Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Jason Segel Takes On David Foster Wallace in Controversial 'End of the Tour' (VIDEO) Jason Segel Takes On David Foster Wallace in Controversial 'End of the Tour' (VIDEO) Troubled Western 'Jane Got a Gun' Rescued as Relativity Files for Bankruptcy (Updated) Troubled Western 'Jane Got a Gun' Rescued as Relativity Files for Bankruptcy (Updated) Read Martin Scorsese's Column on His Favorite Hollywood Leading Ladies Read Martin Scorsese's Column on His Favorite Hollywood Leading Ladies A Woman in Charge: Warner Bros. Names Sue Kroll Head of Global Distribution A Woman in Charge: Warner Bros. Names Sue Kroll Head of Global Distribution 'The Witch' Won't Open Until 2016, But Its Sundance-Winning Director Has a New Film 'The Witch' Won't Open Until 2016, But Its Sundance-Winning Director Has a New Film Charles Aidikoff Screening Room Shutters: End of an Era for LA Critics? Charles Aidikoff Screening Room Shutters: End of an Era for LA Critics? How HBO's 'Ballers' Fails Sports Fans How HBO's 'Ballers' Fails Sports Fans Michael Moore Reveals Stealth NSA Project 'Where to Invade Next' on Periscope Michael Moore Reveals Stealth NSA Project 'Where to Invade Next' on Periscope Showtime Chief on David Lynch's 'Twin Peaks' Revival: "It's His Show" Showtime Chief on David Lynch's 'Twin Peaks' Revival: "It's His Show" Toronto Film Festival Lineup: What Did They Get? Toronto Film Festival Lineup: What Did They Get? Discover the Brothers Quay, Identical Twin Animators Who Inspired Christopher Nolan Discover the Brothers Quay, Identical Twin Animators Who Inspired Christopher Nolan Richard Linklater's Untitled New Film Pushed to 2016, Might Direct Jennifer Lawrence Movie Richard Linklater's Untitled New Film Pushed to 2016, Might Direct Jennifer Lawrence Movie Jill Soloway Says "There Is an All Out-Attack" on Female Filmmakers Jill Soloway Says "There Is an All Out-Attack" on Female Filmmakers 'Steve Jobs' Joins Fall Festival Contenders as NYFF Centerpiece Gala: What's Coming Up and What's Not (UPDATED) 'Steve Jobs' Joins Fall Festival Contenders as NYFF Centerpiece Gala: What's Coming Up and What's Not (UPDATED) Top 10 Takeaways: Holdover 'Ant-Man' Tops Blah Week, Summer Slot for 'Southpaw' Pays Off Top 10 Takeaways: Holdover 'Ant-Man' Tops Blah Week, Summer Slot for 'Southpaw' Pays Off Arthouse Audit: Is 'Phoenix' This Year's 'Ida'? 'Mr. Holmes' Stays Strong Arthouse Audit: Is 'Phoenix' This Year's 'Ida'? 'Mr. Holmes' Stays Strong Friday Box Office: Sandler's 'Pixels' Gets Mixed Response, 'Paper Towns,' 'Southpaw' Not Far Behind Friday Box Office: Sandler's 'Pixels' Gets Mixed Response, 'Paper Towns,' 'Southpaw' Not Far Behind Congrats to Monica Bellucci: She's Making History Congrats to Monica Bellucci: She's Making History Why Kevin Costner Paid for 'Black or White' (New Trailer, Sneak Preview Q & A) Why Kevin Costner Paid for 'Black or White' (New Trailer, Sneak Preview Q & A) Gabriel García Márquez and Akira Kurosawa Talk Film, Writing and 'Rhapsody in August' in 1991 Gabriel García Márquez and Akira Kurosawa Talk Film, Writing and 'Rhapsody in August' in 1991

Grey Gardens Blurs Lines Between Cable Movies and First-Run

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood April 20, 2009 at 7:21AM

These days, many of the people who aren't interested in what's playing at the multiplex are checking out the new movie opening on HBO instead. Hollywood only has itself to blame. Ignore the adult audience and they'll get out of the moviegoing habit, rent DVDs and subscribe to HBO. This weekend many folks watched the opening of Grey Gardens, starring movie stars Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore (both strong Emmy contenders for Big and Little Edie) instead of going out to see new movie State of Play (which earned a barely respectable 63% on Metacritic to Grey Garden's 77). There was a time when Grey Gardens would have been a theatrical release. Now it's an HBO film--reviewed by the Two Bens on At the Movies:
0

These days, many of the people who aren't interested in what's playing at the multiplex are checking out the new movie opening on HBO instead. Hollywood only has itself to blame. Ignore the adult audience and they'll get out of the moviegoing habit, rent DVDs and subscribe to HBO. This weekend many folks watched the opening of Grey Gardens, starring movie stars Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore (both strong Emmy contenders for Big and Little Edie) instead of going out to see new movie State of Play (which earned a barely respectable 63% on Metacritic to Grey Garden's 77). There was a time when Grey Gardens would have been a theatrical release. Now it's an HBO film--reviewed by the Two Bens on At the Movies:

State of Play, which opened soft to about $14 million, and the upcoming The Soloist, which is unlikely to drop 'em dead at the b.o. next week either, share the same weakness. (Here's Variety's Soloist review.) They're 'tweeners. You can see the problem. Working Title's Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner want to make studio-level smart-audience movies with decent budgets and movie stars. With State of Play, they started out with Brad Pitt and a high-quality supporting cast and wound up with no Pitt on the eve of the Writers Strike, hastily replaced by Russell Crowe. He's wonderful as a stocky long-haired Saab-driving muckraker of the old school, pitted against his old college chum, an ambitious Congressman (Ben Affleck), his editor (Helen Mirren), contending with the forces fighting against the survival of newspapers, and a young blogger (Rachel McAdams).

For its part, The Soloist boasts Robert Downey, Jr. and Jamie Foxx—-who are not guaranteed marquee draws. (Nobody is, anymore.) Both movies remind us of why we need to pay for good journalism. State of Play works as a Washington corporate intrigue thriller, while The Soloist was designed as a high-minded topical headline drama, its Oscar hopes dashed by Paramount when it was pushed back to spring release. But this movie is creakier, less steady on its feet, through no fault of the actors. It might have worked better on HBO, where it could have had the courage of its convictions. It's simultaneously too dark and too light. It's overwrought to such a degree that even though it's based on a true story, the homeless man is too disturbing, and the drama, too uplifting.

Finally, both films are based on old models that just don’t work anymore. But it’s not the adult drama that should be blamed here. It’s studio execs willing to lavish spending on movies--State of Play's $60 million budget was partly funded by Relativity Media--that are unlikely to recoup.

Instead of trying to inflate these movies by pumping them up with mainstream commerciality, the studios should hand them over to indie subsidiaries able to produce them on a more modest scale. At which point, Crowe and Affleck and Downey and Foxx would get paid a lot less. And their movies might make their money back.

Here's the Grey Gardens trailer:

originally posted on Variety.com

This article is related to: Box Office, Genres, TV, Spring, Drama


E-Mail Updates








Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.