Judge Brett Cullum gets a big chill every time he sees St. Elmo's Fire in this film.
Nothing complicates friendship like love.
The Romantics started off as a book about complicated Ivy League romance ten years past its sell-by date with the characters coasting through their thirties. The big question was could they reconcile their dreams and loves from the past with the jaded souls they had grown into? Somehow the book's author Galt Niederhoffer got to direct her own film adaptation, and amassed quite a great cross-section of young Hollywood talent. One crucial move came when Liv Tyler (The Incredible Hulk) dropped out as the female lead, and producer Katie Holmes (Batman Begins) stepped in to take over. It turned out to be pure serendipity, because Katie Holmes seems ready to show us all that she was at one time an independent film darling.
It all takes place at the wedding of beautiful bride (Anna Paquin, True Blood) to handsome groom (Josh Duhamel, Transformers). They have assembled their college friends who about ten years ago called themselves "The Romantics" because they dated each other without much propriety or guilt. The only problem is the maid of honor (Holmes) still carries a torch for the groom. The drunken night before the wedding the two end up coupling and quoting poetry to each other. Is somebody making a mistake? Or is this all just wedding day jitters and fleeting fancy?
Holmes and Paquin are both just fine in their leading lady roles, and it makes you realize that the two are unfairly seen as limited by their personal lives. Katie Holmes is too busy being Mrs. Tom Cruise that we all forget the girl can actually act, and Paquin has been doing vampire melodrama so long her Oscar seems a distant memory. But both women carry the film well, doing nice intimate work and successfully dialing down the hyperbole of their outside worlds. Duhamel looks dashing, and knows how to seduce a girl even a decade and some change after college. The entire cast is pretty rock solid down to the smaller roles where we get to see Elijah Wood (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring) and Candice Bergen (Murphy Brown) walk across the screen a few times. Surprisingly though it is Malin Akerman (Watchmen) who makes the biggest impression with her party-girl-going-to-seed-at-thirty routine. She's surprisingly alive and vital in a small role that doesn't ask her to do too much more than scoff at how silly these lost dreamers have become.
The DVD is just an excuse to showcase the film, with a quick behind the scenes featurette. The transfer is okay considering most of it seems to have been shot handheld with high quality video cameras. Sometimes the picture is too dark, while other times it can just look murky. Sound doesn't have to do anything but deliver the dialogue and sappy alternative music clearly. The DVD is up to the challenge, since this movie never looked great to begin with. The "making of" featurette isn't bad, and Katie Holmes comes off as pretty smart. She admits this whole flick is simply an homage to The Big Chill or St. Elmo's Fire. From the ten minutes of talking heads and on-set footage it looks like it was fun to make.
Really, at its heart, The Romantics is nothing more than a chance for young Hollywood to pretend the days of the Brat Pack never ended. They probably should have hired Molly Ringwald or Demi Moore to play the mother-in-law role, and thus the homage would be complete. It's light and breezy fun, because you know no matter how much angst these Ivy League graduates have about turning thirty they are well heeled enough to not worry. The upper class are free to do what they want, and so are Katie Holmes and Anna Paquin. They are on top of the world, and simply decided it would be fun to do a film where they get to act rather than rely on their huge personas. In that sense the film works. It's a nice cast, but they are in search of a plot. It certainly won't change the world, but seems like an okay rental on date night.
Guilty of being just a literate homage to a bigger chill and a sainted
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