Born Romantic (R) BUY THE:Poster!
The British romantic comedy Born Romantic has nothing terribly original to offer. An ensemble piece that follows a number of lovelorn Londoners linked in some way to a salsa club, each individual plot thread could have easily been used as fodder for its own familiar-feeling, full-length rom-com. A woman (Olivia Williams) not looking for love is wooed by a divorcé (Craig Ferguson) who still lives with his ex-wife. A thief (Jimi Mistry) and a mousy, geeky grave-tender (Catherine McCormack) strike up an unlikely friendship. A musician (David Morrissey) attempts to locate and win back his flirty former fiancée (Jane Horrocks). Trying to steer everyone in the right direction, both literally and figuratively, is a seemingly love-wise cabbie (Adrian Lester) who, not surprisingly, turns out to have his own romantic issues.
It's not giving anything away to say that writer-director David Kane follows through on giving everyone their expected happy ending. But en route to the preordained destinations, Kane takes some wry roads in terms of humor, such as how the musician rather pathetically yells out into the night to find his lost love; the divorcé's Rat Pack obsession; and a funny instance where the thief runs into the grave-tender while on the job.
However, Born Romantic would not be the enjoyably light diversion that it is if it weren't for the cast. The men all fare well (though Lester is given precious little opportunity to show off the impressive hoofing skills that lent Kenneth Branagh's Love's Labour's Lost one of its few highlights), but this film belongs to the women: Williams, Horrocks, and particularly a de-glammed McCormack, who makes her wallflower character simultaneously pathetic and immensely endearing. Like the salsa music that provides the film's musical backdrop, the pleasantly low-key Born Romantic proves to be smoothly seductive.
Dancing at the Blue Iguana (R) BUY THE:Poster!
Michael Radford further distances himself from his most well-known film, the beloved Italian import Il Postino, with this ensemble piece set largely in... a Los Angeles strip club. Radford developed the script for this largely improvised film through rehearsals with his actresses. Sometimes the results are fabulous: the terrific, underappreciated Sandra Oh gives a piercing performance as a stripping poet torn between her two lives; and Daryl Hannah is also surprisingly good as an impossibly naive, slow-on-the-uptake dancer. However, improv doesn't suit every actor, as in the case of Jennifer Tilly as the token bitchy dancer, it just gives her free rein to shriek through the whole movie; and other plot threads involving Sheila Kelley (who produced) and former Miss Teen USA Charlotte Ayanna aren't satisfactorily developed. The film is never boring, but it's always a more interesting acting exercise than compelling drama.