Sweet November (PG-13)
Just one question: Why do filmmakers continually want to remake this timeworn tale? The 2001 version of Sweet November reprises the quirky version set in Brooklyn, 1968, starring the wacked out combo of Sandy Dennis and Anthony Newley.
Here's the basic premise of both: 1) Straight-edged boy (in this case, workaholic ad exec Nelson Moss, played by Keanu Reeves) meets kooky girl (Sara Deever, free-spirited and determinedly non-working, played by the dewy-faced Charlize Theron). 2) She proposes that he be exclusively hers for one month, November, during which time she will rid him of his hangups. 3) They fall in love, he decides to stay with her, but his plans for eternal bliss are thwarted by the ominous secret she harbors (Warning: If you are determined to be surprised by the hankie-wringing ending, read no further. Surely, though, you must have noticed in the trailers the gradual appearance of dusky circles around Theron's big blue eyes, set against that perfect, pallid complexion? Think Love Story.)
There are more than a few problems with the newest version of Sweet November: Reeves' character is such a full-blown jerk in the beginning that we can barely swallow the engaging Theron's attraction for him. And her San Francisco apartment, a walk-up in a corner Victorian set in a perfectly ethnically diverse working class neighborhood, rivals the Friends set for charm, representing her departure from standard capitalist trappings, but must cost a small fortune in rent. Oh, and did I mention neither she nor he has a job? Theron demonstrates how full of life she is by turning cartwheels on the beach, running with abandon, allowing herself to be attacked by three overgrown standard poodles up until the minute she collapses with her mystery disease. And how do we know she's sick? She starts sweating, then lunges into a locked cabinet filled with, I kid you not, hundreds of amber-colored plastic prescription bottles.
Yes, these are quibbles, irritants. Theron and Reeves are so pretty onscreen one can almost forgive and forget. But then there's that oh-so-irritating premise that devours all the pleasant moments in any film of this genre: She dumps him, pushes him away, as soon as he discovers she's ill. I want you to remember me the way I was, not like this ... (snot dripping from her delicate nostrils). It's not fair; I don't want to be a burden to you ... In essence, what these stories tell us about love is that it's lots of romps in well-appointed beds between beautiful people who can't be bothered with the attending realities of the world nor of themselves.
"You live in a box," Sara tells Nelson. "I could lift the lid." But all I want you to see is fun, ice cream sundaes, lazy walks in the park, parties with friends, long bubble baths, perfect views of the Golden Gate bridge. Oh, and if you try to show me your serious, responsible side, I will pout and withhold sex until you turn back into Mr. Fun Bunny.
The 14-year-old girls sitting behind me sniffled through the last 30 minutes of Sweet November, just as I gulped and snubbed through its predecessors. Hollywood continues to successfully exploit these sentiments and this demographic, and no new ground is laid. Sweet November is too pretty to be true, too vapid to be bittersweet, too perfect to be real. And that, ladies and germs, is entertainment.