" reaction shots to celebrate its sequel's release. But then I figured, maybe you, my faithful, frustrated readers are tired of "Independence Day" reaction shots. And fair enough. So here are some other Emmerich-ish reaction shots from his 2004 eco-disaster extravaganza "The Day After Tomorrow" in which the Ice Age returns. 

Emmerich-ized Reaction Shot Extravaganza

This is a standard-issue reaction shot to kick us off, but also important to note because it's about as reaction-y as our leading man, Jake Gyllenhaal, ever gets. He's nothing if not a serious actor and I can only imagine Mr. Emmerich counciling Gyllenhaal on Day 1 about the need for reaction shots, like this scene where he's staring up at fleeing CGI birds (along with Emmy Rossum, who goes for heightened curiosity), and Gyllenhaal nodding and then getting back to his dressing room and thinking to himself "Like hell I will" and then deciding to make every one of his reactions impassive. And Emmerich thinking why can't Gyllenhaal be more like.........

.........THIS GUY!!!!!!!

Or like the great Ian Holm who, in this frame, demonstrates how a mere raising of the eyebrows can communicate so much ominousness. 

Not, however, like the Dude on the Left who seems to have mis-interpreted "The Day After Tomorrow" as a wacky comedy.

The official facial expression, I imagine, of all President Blake's cabinet meetings.

I like this one for the woman in the background as she listens to the Supposed-To-Be Dick Cheney Vice President blather angrily and wrongly about everything. She's kind of twisting her lip, just a little, an expression that seems to suggest she's thinking more about lunch.

When you just found out at the dawn of a new Ice Age that the boy you like likes you.

Props to the librarian still taking questions at the reference desk in the immediate aftermath of a tidal wave that leveled New York.

Props to Gordon Masten who turns up for a single scene as "New York Bus Driver" solely to get wiped out by the massive tidal wave and still manages to wring genuine emotion out of the brief moment when he realizes this is it.

Ah yes. The classic Look At The Phone After The Phone Line Just Forebodingly Went Dead reaction shot. Bravo, Holm.

Emmy Rossum and Arjay Smith have just seen The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse; Jake Gyllenhaal has just seen the invisible oracle Uyulala.

They've all just seen Katy Perry ride by on a mechanized wooly mammoth.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Shout-Out to the Extra: Twister Version

Shout-Out to the Extra is a sporadic series in which Cinema Romantico shouts out the extras, the background actors, the bit part players, the almost out of your sight line performers who expertly round out our movies with epic blink & you’ll miss it care.

You would think – you would THINK – that having tornadoes, those terrifying twirling funnel clouds would be antagonistic enough in a movie in which daring meteorologists chase them to and fro across the Oklahoma prairie. But this, friends, is Hollywood where conflict and stakes rule all. Can’t never have enough of conflict and stakes, don’t you know, and so “Twister”, with titular rotating clouds of mayhem coming out its proverbial ears, still decided to insert a gaggle of Bad Weathermen in all black vans trying to chase the same tornadoes as the Good Weathermen. The Bad Weathermen are lorded over by Jonah Miller, played by Cary Elwes with an omnipresent sneer who fuses a modern storm chaser with sub-optimal Lionel Barrymore. And throughout the movie Dr. Miller, as he must be, is trailed by a bastion of flunkies, all of whom apparently did not know that meteorology school would one day entail mimicking the members of Biff Tannen’s gang.

Indeed, kind of like how you now recognize Billy Zane in Biff’s gang, you probably recognize particular faces in Jonah’s gang. There’s Jake Busey and Zach Greiner and Patrick Fischler. But, there is also Eric LaRay Harvey. Per IMDb he plays Eric, which is something of a letdown compared to Busey’s “Mobile Lab Technician” and Fischler’s “The Communicator” and even Greiner’s “Eddie” which is the perfect name for Dr. Miller’s #2. Not that it matters. Eric outdoes ‘em all. He never gets a line, mind you, because he’s just the Token Black Guy In The Background. But he doesn’t need a line; he just needs to laugh.

Film scholars generally agree that “Twister’s” most memorable moment is the gas station parking lot confrontation between Good Weathermen and Bad Weathermen when the Good Weathermen’s chief emeritus, Bill (Bill Paxton), realizes that his brilliant idea for placing a patented doo-hickey in a tornado’s path to scientifically gauge its innards has been pilfered by Dr. Miller. “You damn thief,” Bill declares as he knocks the baseball cap off Dr. Miller’s head. There is a little pushing and shoving and it is quickly broken up and the two men exchange a few words and appear set to go on their un-merry ways until Dr. Miller decides to get off one more zinger. Knowing that Bill has hung up his storm chasing credentials to become a TV weatherman instead, Dr. Miller scoffs: “By the way, I really enjoy your weather reports.” All on its own, this historically horrendous insult would be comedy enough, but Eric LaRay Harvey, bless his soul, decides to take this moment into the unintentional comedy stratosphere. At the conclusion of the affront, LaRay Harvey unleashes a mammoth cackle. (You can watch the scene here. Skip to 1:50 for the cackle.)

It’s just incredible to hear. It’s the kind of cackle I imagine Dennis Rodman would have unleashed circa 1996 when he was Michael Jordan’s primary enforcer and #23 had just talked some trash to, say, Detlef Schrempf. I mean, LaRay Harvey has “Eric” act like “I really enjoy your weather reports” is the sickest burn since Bill the Butcher advised in no uncertain terms that “I don’t give a tuppeny fuck about your moral conundrum, you meat-headed shit sack.” LaRay Harvey’s cackle is not just an exclamation point; it feels like a rush of insight, a glimpse behind the curtain at an entire world we don’t know existed, where scientists and TV weathermen are like the Sharks and the Jets, pitted against one another in a never-ending Battle Royale, where the manner in which you choose to employ your knowledge says more than your knowledge. You know, there was talk way back when of a “Twister” sequel but it just sort of quietly abated, maybe because they had already served up all the tornadoes that CGI could bear. But maybe it was never meant to be set in the field. Maybe it was meant to be set out of the field, at the news station, behind the desk and near the doppler. Somewhere, Hollywood, Eric LaRay Harvey waits for your call.

Pour one out for the extra.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Maggie's Plan

Watching Rebecca Miller’s “Maggie’s Plan” is a unique experience. Though in some respects the film is a fairly formulaic rom com with a happy ending, its overriding mission is to plunk three intellectuals with cerebral tendencies into a situation that, whether they know it or not, is considerably quixotic. It’s like watching 1980s Woody Allen remake “Serendipity.” The titular character (Greta Gerwig) might claim she believes in destiny, given her conception by divorced parents who hooked up and told their daughter fairytales about this merely meant she “had to be born”, but her behavior suggests that she, in fact, believes she controls her own destiny. Her plan, however, intent on doing just that doesn’t quite work out, until it does, at which point she’s made to realize she was never driving this car at all. Take as many wrong exits as you want, men, women and children, but the modern moirai are guiding us all.

Maggie’s plan involves having a child with a sperm donor, a guy named Guy (Travis Fimmel), a pickle briner, which intrinsically betrays the film’s setting (New York City). Yet the plan begins to crack when she meets John (Ethan Hawke), a part-time professor at the New School where she works as a counselor. He tantalizes her intellect by asking her opinion of the novel he’s writing and she surrenders to erudite passion, bringing about an unplanned marriage and an unplanned kid that, of course, was planned, just planned with the other guy. Alas, Maggie & John's marriage quickly founders as she comes to realize many of his charms equate to negatives. She wonders if he was meant to be with his first wife, Georgette (Julianne Moore), whose broad accent, outrageous costumes and fearsome disposition belie a semi-generous spirit, all along, and hatches a new plan to get the exes back together.

That’s a plot that sounds readymade for a screwball comedy, and while there is some barbed dialogue, Miller forgoes the seemingly innate mania for something breezier instead, noticeably muting even the story’s most sensational twists. This means that you can see Miller’s screenplay telegraphing the conclusion, one that comes back around to the beginning, which despite the myriad of complications the characters endure still makes it seem as if nothing substantial has changed, as if everything in-between was an interruption. And if that eliminates suspense as to what will happen, well, “Maggie’s Plan” was never seeking to unload a surprise on us. It’s an academic’s fable.

As one character observes in relation to writing a paper, sometimes your opening paragraph says the same thing as your concluding paragraph, and this is because your conclusion is merely repeating your thesis in a more developed form. This is essentially what Miller does; the way the world in “Maggie’s Plan” is lined up as it opens is the way it is lined up as it concludes, just in a more developed form, with all sorts of entanglements yielding enlightenment. That illumination relates to destiny, which, it turns out, cannot be altered, not by our best laid plans and not by our whims either, suggesting that in spite of all human idiocy on display in this film, the fates always have our backs.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Love & Friendship

Twice in “Love & Friendship”, a Whit Stillman film based on an epistolary Jane Austen novel published well after her death, a gaggle of British aristocrats indulge in unflattering gossip about Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale), a Georgian Era widow, only to be interrupted by Lady Susan herself. Both times her sudden appearance freezes the gossipers in place, their mouths agape at being caught in the act, while Lady Susan coolly owns their discomfiture by rubbing their faces in it via haughtiness so polite the less sharp gossipers might not even realize her true intent. The implication is clear: Lady Susan owns the room even when she’s not in it, an irrepressibly wily character repeatedly dropping verbal bombs that explode on impact, jettisoning subtext for implicit meaning instead, civility dripping with poison, lines brought to peerless life by Kate Beckinsale, so often underused in movies unworthy of her skill and now unleashed in a role created by Austen and cultivated by Stillman that mammothly marries her ability to allure with her dexterity for effecting a cold, cold heart.

There is a moment when her character is searching for the word to describe Churchill, the country estate outside London of her brother-in-law where she has taken residence, and settles on “charming”. It’s a dig, of course, rather than a compliment, but it’s more what Beckinsale does in the moment just before she says it – she pauses. And she looks away from the person with whom she’s conversing, into the air, as if she’s searching for the word and then sees it and then plucks it. “Charming!” Of course she doesn’t conjure it out of the air because everything she says and everything she does is deliberate; she merely means to give the impression that she’s thinking things through. Because if the many male chuckleheads around her think she’s thinking things through, they’ll be obliged to believe they are persuading her when, really, she’s persuading them.

She has been left moneyless after the death of her husband and has been publicly ridiculed for an affair with the married Lord Manwaring (Lochlann O'Mearáin), leaving her in a precarious position of needing to find a new husband to maintain her place in the pecking order but having to do so with much of polite society not-so-politely aligned against her. What’s more, she is simultaneously seeking a suitor for her daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark). The emergent irony is that the man, Reginald De Courcy (Xavier Samuel), Lady Susan targets is the same man for whom Frederica develops eyes, and who can blame the young girl? After all, Lady Susan’s pick for her little girl, Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett), while well off, is described as “a bit of a rattle.”

Though De Courcy is also never near as smart as his self-impressed countenance would suggest, Sir James (Tom Bennett) really takes the cake, a pompous, oblivious dufus who no doubt would have been the first one to fall in the chocolate river at Willy Wonka’s factory. He’s the biggest joke of the movie, and he is indicative of a society where money seems simply to materialize for men, no matter their intellect, while even the smartest women, like Lady Susan, are reduced to second class status no matter how posh their accoutrement or digs.

This is not to suggest that Lady Susan tears up these antiquated rules; no, she merely operates within them, cunningly if gleefully, as evinced by the way she and her American co-conspirator Mrs. Johnson (Chloe Sevigny) who revel in the fast ones they pull, never failing to find pleasure in the rules of the same game that exists to keep them down. Yet simultaneously, that keeping them down is what keeps the movie afloat. If it is difficult to empathize with Lady Susan for all the artful verbal acid she spews, and for the less than high regard she openly admits to having for her own daughter, it is just as easy to empathize with her for the deviously delightful way in which she gets exactly what she wants in a culture specifically designed to ensure the opposite.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Friday's {Not So} Old Fashioned: Finding Nemo (2003)

If the ocean’s limitlessness is personified in that well-worn geography class fact that it covers 71% of the earth, well, that means that an awful lot of underwater enchantment lurks just below its surface. And in “Finding Nemo” director Andrew Stanton and his visual effects teams revel in so much of it, from strikingly rendered anemones to the sunlight glistening through the water, all rendered to inspire a whimsical “Sigh…..” But all this animated movie glory merely underscores my favorite images in the movie, those not set down there in the Pacific, but up there in Australia – Sydney, to be exact, inside a small aquarium that is inside a dentist’s office.

That aquarium is where the titular Nemo (voiced by Alexander Gould), the little clownfish of the title, afflicted with a wounded fin, winds up after he tries to prove to his neurotic single dad Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks at his most “the boldest experiment in advertising”) that he’s big enough to swim off by himself into the vast ocean only to get plucked up by a diver at surface level in a boat who ferries him away to live in that aforementioned tank. This forces Marlin to find Nemo, a Hero’s Journey as carried out by a Father for whom the Elixir will prove merely to be his own son’s safety, and which brings dad into contact with so many magical characters.

Like Dory, the regal tang voiced by Ellen DeGeneres who gets her own movie this week, and who suffers from short term memory loss, Leonard Shelby style, but which the movie treats with storybook innocence, and just a skosh of wistfulness, rather than “Memento-ish” guilt. She seems more in line with the movie’s gaggle of gnarly sea turtles, 150 years old, who turn up later on the East Australian Current, speak in surfer-style slang which is apropos because they seem have figured out the key to life is slowing down even when you’re moving so fast. I loved them all, and I loved the seagulls, a side-splittingly accurate portrayal of those dastardly beasts, but mostly I loved Gill, the Moorish Idol with a scar, unwillingly sentenced to life of monotonous non-labor in that dentist office aquarium.

Gill is voiced by Willem Dafoe and his voice is based, the actor has said, on the character he played in “Animal Factory”, Steve Buscemi’s 2000 San Quentin-set drama where Dafoe’s lifelong con, Red Redding with a real edge, mentors a newbie in prison. Dafoe’s Gill isn’t quite that hard, of course, and besides, you can just as easily detect fumes of idealistic glimmer akin to his Sgt. Elias in “Platoon.” He draws on his vast experiences as an actor to mount a vocal performance of weary restraint that is comically moving and movingly comical.

His voice is complimented impeccably by backdrop. There are few shots I’ve loved in any recent movie I’ve seen more than of this semi-sizable fish tank imprisoning Gill and Nemo, and several others too, set in the most terrifying venue of childhood with a window positioned off to the side and in the background that peers upon the most spectacular 21 mile swath the Earth can claim – Port Jackson, or Sydney Harbour, with the staggeringly opulent opera house looming on the opposite shore, those striking blue waters teasing, tantalizing, falsely beckoning. What, I ask, could be more tragic than this juxtaposition of this glass-sided tank and its artificialized seascape and the most marvelous natural watery splendor?

It sounds sullen, I suppose, putting what is fundamentally a kids movie in “Finding Nemo” in the context of an morose incarcerated Moorish Idol. But it’s not simply that “Finding Nemo” is one of those Kids Movies For Adults. No, it’s an Adult Movie Seen Through The Eyes Of A Kid. I’ve been thinking about this in relation to John Hughes’s “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, that icona-pop classic that turned thirty years old this month. I’ve been thinking about it because there is a curious tendency for so many critics to apply –isms – be it classism, escapism, realism, even Reaganism – to a movie whose titular character openly derides –isms. Now he doesn’t deride them because the movie is anti-intellectual; he derides them because he’s a teenager and most teenagers are more into posters on their wall of John Lennon quotes than –isms. And that need to apply –isms to a movie that deliberately seeks to hurl them out the window to go for a joy ride instead speaks to a recurring problem of people who can’t remember what it was like to be a certain age. Hughes is inviting us to view the world through the eyes of Ferris Bueller, but a lot of people seem oddly more determined to see it through the eyes of Ben Stein’s Economics Teacher, wondering what this monologue on the Smoot Hawley Tariff Act really means.

It might suggest that “Ferris Bueller” would have been smart to present its adult characters more well-roundedly as opposed to as arch-villains or clueless enablers, and while one could easily argue that Edward R. Rooney, Dean of Students, has right on his side, you could also argue that he refuses to see the world through the eyes of Ferris. There is, I have long suspected, an alternate ending to Ferris Bueller, where the titular character piles back into a sweet ride with his sister Jeanie and Rooney, and they roll down Michigan Avenue and drink virgin daiquiris in the Signature Room.

Gill’s got a little Edward R. Rooney in him. He’s not gonna try to make a break from the aquarium again cuz he knows to do so means his cheese will just get left out in the wind. But, little Nemo gives him a spark, allows him to see the world through the eyes of a little blowfish. So he makes it his mission to get Nemo out of there, and if Gill is never going to become as go with the flow as those delightful turtles, well, he still gets a little vim back in his swim.

Yet that’s also what makes the film’s tag so drastic. I mean, it’s an amusing moment, sure, and I laughed when I saw it, but the further I got from it, and the more I considered it, the more it left me stricken. It’s a beautiful thing to see the world through the eyes of a child, until you realize it’s merely a view down a blind alley.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Lobster

Future dystopias are all the rage at movies these days, each one a hellscape intended, in one form or another, to comment on our current climate. “The Lobster” is like this too, though its dystopia correlates less to economics and politics, as is usually the case, than the dating game. Director Yorgos Lanthimos chronicles some seemingly not-too-distant future where relationships are required by law, a man and a woman, or a man and a man, or a woman and a woman, suggesting at least some progress has been made. It’s as if those people who stand back from the singles table at weddings with their arms crossed and sigh smugly at the mingling loveless now rule the world. Anyone not in a relationship because, say, they have divorced or had their marital partner die is immediately forced to visit the Hotel, some sort of Orwellian Sandals Resort where attendees are encouraged (forced) to find mutual attraction within 45 days or get turned into an animal.

This is where David (Colin Farrell) ends up, promptly advising the Hotel Manager (Olivia Colman) that he would like to become a lobster should his attempts to fall in love fail. Farrell plays the part with an agonizing reticence, speaking in a mechanized cadence as if he was the husband of a Stepford Wife made to play the straight man in a stuffy British sitcom. And everyone surrounding him is inflicted by these same robotic tendencies, including the woman narrating the story (Rachel Weisz), and who will later turn up in the flesh. There is no grand passion in her voice. When she employs “fuck” as a verb, she strains it every last gram of its traditional lewdness; she could just as easily be saying “flour”. These speech patterns taken in tandem with the unrelenting preciseness of Lanthimos’s aesthetic, from its screeching orchestral score to its meticulous camera movements to its uber-constructed costume design, lend the whole film a machinelike feeling, as if everyone and everything is pre-programmed. Nothing here feels all that natural, an idea connected directly to its presented society’s concept of romance.

Used to be, romance involved a certain amount of chance, blind luck, as so many old world rom coms would tell us, and more often than not, in the end, it would be proven that opposites attract. The society of “The Lobster”, however, thinks it impossible for opposites to attract. This is why each character is deliberately drawn one-dimensionally, a single physical attribute purposely standing in for their name, whether it’s Lisping Man (John C. Reilly) or Nosebleed Woman (Jessica Barden) or Weisz’s Short-Sighted Woman. These traits define them, and so long as their trait matches someone else’s trait, the Hotel views them as a perfect match, which is exactly why people are more than willing to lie about these traits; anything for love.

They also do this, of course, to prevent becoming animals. Those of whom who fail in their matchmaking quest dot the forest out back in their new bodily form, along with the human Loners, sort of the French Resistance of The Lobster’s dystopia, a wooded area where single people who have fled the Hotel gather, free from the oppressive lament of “You don’t want to be alone for the rest of your life, do you?" Of course, the resistance quickly reveals its own oppressive state, reflected in the Leader (Lea Seydoux), who sets down rules as insistent as the Hotel Owner’s. The Leader doesn’t want anyone to be in a relationship, as if the sight of all those happy couples holding hands has embittered her to the point of no return.

And as this, a scathing two-pronged attack against the ancient insistence on pairing off no matter what because that’s what you do and against the current computerized manner in which we go about pairing off, “The Lobster” works well, brutally unmasking how trying to so desperately force everyone into a relationship for the sake of the relationship itself yields a scarily unfeeling society. If these ideas have been dissected before, they have never been rendered with such a drab brutality. The problem, however, becomes as “The Lobster” progresses and attempts to give its characters free will over this repressive culture.

The film’s form is so rigid, and its actors so adherent to that rigidity, that as they gradually recognize their supposed passions, they feel as if they are still bound too tightly to the film’s aesthetic precision to truly act out. They are never allowed to feel; they are still just acting on orders. By the time the perfunctory conclusion arrives, and we are reminded for the umpteenth time that true love conquers all, it feels as insultingly laborious as all those couples who tell all those single people, “There really is someone out there for each of us.”