America's Sweethearts (12)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner16/10/2001

Three out of five stars
Running time:

Moderately amusing comedy that’s lacking in big laughs, but just about succeeds thanks to its splendid cast and the sight of Julia Roberts in a Fat Suit.

Say what you like about Julia Roberts – no-one could accuse her of being unwilling to share the limelight with other gorgeous actresses: first with Cameron Diaz in My Best Friend’s Wedding, and now here with Catherine Zeta-Jones.

In fact, this is the chief pleasure of America’s Sweethearts – getting to see Zeta-Jones (as Hollywood Megabitch Gwen Harrison) bossing Julia Roberts’ put-upon Personal Assistant around.

There are other mild pleasures to be had here (chiefly involving Christopher Walken), and it’s all very nicely played, but sadly the rest of the film lacks the bite it should have had.

The plot is fairly straightforward. Hollywood megastar couple Gwen Harrison and Eddie Thomas (Zeta-Jones and John Cusack) have recently split up, after discovering that they hate each other.

The public, however, adores them in their films together, and so beleaguered publicist Billy Crystal is charged with trying to reunite the couple, in order to publicise their latest film.

The film in question has been directed by famously reclusive director Christopher Walken (in a brilliant extended cameo), who is currently editing the film in his back garden, inside a hut that once belonged to the Unabomber.

Understandably, obnoxious studio head Stanley Tucci is concerned, so Crystal organises a press junket, to be held in a remote resort in the Nevada desert (so the journalists can’t escape), at which the film will be unveiled, and the stars –hopefully- reconciled.

However, Zeta-Jones’ put-upon little sister / PA Kiki (Julia Roberts) complicates things by deciding that what she really wants is freedom from her domineering sister, and also that she happens to be in love with Thomas herself.

(Incidentally, if the concept of a real-life husband-and-wife movie-star team working with a famous reclusive director rings any bells, then it’s best to keep them to yourselves, as those libel lawyers can be a pesky bunch).

There’s a fair amount to enjoy here. Cusack is always watchable and his overly neurotic, New Age mumbo-jumbo-obsessed character remains sympathetic throughout.

Roberts is also good - indeed, so keen is she to get in on the joke that she dons a ‘Monica-from-Friends’-style Fat Suit for the film’s flashback scenes (because, like, why wouldn’t Cusack have noticed her before, right?), though you’re never left in any doubt over who Cusack will end up with at the end.

This is a shame, as the potential for a bit of ambiguity is definitely there. Catherine Zeta-Jones is the standout, though, clearly enjoying herself as the spoiled, vanity-ridden megabitch and giving a comic performance that suggests her acting abilities are improving with each film she does.

The support cast are all excellent, too. Crystal is his usual self, and there’s great support from Tucci, Walken, Hank Azaria as Zeta-Jones’ new ‘Latin hunk’ boyfriend, and Seth Green (Oz from Buffy) as Crystal’s assistant, who is learning the ropes (and allows for Crystal to amusingly explain some of the ‘rules’ of publicity).

There’s also an excellent cameo from Alan Arkin, as Cusack’s New Age spiritual mentor in the mountain retreat he’s decamped to when the film opens.

Ultimately, America’s Sweethearts is an entirely forgettable romantic comedy that’s low on big laughs or comic set pieces, but rendered watchable enough thanks to some superb performances. It’s just a shame they couldn’t have sharpened their satirical claws a little further.

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America's Sweethearts (12)
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Content updated: 11/12/2018 19:07

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