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Film Clips: 'Jet Lag,' 'Down & Out with the Dolls'

Friday, July 25, 2003

'Jet Lag'

RATING: R for language and brief sexuality.
STARRING: Juliette Binoche, Jean Reno.
DIRECTOR: Daniele Thompson.

"Jet Lag" tells the story of two weary conscripts beaten down on the battlegrounds of love. They must drop their carefully constructed defenses in order to rediscover themselves -- the first step before proceeding to a different type of engagement.

Rose, a beautician, uses her makeup as her shield. She's attractive, to be sure -- she's played by Juliette Binoche, after all -- but her rouge, powder, cream, lipstick and hair spray provide a mask she can hide behind. "I feel naked without it," she says.

Stranded at the Paris airport when workers call an instant strike, the kind the French whip up with as much ease as a souffle, Rose begins to crack. It becomes evident from the quaver in her voice, the stress in her walk, the lost-child gaze in her eyes.

Looks don't matter much to Felix, who runs a frozen-food company but once was a chef. His hair flies away, even if he can't, and there is perpetual stubble on his chin. He's played by Jean Reno, after all. A quiet but persnickety curmudgeon, he carries as many pills as Rose has cosmetics. He uses his grouchiness to fend off the world, from the father who curdled his first culinary exuberance to all the girls he's loved before -- especially the one who most recently left him.

Rose and Felix meet cute in the airport chaos, keep running into each other by fate and by their own design and eventually square off in a hotel room he has offered to share on a strictly platonic basis. The farther they get from people (and each other, even) the more the shields come down -- her makeup, his testiness.

The rest seems inevitable, but the turbulence keeps bouncing them right until the end, where they sort of meet cute all over again, sans barricades.

Director Daniele Thompson, who wrote the film with her son, Christopher, makes all the pieces fit -- perhaps a little too vehemently. The film seems divided into sections: airport, hotel, airport, conclusion. The characters gab at each other, but are they listening? We may feel a bit of the characters' stress by the time they stop resisting each other, until more complications ensue.

Like them, we may need a rest by the time this one's over.

-- Ron Weiskind

'Down & Out with the Dolls'

RATING: R for strong sexuality, language and some alcohol and drug use.
DIRECTOR: Kurt Voss.

It gets off to a promising start with two girls fighting in the trash, the introduction of a character named Alco-Holly, and a dead body drawing a crowd most bands would die for in the basement.

But it's all downhill from there for "Down & Out with the Dolls," which, as it turns out, is more lifeless than that body as it chronicles the rise and fall of a constantly bickering all-girl band from Portland called the Paper Dolls.

First off, someone needs to tell director Kurt Voss that an actress can be "indie" and know how to act. But that's just one of several major problems here.

It's hard to say where you'll find more cliches -- the plot, the music (which, it should be noted, couldn't hold a candle to the songs in "Josie and the Pussycats" as all-girl bands that don't exist go) or the dialogue.

If pressed, though, I would say the dialogue.

"You know, there was a time," the hapless boyfriend of the soon-to-be-lesbian drummer notes, "when men ruled rock."

"Yeah?" a Paper Doll responds. "Well, that time is over."

That may be, but not because of anything you'll find in this generic snooze (although the cameo by Lemmy, as a burnt-out British rocker, is good for a smile if nothing else).

-- Ed Masley

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