Those who bought George Clooney’s Oscar speech statement that Hollywood is ahead of the curve by showing the world what issues it faces ought to love V For Vendetta. It addresses the freedoms of “the little people” with a ruse of sophistication that only the socially empowered can provide—enforcing obvious sentiment in simple-minded terms. It’s not just patronizing, it’s boring.
The masked hero V (Hugo Weaving) is a desolated Zorro: the V emblem he leaves is a play on the anarchist symbol. V is a lone avenger against the totalitarian rule of 2020 London. Sporting a smugly grinning plastic visage of Guy Fawkes, he kills without hesitation, but proclaims his love of the arts. The Wachowski brothers’ script adaptation of Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s graphic novel has a two-dimensional nature. V’s hero status is never questioned. His blank eye sockets may work in comic-book form, but on screen his immobile features give viewers nothing to connect to. He’s less a tragic figure than an annoying prop.
The Wachowskis haven’t curbed the philosophical verbiage that drove people crazy in the Matrix sequels. But at least those movies had a unique atmosphere, and pitched the jabber against a progressing storyline. There’s nothing driving V for Vendetta beyond its jackhammer message. Police raids on the homes of people who own Korans and the propaganda slogan “Strength Through Purity, Purity Through Faith” are such over-pronounced commentary they’re never subversive. To put it Wachowski-style: Saying it shouldn’t be read as a political film is to say that it doesn’t exist at all.
A human element is brought with Evey (Natalie Portman), a worker at Britain’s one TV station. V saves her from being raped. She questions his terrorist tactics at first, but learns it’s best to follow his revolutionary lead. It helps that they have fulfilling discussions on Shakespeare, Faust and The Count of Monte Cristo. Evey is the film’s variation of Neo from The Matrix—the everyday schmo who wakes up to the imprisonment of the human population. But for the lazy attention given to her arc, Portman can almost be cut out of the movie. She gets to impact the story at the very end. Until then, she’s the most useless female action headliner since Sandra Bullock in Speed 2: Cruise Control.
She’s the Man
Listening to Evey and V compare themselves to characters from Twelfth Night feels more tactless than the whole of She’s the Man. This Twelfth Night-inspired kid comedy is dumb, but occasionally energized. It’s kept afloat by Amanda Bynes, who reveals a talent for physical comedy that disregards the usual self-consciousness of teen idols. Pretending to be her brother so she can compete on the boys’ soccer team, she’s not convincing as a guy, partially because her goofy antics never make her convincing as a regular person. But the oddball approach to gender crossover is relevant in a time when even most pinup male actors are very effeminate. She’s the Man hasn’t the broader charm of the Taming of the Shrew-based 10 Things I Hate About You. The script is too busy trumpeting gender divide stereotypes to give Viola (Bynes) a chance to learn something. Its main interest is in her comic ability to keep the dumb jocks deluded. She’s the Man is naive enough to risk embarrassment. But Bynes dives into it with such committed madness, it’s almost courageous.
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