Thursday, April 17, 2008


That Sunday Night Feeling

A director's got to love a project...I mean, really love it... before they devote two to three years of their life, and millions of dollars to it. Maybe the incentive is financial, maybe it's prestige, or getting something someone else wants. But you have to wonder what George Clooney saw in "Leatherheads," his "football at the dawn of the pro's" movie. It can't have been financial, although there would probably be a number of ticket-buyers who would go see him or Renee Zellweger in anything. I'm sure there wasn't a bidding war on it, and the studios tend to thumb their nose at "period pictures" (although that's all Clooney's directed so far) because they cost more than a modern-day movie. But Clooney can make any movie he wants as long as he's in front of the camera.

Why this?

Maybe it's a love of football, or the time-frame when liquor sales were banned and speakeasy's were the black-market--when the country was suffering and needed heroes, and when nobody looked twice if you broke the rules...because there weren't any. College football was the game, and pro-football was only for those lugs who never grew up. We believed in heroes hook, line and sinker, and didn't question anything. Life was tough enough. Was that it? Or does Clooney just get his jollies pulling off a movie-trick like making you believe you're really watching a movie set in the '30's, down to the cars, the wardrobe, and the fast way with lines that makes you realize you missed a joke two lines back on the way to the capper. Is it a tribute to Hawks? What is this amiable mutt of a movie?

It works, of course, because Clooney is a good director who's willing to stretch and teach at the same time. He's an artistic director who pulls things off like comic timing and the way a joke is told just by the way it's framed and by the stillness of the thing. He's a director of grace notes that linger because it would just be too sad to waste that held moment that might define a character or make a third-string player a second-string player, and he loves his cast--he knows that the best part of John Krasinski is he's got the wide open face of Gary Cooper hiding something, and he knows that Renee Zellweger should only be doing comedy, pinch-faced or not, because she looks like a kewpie-doll but she's got an iron spine and a zinger of a talent for timing--she's our Jean Arthur.

Or maybe because it's just another in a string of movies about people who do what they have to because it's their nature, and even if they take a flyer, it's worth it because they wouldn't have it any other way, no matter the cost. Because to not do it, would mean compromising their soul. Whether its Danny Ocean, or Edward R. Murrow, or Chuck Barris, or Michael Clayton, or Bob Barnes or Dodge Connelly. Or George Clooney. You do it because its yours to do. And you don't want to wake up on Monday morning knowing you missed your chance.

It's when you know you've grown up.

"Leatherheads" is a Matinee.

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