America’s Sweethearts

Movie Review by Nigel A. Messenger

Starring: Julia Roberts, Billy Crystal, Catherine Zeta-Jones, John Cusack
Director: Joe Roth

Never has a romantic comedy had such a quality ensemble cast. In AMERICA’S SWEETHEARTS John Cusack, Julia Roberts, Billy Crystal, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Christopher Walken all line up to take a self-deprecatory swipe at the glorified glamfest that is the American movie industry. With studio executives, actors, journalists and publicists all in the satirical firing line, do the laughs make it all worthwhile?

The movie’s sweethearts are the celebrated Hollywood couple Gwen Harrison (Zeta-Jones) and Eddie Thomas (Cusack) whose string of blockbusters made together have grossed over half a billion dollars. Unfortunately, after dumping him for a Spanish dancer (Hank Azaria) Gwen’s subsequent solo movies flop whilst Eddie languishes in a rehab clinic. When the eccentric director of their final film together (Walken) for some reason insists that it be withheld from the studio and given its first screening at the press junket, veteran publicist Lee (Crystal) is drafted in to do some serious promoting. He somehow has to create such a storm of publicity that all the thick journalists will forget that nobody has even seen the film – he somehow has to get Gwen and Eddie back together. The only person that can help him mastermind this operation is Gwen’s long-suffering sister and personal assistant Kiki (Roberts), but little does he know that Kiki herself secretly fancies her sister’s estranged husband. All this should undoubtedly lead to a load of laughs and a hilarious finale at the junket when the doctored film is finally shown, but does it?

Well, it sort of does, but the laughs are hollow and the finale unsatisfying. The problem is that none of the movie’s characters elicit our sympathy in any way. With a cast this good the acting is always going to be top-notch but who are the characters? Gwen is an annoying pampered narcissist; Kiki follows her around like a sad slave catering to her every need; Eddie is an insensitive idiot who deserves his bitch of a wife, whilst Lee is content to hover innocently around everyone chipping in with the odd joke: some funny, some crap. Now I know that satires focus on exaggerations but Gwen’s Spanish lover has the most ridiculously broad accent I’ve ever heard, for example: “Bool cheet! (Bullshit!) We arr going too dee praise hunkeet! (press junket).” What a shame that Christopher Walken is only given about ten minutes of screen-time.

Saying all that though, it is actually quite entertaining to watch all the silliness unfold, especially the amusing surprise press screening, but for me the ‘happy’ ending was hardly a happy one. Eddie and Kiki realise that they love each other, the shallow Gwen doesn’t mind what happens so long as her film is well publicised, whilst the film receives the kind of sensational publicity that promoters can only dream about – wahey. Everyone’s happy. Lets all go home.

4 out of 6 stars

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