Movies: Bride and Prejudice, Constantine, Hitch

BRIDE AND PREJUDICE

In Bride and Prejudice, Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham) proves her directorial versatility by offering up a classic tale from Western culture, but tinting it with a distinctly Eastern lens. As the title suggests, the movie is an adaptation of the Jane Austen classic Pride and Prejudice, but instead of taking place in 18th century England, the camera takes us through modern-day India, London, and Los Angeles.

The story centers on the tempestuous love/hate relationship between American Will Darcy and Indian Lalita Bakshi. The storyline should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Jane Austen, or any standard boy-meets-girl Hollywood romance, really; what makes this film so enjoyable is its marriage of Eastern style and Western content (especially fun to see when the setting moves to Los Angeles) and the way this relationship parallels the one between Lalita and Darcy. (SNJ)

CONSTANTINE

Keanu Reeves, who plays the title role in the new action/fantasy movie Constantine, is accustomed to accusations of a messianic complex. Reeves, after having played Neo in The Matrix, returns with a new name but suspiciously similar storyline and character: laconic loner John Constantine fights an epic battle of good-versus-evil while brooding at the fringe of American urban society.

Since childhood, Constantine has been able to recognize the ghoulish “half-breeds” who, as hybrid demon-human creatures, can cross the border between heaven and hell and upset “the balance” between God and Satan’s bids for human souls. Young Constantine’s terrifying visions classify him as a psychotic, and as result of the trauma of his visions and equally horrific “therapy,” he commits suicide.

This mortal sin condemns him to hell, but he manages to survive and returns to earth. Though he’s been given a second chance at life, he can’t seem to ditch his self-destructive bent, courting danger as a freelance demon-hunter and smoking himself to lung cancer. Now, facing death a second time, he agrees to help the lovely but pushy detective Angie (Rachel Weisz) unravel her sister’s suicide.

Some plot points are never adequately explained: how did Constantine return from hell the first time? When and how did Satan have a son? Characters’ motivations are equally murky—Gabriel, for example, comes off as part saint, part sadist, and we’re left guessing whether the archangel cares about humanity at all.

My best guess is that Lawrence, Reeves, et al. get away with Constantine precisely because it is so flagrantly wrong. It patches together myth, history, and fiction with such postmodern glee that no single injury or injustice in its plotline piracies can be found. (LEK)

HITCH

Alexander “Hitch” Hitchens (Will Smith) gives crash courses in getting to that next level. He is New York’s “date doctor.”

The narrative thread follows Hitch’s newest project: shy accountant Albert (Kevin James) as he tries to woo heiress Allegra Cole (Amber Valletta) as it parallels Hitch’s own relationship with gossip columnist Sara (the sultry Eva Mendes).

The film is the next and most successful step in director Andy Tennant’s (Sweet Home Alabama) path to becoming the next Gerry Marshall (Pretty Woman) and Will Smith’s quest to becoming the most non-threatening African-American in popular culture since Fat Albert.

This is not When Harry Met Sally, but Hitch does perform one of that film’s most astonishing tricks: Hitch believably turns Kevin James into a romantic lead worthy of Amber Valletta. If nothing else, the film is inspiring for all those goofy, awkward, smart Harvard men without many social skills. (SAW)