Memphis Belle runs just around an hour and fifty minutes. It takes the film about a half hour before it’s even clear the titular plane is going to have a mission in the narrative. It opens with a masterful introduction to the characters and the situation (a bomber has one more mission before the crew completes their tour of duty). There are a lot of problems with Monte Merrick’s script, but his framing is great. He has the PR officer (played by John Lithgow) introduce everyone; it works beautifully in the narrative.
Caton-Jones’s composition is fantastic from the first shot. Too bad Merrick’s writing falls apart. First, it’s little things, like D.B. Sweeney—the only character to openly scared—having some lame dialogue. It’s not too damaging… but then Eric Stoltz’s part gets bigger. And Stoltz is truly awful. With so many principals, Merrick’s already resorting to caricature. He proceeds to give Stoltz, who’s laughable, too much attention.
But Merrick and Caton-Jones also awkwardly make the captain useless. Matthew Modine has the less to do than any other actor, including David Strathairn as the base commander. At least Strathairn has some real dialogue. Modine just gets to look scared.
There are some great performances though. Billy Zane gives the film’s best performance, but Reed Diamond and Tate Donovan are excellent as well.
The special effects are good. George Fenton’s music is lame. The sound design is great.
While it’s not terrible, it’s too bad Memphis Belle isn’t good.
Directed by Michael Caton-Jones; written by Monte Merrick; director of photography, David Watkin; edited by Jim Clark; music by George Fenton; production designer, Stuart Craig; produced by David Puttnam and Catherine Wyler; released by Warner Bros.
Starring Matthew Modine (Capt. Dennis Dearborn), Eric Stoltz (Sgt. Danny Daly), Tate Donovan (1st Lt. Luke Sinclair), D.B. Sweeney (Lt. Phil Lowenthal), Billy Zane (Lt. Val Kozlowski), Sean Astin (Sgt. Richard Moore), Harry Connick Jr. (Sgt. Clay Busby), Reed Diamond (Sgt. Virgil Hoogesteger), Courtney Gains (Sgt. Eugene McVey), Neil Giuntoli (Sgt. Jack Bocci), David Strathairn (Col. Craig Harriman) and John Lithgow (Lt.Col. Bruce Derringer).
Posted in 1990, Action, Black and White, Color, Drama, English, Japan, UK, USA, War, Warner Bros.
Tagged Billy Zane, Catherine Wyler, Courtney Gains, D.B. Sweeney, David Puttnam, David Strathairn, David Watkin, Eric Stoltz, George Fenton, Harry Connick Jr., Jim Clark, John Lithgow, Matthew Modine, Michael Caton-Jones, Monte Merrick, Neil Giuntoli, Reed Diamond, Sean Astin, Stuart Craig, Tate Donovan
I wonder if there’s not a better version of Love Potion No. 9 out there somewhere. The film only runs ninety minutes and feels anorexic. Launer’s writing–even his narration for Tate Donovan–has these moments of incredible strength. It’s so strong, in fact, it and Donovan make Love Potion a fine diversion.
Well, those aspects and Mary Mara’s repugnant call girl who is hilarious in a wicked stepsister sort of way.
Launer’s script has its issues–characters appear and disappear on a whim, as the film decides to focus on Donovan almost exclusively about halfway through. Before, it’s fairly evenly distributed between he and Sandra Bullock. Bullock is the film’s biggest problem. She’s absolutely awful in the second half, when she’s talking anyway. She has this whole sequence where she’s pretending to be mute so no man falls in love with her (the titular love potion affects the vocal cords) and she’s rather charming. Of course, it’s the exact same performance she’s been giving in the twenty years since this film.
But once she does start talking, her character becomes third tier in the story and Launer can’t figure out how to write the scenes. In the first half, he’s got a solid concept. In the second, he’s got a good performance from Donovan and Mara.
It’s really shouldn’t be enough… but it succeeds.
The good memories (from the first half) of Dylan Baker and Rebecca Staab go a long way.
And having Anne Bancroft around never hurt anyone.
Written, produced and directed by Dale Launer; director of photography, William Wages; edited by Suzanne Pettit; music by Jed Leiber; production designer, Linda Pearl; released by 20th Century Fox.
Starring Tate Donovan (Paul Matthews), Sandra Bullock (Diane Farrow), Mary Mara (Marisa), Dale Midkiff (Gary Logan), Hillary B. Smith (Sally), Anne Bancroft (Madame Ruth), Dylan Baker (Prince Geoffrey), Blake Clark (Motorcycle Cop), Bruce McCarty (Jeff), Rebecca Staab (Cheryl) and Adrian Paul (Enrico Pazzoli).
Posted in 1992, 20th Century Fox, Color, Comedy, English, Romance, USA
Tagged Adrian Paul, Anne Bancroft, Blake Clark, Bruce McCarty, Dale Launer, Dale Midkiff, Dylan Baker, Hillary B. Smith, Jed Leiber, Linda Pearl, Mary Mara, Rebecca Staab, Sandra Bullock, Suzanne Pettit, Tate Donovan, William Wages