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Review: Everything is Illuminated


Displaying little of the bravado of its source material, Everything is Illuminated is an affable, pocket-sized version of wunderkind Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2002 debut novel. Safran Foer’s multi-part narrative has been pared down to a simpler road trip that sounds like the set-up for a joke: So you’ve got a neurotic American Jew looking for his roots, a Ukranian translator and his cranky grandpa, and a crazy “seeing eye bitch” in a car . . .
    First-time director Liev Schreiber’s film doesn’t quite pull off the punchline or the heartbreak — his film has a touch of the twee quality of a Wes Anderson knock-off. He doesn’t get much help from Elijah Wood, who moons about collecting weird keepsakes in Ziploc bags, his deep-sea creature eyes magnified to Mr. MaGoo levels by his glasses.
   Fortunately, Eugene Hutz provides some antic momentum as a young Ukranian with a thesaurus-thumping command of English, and Schreiber succeeds in capturing some moments of arresting visual beauty and emotional import — a house in a field of sunflowers, the cracked windows in a run-down apartment building. Despite its soaring expanses of Ukranian sky and Holocaust history, however, the film seems a bit like its opening image of an insect frozen in amber — a pretty thing, but airless and inert in the end. — Noy Thrupkaew

Review: One Bright Shining Moment
Before I saw Farenheit 9/11, I read a review that said, “If you think George W. Bush is sloppy and wrong, you still will after this film. And if you think Michael Moore is self-indulgent and pigheaded, you still will after this film.” One Bright Shining Moment documents the ’72 presidential campaign of George McGovern, and if you feel that he wasn’t enough of a politician and made key mistakes that resulted in the biggest landslide in history, you still will after this film (although you may like him a bit more). And if you feel that the calm liberal was the last honest man up for President, that won’t change either.
    What’s surprising is that this campaign had so many snappy sex metaphors. When referring to a female Democrat, Nixon said, “She’s pink right down to the panties!” A Vietnam-related slogan was “Don’t change Dicks in the middle of a screw!” The film also features this nostalgic commentary on the era: “It was scary enough women wanted to be on top . . . they wanted to be on top of each other!” — David Diehl
Date DVD #50: Fever Pitch, 9/13
Aside from Wedding Crashers, 2005 has been a horrible year for romantic comedies, so let us give thanks for Fever Pitch, a decent studio flick directed by the Farrelly brothers. Jimmy Fallon (not horrible, for once!) plays a a hopless Red Sox fan who falls for Drew Barrymore. And it’s she who makes the project work.
    From Riding in Cars With Boys to 50 First Dates, Barrymore’s matured into a rom-com maestro, able to play adorable without being too cutesy. In Fever Pitch, her latest dream-girl character even likes sports. She levels out Fallon’s goofiness and even makes his intense love of her plausible (because whether or not it makes sense plot-wise, who wouldn’t go all stupid over Drew Barrymore).
    The problem with most romantic comedies, really, is that the leads are always so unlikeable. From damn stupid (A Lot Like Love) to gutter-level despicable (The Perfect Man), disturbingly neurotic (The Wedding Date) to flat-out ludicrous (Kate & Leopold), these would-be heartthrobs rarely justify an hour-and-forty-minute crush. In Fever Pitch, Fallon uses his annoying preteen style to his advantage as a kid-who-never-grew-up, but Barrymore really drives it home, smart enough to know when to turn on the charm, and when to turn it down. If only the rest of us could be so effortlessly and effectively manipulative. — Logan Hill

  ©2005 Nerve.com.