Thursday, May 23, 2013

Capsule Film Reviews: It Could Happen to You

When Hollywood isn't doing its juvenile comic book blockbusters it seems to be trying to recapture its glory days. It Could Happen to You is Hollywood's attempt to do the latter.

It Could Happen to You is the tale of a decent honest kindhearted cop named Charlie (Nicholas Cage in one of his restrained acting moments) from Queens who doesn't have enough to give his good hearted waitress Yvonne (Bridget Fonda, a very likable leading lady) a tip. So he promises to return the next day and give her half of his lottery ticket should it win or pay her the tip if it doesn't. This is Hollywood so needless to say Charlie's ticket wins and the lives of both change dramatically as a result. Charlie's Hyacinth Bucket, it's Bouquet, like wife Muriel (Rosie Perez in a caricatured role she can do little with) whose sole reason to be seems to have lots of money so she can consume lots and lots of upscale, or her perception of what is upscale, consumer goods, isn't happy. When cop and waitress are caught spending a lot of time together by the tabloids she sees her opportunity and pounces divorcing Charlie and taking all of her husband's and Yvonne's lottery winnings as payback. This being a Hollywood film the fairy tale can't end like that, however. Just as it seems that Cruella Di Vil evil has triumphed Cruella, err, Muriel gets her comeuppance and the New York Post, yes the same New York Post owned by that latter day Ebenezer Scrooge, comes to the rescue and true love and human goodness triumph after all.

Speaking of latter days, It Could Happen to You is Capra-corn right down to its narrator named Angel which recalls the angelic narrators in Capra's It's a Wonderful Life (1946), its title which recalls Capra's fairy taleish It Happened One Night (1934), a film about a romance between a down to earth newspaper reporter and a wealthy socialite, its miracle fairy tale ending which conjures up fairy tale images of Capra's It's a Wonderful Life, and its director, Andrew Bergman, who once upon a time wrote a scholarly tome about an America which no longer seems that far away, the Great Depression, specifically Hollywood's representation of it in which the work of Capra had a major starring role.

It Could Happen to You is not a good film. It is not a bad film. It is film which, like so many other Hollywood films today, is mediocre and in this case mediocre on the negative side of the ledger at least in my opinion. And while It Could Happen to You manages to recapture a little bit of Hollywood's past, its ability to fully go back in time and recapture the magic of 1930s and 1940s Hollywood film's looks as flat as the colour of It Could Happen to You next to the rich black and white palette of classic Hollywood films like Meet John Doe (Frank Capra, 1941). So I, Ron, eek cannot recommend It Could Happen to You. I do give it an A for effort, however. If romantic unrealistic fairy tales are your cup of tea check it out.

It Could Happen to You, Columbia TriStar, 1994, directed by Andrew Bergman, written by Jane Alexander, 101 minutes, 1:85:1

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