Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A to B Back and Forth Review: Public Enemies, Part II

Yesterday, Kozy and I started with our analysis of Public Enemies, posting Part I of our back and forth conversation. So yeah, read that first. Today we conclude with Part II.


I'm not even going to ask what you thought of The Proposal or why you went to see it. I'll instead answer that while I found Billie Frechette to be horribly acted by Cotillard, I think she might be the ultimate two-face in the history of cinema. In occasional scenes, I thought she was rather fetching, but in others, well, for obvious reasons I really don't want to use the word "beat," so I'll just say she was "mousy." You must admit that she had her moments - at least during the brief bathtub scene. She certainly was better looking than Sandra Bullock in The Proposal, but, there, now, dammit, you made me think about Sandra and Ryan Reynolds again. Why do you torture me so?
Hotter than Sandra Bullock at least.

I agree with you that I wanted more Chicago. The movie had a ton of close-ups, and that added to the immediacy of what was a somewhat slow-paced film. But did keep us from seeing a more glorious Chicago of the 1930s. Then again, spending too much time in the city would have risked pulling a Road to Perdition which showed a modern-day el train cruising around town, air conditioning and all. Still, there was enough to make me a bit homesick.

One of the things that really bothered me about this film was the artistic license. There were enough things that I knew to be false, I had to question everything (which, after reading up a bit, proved to be a correct assumption). The most blatant gaffe was that the police officers (whom Dillinger never actually visited in real life) were listening to a Cubs vs Yankees game in the middle of the summer. I may not be the baseball fan here, but even I know that's not possible. Turns out the Cubs were playing the Phillies that day. Furthermore, the "woman in red" wore "an orange skirt" in this adaptation. Why? What possible purpose is there to changing history that is a big part of the Dillinger legend? Maybe Mann wasn't worried about the details, but it did break the moment for me. I suppose they were trying to shoehorn a love story into the life of someone who was a known womanizer to make it play better. The final scene was a melodramatic way of wrapping things up, but it never actually happened because Dillinger never said a word in his last moments.

Again, I go back to the question of why they didn't try to make this movie say something. I'm not the first person to make this point, but we live in a time when the government is bailing out fatcats who are already wealthy while the economy fails for everyone all the same. I couldn't help but think that a great allegorical jab could be made at the situation. During The Great Depression, the fact that Dillinger was sticking it only to the rich and not behaving like a common thief was the big thrust of his popularity. You think if someone ganked Bernie Madoff's wife's jewlery and got away with it, the whole world wouldn't give him an "atta boy!"? Maybe Mann owns stock in Goldman Sachs...
My kind of town. Brad's, too!

It's a shame we couldn't have taken this one in together via the Brew N View at the Vic Theater on Sheffield. I think it would have been a lot more fun. Instead I had to shoot dirty looks at the Argentine teenagers in the row behind me that wouldn't stop giggling and kicking my chair. Unfortunately, my Spanish still isn't good enough to say, "Hey you sloppy fat chicks, I think you're in the wrong theater. G-Force is in the next one over." I tried thinking about it during all of Christian Bale's scenes, but without a Fernet con Coca to get my dander up, the words wouldn't come.

Stephen Dorff was in this one? I didn't even notice. Tell me more!


Hey Reed,
Without question there were factual errors in Public Enemies. It certainly distracted me when the cops were purportedly listening to a Cubbie game and the announcer mentioned the Yankees would come to bat next. Was there a Cubbie World Series appearance that I somehow had never learned about?

But I suppose Mann’s accuracy is open to some debate. Roger Ebert describes Mann’s research as “fearless,” and goes on to confirm that the Lady in Red is a myth and that “in real life she (Anna Sage) was wearing a white blouse and an orange skirt, as she does in the movie.”

I am not certain what is truth versus embellishment in Public Enemies, but I am willing to accept that almost every movie takes liberties to drive their story, even documentaries. Hell, we both just watched the preview for “The Blind Side,” I can only imagine how many liberties Sandy Bullock has taken with that “fearless” true story performance! (… and why do I keep talking about Sandy – someone needs to stop to this – please help me!!!)
Let this photo be the end of your obsession, Brad.

As for Cotillard having “moments” of good lookingness, I’m saying, meh …. She certainly looked ‘beat’ in the interrogation scene. In the bathtub scene she looked ‘wet’. In the jailhouse scene she looked ‘sad’. And she had a nice accent switch to accentuate each mood.
Neither wet nor sad in this case, but Brad makes some clear points.

I totally agree with you regarding the criticism of why Mann didn't try to make this movie say something. It seemed to me to be a no-brainer given this Robin-hood depression era story that a link to today’s financial and social turmoil would be prudent. Stick it to the rich and greedy I say!

In the end I think Public Enemies is a decent film with a great starring performance by Johnny Depp. I as well do not have a desire to see it again, nor have I recommended it to anyone who has asked me how I liked the movie. My typical response has been that if you like Depp and/or Mann, then you’ll find something to like about this movie, but it is certainly not a must see.

So what’s the countdown on The Blind Side? I read recently in an interview with Steven Soderbergh that his planned adaptation of Michael Lewis’ Moneyball, to have starred Brad Pitt, fell through. So at least there is still a chance that one will turn out OK.

I hear you might make it to Amsterdam in September - maybe we’ll catch our next flick together!

Until then,


Unknown said...

Great review, or reviews actually. I've just finish writing mine and I think we all share the same opinion about the movie, in one word "meh".

I didn't like at all the scene of the breaking into Dillinger squad, it has no purpose and it didn't happen (of course, he would have been killed).

Being an argentinian I didn't notice the baseball gaffe or payed much attention to the accents. But I still don't understand why they didn't gave a role to Christian Bale, he does nothing in this movie.

Same thing happened with Terminator 4, he was freakin John Connor and still managed to be a secondary character while Marcus is the star. He needs to reconsider the roles he takes on, otherwise the next Batman will star Robin an he will deliver a one liner.

Reed said...

Just to close the case on the "liberties" situation. Very interesting that they chose to go the extra mile with the orange skirt is more troubling than anything else. That Ebert claims Mann is "fearless with his research" is awfully forgiving. A brief list of problems (MANY SPOILERS!):
1) Dillinger was chased a couple blocks away from the Biograph and killed in an alleyway. Some innocent bystanders were hurt by bullets or fragments of bricks.
2) He didn't say a damn thing when he was killed. Passersby actually dipped their handkerchiefs in his blood for the souvenir. You'd think that would have been a cool element to include.
3) While Frenchette was clearly his girlfriend, he wasn't exactly monogamous with her.
4) He never set foot in the Chicago Police department, especially not the "Dillinger Squad" offices.
5) Nobody was killed when he helped with the prison breakout at the start of the film.
6) Frenchette was never beaten by police.
7) Pretty Boy Floyd was killed after Dillinger.
8) Babyface Nelson was killed three months after Dillinger as well. He escaped by killing an agent as depicted in the movie. Except he did escape.
9) The aforementioned Cubs game.

That's the "short list". Feel free to peruse the IMDB's more complete version. Some of these choices just don't make any sense to me...