Much as I disliked Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie, its psychodrama did keep me watching. By contrast, TORN CURTAIN (1966) was close to a “talking lamp” (something to illuminate the room without paying it much attention); I had no qualms about leaving the film running while I went into the kitchen for a snack or a cup of tea.
Paul Newman plays a nuclear-weapons physicist who horrifies his fiancee (Julie Andrews) when he apparently defects to East Germany. She tags along over his protests, unaware he has a hidden agenda: if Newman can trick a German scientist into divulging some key technical intel, he’ll be able to perfect an anti-missile missile that will make nuclear attack obsolete (this dream was around long before Reagan’s Star Wars project).
This is not a good film at all. At a little over two hours it feels bloated; the plot is implausible (which admittedly wouldn’t bother me if I liked the film); and Newman’s performance feels very off for the role. North by Northwest it ain’t. “The committee would like you to describe the U.S. experiments with the missile known as Gamma Five.”
I caught half of LOVE PUNCH (2013) on my vacation but didn’t bring it up in the assumption I’d eventually stream the rest. Turns out I can’t summon up any enthusiasm, for the story of divorced couple Emma Thompson and Pierce Brosnan discovering the company Brosnan works for has been taken over and stripped for parts, making their retirement funds — all invested in company stock — worthless. Can they bring down the punk kid financier who’s responsible? Not horrible, but I have no urge to finish it. “I’d never ask you to do anything illegal, but is there any chance you could … stumble on it?”
GOOD LUCK TO YOU, LEO GRANDE (2022) is much better, with an amazing performance by Thompson as a middle-aged schoolteacher who hires sex worker Leo (Darryl McCormack) and winds up talking about sex more than they spend doing it (“After my husband died, I swore I’d never fake another orgasm.”). This comes perilously close to the “hooker with a heart of gold” stereotype, but the script is good otherwise and the leads are excellent. Two Night Stand would be a good double bill for another couple who wind up putting verbal intercourse over physical. “Let’s start with the blow job and get the big one over with.”
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