Saturday, August 27, 2011

Main Street (C-)

There are many rules in the vast world of filmmaking. Examples include the 30 degree rule, and the rule of thirds. The new small-town drama Main Street has proven a new rule in filmmaking: If you cast Colin Firth into your mediocre film, it will be saved by his performance. Coming off the hot streak of two Oscar nominated performances, including a win for his role in The King's Speech, Colin Firth saves this film from entering the depths of "Lifetime Movie" hell with his suave performance as the swindler with a heart of gold from Texas who brings canisters of toxic waste into the small town (Tangent Point: The small town in question never receives a name, so is this film a metaphor for what is happening to small towns across the country?).

This is one of the most weirdly cast films I've seen in a very long time. While Colin Firth plays his Texas swindler, Orlando Bloom plays a lovestruck cop going through law school to impress the girl of his dreams. Obviously quite a stretch from the roles Orlando Bloom as played in the past, perhaps excluding the abysmal Elizabethtown. I don't mind weird casting, but only when it works. Other than Colin Firth's performance, little works in this film, including the acting.

Ellen Burstyn, a character actor who I've seen in bit parts in a few films, plays the "foolishly lovable" aunt of Patricia Clarkson's character. By saying "foolishly lovable", I mean "borderline unintentionally mentally challenged". Every line Ellen Burstyn repeated as this character took me out of the film, and made me pity this character rather than root for her in her struggles.

However, my biggest problem with the film, was that the stubborn "nothing should ever change" ideals popular with the residents of the town were glorified. There is a scene in which Colin Firth's character explains how safe storing toxic waste in government approved canisters can be (we all know that in reality, this actually is incredibly safe), but the local folk don't believe him. Later in the film, a truck carrying the hazardous waste crashes into the side of the road. Even though none of the waste leaks into the forrest surrounding the highway the truck was traveling on, this accident somehow proves the townspeople were right, or at least proves they were right enough for Colin Firth to voluntarily quit his job in order to officially agree with them. The idea that small town stubbornness is more practical than logic combined with science is such a horrifying idea that it shocks me for it to be the moral of the story.

Also inside this film in a pointless subplot involving a one sided love between Orlando Bloom's cop character, and his ex-girlfriend. Let me save approximately 30 seconds of talking about this subplot by saying that this was the worst handled romantic plot involving a cop since Kevin James' Paul Blart: Mall Cop, and that film at least had the charisma of Kevin James to carry it along. Luckily, the film is only 92 minutes and this subplot lasts for less than a third of it. This subplot also had nothing to do with the regular plot, so excising it from the film would have been incredibly simple.

Main Street is, for the most part, a terrible movie whose only saving grace is a great performance from Collin Firth. However, we're talking about Collin Firth, and for better or for worse we always expect a great performance from the guy. If you're a huge Collin Firth fan, or just a fan of Lifetime TV movies, you might get a kick out of this film. But for everyone else, stay away.

Grade: C-

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