Wednesday, March 30, 2005

DVD: P.S. (2004)

This second feature from Dylan Kidd, who made a potent debut with 2002’s ROGER DODGER, got lost in the crush of holiday releases. (In Seattle, for instance, it debuted at a second-run theater.) That’s unfortunate, because it contains the great lost performance of 2004.

Laura Linney received a well-deserved best supporting actress Oscar nomination for her role in KINSEY. But if there were any justice, she would also have been recognized for her incandescent work here as a Columbia University official who suspects that one of the students lobbying for admission (Topher Grace) is the reincarnation of her long-dead lover.

With that premise, you’d expect a comic romantic fantasy. But the film, based on a novel by Helen Schulman, doesn’t unfold that way. Kidd gives us realism without the magic; no supernatural explanations are offered. He’s far more interested in how getting romantically involved with a much younger man forces a 40-year-old woman to reevaluate her life.

That puts the focus squarely on Linney, who is more than up to the challenge. The play of emotions on her face as Grace fumbles with a condom is mesmerizing. Later, there’s a startling scene where she makes him imagine a failed future version of himself. Linney moves from heartbreaking to cruel and back again without missing a beat.

She gets terrific assists from Grace and Marcia Gay Harden as her blowsy best friend. But basically it’s all her show, and she’s a complete joy to watch.

TV: The Surreal Life

I haven’t tuned in much this season; DEADWOOD is back on, the cast of B-listers isn’t gelling and VH-1 has preempted the show too many times. The few minutes I caught of this week’s episode were horrendous. The housemates made a kung fu film called “Seven Celebrities of Death,” which featured Chinese accents out of the Fu Manchu era and only six celebrities. Assuming you buy the network’s definition of ‘celebrity.’

I’m ready to wash my hands of the franchise when I read about next season’s cast, including steroid slugger/public health advocate Jose “Juiced” Canseco; THE APPRENTICE villain Omarosa; AMERICA’S NEXT TOP MODEL judge Janice Dickinson; Cory “Sunglasses at Night” Hart; and Bronson Pinchot. They’ve only been shooting for a day and Omarosa and Dickinson are at each other’s throats.

So help me, I can’t wait.

Miscellaneous: Links

Speaking of reality TV, how does an Oscar-winning actress end up as a judge on THE STARLET? Faye Dunaway explains. Slate considers trends in commercial voiceovers. And a profile of’s top book critic Harriet Klausner. Over 8,000 reviews posted, and all of ‘em positive.