For most of the time, this tale of two sisters is as maddening as a squeaky heel, partly because of Susannah Grant's cutesy screenplay and partly because LA Confidential director Curtis Hanson has seen fit to spend an exorbitant 130 minutes in its telling.
Rose (Toni Collette) is a high-achieving lawyer with low self-esteem who's forever rescuing her flighty sister Maggie (Cameron Diaz) from trouble, for which she's repaid by Maggie raiding her jewellery box and extensive shoe collection. When she also nicks her boyfriend, Rose's patience snaps, and Maggie flees to Florida to play house with their estranged grandmother (Shirley MacLaine).
From here a long slog towards familial rapprochement unfolds, during which time Diaz proves that being a leggy babe doesn't necessarily compensate for also being a bitch. The grind is occasionally alleviated by a one-liner and by Collette's gift for outbreaks of emotional agony, the rawness of which recall her stand-out turn in Muriel's Wedding. There are also a couple of poems, by Elizabeth Bishop and ee cummings, whose recital lifts the movie to a place it barely deserves; I was moved, and I resented it.
Double Indemnity (PG)
Woody Allen once called it "Billy Wilder's best movie... practically anybody's best movie", and watching Double Indemnity again you may find it hard to demur. Barbara Stanwyck had never made a femme more fatale than her Phyllis Dietrichson, a platinum blonde who lures Fred MacMurray's sleazy insurance salesman into a plot to kill her husband and collect a fortune on his life policy.
Wilder worked with Raymond Chandler in adapting the screenplay from James M Cain's novel, and their speed and wit gives the pulp dialogue an irresistible charge. One can almost smell the cigarette smoke and cheap perfume as Stanwyck weaves her black-widow's web and MacMurray recounts his entanglement within it. Even the voiceover clicks beautifully: "I couldn't hear my own footsteps. It was the walk of a dead man." A masterpiece.
Hustle & Flow (15)
As a pimp and drug-dealer, DJay (Terrence Howard) isn't an obvious hero, yet his efforts to make it as a rapper on the Memphis "crunk" scene make us root for him. It's one of the oddest "follow your dream" films ever, but that's its appeal.
Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (15)
The title comes from Pauline Kael, who thought the phrase distilled both the excitement of films and their failure to offer anything more than that. Writer-director Shane Black's thriller-farce feels like the last word in clever-dick pastiche, and manages to excite and disappoint in equal measure.
On the plus side, Robert Downey Jr gets the role of his life as Harry, a petty crook, ably companioned by Val Kilmer as a gay private detective. But instead of giving them something to do, Black borrows noir armoury - girls, guns, stiffs - and dumps it inside a self-consciously arch and indecipherable plot.
Niagara Motel (15)
This ensemble drama focuses on a dingy motel and its disaffected guests. Kevin Pollak does a nice turn as a sleazeball hustler, but the overall pace is rambling.
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