99 – America’s Sweethearts

Melanie and Don. Julia and Brad or Benjamin or Lyle. Tom and Nicole. Hollywood’s seen a lot of couples come and go, and Gwen (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Eddie (John Cusack) are no different than the rest – they, too, have broken up. Seems there’s trouble in super-moviestar-couple heaven. Gwen takes up with a Spaniard with a speech impediment (a hilarious Hank Azaria), and Eddie nearly kills them both by crashing his car into the quaint restaurant where they’re sharing a meal. He goes crazy, gets committed, and that’s that.

Except it’s not the end. Seems they have one film left to promote. They’ve been a long-running couple, but Gwen wants no part of Eddie. Eddie’s peeved at Gwen, too. And their agent Lee (a much-harried Billy Crystal) needs to get them together One Last Time to handle this press junket for the movie. Which, by the way, no one’s seen – the director, Hal Weidmann (Christopher Walken!), is reclusively editing the thing, not letting anyone near it. Weidmann has sent a few minutes of the movie to the studio – the credits. So you can see why everyone might be panicking. The press hasn’t seen the movie. They’ll need a diversion – Gwen and Eddie.

At Gwen’s side, as always, is her ugly-duckling sister Kiki (Julia Roberts). Kiki’s much put-upon, waiting on the prima donna Gwen hand and foot. It’s a huge role reversal for Roberts, who usually seems to get the glamorous look-at-me roles, and she comes through in absolute spades. She’s wonderful, funny, charming, self-effacing, and looks good when dressing down. In short, she’s a delight in this film.

The movie is witty and whimsical, and a lot of the credit goes to the performances by each actor. It’s nuanced, but not so layered that you forget it’s a fun-loving comedy. And each of the four leads (Roberts, Zeta-Jones, Crystal, Cusack) can carry a film on his or her own; it’s wonderful to see them acting as an ensemble. Hey, anyone can make an appearance in movie in which a lot of big-namers appear, but it’s not so easy for big stars to interact with each other from scene to scene. They mesh beautifully, and it’s a bonus that Zeta-Jones and Roberts look a little alike. It also helps that Gwen’s portayed as a spiteful, self-centered bully – gives the audience someone to root against!

Sure, the movie can be predictable, but why carp? The chemistry between Cusack and Zeta-Jones, Cusack and Roberts, Cusack and Crystal (hm, see a pattern?), and Crystal and everyone is perfect. This is one script I’d never need to rewrite.

America’s Sweethearts: 7

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