' ' Cinema Romantico: The Tourist

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Tourist

If Angelina Jolie pulls a speedboat up alongside you in a Venice canal and asks "Do you need a lift?" you say YES!!!!! This is the lesson imparted by director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's wannabe Cary/Audrey globe-trotting adventure. Well, it seems to be the lesson until the obligatory twist. "The Tourist" has a killer first ten minutes before slowly easing off the gas pedal to a lackluster speed with routine action and then suffers from a serious misunderstanding of momentum just prior to collapsing inwardly on itself with an awful sleight of hand conclusion.

The first ten minutes first. It is constructed out of two elements: Angelina Jolie walking and Angelina Jolie smiling. Jolie as uber-alluring Elise Ward leaves her hotel. A few guys are watching her from a van. She knows they are watching and we know that she knows because of The Angelina Jolie Smile. She walks, elegantly, to breakfast. Now more people are watching. She smiles some more. She receives a note and we assume it must be important because apparently everyone watching her wants to get their hands on this note to see what it says. So naturally she burns the note. She walks, elegantly, to the train station and at the train station she throws her best smile yet at three guys across the street watching her to let them know she knows they're watching her and it's so gracefully cocksure it is literally the highlight of the entire film and it proves these kinds of movies are best when the something they are supposedly about is, in reality, nothing. Could you make an entire movie about Angelina Jolie walking and smiling? It's worth a shot.

Walk, Angelina, walk.  Smile, Angelina, smile.
Back to that note. It was from this guy named Alexander Pierce who has apparently stolen money from some gangster (Steven Berkoff, blah) which is apparently why this detective from Scotland Yard (Paul Bettany, strait-jacketed) is after him and it tells Elise to find someone on a train to Venice that looks like him and then act like it's him to throw the gangster and the cops off the trail. She picks Frank Tupelo (Johnny Depp), an American math teacher from Madison, Wisconsin who smokes electronic cigarettes (really). They wine, they dine, they get a hotel room in Venice, they fall in love, so on, so forth.

After that first ten minutes the film is low key. Too low key, really. A motor boat chase through a canal, for example, is about as mundane a motor boat chase as you are likely to see. The dialogue never snaps, crackles or pops. And to this point in her career, Angelina Jolie on the silver screen is simply more adept at ass-kicking than whimsy.

Depp's performance, meanwhile, is strange. If Angelina is Audrey then isn't Johnny supposed to be Cary? But Frank Tupelo is more Archibald Leach. After all, he's a math teacher from Madison, Wisconsin. (Depp? As a Wisconsinite? Well, he does appear to be going for the Eddie Vedder look here and Eddie Vedder was born in Evanston, Illinois and Evanston, Illinois is a three hour drive from Madison, Wisconsin and this doesn't prove anything, per se, but they are facts.) He is a Midwesterner, polite to a fault, a major fault, literally asking Elise if he can pay her a compliment, and when she kisses him and then tells him she hopes he enjoys the couch as she enters the bedroom and closes the door as a means to test him to see if he will enter the bedroom of his own volition he, of course, does not enter the bedroom and sleeps on the couch.

So there must be a scene later where Frank summons the strength to enter that bedroom of his own volition. This must be a movie about how Archibald Leach breaks free from his cocoon to become Cary Grant. This must be a movie about a polite midwesterner transforming into a dapper dabbler in international espionage. "The Tourist" must turn into The Local. But the end....

As a movie fan most of this movie left me indifferent. But as a proud midwesterner the end of this movie left me insulted.


Castor said...

And guess what, The Tourist was nominated for Best Picture - Comedy or Musical at the Golden Globes. Even funnier, Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie got nods for their comedic performances (or is it musical) in the movie. over among others our girl Rachel McAdams!!!

Nick Prigge said...

Wow. Just wow. It seems like the "Comedy or Musical" category at the Golden Globes is just a tricky excuse to invite more glamorous stars.

Andrew K. said...

Ah, but Angelina does walk beautifully.

What can I say, I'm a fan (of her not the movie, which I'm not anxious for). I wish she'd make a better movie in this vain, something from the 40s maybe - a glamorous actress. It's weird she's never done something along those lines.