Published October 08, 2007
Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts, the two biggest female stars of our time, are possibly heading for a teaming up.
The movie in question is a Kidman project called "Monte Carlo," based on a novel called "Headhunters." The story concerns three Midwestern school teachers who pose as socialites in the world’s glamorous gambling capital and wind up snaring billionaires. It’s sort of an update on "How to Marry a Millionaire."
Kidman is already attached to the project. She told me last night at the New York Film Festival premiere of her "Margot at the Wedding" that Roberts is indeed a possibility to join her as one of the other teachers.
With those in place, anyone else would be a cherry on the top of a sundae to fill out the triangle. Think Halle Berry, Renee Zellweger, etc.
But first, Nicole must return to Sydney, where she and Hugh Jackman are still filming Baz Luhrmann’s epic "Australia," which we will see in about a year. Kidman was here on Friday for New Line Cinema’s 40th anniversary party — she stars in their Golden Compass.
She came Sunday night with husband, Keith Urban, and lest the tabloids try to put them asunder, they’re very much on the same page. Urban is in the studio, he told me, cutting a couple of new tracks to go on his greatest hits album.
Last night, Kidman gave her all to support Noah Baumbach’s "Margot," in which Kidman and Jennifer Jason Leigh play sisters who must confront their own lives.
Kidman makes the most interesting choices of any top-tier actress. She’s a movie star who wants to be taken seriously, hence her Oscar for "The Hours" and parts in such oddities as "Dogville," "Birth" and "Fur."
Jason Leigh, on the other hand, is a sterling actress who avoids being a movie star. Her only major motion picture was "Single White Female." Otherwise, she sticks to indies such as the now-classic "Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle," as well as "Short Cuts" and "Georgia."
"Margot" is Baumbach’s sort of ode to Woody Allen’s "Interiors" and Alan Parker’s "Shoot the Moon." Margot, a successful writer, arrives at her sister Pauline’s (Jason Leigh) rustic beach home — a family heirloom — for Pauline’s wedding to the ne’er-do-well Malcolm (Jack Black). The sisters each have a teenager in whom they inappropriately confide their secrets, and Margot has a husband (John Turturro) she may be leaving as well.
A couple of things about the film, which is Baumbach’s follow-up to his indie hit "The Squid and the Whale": "Margot" is shot mostly with natural light and on handheld cameras.
Cinematographer Harris Savides has an indie pedigree, with credits like Gus Van Sant’s "Elephant" and "Gerry," the aforementioned "Birth" and Turturro’s "Illuminata." He knows Hollywood, though: he also has David Fincher films on his resume.
I won’t kid you: the buzz about "Margot" starting at Toronto has not been great. Even Sunday night, the audience was divided. This is because there is not much to root for. Both Margot and Pauline are very self-absorbed, and their parenting skills — at least on the surface — are on par with Britney Spears.
They are so involved with their own melodramas that their kids are inadvertent punching bags. Both Zane Pais (son of the terrific actor Josh Pais) and Flora Cross deliver strong performances as the pawns in their mother’s familial rivalry.
But "Margot" reminded me of the days of "Shoot the Moon," when unlikeable characters were popular in these kinds of films. Kidman’s rendering of Margot is deep and textured — she’s so much more than you’d expect.
Somehow she gets that Margot is a difficult, tense woman on the surface, but that she’s trying to learn as the film moves toward its conclusion. You can almost see the gears turning in her head.
And putting Kidman up against Jason Leigh is a winning plan. The latter is so adept at murky portrayals that she’s like a sea captain in fog. Her directness as Pauline — who knows what she wants and is going to get it despite Margot’s roadblocks — is what gives Kidman the space in which to make Margot larger than life.
"Margot at the Wedding" doesn’t open until mid-November, and it’s not going to be a blockbuster. But while we wait for Kidman and Roberts, or Kidman and Jackman, or even Kidman and Ralph Fiennes — they’re doing "The Reader" together — "Margot" will have to suffice as evidence that this Oscar-winner is still quite serious about her craft.
The new version of "The Heartbreak Kid" with Ben Stiller is a dud. I like Ben’s movies, but I couldn’t be more thrilled to hear that this piece of junk was rejected by the public. The original "Heartbreak Kid" is a classic — a lovely, smart, witty film that should never have been toyed with. Going from Neil Simon and Elaine May to the Farrelly Brothers was an outrage to start with. But then, Stiller was miscast and the remake was misguided.
In the original, Lenny (Charles Grodin) gets married at age 34 simply to have sex. He can’t score otherwise. He views his winning of the clueless Lila as getting away with something. It’s only when he dumps Lila for a life in purgatory with the goddess Kelly (Cybill Shepherd) that he gets his comeuppance. And so much of that has to do with Kelly’s father, played by the immortal Eddie Albert.
It’s quite telling that the Farrellys never consulted Simon or May. They just went for the biggest, grossest laugh they could imagine. And Stiller is miscast. He doesn’t do shifty. Jason Bateman would have been perfect. Matthew Broderick could have done it, too. Alas, the ship has now sailed.
What’s next? Can we just remake and kill all the great comedies of the '70s fast and get it over with? How about "What’s Up Doc?" with Josh Hartnett as Ryan O'Neal and Jessica Biel as Barbra Streisand? Scarlett Johansson can be Madeline Kahn. …
Monday night in Hollywood, the Mods and Rockers Film Festival features a new full-length documentary about Otis Redding called "Dreams To Remember: The Legacy of Otis Redding." You can read all about this film fest, brainchild of the great Martin Lewis, at www.modsandrockers.com.
Sunday night they showed an advance screening of Anton Corbijn’s remarkable new film about the group Joy Division, "Control," which is about to hit theaters with a bang. Tuesday night is Jimi Hendrix night. …
Chaka Khan’s new album on Sony/Burgundy, called "Funk This," debuted at No. 15 last week on Billboard. It’s Chaka’s highest debut ever. My pal Jimmy Jam Harris and his partner Terry Lewis produced this gem, with A&R guru Pete Ganbarg putting together the whole package. Mary J. Blige has a hit duet with Chaka on the album called "Disrespectful." ...