The Prince and Me
Once in a while a film comes along that makes you feel unspeakable pain not unlike having the entire surface of your body burnt by a candle, square inch by square inch. As this happens, it’s not uncommon for your thoughts to turn to the small, starving children in Third World countries who could have had the money from the film’s budget channeled into relief funds. Ladies and gentlemen, “The Prince and Me” (Paramount) is such a film.
This tired retread of the Cinderella story begins when Prince Eddie of Denmark (Luke Mably, “28 Days Later”) sees a “Girls Gone Wild”-style video and decides that he will go to America to join in the action (seriously). Upon his incognito arrival at the University of Wisconsin, he meets a med student named Paige (Julia Stiles). They start to fall for each other, but just as things are going great, Paige discovers Eddie’s identity, and he is forced to return to Denmark. But are they done forever? Of course not. Paige travels to Denmark and decides she will be Eddie’s princess. But how will this gel with Paige’s plans for her future and her career?
So you yawned while you read that last paragraph? Imagine how I felt sitting through this “plot.” The direction and screenplay elevated the film to an unprecedented level of clich?d tedium. Stiles and Mably, both of whom are very pretty people, bring no chemistry to their characters and seem as if they’re thinking about how to spend their paychecks while in front of the camera. This movie is yet another nail in Stiles’ rapidly closing coffin of credibility. If Stiles is to gain respect as an actress, she needs to choose roles that don’t involve being the smart pretty girl. And let’s not forget poor Mably. This is his first major film role (he only had one line in “28 Days Later”); hopefully he will not become typecasted as the beautiful male romantic comedy lead.
It’s obvious that “The Prince and Me” will only attract 13-year-old girls and poor suckers who won’t know what hit them. The only question about this film is, why go see it at all? The film-going public definitely deserves better.
The United States of Leland
Indie writer/director Matthew Ryan Hoge beautifully delivers his sophomore film, “The United States of Leland” (Paramount Classics), with the help of a stellar cast.
“Leland” tells the story of a quiet and pensive teen, Leland P. Fitzgerald (Ryan Gosling, “The Believer”), who is dumped by his junkie girlfriend Becky (Jena Malone, “Life as a House”). Instead of getting angry or moping around, he kills her mentally retarded younger brother, at which point he is arrested and sent to a juvenile detention facility. His prison teacher, Pearl Madison (Don Cheadle), also an aspiring writer, smells a book in Leland’s tale, especially because Leland is also the son of world-renowned author Albert Fitzgerald (Kevin Spacey). Madison eagerly delves into the project, searching for insight into Leland’s life as well as a reason why the crime was committed, which Leland cannot produce. Also prominent in the plot are Becky’s grieving parents, her older sister (Michelle Williams, of TV’s “Dawson’s Creek”) and her sister’s live-in boyfriend (Chris Klein).
“Leland” is quite depressing but thoroughly thought-provoking. The use of mixed chronology makes the film interesting, as does Hoge’s script, which gracefully depicts the evolution of the characters struggling with their inner demons. The only light moments are provided by Spacey’s character, who offers sarcastic, dry humor every time he speaks. Gosling, in keeping with many of his previous performances, is tremendous, leaving the audience constantly curious about the twinkle in his eye despite his calm demeanor (he’s also pretty easy on the eyes, ladies). Cheadle does not really do much with his character; Madison is not especially likeable, and the actor’s performance is somewhat bland. Malone is very open and vulnerable, which is necessary in order to make her character work well. It’s also nice to see Klein finally pick a part with some depth and do well with it (although it seems he’s not quite ready to bid farewell to the dumb-jock-with-a-heart character with which he’s so comfortable).
With a talented cast and interesting plot, “The United States of Leland” is a pleasant surprise and a film worth seeing.