Sunday, September 27, 2015

Silent Sundays: The Pleasure Garden (1925)

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There are so many aspects of early 20th century history I would have liked to have witnessed. If someone can invent a time machine I would love to travel back to when my favorite classic films were released in theaters including silent films. That would be incredible to go back and actually see these films for the first time on the big screen. I would also love to be able to go back and visit some of the beer halls and vaudeville and Broadway shows. The beer halls or music halls and vaudeville seem to have been seedy yet interesting places. One silent film in particular that makes me wish I could go back and visit a music/beer hall is The Pleasure Garden from 1925.
            The Pleasure Garden is a music hall in London where Oscar Hamilton has gained great notoriety for his chorus line. His lead chorus girl is Patsy Brand. After a show an old man is introduced to her and comments that he likes the curl in her hair. The curl is part of the blond wig all the girls wear so she pulls it out to give to the man much to his horror.
            By the stage door is a young girl named Jill Cheyne. She is looking to speak to Hamilton about getting a part in the show. She had a letter of introduction but something happened to it. When she returns outdoors her money is taken by some men. Patsy walks out just as Jill’s money is taken. As a gesture of good will Patsy lets Jill stay at her place and tells Jill she can talk to Hamilton the following day about auditioning.
            Jill does so well at her audition that Hamilton gives her a part in the show. She eventually becomes very popular and her picture is all over the paper. Her fiancé Hugh comes to town to see her before he leaves for two years to work on a plantation. Hugh is a nice man who wants to work hard and come back and marry Jill. He brings his friend Levet to the apartment. Patsy is immediately taken with Levet.
            Down the road Jill becomes diva and forgets all about Hugh and begins seeing a Prince Ivan. Patsy has been seeing Levet and they are soon engaged and married. Levet has to go down to the same plantation to work with Hugh. One day Patsy gets a letter that Levet is sick and she has to somehow get down to where he is to be with him. She goes to Jill for the fare but Jill has become a snob and will not lend her some money. Fortunately Patsy’s landlords like her and loan her the money.
            When Patsy gets down to the plantation Levet is not really sick he is just a drunken idiot who has been messing around with a native woman. Patsy of course becomes very upset with Levet and tells him she never wants to see him again. Levet in a fit of anger begins to beat Patsy. His boss sees what is going on and shoots Levet dead to get him off of Patsy.
            Big shock, Patsy and Hugh wind up getting together in the end.
            The Pleasure Garden was alright. There really was no focus on the music hall throughout the film it was just in the first few minutes. Maybe it is a metaphor for other things, I don’t know. But for some reason this film made me wish I could go back in time and go to a music hall for a show (go figure). The only reason I watched it and the only reason it is not obscure is because it was the first film to be directed by Alfred Hitchcock. His direction is not what we know it to be. He had yet to master direction plus the story is typical melodrama and the acting is atrocious. The Pleasure Garden is only worth watching just because it is Alfred Hitchcock’s first film.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Age of Adaline (2015)

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“Tell me something I can hold on to forever and never let go.”
“Let go.”

            Let me just start off by saying that I hate romantic movies. I have sworn them off to no end. I am talking only about modern romantic movie because classic movies are all romantic and I can handle those. Anyway, modern romantic dramas bore me to tears. Every cliché has been done every love story has the same trajectory. It is rare that a romantic movie is different these days. Fortunately, someone got a hold of the book The Age of Adaline and turned it into a movie. The Age of Adaline is the rare occasion where a modern romantic movie is done differently and even perfectly.
            The story is about a woman named Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively). She was born on New Year’s Day in 1908 in San Francisco. Adaline had a decent life. In the 1930s she got married, had a daughter, and unfortunately lost her husband in an accident while helping to build the Golden Gate Bridge.
            Adaline’s life forever changed when she was driving on a dark road to visit family. For the first time in decades it snowed in California. Adaline lost control of the car and crashed into a ravine. The cold water and a strike of lightening saved Adaline but that combination has caused her not to age.
            Her not aging causes Adaline problems through the decades. In the 1950s she officially goes on the run. From then on every decade she changes her identity and moves to a different city. She rarely sees her daughter but the two do keep in touch. In this current decade Adaline is now Jennifer Larson, an archivist in a library in San Francisco.
            At a party at a hotel on New Year’s Eve Adaline meets a very handsome young man named Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman). Ellis likes her and pursues her. He becomes a member of the board of the library Adaline works at. Eventually they start dating but Adaline’s fears of getting too close to others because of her condition come to the surface. She decides to let her fears go for one weekend when Ellis asks her to come up to his parents’ house. When they get to the house Ellis’s father William (Harrison Ford) sees her and says her real name. Adaline recovers by saying Adaline Bowman was her mother.

            William is consumed with the thought of Adaline. He loved her when he first met her in the 1960s and was heartbroken when she disappeared. William notices a scar on Adaline’s hand is in the same place she had cut her hand when they were together and, being medical student, he stitched it up for her. William confront Adaline and she runs away.
            Adaline is again in another car accident and again it is another cold night and again electricity is coursed through her body. But this time the reverse happens and Adaline can now age. She lives happily with her daughter and Ellis.
            The cast of this movie was brilliant. I was not too sure how Blake Lively was going to be. I had seen bits and pieces of her other movies and some of the shows she has been on and she was alright. Lively was amazing. Katharine Heigl was supposed to play Adaline and as much as I adore Heigl I cannot for the life of me see her doing a better job than Lively. Michiel Huisman I love from Orphan Black where he plays Cal Morrison (yes, he is also in Game of Thrones, I know, I have seen bits of him on that show too). Besides the plot I really wanted to see the movie for him. I wanted to see what Huisman was like outside of the two TV shows and he was great. I hope he gets more leading roles. Harrison Ford was also very good.
            The story was amazing. I liked how different it was. There were so many aspects of it that I enjoyed. I really liked how Adaline never really complained about not aging. She did find it as a burden but she had enjoyed so many things in her long life like traveling and reading and learning languages. Adaline only ever got upset when she would see her daughter or when she wanted to fall in love with Ellis. Another aspect I really liked was how William reacted to Adaline being back. In other modern romances I have the feeling that William and Adaline would have fallen back in love and their old beautiful relationship would have resumed. Very, very fortunately that does not happen here. William had to reassure his wife that it is she who he has been married to for the past forty years and that was the end of that conversation. Adaline was meant to be with Ellis.

            The Age of Adaline is now one of my all-time favorite movies. I was enthralled and enamored with it almost from the moment it started. Everything about the movie is flawless and perfect. Do yourself a big favor and watch The Age Adaline as soon as you can.