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FREE SPIRITS

FREE SPIRITS

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If you re the type who likes to pay $7 to vomit in movie theater restrooms, sickened by a two-hour exposure to terrible acting, an unbelievable plot, a Hallmark script, and Keanu Reeves tubby, moon-white chest, then Sweet November has found its niche. I thought about quitting my job when I was assigned to review this two-hour-plus Love Story rip-off. The synopsIis: Uptight career jerk meets free-spirited babe at the Department of Motor Vehicles. They strike up a deal to spend 30 days together. She teaches him how to smell the patchouli and he falls in bed, urgh, love with her. Improbable? Of course, but isn t love funny like that? Throw in a cute, nerdy kid, a bunch of fluffy dogs, a cross-dressing neighbor, and it s one silly sitcom moment after another. But the story is much deeper than that. The free spirit is ill like shelf-full-of-meds sick. Sweet November is a tragedy. It s sad. You ll cry. This is no longer a subjective statement: Keanu Reeves cannot act. I m not sure if it was Stella Adler who taught actors that Bill and Ted s woah approach to the craft will win over audiences, but it has worked tremendously well for Mr. Point Break. Here, he is Nelson Moss, a conceited, power-hungry advertising executive who ridiculously mumbles possible catchphrases for his newest account with Diggity Hot Dogs. His apartment has the expected American Psycho-meets-Ikea decor, accented with a wall of televisions, a treadmill, laptop, lots of microbeers, and a girlfriend, whom, for the sake of delicacy, he touches with as much feeling as he does his remote control. He calls his boss chief. In between the insipid commands Nelson barks at his Diggity Dog art team ( Make it pure sex! Red, blood red! ), he cheats on his DMV test and Sara Deever (Charlize Theron) gets blamed for it. She has to wait 30 days to retake the test. Without a license, she needs a ride. Inexplicably, in a city the size of San Francisco, Sara finds out where Nelson lives and makes him give her a ride across town to ... rescue some puppies! Yes, it s odd that someone as cold as Nelson would agree to give a seemingly insane woman a ride across town in the middle of the night to conduct a dog heist, but again, love is about taking chances, embracing life, blah, blah. It takes only a nightcap of cocoa at Sara s bohemian-chic apartment and a day from hell at work to turn Nelson into mush. He agrees to move in with her for 30 days while she teaches him to feel again. They play hide-and-seek, take long walks on the beach, play with cute dogs, eat ice cream, eat candle-lit dinners. He goes from Gianni to grunge in less than a week and helps the neighborhood nerd win a remote-control boat race. Unlikely transformation for a guy as unfeeling as Nelson? Well, two things: They only have 30 days and time s a wastin . And Theron as Sara is probably the most beautiful woman in all of Northern California. But Nelson has his moments of yuppie weakness. He s still armed with a cell phone and when he flips that baby out, he walks like a stiff Old West cowboy through a saloon door. The Motorola remains his only connection to a world without vegan dinners and crocheted scarves. His slick business partner, played by the always amusing Ally McBeal star Greg Germann, is working on landing him a meeting with the industry s most wicked mogul, a perfectly sadistic Anthony Langella. Germann is the one to watch in this movie. Desperate to ride anyone s coattails to advertising fortune, Germann s character recalls the well-scripted Richard Fish on Ally. Though the role isn t a stretch for the actor, his transition from television to film is smooth and confident. Not quite good enough to save this sap-fest is Jason Issacs, Sara s downstairs neighbor who informs Nelson that he is Mr. November, just like the guy before him was Mr. October, then Mr. September, etc. The Patriot s well-known villain is a more than capable actor, but he s wasted here with a poorly written role and sparse scene time. He can t lift this film out of its overall malaise. Though it s Theron s character who s dying in Sweet November, it s Reeves who needs a resuscitation. Even if his lines were laden with cheese, he d still deliver them like a mechanical He-Man without one spark of natural acting talent. There s virtually nothing right with this waste of celluloid. So if the original Love Story, the uber tale of love and loss, left audiences believing that love means never having to say you re sorry, then audiences are due an apology from Sweet November s unrelenting sentimentality.

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