ALONG CAME POLLY
US, 2004, 90 minutes, Colour.
Ben Stiller, Jennifer Aniston, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Debra Messing, Alec Baldwin, Hank Azaria, Bryan Brown, Jsu Garcia, Michelle Lee, Bob Dishy, Missi Pyle.
Directed by John Hamburg.
A Saturday night out romantic comedy - with some ironic touches and eccentric characters.
Director John Hamburg wrote screenplays for Meet the Parents and Zoolander so we know that the comedy will have its black moments and its physical moments and, with Ben Stiller as its star, he will have to undergo some ugh moments with nausea and humiliation. And it is extraordinary how after these films (and There's Something About Mary) how he keeps his balance and keeps coming back for more, though he had time off to be an action hero in Mystery Men and as Starsky in Starsky and Hutch.
Stiller plays a cautious risk assessor for an insurance company, run with bombastic authority by Alec Baldwin. He marries estate agent, Debra Messing, and, for a moment or a day, his happy ever after life seems to be on track. He is quickly derailed. He meets free spirited Polly (Jennifer Aniston), whom he knew at school, and she begins to change his life. In the meantime he has to do an assessment on an Australian millionnaire businessman, Bryan Brown who is into death-defying jumps, killer racquet ball and storm challenging sailing (parodying the stunts and activities of Richard Branson).
The film co-stars the ever-changing and brilliant Philip Seymour Hoffman. Hoffman will soon be losing roles because he is able to steal every film he is in. His performance as a former child star with crass behaviour and huge ego (he is playing Judas in an amateur production of Jesus Christ Superstar and wants to sing the part of Jesus as well) is well worth seeing, culminating in his impersonating an insurance executive.
Amusing in a slight way while it is on the screen, it is simply intended as an entertaining night out.
1.A popular comedy? A Ben Stiller comedy? The strong cast? Humour? Satire?
2.The locations, the city, Florida, the beaches? Affluent background? Schools, restaurants? The musical score? Songs?
3.The meaning of the title, in Reuben’s life, Polly in the past, Polly in the present, Polly becoming the future?
4.The comic style of the film, expected from Ben Stiller films, the buttoned up type, his coming loose, parody? Philip Seymour Hoffman contributing to this? Hank Azaria and his exaggerated style? The moving towards over the top for the situations and the comedy?
5.Reuben, his relationship with Lisa? His background, his caution? His parents – and the episode in the restaurant? His mother and her comments? His father not saying anything – until his outburst at the end? The wedding? His relationship with Lisa, on the beach, the snorkelling, Claude arriving, his charm, nude on the beach? His inviting them scuba diving? Lisa and the attraction, his catching Lisa and Claude together? His life falling apart? Her personality, anal retentive? His worries about food, his stomach troubles? His relationship with his boss, the support and the speech at the wedding, the plan and his advice, especially about Leland Van Loo? His observing him, his daredevil actions, their friendship? Leland opening him up – especially with the episode on the top of the building and leaping off? His friendship with Sandy, schooldays, Sandy and his outrageous behaviour, remarks, the Jesus Christ Superstar auditions? Finally getting Sandy to stand in for him – and his action and performance? The encounter with Polly, vaguely remembering her from the past, meeting her at the restaurant, going out? His reticence, not telling the truth about the food, having the stomach troubles? The discussions with Polly about the food, the bodily function jokes? His sacrificing himself for her? Lisa wanting to come back and his reaction? Stan and the pressures at work? Going out with Polly, the change of heart? Her finding out the truth, breaking off with him? The timetable, her flying out? Getting Sandy to stand in for him? Rejecting Lisa? The background of his not dancing, getting Javier to teach him to dance (after being reassured about his being gay)? His getting the taxi, finding Polly again – the happy ending? Except for scuba diving, Claude coming along – and Reuben being naked on the beach?
6.Polly, the past, her relationships, working in the restaurant? Working at the social? Chatting with Reuben, memories of the past? Deciding to go out with him? Enjoying his company, discovering his idiosyncrasies? Her worrying about this, off and on, the apartment, the sexual relationship? Seeing Lisa? Breaking off, going to the airport, change of heart? The wedding? On the beach – and Claude coming along?
7.Sandy, a comic turn by Philip Seymour Hoffman, his verbal humour, his reputation as the child actor, his resenting it? His arrogance? The Superstar auditions – and his taking over the role of Jesus as well as Judas? The later performance and his tantrums? His impersonating Reuben at the meeting, everybody recognising him as the child actor? His being persuasive and winning the contract?
8.Lisa, her work, in love with Reuben, the marriage, the honeymoon, seduced by Claude, the separation, her wanting to come back, her being told off?
9.Claude, eccentric, on the beach, the scuba diving, the seduction – and seeing him at the end?
10.Stan, the boss, speech at the wedding, his demands on Reuben, Sandy stepping in – and success business-wise? The meeting of the board?
11.Bryan Brown as Leland Van Loo, wealthy, Australian eccentric, the daredevil actions, wanting to be insured? The story of his actions – and wanting to leap from the building, lack of success? His friendship with Reuben, opening him up? The finale and his being on his boat?
12.Javier, friendship with Polly, gay, the dancing, friendship with Reuben and teaching him?
13.Roxanne, working with Polly, giving her advice about relationships?
14.An American comedy, the gross touches, the satiric touches, Ben Stiller and his skill as a performer, a mimic?