“Fair Game” tells the implausible true story of Valerie Plame, the U.S. spy whose cover was blown by a newspaper columnist. Her name was leaked by a Bush administration official after her husband, former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson, scolded the White House for exaggerating Iraq’s military threat in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion.
Starring Naomi Watts as Plame and Sean Penn as Wilson, the film is a straightforward, effective dramatization of the affair that ended Plame’s CIA career and led to the perjury conviction of Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who was Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff. (Libby’s 30-month prison sentence was conveniently commuted by Bush.)
While it’s entertaining, “Fair Game” doesn’t offer any surprises unless you were marooned on a remote island during Plamegate.
Director Doug Liman, who honed his thriller touch in “The Bourne Identity” and “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” knows how to build suspense and exploit the film’s exotic locations in Baghdad, Cairo, Amman and Kuala Lumpur. His biggest challenge, though, was streamlining an extremely complicated story and giving all the political and military machinations a human dimension.
With help from screenwriting brothers Jez and John-Henry Butterworth, Liman achieves this by focusing on how Plame’s “outing” created turmoil in her marriage to Wilson, whose outspoken criticism of the Bush administration kept his wife reluctantly in the spotlight.
Watts and Penn are in ultra-serious mode here, so forget about any romance or banter. Liman mixes in news clips of Bush, Cheney and Condoleezza Rice, along with CNN footage of the shock-and-awe bombing of Baghdad, to emphasize the point that this is grim business.
“Fair Game,” from Summit Entertainment, opens tomorrow in major U.S. cities. Rating: ***
‘For Colored Girls’
It started out as a “choreopoem” before being turned into a Tony Award-winning Broadway play. Now it’s a star-studded movie made by the world’s most successful black director.
Tyler Perry’s “For Colored Girls” is a tepid, chaotic adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s story about what it’s like to be black and female in the U.S. The melodrama is rendered limp and colorless by Perry, who’s best known for cranking out low-brow comedy hits aimed at black audiences.
Originally titled “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf,” it tells the intersecting stories of nine black women of all shapes, ages and economic levels.
They include a gentle dance teacher (Anika Noni Rose), a nosy widow (Phylicia Rashad), a promiscuous bartender (Thandie Newton), a high-powered businesswoman (Janet Jackson), a superstitious Bible thumper (Whoopi Goldberg) and an abused woman (Kimberly Elise) married to a disturbed Vietnam vet (Michael Ealy). Their lives cross in ways that are sometimes logical but frequently not.
Like a musical where the characters stop to sing a song, these women pause to recite Shange’s poems. Though the words may be fitting, the florid language and long monologues usually bring the dramatic momentum to a halt.
I’m not sure anyone could have made a coherent movie out of this material. Perry obviously couldn’t.
“For Colored Girls,” from Lions Gate, opens tomorrow across the U.S. Rating: *1/2
What the Stars Mean: **** Excellent *** Good ** Average * Poor (No stars) Worthless
(Rick Warner is the movie critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)
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