Without you my life would be meaningless, says the unfaithful-
and-sorry-for-it Porter (Warren Beatty) to his scorned wife Ellie (Diane
Keaton) in Town & Country. What he means to say is that this comedy is
meaningless, guilty of gratuitous humor of the laziest fashion, haphazard in
its storyline, though it does contain two priceless scenes that, in the end,
don t count for much at all.
Town & Country is a comedy about being married a long, long time
25 years to be exact for Porter and Ellie and their best friends Griffin
(Garry Shandling) and Mona (Goldie Hawn). It s a steady-as-she-goes sort of
life for the foursome. They have fabulous New York homes plus vacation houses,
expensive clothes, pedigreed dogs, and three-day trips to Paris. It s ideal in
the comfortable sense (Porter has all his black socks in one drawer, all his
white underwear in the next) and in the quirky sense (Porter and Ellie happily
roll their eyes at their teen children s choices of oddball mates).
When Griffin is busted cheating with a redhead, the ideal is not shattered;
there s just more eye-rolling. Mona is angry, vengeful. Griffin is sheepish.
Ellie and Porter are supportive. So supportive, in fact, that Ellie urges
Porter to accompany Mona on a trip to her home in Mississippi. Too much booze
and the lack of air-conditioning lead to comforting of the carnal kind. Mona
high-tails it back to the city with Porter in pursuit and anxious to
straighten things out. Mona and Porter agree mum s the word, get busy once
again, and are interrupted by Ellie who, unaware of Porter s presence, tells
Mona that she s just found out that Porter has been cheating on her
Whew! But that s not all. Griffin and Porter go on a sabbatical to Sun Valley,
where Porter gets tangled up with a crackpot named Eugenie (Andie MacDowell)
and her virtue-protecting father (Charlton Heston). The next night Porter and
Griffin attend a Halloween party that ends up with Porter, dressed as a polar
bear, wrestling with a hardware clerk who s dressed as Marilyn Monroe all
witnessed by Porter s son.
Now we re up to Porter s meaningless speech. And while all the events above
should add up to screwball, these moments feel random, patchy. You can just
picture all the wadded up paper remains of gags tried and discarded by the
screenwriters (among them Buck Henry, who also has a bit part as a divorce
lawyer). Among the jokes that stayed are two about falling from heights, two
about foreigners, and one about a golf ball driven into an unsuspecting man s
backside. Having Keaton, the ultimate straight (wo)man, burst into a stream of
genitalia-bent expletives is hilarious until a wheelchair-bound old
woman does the exact same thing minutes later. Casting Heston as a gun-toting
crazy stands as a weak highlight. Nothing, really, can disguise what looks to
be a vanity vehicle for Keaton, Beatty, Shandling, and Hawn. Town &
Country is the stars goof, a chance for the older guys to get together
and have a little fun. If the end result comes off as a little weird, then
maybe the combined strength of their names will draw the people in. Or maybe
Amores Perros, the film by Mexican director Gonz lez I¤ rritu, translates as
Love s a Bitch, a sentiment that is hammered in and clings to the moviegoer.
The film is divided into three entwined stories: Octavio and Susana, Daniel
and Valeria, and El Chivo and Maru. In Octavio and Susana, Octavio (Gael
Garcia Bernal) lives in crowded squalor with his mother, his brother, his
brother s wife Susana (Vanessa Bauche), and their baby. The family has no
money; only the television serves as a distraction. Octavio falls in love with
Susana. He urges Susana to take her baby and leave with him. Susana tells him
that he doesn t understand; he tells her the same thing. To make money for the
getaway, Octavio offers his dog, Cofi, up for fights. He grows rich and a
little bold, buying himself a new car, standing up to his dangerous brother,
and seducing Susana with a wad of cash she hides in a suitcase. Octavio has
enough money to run away when he decides to have Cofi fight one last time.
Circumstances, all of his own making, pile up hard on Octavio until he
crashes, literally, in a serious car wreck.
Valeria (Goya Toledo) of Valeria and Daniel is the one he crashes into,
leaving the model, who just moments before was celebrating her married lover s
separation, with a seriously injured leg. Valeria is just beginning to feel
the possibilities of her career disappear when her dog falls into a hole in
the floor of her apartment. She and Daniel (Alvaro Guerrero) can hear him
underneath the floor, but the dog can t seem to find his way out. Valeria is
crushed by her poor health, by her concern for the dog, by the way these
changes in her life have affected her relationship with Daniel. Like Octavio,
she, too, crashes.
Passing by at the moment of the car crash is El Chivo (Emilio Echevarria) of
El Chivo and Maru. Once a rebel, he has emerged from years of prison bearded
and wild-haired. He is dead to his daughter and to most of society. He digs
around in dumpsters, lives in filth with a pack of dogs, getting by through
occasional gigs as a hitman. El Chivo stops at Octavio s crash site and takes
to the injured Cofi. He nurses the dog back to health so that the dog has the
strength to commit an unthinkable act.
******* ******* ******* ******* ******* *******
Here and there throughout Amores Perros are dog-fight scenes. The dogs
are shown at first impact, then I¤ rritu steers the camera away so that the
fight ends in a yelp and a blood-soaked body. The message is clear and hard:
this thing that makes animals, humans or dogs, tear at each other with
something like instinct. But there are choices, too, and consequences, and
maybe even redemption. Amores Perros is brutal and heavy-handed,
memorable and grim.