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Monthly Archives: April 2008

George Clooney is a man whose role in the public eye is mostly due to his charm and wit. However, Clooney consistently delivers solid performances, making up in charisma what they may lack in range. Most moviegoers are well aware of his talent as an actor, but I’ve been generally unimpressed by most of his work in that field. He’s undoubtedly fun to watch, and that works perfectly for his near Oscar-worthy turn in Ocean’s Eleven. In case you couldn’t tell by the apparent paradox I just presented, I’m completely mixed on him as an actor. That said, I respect him more than most men in Hollywood, almost entirely because he always chooses interesting roles and displays an unparalleled understanding and knowledge of cinema.

Leatherheads is his third directorial effort, a follow-up to his superb Good Night, and Good Luck. Much like that film, it exhibits love for a period in American history as well as for a certain style of film, screwball comedy in this case. It tells the tale of the legitimization of professional football in the mid-1920s, with Clooney playing Dodge Connelly, a reasonably talented player who seems to really believe in the game, or at least its potential for financial success. Renée Zellweger, in a turn as morally ambiguous reporter Lexie Littleton, again puts on a funny voice and just barely makes her character work with a quick tongue. Lastly, John Krasinski, finally taking a promising role, is young superstar Carter Rutherford, lured my Connelly to play for the defunct Duluth Bulldogs.

The weakest links are the supporting players, screenwriters, and editor. Jonathan Pryce as Rutherford’s agent falls flat, and the script, penned by two sportscasters, is somewhat of a structural mess. The editing, by the usually reliable Stephen Mirrione, doesn’t help matters, alternatively relying both too much and too little on the brilliant score by Randy Newman. Still, these remain minor problems until the third act, when the plot really kicks in and the film comes to a screeching halt.

What makes the film worth seeing is the swift dialogue, charm of the leads, and refreshing take on classic history and cinema. Clooney again displays an assured hand as a director, and though he can’t quite make the chemistry between himself and Zellweger work, all three leads are charming enough to sell their verbal banter. It’s a good-looking, good-sounding, good-feeling film that boldly relies on subtle comedy to sustain the audience. As much as I enjoy the raunchy, explicit gags of Judd Apatow, what I have really been longing for is a throwback to the quick-moving comedies of the 30s, 40s, and 50s. At that, this film delivers. B-