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AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS

SYNOPSIS:
Gwen Harrison (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Eddie Thomas (John Cusack) are America’s sweethearts, a movie and real life couple with a string of hits behind them. When they split – she leaves Eddie for Spanish loverboy Hector (Hank Azaria) on the eve of their latest film’s release - and the film is held hostage by maverick director Hal Weidman (Christopher Walken) the studio’s brilliant publicist, Lee Phillips (Billy Crystal) has to manage the press junket and make the couple appear to be reunited. Meanwhile, Eddie and Gwen’s sister-cum-PA, Kiki (Julia Roberts) discover a mutual attraction for each other which jeopardises everything.

You can tell by the first 10 minutes that America’s Sweethearts is a comedian’s film: Billy Crystal the writer targets everything in sight, from the successful romantic movies that Gwen and Eddie are supposed to have made (which appear lame and laughable, a subtle dig perhaps at mainstream audiences) to the more obvious butt of jokes like studio boss Dave Kingman - a beautifully (un)balanced performance by Stanley Tucci - and media junketeers. But all the performances are brilliant, and the film’s tone is an echo of old Hollywood, when studio bosses made decisions based on scripts with stories and characters that they wanted to see on screen. (And which therefore proved successful with mainstream audiences.) The classic love triangle is refreshed; the comedic premise of a warring couple in the midst of a publicity tour is milked for all its potential, and the stars get just as much of a baking as the journalists. Lee the publicist is as manipulative and as morally reprehensible as the rest, but it’s a tribute to Billy Crystal (and since he plays Lee, to his self preservation instincts) that most people think he is the least immoral character. Hank Azaria almost overdoes Hector the Latin lover who loves Hector the mostest, but director Joe Roth manages to put him in context enough to make him part of the crazy, funny, appetising package. There is much going on in the film, and the central premise is a juicy hook on which it all hangs beautifully. A well hung film, you might say . . .America’s Sweethearts will have you believe that everything bad you’ve heard about Hollywood is painfully true. These are vain and venal people. They say so themselves. And that’s funny.
Andrew L. Urban

A romantic comedy of farcical proportions and a satire that cuttingly reflects the movie industry, America's Sweethearts is irresistible entertainment. Peter Tolan (Bedazzled, Analyze This) and Billy Crystal's script is witty and the lines (and the laughs) just keep coming effortlessly. Crystal is truly in his element; his delivery is as smooth as a baby's bottom. In fact, there are so many good lines, it is hard to hear them all first time around. The set up, the characters, the delivery – this satire Hollywood-style is what Tinsel Town does best. The cast is Hollywood royalty and everything works. Catherine Zeta-Jones is ravishing as the spoilt brat actress. She pouts, she preens, she plays the super bitch to perfection, and wins our hearts (probably more than she should), in the process. Julia Roberts, as her overlooked sister, seems surprisingly plain next to Zeta-Jones, but delivers warmth as Kiki. Zeta-Jones is so strong that she - surprisingly - outshines Roberts. John Cusack plays down-and-out beautifully; he counter-balances the charming, little-boy-lost and big-time loser with panache. As a killingly funny satire, America's Sweethearts fires on all guns, although in the romance department it doesn't deliver as effectively, largely due to the fact that the relationship between Kiki and Eddie isn't properly developed. There should be oodles of chemistry, and by the time they get together, fireworks should explode. But there is plenty of business in all the performances – after all, this is the environment in which all publicity is good publicity. Hank Azaria reprises his divine scene stealing Agador character from The Birdcage to play Hector, the dubiously endowed Spanish lover with lithp and attitude. Yes, of course Hector is way beyond credibility, but I'm not complaining. Plus Christopher Walken as a crazy genius filmmaker is a nice touch. America's Sweethearts brings big laughs, big time. I laughed until I cried. I want to see it again!
Louise Keller

Guess what? Everyone in Hollywood is vain! That's the big revelation according to this muddled misfire of a really great idea from co-producer/co-writer Billy Crystal. He had something really meaty to bite into here - not things we already know like demanding movie stars and their all-important public profile, but the seamy world of the agents, publicists, studio execs and journalists who regulate their profiles. It's a world Crystal knows well; he's hosted enough Oscar ceremonies to understand the bitchiness behind the scenes. He adds a lot of inside jokes to the film, from the bag of goodies designed to entice journos to the junket to the circling studio execs who would let their biggest star suicide if it would boost the box office (as Stanley Tucci contemplates here). Yet Crystal's script, based largely on his experiences, is a real toothless tiger. Instead of going for the throat on the unethical goings-on of those behind the stars, it goes for standard laughs about the stars' glossy lifestyle and vain insecurities. Almost every scene ends in a one-liner, and the funniest one - when a doberman takes an interest in Crystal's crotch - is even repeated at the film's end. The result is as much a revealing look at Hollywood mechanics as a drive through Beverly Hills. It also proves that not even four heavyweight A-list actors can rescue a poorly scripted film. Catherine Zeta-Jones, John Cusack, and Billy Crystal have absolutely no rapport, while world's number one star Julia Roberts (basically a bit player here) has less chemistry with Cusack than Crystal has with the doberman. There are some crackerjack jokes, like Crystal's "You lost 60 pounds? That's a whole Backstreet Boy!" and the way lisping Latino Hank Azaria keeps pronouncing "junket" as "honket." But few of what's intended hits the mark. Zeta-Jones' demanding starlet isn't bitchy enough to be truly monstrous (didn't she see Bette Midler in Drowning Mona?) and Roberts' delectable underdog is a role way beneath her. It consists of smiling painfully and awaiting the inevitable. Mildly entertaining but instantly forgettable, America's Sweethearts is a talent-heavy misfire.
Shannon J. Harvey

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

Read Jenny Cooney Carrillo's interview with
BILLY CRYSTAL

AMERICA’S SWEETHEARTS (M)
(US)

CAST: Julia Roberts, Billy Crystal, Catherine Zeta-Jones, John Cusack, Hank Azaria, Stanley Tucci, Seth Green, Christopher Walken and Larry King as himself

DIRECTOR: Joe Roth

PRODUCER: Susan Arnold, Billy Crystal, Donna Roth,

SCRIPT: Billy Crystal, Peter Tolan

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Phedon Papamichael

EDITOR: Stephen A. Rotter

MUSIC: James Newton Howard

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Garreth Stover

RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Col Tristar

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 4, 2001







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