Monday, February 09, 2004

Did any of you see the film Duplex, starring Ben Stiller and Drew Barrymore? If so, my heart goes out to you, but please tell me how it ends, because I have no idea.

A couple of weeks ago my friend Yael and I decided to go see Mona Lisa Smile. Since I went to a women’s college and have some interest in feminism, I figured it would be interesting. Unfortunately, Yael and I did not count on how many other Israelis would want to see it, too, and we failed to buy tickets online. That was our first mistake.

We get to the theater, and at about 7:20 they open the booth to sell tickets for the 7:30 movie (I know that sounds dumb, but in Israel one’s movie tickets come with assigned seats, so once you buy it you don’t have to scramble for a good place to sit. You can kind of mosey to the concession stand, get your KOSHER popcorn, and then find your seat, with time left over to watch the commercials for Egged buses that they play before the previews). Anyhow, Mona Lisa Smile sold out by 7:25. Luckily, I’d looked up the other 7:30 films beforehand to see what our options were, so we knew that the second choice was Duplex and got tickets to that, instead. That was our second mistake.

Allow me to backtrack here to explain that I am a big fan of movies that are “stupid funny.” For example,Superstar, the movie featuring SNL character Mary Catherine Gallagher, is one of my favorite movies of all time. So when I saw the synopsis of Duplex, I figured “Ok, so it’s not high art, but it will be good for some laughs, or at least smirks, and it’s better than sitting at home playing solitaire.” If I’d only known.

Duplex is about a young couple from Manhattan who buys a beautiful brownstone duplex apartment in Brooklyn. The problem is their tenent, an old lady on the second floor who seems very sweet but in fact makes their lives miserable.

The movie lived down to my expectation of “stupid funny,” and at first I did quite a bit of smirking and even some laughing out loud. But sometime after the first 40 minutes or so, the film devolved into a gross-out fest, complete with Drew Barrymore vomiting onto Ben Stiller’s face. It was so disgusting I literally gagged. Yael said later that she was angry at the film because “it was insulting.” Indeed.

So, during intermission, we left. I was worried that if we stayed, I’d throw up. That’s how bad it was. (Yes, in Israel they have an intermission after the first hour or so of a movie.) This was only the second time in my life that I walked out of a film (the first was Flatliners, which might be an OK film but I found it too disturbing).

What a horrible waste of 33 shekels. If hell has a movie theater, they are showing Duplex.

Luckily, the movie I saw last week with another friend, Chava, made up for the nauseous movie of the week before. We saw Girl With a Pearl Earring, and it was phenomenal.

Now, this is the farthest from a “stupid funny” film that one can get. It is neither stupid, nor funny. It takes itself extremely seriously, and it works. The movie, based on a recent bestselling novel of the same name, tells a fictionalized account of the story behind one of Vermeer’s most famous paintings. In real life, no one knows for sure who the girl is in “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” but the story in the film is done so well, you come away hoping that reality was something like this. It is neither happy nor depressing, just really engrossing. I really liked that most of the story is told not in dialogue but in glances. It’s a very quiet film. I also like the fact that they play around with the lighting, so the whole film has the look of a Vermeer painting. I like the music. I like the fact that it’s clean. And I like that the sexual tension between the main character, Griet, and Vermeer, is there but not overdone. It’s just a terrific movie-going experience which I highly recommend.

But, I don’t know how Duplex ends, so if anyone out there managed to sit through the whole thing, please click on “Comments” and tell me what happens. I'm mildly curious.

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