What do Cloverfield and Only You have in common? Not much. But I did watch them practically back to back last weekend. While they are very different movies, I enjoyed both of them. Read on for my spoiler free take on both of them.
Cloverfield (2008 )
Let’s start with Cloverfield. Just knowing that J.J. Abrams produced it made me like this movie. I’ve enjoyed everything that he’s ever made – Felicity, Alias, Lost, Mission Impossible III, etc. Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of creature features, but this movie manipulates the genre in surprising and creative ways.
The handheld camera vantage point lends an air of believability to the scenario. Viewing the events on a home video, filmed by one of the main characters, makes the action much more realistic, and even disturbing. My guess is that if they had gone the traditional route, this movie would have been critically panned as another cheesy monster movie. Instead, we are given some backstory on the central characters in the opening scenes of a going away party. Normal activity on a normal night… which makes the sudden shift in tone that occurs all the more frightening.
The cast does a great job of portraying fear, disbelief, resolve, and other emotions that people in an unexpected disaster might experience. I didn’t even recognize Lizzy Caplan (I know her best from Mean Girls) as Marlena, she was so into character. Jessica Lucas, who most recently was a new CSI on CSI, played Lily. Both actresses came across as tough and generous, rather than some of the stereotypical weak-hearted and self-centered girls in other movies. The only other person I recognized was Michael Stahl-David, whose character, Rob, was pivotal in getting the plot moving. Stahl-David played Sean Donnelly on the short-lived tv show The Black Donnellys.
The real star of this movie, however, is the special effects. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll just say that the chaos and destruction that New York City and its residents undergo in the movie looks very realistic. You’ve probably seen the clip that shows the Statue of Liberty’s head landing on a street. That’s only the beginning of an impressive, scary, intense, and fun movie. Not recommended for the timid moviegoer.
Only You (1994)
This is, in my opinion, one of the better romantic comedies of the past 20 years. There have been a lot of them – many not so good. Only You has a lot going for it – a great cast, a few twists and turns in the plot, beautiful scenery in Italy, and a great soundtrack. Marisa Tomei stars as Faith, a woman who goes to Rome in search of her soul mate. All she has to go on is a name – Damon Bradley – that was revealed to her by a Ouija board and a gypsy when she was a teenager. Joining her on her date with destiny is her best friend Kate (the always funny Bonnie Hunt). Along the way they run into a host of memorable characters, including two of my favorites from the 90s (Robert Downey, Jr. and Billy Zane).
Rewatching this movie reminded me that Marisa Tomei is good at playing likable, charming, idealistic women. Where has she been? Well, she actually has a few new movies coming out within the next year, and she has been in several movies in the past few years that aren’t mainstream. She also appeared on tv’s Rescue Me in 2006.
I also wondered whatever happened to Billy Zane. According to his filmography at IMDB, it looks like the 2000s haven’t been very kind to him. Perhaps playing the villain in Titanic wasn’t such a smart career move. But, I will always look back fondly on his work in Sniper, Memphis Belle, Posse, etc.
Robert Downey, Jr. is really the only actor from this movie who has continued a commercially successful film career, and that despite his drug problems. Most recently, he was in Iron Man, and while I thought it was strange for him to play a super hero, I hear he does a good job. I thought he was great in Zodiac, which is an all around great, if also disturbing movie.
But, about Only You, it is a movie I could watch again and again. This is partly because it takes me back to my high school days (so does Clueless), but also because I love Italy, and it shows some beautiful scenery of Rome, Venice, and Orvieto. And compared to today’s romantic comedies, which are mostly ridiculous, it is a classic.