Monday, June 25, 2018

Setting “Boundaries"

"Did you hear about the exploding murse!?" — this muttered at the afterparty at Penthouse 8 at The Roxy Hotel at Cinema Society's screening of “Boundaries."
“Boundaries" — a charming film, and a lovely party, despite my exploding murse!
by Denis Ferrara

“IF a person over fifty tries to be ‘with it.’ They usually end up without it,” said Noel Coward.

Luckily for me I was never really “with it.” Now, well past fifty, I remain comfortably without it.
WHAT HAPPENS when the zipper on a guy’s “murse” pops, and his wallet, cellphone, earbuds, Altoids, comb, ChapStick, small pack of oil-blotting paper, the Almay concealer stick, pen and mini-note pad spill all over the celeb-packed floor of the Roxy Hotel’s Penthouse Terrace?

The contents of my murse that ended up on the Roxy Hotel’s penthouse terrace floor.
Well, if you’ve just been to see a movie titled “Boundaries,” screened by Andrew Saffir’s Cinema Society, you’d know. Last week it happened to me, as I was paying a compliment to one of the stars of the movie, young Lewis MacDougall. “Oh, you were wonderful!” I began sincerely, with a wave of my arm and an excited squeeze of my murse (aka an evening clutch for men). Just then, the damn thing burst, and I let out a filthy expletive. Lewis’ father, who had accompanied his talented son, hurried him away from the angry man scurrying around for breath mints and acne concealer.

The observant Mr. Saffir saw and heard my distress. As did people on Mars. (Guests such as Beth Stern, Patrick Stewart, James Dale, Patrick Wilson, Jeremy Carver and Carole Radziwill also got the drift.)

“It’s ruined!” I said, much in the despairing manner of those dramatic searching-the-mirror movie scenes where the star observes the disintegration of their once great beauty. But Andrew was on the ball and faster than you could say let’s-annoy-the-host he was back with some powerful scotch tape. It now looked like a sad rescue murse — Sally Struthers or somebody equally morbid could do a PSA for it — but my stuff was safe.
Shana Feste, Vera Farmiga, and Lewis MacDougall.
Shana Feste, Christopher Plummer, and Vera Farmiga.
Peter Fonda.
Carole Radziwill. Beth Stern.
Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. Photos: Patrick McMullan
The movie? It stars Vera Farmiga and Christopher Plummer, along with the aforementioned Mr. MacDougall. She is a quirky single mom who seems to collect animals (for no clear reason other than the “awwwww” factor when one of the dogs gets a close-up.) MacDougall is her quirky son and Plummer plays her quirky/slick long-absent father, something of a con-man, who was asked to leave his retirement home. (Plummer seems altogether too together to need or want such a place.) The movie becomes a road trip thing that includes marijuana sales, more animals, an even quirkier sister, a no-account ex-husband (the always appealing Bobby Cannavale).
Awwwww factor — Kristen Schaal, Lewis MacDougall, Vera Farmiga and Christopher Plummer in "Boundaries." (Lindsay Elliott / Sony Pictures Classics)
It’s not terribly original, and the script plumbs no depths, but the three major performances are wonderful, rising far above the material. Plummer is particularly good. And I had some reservations, because I still find his stepping in and re-doing Kevin Spacey’s role in “All the Money in the World” an unpleasant thing. (Word to the wise — if you work for director Ridley Scott, don’t get in trouble — you can be replaced in the most alarming manner.) And then, the movie was a flop, and his performance, oddly Oscar-nominated was not nearly as good as Donald Sutherland’s in the splendid TV miniseries about the Getty kidnapping, “Trust.” But, I digress.

Plummer is a great actor and he’s super-charming in “Boundaries.” I recommend the film for its committed, vital performances.
Oh, I did replace my man clutch. First I got one that seemed a little too large for my liking, and a little too purse-like. I settled on a second that was much butcher-looking (I mean, as these things go), but not as roomy as my old one. Now I’m looking into having the zipper on my original replaced, if that’s possible. I wonder if a tailor would do it? Suggestions are welcome.

And again, thank you, Mr. Saffir. You are a real gent. And apologies to Mr. MacDougall and his dad. Honest, my accessories don’t usually explode during interviews.
The Murses of Hoboken, New Jersey: From the top: my battered original (with recent scotch tape scars) ... the one I rejected ... and the one I'm clutching now.
MAIL: Lots of response to the “Essential Liz” column, showcasing a New York film festival screening many of Elizabeth Taylor’s best and oddest films.

Some wrote in asking why certain TV movies hadn’t been included. Well, they were TV movies. But among those were some worthy and amusing efforts. There was “Return Engagement” the Hallmark Hall of Fame entry in 1978, featuring ET as a lonely college professor — a completely implausible role which she made poignant and very plausible indeed. “Malice in Wonderland,” wickedly funny as gossip queen Louella Parsons (to Jane Alexander’s superb Hedda Hopper) ... ”There Must Be a Pony,” playing an edgy aging actress (gorgeously dressed, coiffed and presented as somebody who needn’t have been edgy at all) ... ”Poker Alice” an entertaining western in which many aspects of her willful live-for-the-present attitude was incorporated.
”ET as gossip queen Louella Parsons and Jane Alexander as a superb Hedda Hopper in “Malice in Wonderland."
And best of all HBO’s “Between Friends” with Carol Burnett. This aired in early 1983. Taylor played a woman with a drinking problem — which she vigorously denies — struggling with life as a freshly single woman. (She had split from Sen. John Warner the previous year.)

HBO’s “Between Friends” with Carol Burnett.
When I saw it, I thought, does she realize how close all this hits home? Is she conveying something, knowingly or not? The film was made even more relevant by year’s end, after the fraught run of “Private Lives” and intervention by her family, which finally put her on the road to sobriety via the Betty Ford Clinic. And she would not marry again for nine years — “history-making,” as she later joked on the eve of her wedding to Larry Fortensky. (In the movie, when Burnett confronts Taylor about her drinking, ET airily declares, “Jews do not become alcoholics.” Burnett counters, “Maybe in the Bible they don’t.” When Burnett suggests AA, Liz snorts royally, “Ech! Just a bunch of bloody evangelists!” Watching this, I thought, “Something’s coming” and it did, thank goodness.)

There was also a splendid ten-minute cameo in 1985’s mini-series “North and South” as the madam of a brothel.

Well, maybe the Quad Cinema, which is showing “Essential Liz” might one day do a little tribute to her TV work, too.

Oh, I was a bit disappointed that the Quad didn’t screen “Doctor Faustus” which was Richard Burton’s experimental labor of love. He was fascinated by the Faust legend — a man who gave up his soul for riches and Helen of Troy, the world’s most beautiful woman. He persuaded Mrs. Burton to play Helen. She drifts in an out mute but gloriously spilling out of her gowns. (Who needs to talk with breasts like that?) And at the end, it is Taylor, painted a garish shade of green that pulls Burton/Faustus to hell. I always felt Richard, forever conflicted about acting and success anyway, was sending a powerful message with that scene.

But Miss Taylor, way too besotted and obsessed with her hubby, never quite got that message.
SPEAKING of messages, I doubt very much that our First Lady chose her controversial “I Don’t Care ...” jacket when she went to visit immigrant children. I don’t think she makes many choices. It wasn’t a tone-deaf gesture. It was neatly planned by the man at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, to further encourage liberal outrage, which he and his base feed off of. Nothing is unplanned — including members of his staff dining at Mexican restaurants. I will say that the First Lady might have been further persuaded to do this rare bit of political business because of the revolting remarks made by actor Peter Fonda about her son, Barron. Fonda, who now looks like a melted waxworks version of Jack Nicholson, joins the long list of “liberals” whom I suspect are actually Republican plants, saying things that are wildly vile, monumentally unhelpful, and catnip to the president’s supporters.
ENDQUOTE: I liked this very much from Sam Anderson in the recent New York Times Magazine’s “Love City” issue:

“The culture teaches us to think of love as an eternal, universal, formless thing — the shimmering essence at the heart of every Disney movie and medieval French poem and pop song and rom-com. And yet, when we encounter love in real life, it is always hyper-specific and local. Love is not some great abstract principle; it is not an airbrushed fantasy. It exists out in the world, always, as deep particularity. It is about wallpaper, face creases, a paisley blanket, a lisp, a smell, the particular yield of particular flesh. It involves old-growth forests of body hair, asymmetrical teeth, eyebrows, puffiness, discoloration. When love comes for you, it comes not for a cartoon princess or any other kind of cliché — it comes for you, all of you, as you actually are.”
Contact Denis here.