America’s Sweethearts

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Lee Phillips (Crystal) is a movie publicist with a major problem with movie stars Gwen Harrison (Zeta-Jones) and Eddie Thomas (Cusack). The once golden Hollywood duo formerly known as “America’s Sweethearts” is now split, due to Gwen’s affair which has caused Eddie to have a nervous breakdown. While Gwen is shacked up with Hector (Azaria), Eddie has holed up in a New Age retreat. The eccentric director of their last movie, Hal Weidmann (Walken), has demanded that the first viewing of the film be at a press junket although no one has seen it. To sell the film (since he hasn’t seen it to be able to do his job properly), Lee has decided to get the two back together and sell them as a couple.

Both Gwen and Eddie are manipulated into attending the junket: Gwen’s ego is massaged into going so she looks better to the press and her fans (as well as being able to present Eddie with divorce papers). Lee gives the owner of the retreat a very expensive car in return for convincing Eddie that he should leave. Once there, Gwen immediately plays the martyr and Eddie’s delicate psyche is put to the test in the outside world. Complicating matters are both Gwen’s personal assistant and sister, Kiki (Roberts), and Hector, who is overly watchful of his love. Though Kiki has always been in Gwen’s shadow, Eddie finds himself drawn to her. However, upon their arrival at the junket, Eddie discovers Kiki is no longer the wallflower, having lost a considerable amount of weight.

As the junket begins, Eddie and Gwen are thrown together although neither wants anything to do with the film or each other. As in high school (and most of her life) Kiki is forced to be the one who does Gwen’s dirty work. However, this puts her in Eddie’s company quite often and the spark that has always been between them continues to grow. Gwen is oblivious to their attraction but still refuses to be outshone by anyone, least of all her own sister.

When the movie is finally shown at the press junket, the press, actors and others involved in the film discover, to their dismay, that Weidmann essentially junked the script and instead delivered a movie composed of footage shot making the movie – much taken without the actors’ knowledge. Essentially, Weidmann delivered Hollywood’s first “Reality Movie”. The footage shows Gwen as self-centered, conniving and manipulative and Eddie as a man slowly becoming more and more paranoid as he (correctly) suspects his wife is having an affair. Eddie, however, is the only cast member who is pleased with Weidmann’s direction, and because of the favorable support from the press, forcing the studio to release the film despite being against it (which is what Weidmann had planned all along). It is implied that the movie will revive Eddie’s acting career but ruin Gwen’s, and the studio would face a lawsuit from the latter.

Gwen attempts to resolve the situation by announcing the couple is reuniting, but Eddie finds the courage to admit his love for Kiki. Upon hearing this revelation, Gwen fires Kiki. After the junket, Kiki and Eddie pack to leave the hotel together

REVIEW:

Two things popped in my head when I decided to stream America’s Sweethearts this evening. The first was the song by Fall Out Boy, “America’s Suitehearts”. The second was who is that says this person is America’s sweetheart? I think the reigning sweetheart is either Sandra Bullock or Jennifer Aniston, but who can keep up with these things? Funny thing, one of the stars of this film, Julia Roberts, was long considered “America’s sweetheart”. Perhaps that is why she was cast.

What is this about?

Gwen and Eddie are a separated movie-star couple who “make nice” for the cameras at a press junket promoting their new movie together. Meanwhile, Gwen’s sister harbors a crush on the oblivious Eddie, and a press agent mediates the warring parties.

What did I like?

Sisters. Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones actually pass for sisters. I’m not sure what it is, but something about their facial structure is similar. Of course, that could also be me just wanting to find similarities between these two drop dead gorgeous women. I also bought the chemistry between the two as sisters, though I would have loved to have seen more fighting. Don’t sisters fight?

Say Anything. Fairly early on, John Cusack is trying to get his estranged wife, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones back. At one point, there is a nod to the famous boombox scene from Say Anything. It was a nice little tongue-in-cheek joke that cinephiles and Cusack fans will appreciate.

Cinderella story. I was getting a bit of a Cinderella vibe from this flick with the way Roberts is being treated by Zeta-Jones. In a way, you can say that Cusack is the prince and the penultimate movie premiere is the ball. It was a nice little touch, but I’m sure some weren’t really digging it.

What didn’t I like?

Chemistry. Among 3 of the 4 leads, the chemistry is just not collectively there. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but they seemed like 3 ships passing in the night and not an ersatz love triangle. This isn’t all on the actors, but the script and director, as well. Is it really too much to ask for there to be a little more connection?

Not so crystal clear. Billy Crystal wrote and produced this, as well as acted in it, but I wonder if that was a bit too much. His character, on paper at least, was just there to throw in another lead. At times Crystal seems old and tired, but then he turns the switch on and its vintage Billy. Thank goodness for his chemistry with Roberts and Seth Green, because this is not his best role.

Mood swing. As we get into the final act, Julia Roberts’ character goes through a sudden metamorphosis. I guess having sex with John Cusack does that to you because she suddenly becomes more assertive and starts dressing a bit less conservatively. For instance, she had been covered from head to toe, then all of a sudden she is showing a little bit of her midriff. I think I would be ok with this change, if they would have developed it more, rather than just having this mood swing happen randomly. Since they didn’t do this, it just seems to be a random, albeit convenient, plot device.

Sometimes a romantic comedy comes along that actually doesn’t suck. America’s Sweethearts, flaws and all, is one of those films. I wish that they would have been a bit more consistent, but because they weren’t, the film suffers and becomes a much less enjoyable film than it could have been. That being said, I think there are enough moments in here to keep you interested, so take a chance and give it a shot!

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

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