It’s so subtle, so sophisticated and the only character I can truly relate to is Carter Duryea the lead. It felt timely to write this review because I am 26 and Carter is 26. I have seen this film many times over the years as I had bought the film when I was a teenager in April 2006.
My first impression of the film watching it as a sixteen year old wasn’t a positive one I was almost bored by it but that is simply because the humour and dynamics are too sophisticated for mere teens it’s a grown-up film and you need to mature a lot to appreciate this film. So it took a lot of time for me to fully appreciate it but I was immediately drawn to the film and would watch it over and over again. As a teen watching it I found it so exciting that Alex gets to date Carter and their serendipitous run-in at the cafe is enjoyable.
As a teenager I was obsessed with this one film still of Scarlett johansson outside the (real) Cafe Reggio on 119 MacDougal Street and West 3rd Street, Manhattan. I loved the leisurely vibe and her fashion sense. The term #LIFEGOALS didn’t exist back in ’06 but if it had this photo was it for me. I even wore a blazer and hoodie constantly.
In the scene Alex is reading “Early Short Stories” by Anton Chekhov.
Before I used to, in a way, look up to Carter and thought he was amazing. Now I’m 26 and I completely relate to him because he has this success yet he has nobody, the people at work dislike him and he’s dating a teenager. There’s a lot of insecurity around him and his collegiate girlfriend because she’s dating her father’s boss. So just when Carter is trying to find a chance at happiness it’s really shot down, happiness is never truly tangible for him in the film.
Alex: “It’s strange you know, it seems like your sort of bummed out about your career but you’re so successful.”
Carter: “My career is pretty much what I have in my life that and a dented Porsche.”
In the chance encounter at Cafe Reggio there’s a real sense of disappointment and mild sorrow in Carter. He doesn’t seem as happy as he ought to be given that he’s young, handsome and successful. Alex cannot, as perhaps the audience, understand why he seems somewhat dissatisfied toward his accomplishments. A decade later I understand why Topher Grace portrays Carter in such a mild state of unease and hopelessness (very subtlety.) The truth is when you’re a Carter Duryea type you’re not going to be liked, all you have is your career; with great skill and talent come disappointments as nobody else is as on the ball.
Initially until I actually turned 26 the fact that he was secretly dating his colleague’s 18 year old daughter didn’t feel inappropriate but now I see that it is. That’s partly because I was seeing myself as the 18 year old Alex in the film so naturally felt it would be wonderful to date someone like a Carter Duryea. He comes in his Porsche to collect you from your dorm room and gives you a Diamond Chopard necklace for no reason. (Gotta say guys like him don’t really exist-sadly!)
Previously in my teens I didn’t immediately like Carter yet I was completely gravitated by this character because he represents so much truth about what life is like on the other side. I didn’t immediately take to Duryea not because of his traits or actions I think it’s to do with how the character is handled. There just wasn’t enough expression in Grace’s face, because there are plenty of reasons why the audience should root for Carter but perhaps they don’t. Some actors are auditory and other actors are visual and it’s the latter that pull you in deeper. What I mean by that is auditory people make less facial expressions. Why? Because they’re focused on dialogue, they’re focused on reply, tone of voice or coming in with their line at the right time. Whereas a visual actor (think the entire Friends TV show cast) are incredibly expressive and the emotion on their face is easy to read whereas as I did not see this in Topher. Though his entire performance is strong and perfectly captures the nuanced message that success is not all it seems and the scary truth as Life Coach Tony Robbins would put it: “Success Without Fulfillment Is the Ultimate Failure.”
Films like this just aren’t made anymore. What makes the film so satisfying is that there are no major betrayals between characters no maliciousness and nothing too salacious which makes it so refreshing. Notably the Paul Weitz also directed About a Boy and was an executive producer of American Pie 2. A film similar to this may be The Company Men starring Ben Affleck yet it lacks the sweetness of In Good Company as it’s very real and poignant. In Good Company portrays corporate culture with a wholesome dash that continues to make it a pleasure to watch as the years go by.
Doomed | Bourgeois | In Love
“Manhattan, Christmas Vacation, not so long ago…”
Oscar Nominated for Best Original Screenplay this film takes you into the lives of Manhattan’s elite. They’re young, beautiful yet doomed. A group of preppies sans Gossip girl overtones after all this was released before text messages even existed. It’s a nuanced debut film by Director and Screenwriter Whit Stillman. Stillman made Serena a chic name in books, film and TV. He paved the way for beautiful and damned Manhattanites found in Cruel Intentions alongside Gossip Girl the book series and its eventual mega-hit TV show.
The film still above the original “you can’t sit with us” scene.
Meet the U.H.B. Urban Haute Bourgeoisie pronounced “Uhhb.” You have Tom the auburn haired fellow with a penchant for socialism and is conflicted by his views on privilege to fully mingle with his new preppy friends. Audrey is in love with Tom, but he can’t get over Serena. The dark haired guy in the above photo is the dashingly witty Nick who serves the best lines:
“The Surrealists were just a bunch of social climbers.”
“Playing strip poker with an exhibitionist somehow takes the challenge away.”
“Rick Von Slonecker is tall, rich, good looking, stupid, dishonest, conceited, a bully, liar, drunk and thief, an egomaniac, and probably psychotic. In short, highly attractive to women.”
It’s a subtle plot. You are essentially spending the holidays in a W.A.S.P. way. There’s stimulating conversation and a foreboding of economic uncertainty present by the fact that even these privileged kids face the prospect of downward social mobility and that even these lucky kids see themselves as Charlie puts it “doomed.”
Tom Townsend once belonged, not to this particular set of friends but to their world: Prepdom. Since his parents divorce he has lost his privileged access and lives as an ‘outsider’ in Upper West Side. Though he’s in love with the resident Preppy It Girl Serena Slocum, who is with Baron Von Sloneker who Nick detests and labels titled Aristocrats as “scum of the earth.”
Tom kind of annoys me: “I don’t read novels I prefer good literary criticism.”
Audrey is adorable and there’s not much revealed about Jane who looks like an American cousin of Nigella Lawson.
It’s witty, interesting and a traditional depiction of an extraordinary class. It’s delightful and there’s none of the stress and drama found in contemporary depictions of rich kids. You’ll either love it or you won’t. It’s an enjoyable film for those that get it.
Purchase the film on DVD
More about Whit Stillman
Kathryn: Silly rabbit. My triumph isn’t over her. It’s over you.
Sebastian: Come again?
Kathryn: You were very much in love with her. And you’re still in love with her. But it amused me to make you ashamed of it. You gave up on the first person you ever loved because I threatened your reputation. Don’t you get it? You’re just a toy, Sebastian. A little toy I like to play with. And now you’ve completely blown it with her. I think it’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard.
Therein lies the cruel intentions of the film, a person actively manipulating time and time again and dares to sabotage someone’s chance of true love, a better life and preventing their path to true repentance. Here we had a soul who was destructive and was ready and willing to change and do good and the person he had an unholy tie with (they were both rotten souls originally and are step-siblings) she just thrashes his chances and it costs his life….
It's all about bucks, kid, the rest is conversation... (loosening) Bud, you're still going to be president. And when the time comes, you'll parachute out a rich man. With the money you're going to make, your father won't have to work another day in his life. BUD Tell me, Gordon--when does it all end? How many yachts can you waterski behind? How much is enough? GEKKO Buddy, it's not a question of enough. It's a zero sum game, sport. Somebody wins and somebody loses. Money itself isn't lost or made, it's simply transferred from one perception to another. Like magic. That painting cost $60,000 10 years ago. I could sell it today for $600,000. The illusion has become real. And the more real it becomes, the more desperately they want it. Capitalism at its finest. BUD (again) How much is enough Gordon? GEKKO The richest one percent of this country owns half the country's wealth: 5 trillion dollars. One third of that comes from hard work, two thirds of it comes from inheritance, interest on interest accumulation to widows and idiot sons and what I do -- stock and real estate speculation. It's bullshit. Ninety percent of the American people have little or no net worth. I create nothing; I own. We make the rules, Buddy, the news, war, peace, famine, upheaval; the cost of a paper clip. (picking one up) We pull the rabbit out of the hat while everybody else sits around their whole life wondering how we did it... (crosses to Bud) ...you're not naive enough to think we're living in a democracy are you, Buddy? It's the free market. You're one of us now...take advantage of it. You got the killer instinct, kid, stick with me. I got things to teach you...
So much was just not right with this film: The Oranges. Firstly Leighton Meester as Nina the Homewrecker just did not make much sense. She has too many predictable gestural tics that remind you of Blair Waldorf and with her petite frame she looks younger than the 24-year old man-eater she is playing.
We have the Ostroff and Walling family who have a daughter each: Nina Ostroff used to be best friends with the Walling’s daughter Vannessa. The daughters face the pitfalls of Generation X and move back to parents house in the quaint Essex county in New Jersey.
What makes the film so uncomfortable is that Mr Walling falls for his daughter’s ex-best friend, who he has known since she was a kid! Also as great an actor as Hugh Laurie is, he’s just not the right guy for the role, someone more handsome should’ve played him like Dennis Quaid. It is simply not believable that the pretty Nina would fall for a friend’s Dad who looks like Hugh Laurie (sorry Hugh!)
Another unsatisfying element of the film is that there appears to be no attraction between the married man and the homewrecker. It starts off with a few glances here and there and one kiss. From that [insert spoiler] a relationship grows between the two and Vanessa’s parents split up. Nina’s Dad Terry thereby loses his dear friend and things get awkward and it just does not seem worth it. There’s seems no prior dissatisfaction between the cheating husband and his wife. Although the scorned wife Paige Walling eventually finds her calling and works with a charity. Unless of course we are to assume that in the Walling’s marriage there was something wrong and nobody had the guts to admit it. Or perhaps couples attempt to forge normality and forget to be themselves and explore life. Mr Walling and Mrs Walling end up being happier apart. It would be false to assume that the end of their marriage caused them to be happier. It is less about marriage and more about the fact that we lose ourselves in things outside of us from careers to a significant other. When we break apart from our illusory dependencies such as workaholism or dedication to a partner life does get better.
The only highlights of them film are the set designs and Adam Brody’s charming scenes- though we do not see enough of him in the film. It’s also set in the run up to Christmas and has quite a cosy feel. Adam Brody plays Toby who is the same age as the girls though work sends him off to China and you’re just screaming at the screen that he will get back because he and Nina are an ideal match! They also got together in real life after meeting on set.
A main point of criticism I find with many films is that the lovers never seem to appear compelled towards each other, I didn’t want Nina and David to get together it was an uncredible love story. If the half-his-age love interest was instead the daughter of the new neighbors whom he sees and desires and subsequently certain scenarios occur whereby they put together i.e. she gets a job at his company or they go to the same gym as if fate has brought them closer then that would be easy to accept. All in all a boring film.
There weren’t many amusing moments. The lack of chemistry between the main characters is a downer. There are some crazy moments in the film and I guess the lesson is to not end up like boring and passive Mrs Paige Walling. But even if we do it is never too late to change gears.