Sunday, September 16, 2007

A report on my semiannual trip to the cinema

I don't go to the movies all that often, and that's partly because going to the movies, especially in Manhattan, is expensive and a big old hassle. Especially when the movie in question is playing in only one theatre, and you have to set aside 45 minutes to get there, and who knows how long it will take you to get home when it's over (as the subway isn't terribly reliable on weekend nights). And you have a perfectly good TV set and a comfortable couch at home.

Considering all this, I have to be really excited about a movie to see it while it's still in theatres, much less the weekend it opens. And I was that excited about Ira & Abby. The fiance and I could have stayed home last night, watching Law & Order reruns or HBO On Demand, as is our wont. But I was pretty sure this movie would be worth the trouble. And I was right. If that's not enough of an endorsement for you, I'll get more specific. You should see Ira & Abby if:
    ...You saw and enjoyed Kissing Jessica Stein. Jennifer Westfeldt cowrote that movie, and starred in it; she wrote and stars in this one too. If you haven't seen Kissing Jessica Stein, you should probably do something about that. (You can borrow my copy.)

    ...You are a theatre geek. If your favorite part of watching Law & Order is spotting New York stage actors in small roles, this is the movie for you. (How many cast members from the recent Broadway revival of Wonderful Town can you spot?)

    ...You're a New Yorker who gets a kick out of seeing real NYC locations on the big screen. It turns out much of this movie was filmed very near my apartment, so I had almost as much fun spotting familiar sights as I had recognizing actors. I walk by that Paris Health Club every day! That's my Hot & Crusty! Etc. Now I don't have to sit through You've Got Mail to see my neighborhood double as a rom-com movie set.

    ...You have trouble sitting through You've Got Mail and its ilk. Do most romantic comedies leave you with the the distinct impression that the filmmakers think you're stupid? Does that make you cranky? Yeah, I hear you. But this one won't. This one thinks you're smart.

    ...You'd prefer that a movie show you too little, rather than too much. Ira & Abby is packed with interesting characters, but it doesn't slow down often; as a result, there were a lot of elements I'd have been happy to see more of, and almost nothing I wanted to see less of. The fiance and I had plenty to talk about on the (long) subway ride home.

    ...You think you should enjoy the films of Woody Allen, don't. This movie is inspiring Annie Hall comparisons left and right, and I can see why, but for me there is one major difference: Ira & Abby has likable, not to mention good-looking, stars/principal characters, where Annie Hall has...Woody Allen. (Of course, if you really love Annie Hall, you'll probably like Ira, too. I'm just saying, if you're like me in that comparisons to Woody Allen make you nervous, you can relax.)

    ...You like movies that are very carefully cast, and/or you like good acting. There's an awful lot of good acting in this movie. Judith Light, Frances Conroy, Maddie Corman: all terrific. Jason Alexander's really good, too.

    ...You hate to admit it, because he's a genius and everything, but you're just a tiny bit sick of Fred Willard's "well-meaning but overbearing buffoon" shtick. Did you know he could tone it down? Did you know he can play a character who's more sweetly sad than irritating? It's a nice surprise.

    ...You have warm fuzzy feelings about the movies The Music Man and Harvey, both of which make appearances here. I've seen both many times, and so having them pop up here was like running into old friends. Plus, any character who turns his life around after watching 15 seconds of Harvey -- bet you can guess which 15 seconds -- is a character I want to spend more time with. (And, incidentally, a character unlikely to surface in anything written by Woody Allen.)

    ...You are a big fan of my very talented sister Amy. (And who isn't?) Amy fans, keep your eyes peeled toward the end!
So okay, maybe I'm not the most objective of critics in this case. But you know I wouldn't recommend it if I didn't really love it. So, New Yorkers, get on down to the Landmark Sunshine Cinemas, and bring a date. And everybody else -- you'll get your chance!

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