Sunday, August 12, 2012


Love, Longing and Family Drama Make 'Southern Gothic' a Summer Must-Read

Published: August 09, 2012 @ 10:51 am
By Carole Mallory
Paul Alexander, author of "Boulevard of Broken Dreams: The Life, Times and Legend of James Dean" (Viking) and "Salinger: A Biography," which is about to be made into a documentary by Shane Salerno, has written a memorable novel about a showbiz family.
"Southern Gothic" is a brilliant study of an alcoholic family in the throes of the disease. Alexander’s description of protagonist Carson Greer is on the money: "Carson wore a black sheath dress, black Ferragamo flats, a single strand of white cultured pearls.”
Carson’s mother, Evelyn Greer, is the Oscar-winning actress, Greer Garson. Their home is described so that you know them before meeting them. “Between the two sofas stood a black Steinway baby grand piano, centered in the room near the windows. With its lid closed, the piano was home to a glittering assortment of awards and career mementos. You couldn’t miss the Tonys -- three of them -- or the Academy Award.”
Thirty-something Carson Greer is in a failed marriage, and her mother Evelyn Greer is in one as well. Evelyn’s husband is having an affair, and she has put blinders on to ignore the inevitable: divorce. Meanwhile, Carson longs for a baby, but after her divorce and after many, many attempts at a fertility clinic, her dream of creating a family escapes her.
Carson has a brother, Rocky, who is a homosexual. He has had to face a tragedy in his life that has scarred him. Alcohol has also scarred him and Evelyn to the point that Evelyn ends up in rehab, which changes her life.
This hodgepodge of characters with roots in the south come together at Elaine’s in New York, Easthampton and various hotspots around New York City.
Finally at a fertility clinic Carson meets a man who has a high sperm count. Tyler Is a starving artist who supports himself by working at a bicycle shop. He is not after her money, despite the fact that she pays him for sex initially for his sperm without knowing what he looks like. Even though she met him through the sperm clinic, she deviates from the norm, a.k.a. the clinic’s rules, and seeks him out due to his valuable sperm. After so many failed attempts the clinic’s way, she wants to experiment with him by her own rules. And she becomes pregnant.   
Alexander writes, “On the phone, they had discussed ground rules. She would wear her white cotton nightgown, the closest thing she had to a hospital gown. There would be no kissing on the mouth. In fact, they would hold kissing to a minimum; it would be employed only if Tyler really needed it to achieve the desired end.”
"Southern Gothic" is about longing, the desire for family and values. It has an erotic heat because you long for Carson and Tyler to make love to each other not only for the sperm, but for each other.  Page after page go by while you are turning to see this love manifests. It is a Jekyll-and-Hyde kind of love affair.Is it based on caring? Or financial gain on the part of Tyler, who is promised $10,000 if he is able to impregnate Carson? Or is Carson only having sex with Tyler for his sperm?
And how will Rocky deal with his homosexuality after he has been held up in Atlantic City by a gay dude allegedly from Mykonos? Will Rocky find true love and acceptance from his tyrannical father, Cliff Mountain? Yes, Cliff Mountain’s son’s name is Rocky Mountain. Alexander’s names are filled with wit and vivid imagery. 
After a trip to a clinic, Evelyn Greer (Mountain) is able to achieve sobriety and to return to Broadway starring in a new play. Carson and Tyler conceive and plan marriage, and Rocky finds a boyfriend who treats him with respect.
The dysfunctional Southern family has joyfully reached happy endings in "Southern Gothic," a page-turner if I ever read one. You will cry and laugh and long for these characters to find what they are seeking. And if you choose to read it, you could be choosing to have a satisfying read on your hands.           


Carole Mallory


The Bourne Legacy Does It Again

Posted: 08/09/2012 3:06 pm

Jeremy Renner steps into Matt Damon's shoes and they fit. Renner's sensitive face and quiet undemanding and unassuming presence make for a modest Aaron Cross, who is the new Jason Bourne.
Cross has been on the run ever since he and a few other men were used as guinea pigs in an experiment by the same team who tortured Jason Bourne. Cross is known as Number Five. He needs green and blue pills to stay alive.
Tony Gilroy wrote The Bourne Legacy screenplay along with his brother, Dan, and with the help of Josh Zetumer and George Nolfi. Tony also directed and edited with kudos this fourth installment to Robert Ludlum's spectacular Bourne series.
Is there new information here? You bet. This film begins where the last Bourne film ends with Operation Blackbriar threatening exposure due to Jason Bourne. Operation Outcome is the offshoot program of both Treadstone and Blackbriar. They are tapping into science with the help of Dr. Marta Shearing, (Rachel Weisz) to create stronger and wiser agents than agents before them. Dr. Shearing is played skillfully by Weisz, who makes her part seem fresh when in fact her role is predictable. Edward Norton (Ret. Colonel Edward Byer) replaces Chris Cooper from the first Bourne and Brian Cox from the second, but with less menace. Not much for Norton to do except look anguished and stare at computers as Cross and Shearing run from Operation Outcome's directors - -David Strathairn, Scott Glenn and the latest addition, Stacy Keach, who shines as a sinister member of this diabolical organization. (Albert Finney is seen briefly.) 

The film begins in Alaska and takes you through Cross' run for his life through the Eastern seaboard. We first meet Dr. Shearing in the lab as she is taking samples of blood from victims of Operation Outcome. The details of Dr. Shearing's job in the lab are sketchy. She dodges the bullet of being a "bad girl" by claiming ignorance of the sinister operation perpetrated by the "bad guys" in secret. "I just do my job, take blood samples and forward them," she says feigning a believable -- due to her acting talents -- ignorance.
One member of her team has a breakdown obviously induced by the medication they are creating and goes on a shooting spree, which prompts Dr. Shearing to escape and seek seclusion in her dilapidated country home. While she was supposed to be murdered by the rabid crazy lab technician, she lives only to have members of Operation Outcome pay her a visit and try to off her, but she is saved by Cross who mysteriously appears to rescue her. And they begin to run for their lives.
And run they do, through the back streets of Manila in search of pills to find an antidote for the deadly virus implanted in Cross by Operation Outcome.
There is a chase between motorcycles that goes on a bit too long and is in parts difficult to follow, but will keep you on the edge of your seat.
What happens from here on in is best left for viewing by Bourne aficionados. The script is thin, but the acting, cinematography and direction make up for this loss. This is worth seeing even by the naysayers.
Keeping up the action for four films is no easy feat and The Bourne Legacy succeeds.

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Monday, August 6, 2012


Carole Mallory


Hope Springs Proves Aces for Tommy Lee Jones

Posted: 08/06/2012 12:35 pm

Hope Springs is Tommy Lee Jones' film. Not one ounce of shtick or mugging. He projects raw sincerity and genuine moments that cascade their pain from the screen onto the audience. Jones' portrays Arnold Soames who is tormented by an inability to show intimacy to his wife of 33 years, Meryl Streep. He comes off as a gruff, preoccupied husband filled with fear of financial insecurity masking real fears of impotency. Streep is not her finest as she occasionally mugs and poses. Since it is Meryl Streep you think, "Oh ,no, this can't be true!" but it is. She is not up to her game. Maybe she is just miscast or perhaps Jones' gut wrenching sincerity proved too raw for her and she was, at times, watching him instead of working off of him. Whatever -- this is a miss for Miss Meryl who plays Kay Soames.
The plot is about a middle-aged couple on the skids after 33 years of married life. Their relationship has come unglued due to a lack of intimacy. Their last sexual encounter was four years ago and they sleep in separate beds. Kay is tormented by her husband's coldness and withholding. Fortuitously she comes upon a pamphlet advertising a retreat, Hope Springs, in Maine that offers intense marriage counseling from a Dr. Bernie Field played with a perfect sensitivity by Steve Carrell whose ability to listen makes his performance riveting. Kay spends $4,000 of her savings to attend this intense marriage counseling unsure that her husband will be joining her. Abe is moved by her desire to try to save their marriage, but does not want to attend and is unable to show his true feelings. Kay's taxi to the airport is about to pull away to Hope Springs when Abe rushes out the door and into the taxi. Here writer Vanessa Taylor shines as she wisely does not have Kay beg Abe to come, but allows him to make his own decision. Brilliant writing. Kay's gentleness helps to assuage Abe's fears about the retreat. About everything.
David Fankel's direction is skillful and subtle and allows the right amount of time for the characters to make their own decisions.

Major quibble is the music which is used to cable the action and dialogue and is a big mistake. Too loud, too visible, too much an intrusive character. Everything the writer Taylor has accomplished by subtleness and not directing characters to tell each other what to do, the music counteracts and goes against. Please. It comes close to ruining sensitive moments.
The Soames future is in your hands. Go to Hope Springs and see what happens to this couple who is in love, but who does not know it or know how to show it. I think it is interesting to note that originally Jeff Bridges was cast in Jones' part, then James Gandolfini and Phillip Seymour Hoffman were attached and director Mike Nichols was replaced by David Frankel. Alas Tommy Lee Jones was cast and has trumped the other choices. He makes the viewer long to be married to him and to have the problems Kay has faced with him and well... Jones is 'the man.'