Eventually I was able to drag myself out of bed and get to class, where I found my extended sleeping period had the effect of making me quite absorbent in terms of information.
I am hoping to get to see Intolerable Cruelty tomorrow. While many have seen the trailer as looking like a simple romantic comedy, I have faith in the Coen brothers. I have seen all of their films and only been lukewarm to one of them (their first, Blood Simple). Even the lesser popular ones, such as The Hudsucker Proxy, have consistantly given me pleasure.
I am currently reading a collection of essays on the Coen brothers films, and am finding them very engaging, although the one for The Big Lebowski, while technically correct, misses much of the point of the film (it dwells more on the displaced-in-time characters than with the ethos that The Dude represents).
I also read an overview of the films of David Fincher, which forced me to re-evaluate Alien3 in light of the troubled production history of the film (I had always considered it a beautiful failure, but I had no idea how many more problems had haunted that film that I was unaware of), and also prompted me to rent Panic Room before I got to that chapter in the book.
I have to say that I was quite disappointed in Panic Room, probably for the very reasons why Fincher chose to do the project. On the other hand, the switching of female leads at the beginning of shooting impacted the final product in a way that even Fincher seems unaware of.
The role Jodie Foster ended up playing was originally cast with Nicole Kidman; the character was written as a trophy wife that had been cast aside. Foster is not trophy wife material. In fact, Foster's screen persona has often been tied to the empowerment of women in cinema, so the role had to be rewritten, but she still plays a character that is not in control of her destiny. To suddenly have her on the screen as a shrinking violet does not work at all.
There is nothing wrong with her performance (Foster is highly skilled and can play the role in the film without any problems), but the fact of the matter is that Foster has been very vocal off-screen personality, and much of her time has been spent on dealing with how female characters need to be stronger in their own ways. Foster is able to convey self-reliance and vulnerability simultaneously, but self-reliance has become a defining characteristic of the myriad of roles that she has selected over the course of her career.
If Panic Room has a fatal flaw, it is that Foster has to abandon that self-reliance and become a damsel-in-distress that gradually has to get stronger over the course of the film. She does, and her playing of the role is flawless, but one can never get past the fact that Foster is not playing a role Foster plays.
The casting of Kristin Stewart as her daughter, which was to serve as a contrast to Kidman's character, ends up working for the film. The similarities between Stewart and Foster work in establishing that they are mother and daughter, and the fact that there is not an antagonistic relationship between them, which was implied in the original treatment, gives the film another dimension which would not have been present with Kidman in the lead.
Foster's character tries to comfort her daughter, but the way in which she does betrays her own terror, while her daughter has to be stronger. An excellent dynamic, which both actresses pull off beautifully (again, Foster's acting is flawless, even if it doesn't jibe with her established image), which also forces Foster's character to act more like Stewart's when Stewart herself weakens (the character is diabetic and needs her insulin shot).
Unfortunately, while the film has many white-knuckle moments, and fantastic flourishes (the villains breaking into the house are all shown in one, unbroken take, with the camera gliding through the house), it is ultimately a diversion and nothing more. This is partially by design (Fincher wanted to see if he could direct a movie-movie), but the fact that it comes at the tail end of one of the most astounding directorial runs in history, Se7en, The Game and Fight Club, all of which are brilliant, harms the film, which is popcorn fare.
Well, time to get back to class. I think I'm late back from break... again...