Leatherheads

Mister Tee
Laureate
Posts: 6118
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 2:57 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Postby Mister Tee » Mon Mar 31, 2008 11:50 am

Another, similar take from Screen Daily.

Leatherheads
Brent Simon in Los Angeles
31 Mar 2008 12:14

Part screwball romance, part sports comedy, George Clooney's third film behind the camera, the period piece Leatherheads, goes back to the early days of American professional football. Loose-limbed, loquacious and exceedingly affable, the movie finally comes unglued in the final third, when forced to awkwardly resolve its tangled setups.

Clooney's considerable profile should give Leatherheads a solid opening weekend and domestic run. But despite his amiable public persona, the actor/director has a relatively spotty domestic commercial record with comedy (2003's Intolerable Cruelty pulled in $35m at home, $85m internationally). The Coen Brothers-directed comedy O Brother Where Art Thou, starring Clooney and set in the same timeframe, seems a good point of departure with its $71.8m gross worldwide ($26m of that from international receipts).

Leatherheads, like past Clooney projects, is partially another valentine to filmmaking of old, which throws further doubt over its commercial prospects. Though Good Night, And Good Luck grossed $50 million-plus worldwide, and was nominated for six Academy Awards, Clooney's most recent attempt at stylized Hollywood recreation (as an actor), 2006's The Good German, was a total washout with critics and audiences alike. International audiences also tend to be resistant to the charms of American football films and there Leatherheads seems destined to be a solid catalogue earner, for fans of the sport (the movie's DVD release will no doubt slot nicely with the autumnal debut of football) and the actor-director alike.

When his Duluth Bulldogs finish their latest tour broke and out of opponents to play, wily, charming owner-player Dodge Connolly (Clooney) tries to figure out a scheme to keep them going – and avoid having to find a real job. Dodge wants to woo wealthy investor C.C. Frazier (Jonathan Pryce) into the fold, and tries to recruit his latest business client Carter Rutherford (Krasinski), a Princeton student, football star and war hero who, legend has it, single-handedly forced an entire German squadron to surrender during service in World War I.

What Dodge doesn't originally know, but quickly finds out, is that hotshot reporter Lexie Littleton (Renée Zellweger), ostensibly there for a fluff profile piece, has in fact been sent by her editor to craft an expose of Carter, whose war story they don't believe. As Lexie gets close to Carter, so does Dodge to Lexie. Powered by Carter's stardom, the team is revitalised, but for how long?

Leatherheads ' screenplay, an old piece penned in the early 1990s by sports magazine writers Rick Reilly and Duncan Brantley, and presumably tinkered with by Clooney and a number of uncredited script doctors, wallows, to largely winning effect early on, in detail and dialogue. Clooney is amiably mocked as a "middle-aged boy wonder," and the actor-director and Zellweger share a number of enjoyable, rapid-fire exchanges, their just-concealed attraction masked by surface irritation.

But Leatherheads' third act is about as muddy as the action on the field. There are no sharp angles here, no clear delineation of motives, particularly concerning Dodge's feelings about Carter, whom he knows Lexie is angling to take down – but whom he needs for his own financial survival. That might be fine if Leatherheads made a few different narrative choices, and wholeheartedly embraced its existence as a ramshackle character piece. The problem is that the film also tries to capture the transitional phase of a sport moving from an independent and inherently irresponsible endeavour to a corporate-backed game with rules and regulations.

And for a movie so invested in whimsy and tone, to finally end with a conventional "big game" feels disingenuous at best, and even more tacked on given the lack of concrete stakes tied to the outcome.

If the story winds down in disappointing fashion, the role of Dodge is never less than a perfect fit for Clooney, who pulls out his Cheshire cat grin to twinkly, mischievous effect. Yet Clooney the director also does quite right by his other actors, drastically reducing, if not entirely eliminating, Zellweger's tendency to squint, and guiding Krasinski (the small screen American version of The Office) through his best big screen role and performance to date.

Technically, Leatherheads is Clooney's most ambitious film thus far behind the camera, and he and his collaborators ably deliver on all counts. There's a warmth to the cinematography of Newton Thomas Sigel (Three Kings, X-Men) and a smart, simple, inviting sense of detail to Jim Bissell's production design. Randy Newman's horn-waggling, tin-pan alley score, meanwhile, serves as optimistic, ironic counterpoint to the hard-knock economic realities so many of the Duluth footballers face.

Mister Tee
Laureate
Posts: 6118
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 2:57 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Postby Mister Tee » Mon Mar 31, 2008 11:01 am

flipp525 wrote:
Mister Tee wrote:I'm starting to seriously doubt I'll be seeing any movie in a theatre prior to September.

No Indy?!

I have about as much interest in a new Indiana Jones or Batman movie as I do in another shoulder operation. My appetite is for vaguely serious movies, or, failing that, at least something fresh and entertaining. Retreads of pop hits from the 80s fall way down on my list.

Apart from that, though, I did concur with most of your list in the Most Looked-Forward-To thread. The pity is how few such films there are this year. I'm relying on surprises -- not the strongest position in which to be.

User avatar
flipp525
Laureate
Posts: 5665
Joined: Thu Jan 09, 2003 7:44 am

Postby flipp525 » Mon Mar 31, 2008 10:52 am

Mister Tee wrote:I'm starting to seriously doubt I'll be seeing any movie in a theatre prior to September.

No Indy?!
"The mantle of spinsterhood was definitely in her shoulders. She was twenty five and looked it."

-Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Mister Tee
Laureate
Posts: 6118
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 2:57 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Postby Mister Tee » Mon Mar 31, 2008 10:32 am

One of the few early-year movies for which I had hope, and it seems to be disappointing. I'm starting to seriously doubt I'll be seeing any movie in a theatre prior to September.


Leatherheads
By TODD MCCARTHY

In his third spin behind the camera, George Clooney attempts one of the hardest things there is to do -- re-create the fizz of old Hollywood screwball comedies -- and creates just a mild buzz. “Leatherheads,” a larky romp about the early days of professional football, aims only to please and proves perfectly amiable, but ultimate effect is one of much energy expended to minimal payoff. Arch and funny in equal measure, this looks like a theatrical non-starter that Clooney fans and football devotees might be tempted to check out down the line on DVD or on the tube.
It’s always been hard to interest modern moviegoers in the early days of even the most popular sports -- “A League of Their Own” seems the well-liked anomaly in the field -- and Clooney goes about it here by giving a ‘20s story a ‘30s feel a la the madcap romantic comedies made by Howard Hawks, George Cukor, Frank Capra and others during the genre’s heyday.

Establishing its throwback status by using a vintage Universal logo (just as “The Sting” did) and its jaunty attitude via period tunes, the film focuses on a moment, in 1925, when college football reigned and the so-called professional version was so derelict and disreputable it was threatened with extinction. Teams were made up of miners, farmers, high schoolers and men old enough to be the latter’s fathers, brawlers who drank on the field and knew nothing of rules. Sometimes it seemed there were as many people on the field as there were in the stands.

When the Duluth Bulldogs -- not the worst team around at the time -- are faced with bankruptcy, their leading player, Dodge Connolly (Clooney) hatches a scheme to recruit the nation’s most famous college player, Princeton’s Carter “The Bullet” Rutherford (John Krasinski, of TV’s “The Office”) to play for them. For $5,000 per game, Carter’s well-heeled agent (Jonathan Pryce) agrees, further placated by Dodge’s platitudes about wanting to legitimize the game.

Carter is a big deal not only for his speed and brawn, but for his touted wartime heroics; like Sergeant York, he is celebrated for having single-handedly induced many Germans to surrender. But one newspaper editor (Jack Thompson) thinks Carter is a fake and assigns sassy reporter Lexie Littleton (Renee Zellweger) to “break the myth.”

Clooney, the other actors and the scripters, former Sports Illustrated reporters Duncan Brantley and Rick Reilly, clearly know the name of the game they’re playing; one feels their genuine desire for the film to look, sound and feel right, to recapture the spirit of the great old movies, and to convey a certain moment when the sport changed from a freewheeling, down-and-dirty game men played because they loved it, to something that suddenly involved enough money for rules, ethics and codes of conduct to be imposed.

Many of the genre requisites are accounted for -- a colorful cast of characters, rambunctious behavior, glamorous clothes and settings, and quick-witted repartee among good-looking people. Dodge and Lexie have initially opposing interests -- he needs Carter’s heroic image maintained for mercenary reasons, while she means to destroy it -- and the verbal duels in their one-on-one scenes are actually pretty good. Maybe a bit too good, however, as their exchanges sound so finely polished that they stand distinct from the talk in the rest of the film.

The romantic triangle also proceeds in fits and starts. Lexie and the tall, manly Carter seem to quickly take to one another, but as considerable time passes their relationship doesn’t really develop, while Dodge is obliged to watch from the sidelines even as he sneaks into Lexie’s sleeping car berth one night. There’s considerable joking about Lexie being too old for Carter and Dodge being too old for Lexie, although it wouldn’t seem that Clooney needs to hang up his romantic leading man spurs just yet.

Other incongruities emerge: World War I ended in 1918, so why is Carter only a junior at Princeton in 1925? And how is it that, shortly after it looked as though pro football was about to go belly-up, the game is being played at large stadiums in front of packed houses with the games broadcast on radio?

Resolution of the Carter scandal and the climactic gridiron contest, which resembles mud wrestling, are smoothly handled, although, once again, they feel like obligatory motions nicely executed rather than anything urgent or surpassingly entertaining.

Physically, “Leatherheads” is entirely inviting. Newton Thomas Sigel bathes the South Carolina locations in an attractively autumnal amber. Working in immaculate concert are Jim Bissell’s vivid production design and Louise Frogley’s lively costumes; the opening scene, at a Princeton-Penn game where everyone in the crowd is beautifully dressed in long coats and hats, makes a striking impression. Randy Newman’s score has genuine flavor and avoids cliches (tunesmith appears briefly as a speakeasy piano player).

Led by their able player-coach Clooney, the pleasure-inducing cast performs with uniform spirit and energy. Peter Gerety all but takes over the latter stretch of the picture as the newly installed football commissioner; his looks and glances of complicity, warning and power-yielding are indelible.


Return to “2008”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest