The Cherry Orchard. Michael Cacoyannis. This thoughtful and somewhat languid adaptation of Anton Chekhov's 1904 play finds its beauty in the heady performance of Charlotte Rampling as Lyubov, childlike matriarch of a fast-fading period of social polarity. Returning from a long-term Paris retreat to her Russian estate and its complex web of disparate characters, not to mention its symbolic, titular orchard, Lyubov discovers that the family coffers are dangerously low and the splendor of her youth soon may be divided for -- ew! -- a bunch of serfs. Those who loved Gosford Park will surely appreciate this swank cast -- Alan Bates as Lyubov's brother, Gaev; Michael Gough as the butler, Freers -- but this is by far a more complex and engrossing production, and if you can get past the wannabe Merchant-Ivory vibe, Chekhov's musings prove as trenchant as ever. Director Cacoyannis (known for Zorba the Greek and his adaptations of Euripides) takes his sweet time with the material, allowing each of Chekhov's points to ring its echoes before engaging the next, but those with a modicum of patience will find in these characters' foibles a timeless and unique perspective. Plays at 8 p.m. June 7-9 at Webster University. (GW)
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Callie Khouri. Opens June 7 at multiple locations. Reviewed this issue.
Fat Girl. Catherine Breillat. Opens June 7 at the Tivoli. Reviewed this issue.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Joel Zwick. Ah, marriage. How sweet it is to discover, among all the recent wedding movies (Muriel's, My Best Friend's,Polish, Monsoon, etc.) that the institution's still inspiring. Trés Greek writer and star Nia Vardalos has crafted here a worldly-wise and very funny script, the better to play opposite decidedly non-Greek trophy fiancé John Corbett. He's easygoing, while she's complicated by her seemingly endless, profoundly nationalistic -- and rather kooky -- family. Can they work it out? The film is light fantasy, but lovely and astute, full of her frumpy-to-foxy evolution and his superbly subtle comic timing. There's just enough schmaltz for the multiplex, yet everything else rings refreshingly true, especially when the gushing, old-world pride of her parents (Lainie Kazan, Michael Constantine) mixes with the brittle niceness of his folks (Fiona Reid, Bruce Gray). Amid loads of culturally specific quirks -- Windex as a cure-all; spitting on the bride for good luck -- the project engenders a universality that director Zwick, aided by composers Chris Wilson and Alexander Janko, delivers with great verve. Within this rich context, Vardalos lets us in on the dream of being "braver, prettier, or just happy." Brava! Opens June 7 at the Plaza Frontenac. (GW)
Nine Queens. Fabian Bielinsky. It begins in a convenience store, where a young man named Juan (Gastn Pauls) is trading change from the woman behind the counter. He's a novice (or so it seems) with a kind face, but prone to mistakes. He tries to double-dip and gets caught by a cop (or so it seems). But the cop is another grifter, a grizzled vet named Marcos (Ricardo Darín) who is shoplifting for kicks, and offers the kid a deal: Marcos needs a partner, and if Juan will pair up just for the day, they'll spilt the profits 50-50. Or so it seems. Before long, the two men are confronted with a "once in a million" opportunity: One of Marcos' old, estranged partners, Sandler (Óscar Núez), is ailing and in desperate need of assistance in moving the Nine Queens (valuable stamps) in the next 24 hours -- before his prospective buyer, Gandalfo (Ignasi Abadal), leaves town and discovers they're little more than forgeries. And so begins a game of cat-and-mouse, with no animal distinguishable from another. Unlike David Mamet, who likes to give a gravity to his con games that too often sinks them altogether, director Bielinsky's just taking a piss. After all, that's what these movies mean to do: manipulate you, trick you, take your money and leave you with little more than a what-the-fuh grin. Opens June 7 at the Plaza Frontenac. (RW)