Easy Ryder

Easy Ryder

Easy Ryder

Highlights from the week in criticism.
Jan. 19 2000 3:30 AM

Easy Ryder

Movies

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Girl, Interrupted (Columbia Pictures). Excellent performances from the two leads, Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie, lift this movie above the thicket of clichés it veers toward. Based on the best-selling memoirs of Susanna Kaysen, it follows a confused teen-age girl who checks herself into a mental institution and then finds that she can't check out. Although many note that this is "a junior-league One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly) and that the film lapses into trite battles between patients and hospital staff, the film stays mainly on target, at its best when displaying its "meticulous, true-to-life portrait of a time (the late 1960's) and place (the hothouse world of upper-middle-class Boston suburbia)" (Stephen Holden, the New York Times). (Click here to visit the official site.)

Topsy-Turvy (October Films). The critics gripe a bit but still give a standing ovation to Mike Leigh's (Secrets and Lies) new film, about a short span in the lives and work of Gilbert and Sullivan as they compose and stage The Mikado. "Only a lunatic would call Topsy-Turvy, with its lame first hour and host of loose ends, a masterpiece, but by the finale I was ready to have myself committed" (David Edelstein, Slate). It's "one of those films that create a mix of erudition, pageantry and delectable acting opportunities, much as Shakespeare in Love did last year," and it "vigorously and amusingly explore[s] what it means for an artist to renew his energies by returning to square one" (Janet Maslin, the New York Times). Several note its slow start and general disorganization: "[I]t teases us with the feeling that Leigh had a basic plan for the picture and never realized it" (Stanley Kauffmann, the New Republic). (Click here to read the rest of Edelstein's review in Slate.)

Holy Smoke (Miramax). Jane Campion's (The Piano) latest offering draws divergent reactions, most tending toward the negative. Either it's "clumsy, lumpy" (Joe Morgenstern, the Wall Street Journal), or the sparring of co-stars Kate Winslet and Harvey Keitel (as a cult member and her deprogrammer) makes for a film that "creates more man-woman electricity than any other movie this year" (Mike Clark, USA Today). The film's core, a showdown between Keitel and Winslet, is "a knockabout fusion of sexual warfare, New Age therapy, cross-generational Socratic dialogue, and feminist role reversal" (Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly). Mentioned in nearly every review: 1) Winslet bares all; 2) Keitel ends up in a red dress and lipstick. (Click here to watch the trailer.)


Tumbleweeds (Fine Line Features). The second free-spirit-mom-on-the-run-with-teen-age-daughter story in three months receives much better reviews than the first (Anywhere But Here): It "impresses with its freshly considered action and total avoidance of the stale and routine" (Jay Carr, the Boston Globe). British stage actress Janet McTeer's performance as the mother stands out, and the low-budget, genuine feeling of the film results in "one of the few movies ever made that doesn't feel like a movie," in which the characters "throb and course with life" (Stephen Hunter, the Washington Post). (Click here to read David Edelstein's review in Slate.)

Book

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Miss Wyoming, by Douglas Coupland (Pantheon). Has Coupland, once on the cutting edge with Generation X, lost his touch? Critics seem to think so. Always read "more for his trend-setting insights than his novelistic dexterity," he loses his hipster cred with this novel "by jumping on the already tired beauty-pageant-bashing bandwagon" (Publishers' Weekly). Even worse, "his brand labels are just slightly faded," and the story feels "curiously clipped and uptight" (Tom Shone, the New York Times). On a more positive note, many also point out that despite his faux pas, Coupland has put together "a brilliant set of riffs" on pop culture and Hollywood life (James Poniewozik, Time). (Click here to see some of the furniture the author has designed.)

Eliza Truitt, a former editor at Slate, now works as a wedding photographer in Seattle.