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Richter's Pick: This Week's New Movies

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LITTLE ASHES: He’s the runaway leader in Vanity Fair’s most handsome man on earth poll. He’s got screaming teenage fans and he’s coming back to Vancouver soon to stir up more excitement and make another movie. He’s Robert Pattinson, the vampire hunk in the “Twilight” movies. Before that propelled him to major stardom, he played Salvador Dali in this modest examination of the artist’s college friendship with two other Spaniards, the poet Federico García Lorca and the film maker Luis Buñuel. Most of his fans have never heard of them, but in the 1920s and 30s they became important champions of modernity, both in art and Spanish society. Not much of that is reflected in this film. Even the rise of fascism is mentioned only occasionally and remains in the background. Up front is a gay love story. The film says Lorca and Dali fell in love, even as Buñuel taunted like a homophobe. It’s not clear how much truth there’s in it or even how far it went. However, the film has an agenda and pushes it. Javier Beltrán does a fine job as Lorca, while Pattison as Dali has mixed results. He’s perfectly good as the young student, unsure of himself and distant, but not at all convincing as the older, flamboyant Dali. He looks ridiculous in that moustache and, as fans already know, flashes some pubic hair early in the film. As art history this film is more laughable than enlightening. (Tinseltown).

THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE: Steven Soderbergh often steps away from the big Hollywood sound stages to make a small, intimate film. You’d be hard pressed to figure out the message in this one, though. The central character is a prostitute, although she insists on being called an escort. She’s played rather stiffly by Sasha Grey, a prominent star in porn films. The film has no overt sex scenes as she conducts herself like any other businesswoman, keeping close track of her expenses and taking pride in her work. Some of her clients aren’t even after sex, just companionship. The film is set during last November’s US election and the start of the financial meltdown. Therefore, several clients are fretting about the stock market and just want to talk. She lives with a fitness trainer, who flies off with some buddies for a Las Vegas trip. All these elements are stylishly but confusingly intercut. The time frame jumps back and forth. The intension seems to be to show that selling sex, stocks, gym workouts and gaming are really all the same. Maybe. The film is far too cool to say anything straightforward like that. Essentially, it’s a non-judgemental five days with the escort, who labors to explain her thoughts in an interview with a writer, feels jealousy when a she sees a client with a competitor and hopes for a good review from a sex-worker rating service. (At Tinseltown).

Also opening …

CHERI: The pedigree alone should have made this film an event. Director Stephen Frears, scripter Christopher Hampton and star Michelle Pfeiffer gave us “Dangerous Liasons” 11 years ago. Now they’ve reunited for the tale of a French courtesan and her affair with a much younger man (the Chéri of the title played by Rupert Friend). He’s the son of a former rival prostitute, played by Kathy Bates. The reviews, though, haven’t been kind. Critics in New York and the UK have called it “anemic”, “curiously blank” and worst of all, “ridiculous trash”. They say it’s visually exquisite but misses much of the wisdom about love, age and death found in the 1920s novel by Colette on which it’s based. (Fifth Avenue Cinema).

MY SISTER’S KEEPER: I guess it depends on where your heart is. This film tugs at it relentlessly. From a bestselling novel we get the story of one family’s unusual strategy to avoid losing a child. When their daughter is stricken with leukemia, Cameron Diaz and Jason Patric, as the parents, conceive another daughter to be a source for organ transplants. But she, played by Abigail Breslin, eventually objects, goes to see a lawyer and ends the family up in court. The reviews are all over the map on this one. It’s an audience grabber, but either inspirational or manipulative. (At multiple theatres).
Whatever WorksTokyo SonataLittle Ashes
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