Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Jigsaw Cleaning, Kidman Weeping, & Baldwin Malicing

Back in high school and college (oh fine: and last week), my gal pals and I would periodically revise our very detailed, very organized lists of prospective famous boyfriends that we would like to have. Categories were specific: Olympic Athlete (figure skater Elvis Stoijko), American Athlete (former utility Met Joe McEwing), Silver Fox (Steve Martin now that Leslie Nielsen moved into the category of Dead Crush), and so on. One of the most contested labels was The Guilty Pleasure, not to be confused with the Conventionally Unattractive (Jon Lovitz continues to hold that spot). The Guilty Pleasure, you see, might have the body of an Adonis and face of a Pitt, but admitting that you would like to sleep with him is not something you're comfortable with wearing across a t-shirt.

For most of the late 90s into early 21st century, my guilty pleasure was Alec Baldwin.

Multiple Emmy award winner Alec Baldwin? Jack Donaghy himself? The man who launched a supremely awesome Geico commercial? What's there to be guilty about that, you ask.

Ah, youth. Travel with me to a different time, one when cell phones were mocked for being more than Q-tip sized and Temptation Island was positively scintillating. This is a world where people associated Alec Baldwin with his steely-eyed overhamming in The Juror and other similarly forced sexytime thrillers. Young women in 2002 didn’t have crushes on Alec Baldwin.

Well, SOME did, and I was one. But to say that now means nothing. He’s JACK DONAGHY. An SNL treasure! 

I don’t know what the point of this intro was, other to say that I liked Alec Baldwin before it was cool to do so.

Now about Malice...

Quick Plot: Well, 'quick' is sometimes an impossible thing. Without spoiling anything, let's just say that Malice is about a married couple (Bill Pullman's nerdy college dean Andy and Nicole Kidman's baby-coveting and but uterus-hurting Tracey) whose lives change forever after they rent the third floor of their fixer-upper colonial house to Alec Baldwin's Jed, a hotshot surgeon with a high tolerance for bourbon and high opinion of himself. Meanwhile, a serial rapist is attacking some of Andy's female students, including a dirty blond post-Hook pre-Brad Pitt Gwyneth Paltrow.

Maybe these storylines are connected. Maybe they are not. Maybe there's a reason why a well-respected heart surgeon can't afford to rent his own place. Maybe every New England college has its own rapist. Maybe there was some sort of bonus for any actor in the film who attempted a New England accent and Bebe Neuwirth as the fairly incompetent police detective was the only taker. 

Or maybe, just maybe, every film needs an extended Anne Bancroft cameo.

You might think I’m dancing around synopsizing Malice. You might be right.

Oh, that time I didn’t need the maybe. You are indeed more than right.

Malice is essentially a film built on misdirection, so to go into any detail risks not just a few spoilers, but also ruining the very effect of the film. Depending on your mood, you might find some of its tricks to be forced or unnecessarily complicated, but there’s also something truly exciting in catching twists that you never thought to expect. Sure, seven Saw films have taught us to perk up our sensors when Tobin Bell strolls into a scene, but that doesn’t mean we know what his subplot has to do with our main characters. Seriously, I almost guarantee that.

High Notes
Aforementioned extended Anne Bancroft cameo. Seriously, after a rough night of prayer to the porcelain god, I’d thought I'd sworn off drinking scotch for good but I would give up my beloved beer forever if it meant I got to share a bottle of single malt with that dame

Low Notes
The more you think about certain details involved in the secrets of Malice--the history of a certain marriage, a double life that doesn’t seem logistically possible, the fact that a major crime may have only existed in the screenplay to incidentally reveal a key character detail--the harder it is to accept a lot of the story. So like most difficult things in life, just don’t think about it

Lessons Learned
If you play with plastic bags, Nicole Kidman will tie you up and feed you to the kid monster

Nothing turns Bill Pullman on like eating Chinese food in bed

Office supply rooms for college administration offices generally resemble medieval dungeons

Chekhov’s Rule of Creepy Dummies Employed by the Police Department
Aside from being extremely creepy looking, never rule them out from the action until the last reel is rolled

Malice harkens back to that early ‘90s era of mainstream thrillers advertised with attractive floating heads and insured by Alec Baldwin’s night forest of chest hair. With a script co-written by Aaron Sorkin, it’s a film that tries a little too hard but dangit if it doesn’t have fun making the effort! So long as you go into the film with little to no knowledge of the plot, I think you’ll find it as rewarding an experience as I did. And not ONLY as a reminder that Alec Baldwin was once a worthy guilty pleasure.

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