Attention foreigners! Hollywood needs your help! Apparently in addition to California’s already dismal problems of earthquakes, riots, and rolling black outs, the west coast is also suffering from immigrant drought. Despite reports of hordes of Mexicans leaping past border guards like rabid jackrabbits; and in the face of L.A.’s claims of cultural diversity, Hollywood films are no longer able to afford the rising prices of ethnically diverse actors. Unable even to afford a token black man, Columbia Picture’s new film America’s Sweethearts was forced to settle for Caucasians with outrageous faux accents and makeup enhanced high cheekbones to feed movie audiences the culture stereotypes they crave. But, in spite of its sadly tight ethnicity budget, America’s Sweethearts manages to be fake, cold, and emotionless without making me want to throw up.
The aforementioned film stars Catherine Zeta-Jones as Gwen (she’s almost white isn’t she?) and John Cusack as Eddie Haskell, America’s favorite couple. When Gwen trashes their relationship by running off with a Latin lunk-head (Hank Azaria), its up to their publicist (Billy Crystal) to put them back together and turn a profit. The catch is Eddie is falling for Gwen’s sister Kiki (Julia Roberts)… and things could be a lot better.
America’s Sweethearts does however manage to do something that very few other comedies this year have managed to accomplish… make the audience laugh. It’s here that Crystal’s hand is really most evident. Guffaws are quick, quirky and smart, everything you’d expect from Crystal’s comedy. The jokes may only be slightly more plentiful in the film than people of actual color, but at least where and when they do happen, the attempt is legitimately funny.
But a few laughs aren’t enough to make a Romantic Comedy hit, and America’s Sweethearts seems to be too in love with its birthing place, Hollywood, to make much of a go at it. On the surface it might seem to be taking jabs at the studio movie machine, yet there is a deep rooted coldness in all of it, that belies a deep seated approval of the false faced, money motivated, media empire that is the California movie scene. Attempts at genuine sincerity fall flat mixed in with volumes of insincerity displayed by each and every character in the film to varying degrees. For example we are somehow supposed to cheer for Billy Crystal when he draws the line at killing his client to make a buck… in spite of the fact that he is willing to do just about anything else to him to sell his picture.
Even our supposed Hollywood outsider, mild mannered Kiki, while seemingly a woman of redeeming qualities, is lifted out of her station only by superficial means. She finds love, she gets the man of her dreams… but truly the only reason he ever noticed her, the only reason he even gave her a second thought after years of friendship… is because she lost weight. In the final analysis her success is just as shallow and skin deep as that of everyone around her.
Thus, it’s hard to cheer for characters so caught up in their fake, shallow lives, that they are unable to see the realities of the world around them. It’s hard to believe in a romance between two brainwashed superficial people. It’s hard to believe that Eddie is really all that much less of a media whore than his evil wife Gwen is. Its hard to believe in love when everyone around you is spouting lies and half truths, only stopping for a moment here and there to utter a word of honesty in between making themselves look charming for the press. And in a way it’s sad. Because in my opinion John Cusack deserves a good leading role. He ought to be a great romantic lead. This is a guy with legitimate ability who has been mucking about in mid level films with mid level interest for a long long time. This is a guy who consistently puts out good work, only to be overlooked for the next Tom Cruise or the hottest teen superstar. And Cusack is great… it’s just his character that really isn’t.
So, if you speak with a funny accent, if you have a good tan, consider a move to Hollywood, where the mudslides are frequent, but evidently foreigners are not. Perhaps you could be the next Hank Azaria.