Kicking the Dog
Kicking the Dog is a raunchy comedy about a group of sex-obsessed school chums
who are in the stage in life where they are just about to go their separate ways.
Providing comic relief to the film are three high school kids who are always
hanging around and listening to the more experienced guys. (One of them is a
younger brother.) Since the film had a budget of literally zero, the story takes place entirely
in a two-day period in summer, and is located entirely in typical middle-class
suburban homes and lawns. The IMDb talk board points out that the entire film
was shot and edited in the director's house. (Except, I suppose, for a few
moments which take place in the local porn shop, where one of the characters
has a summer job.)
With no action of any kind, and virtually no plot, the essence of the film
is drunken sex talk. The three main male characters talk about their wildest
sexual adventures, much to the dismay of their female companions. The most
dismayed female is a virginal college grad who is in love with one of the
young rakes. Not only does she dislike hearing about all of his lurid past
sexual adventures, but her annoyance is exacerbated by the fact that he has
not ever made love to her in six months of dating.
This film is primitive. It's much too talky, and the male characters tend
to lapse into monologues, much like the early efforts of Kevin Smith. Those characters seem to discuss sex with a naiveté inconsistent with the
exploits they describe. What's more, the editing is rudimentary, some of the
actors are weak, and some of the main plot threads are left hanging when the
movie ends. On the other hand, those same things are true about Clerks, and
that film worked out OK because it had other positive characteristics which
made up for the weak elements: bawdy humor, frankly realistic dialogue, and
insights about the lives of people of that generation trapped in a certain
kind of slacker existence.
KTD doesn't have many insights, but it does provide some
guilty pleasures. The slice-of-life script somewhat compensates for its plotlessness with some interesting characters. I found four of the main
characters to be developed very effectively, and performed competently. The
two lovers showed enough depth that I was interested in their story, and I
got some laughs from the performances delivered by coldest of the chums and one of the high school kids.
Because of those characterizations, a couple of funny set pieces, and some
entertaining dialogue, I found the film worth the watch, despite some
The only nudity comes from Lorianne Dye, who exposes her breasts in a
two-part dream sequence.
Easy Virtue is an elegant period piece about the last century's interbellum
in the UK. A young heir to a massive but decaying family estate injects
turmoil into his family's affairs when he brings home Larita, a liberated
American wife, the winner of the Monaco Grand Prix, as played by Jessica Biel.
The heir's mother and his wife immediately begin a fight for his soul, with
most of the family siding with the haughty matriarch against the interloper.
Only the heir's world-weary father supports his marriage and welcomes his
lively new bride.
The screenplay is an adaptation of a Noel Coward play which was written
when the story actually took place, in 1924, when Coward was 25 and cynical.
Coward was a pragmatist who looked at England and its aristocracy with cold
detachment, albeit spiced with wit, for the play is a comedy, not a
tragedy, although it is a comedy with some very serious underlying ideas and a
fair share of heartache. In his autobiography, "Present Indicative,"
Coward wrote that he wanted to present a comedy in the structure of a tragedy
"to compare the déclassée woman of today with the more flamboyant
demi-mondaine of the 1890's" Yeah, whatever, there, Noel.
Thankfully the actual play is down-to-earth and generally free of pretentious
bullshit and accented e's, unlike that summary.
For reasons not very clear to me, the film's version of the story altered a
sordid aspect of Larita's past.
- In Coward's version, Larita's ex-husband, a jealous man, accused her of
having an affair with a painter when she posed for a nude. She denied it,
but the artist - tormented by unrequited love - committed suicide. This was
presented as proof of infidelity at the divorce trial.
- In the film's version, it was the husband who committed suicide when he
was dying of cancer. There was a trial, but it was a murder trial, not a
divorce proceeding, in which Larita was accused of murdering the sick man. (Although
acquitted, she later admits that she did in fact assist him to commit
suicide, but did so out of love for him.)
The film script thus changed Larisa from a wrongfully accused divorcee with a
scandalous divorce trial to a widow who was hiding a scandalous murder trial.
Perhaps the screenwriters felt that her having been a divorcee and a nude
model was not scandalous enough in 2009 to produce the emotional impact it
generated with 1924 audiences. My own opinion is that Coward's original
version is infinitely more credible, and that anyone who would be inclined to
watch this film would understand that people from the English upper crust had conservative attitudes toward divorce and nude modeling
in the 1920s.
The film's ending is also a change from the play, although in that case I
preferred the re-write. The play ends with Larita departing alone after having
danced with the twit next door. The film ends with her departing with her
father-in-law, with whom she had just done a sexy tango. That tango was my
favorite scene in the film, by far. An embarrassed Larita requests a song from
the band, the music starts, and she is left hanging and partnerless by her
husband, so her suddenly gallant father-in-law steps in gracefully. It's
possible to see that Colin Firth is no dancer, but he's such a charismatic
performer than he sells the dance completely, and provides an unexpected but
completely welcome bit of erotic tension between the older man and his
daughter-in-law. What will happen when the two of them leave together? The
nature of their future relationship is ambiguous. Perhaps they will bond
romantically, perhaps the young woman has simply restored the older man's zest
for life, and is symbolically driving him away from his figurative prison. The
film is open-ended.
While its heavy-handed treatment of the mother-in-law seems to be more
sitcom material than Oscar material, and its class warfare ground seems too well-trod
by earlier and better pictures, Easy Virtue looks gorgeous and has some great
moments, most of them supplied by Colin Firth as the complicated,
disillusioned war veteran whose will to live had been nearly exhausted before
the arrival of his feisty new daughter-in-law. The addition of the tango and
departure scenes, plus the fact that Firth's character has the most different
dimensions in his character, plus the fact that Firth's character grows the
most, plus the usual fine performance from Firth, all added up to a major
transposition of audience sympathy from the play to the screenplay. Those
elements turned a play that was originally about about Larita into a movie
that was really about her father-in-law, and not a bad one at that.
The only nudity is provided by Kimberley Nixon as the heir's naive youngest
sister, who is misinformed about the proper way to perform a can-can in polite
English society, and does so without her panties. (Biel joined the can-can,
but wore her knickers, alas!)