Michael Clayton (2007)
This thriller is a vehicle for George Clooney, though it has terrific performances from Sydney Pollack, Tilda Swinton, and Tom Wilkinson. The boy who plays Henry, Michael’s young son, does a fine job as well. Unlike many child actors, he is natural, likeable, and believable. Clooney almost disappears into the role of a self-loathing and disappointed lawyer, Michael Collins. But Michael is not your typical lawyer- he’s labled a “fixer.” To put it bluntly, he’s helped a lot of wealthy clients cover up misdeeds. (I’m not going to give away many details.)
When a close friend, litigator Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson), becomes unhinged during a deposition in Milwaukee, the firm sends in Michael. (Arthur was defending UNorth, a huge corporation embroiled in a class-action lawsuit, for the firm of Kenner, Bach, and Odeen.) But Arthur (the heart of this movie) will not be controlled- he’s had an epiphany and wants to do the right thing. He refuses to be “an accomplice” in a cover-up.
Sydney Pollack (in his last role) is pitch-perfect as one of the founding partners of the firm, Marty Bach. Is he a villain, or just trying to represent his client? You will have to decide.
The villain in this film is Oscar winner Tilda Swinton, who takes on the role of Karen Crowder, the top attorney for UNorth. She is the opposite of Michael Collins- she stands up very straight and doesn’t doubt/regret her decisions. Karen will go to extremes to protect UNorth and her boss/mentor. Her suits are likened to “armor” by director Tony Gilroy.
The Full Monty (1997)
I think this comedy is a fitting one for our tough economic times. The Full Monty is a hilarious, touching, and well-acted British film (that I wanted to see for a long time)! It centers on a group of unemployed steel workers in Sheffield, an industrial city in Northern England. (It may take some time to get accustomed to their accents and slang. You can turn on subtitles, if needed.)
The main character, nicknamed Gaz (Robert Carlyle), has lost his job, wife, and is about to lose custody of his adolescent son, Nathan. Gaz can’t cover the child support, so he hatches a drastic plan to earn some fast money. If the foreign male dancers/strippers (Chippendales) can make big bucks off the Sheffield ladies, then why can’t local blokes? Nathan isn’t sure this will work, but he goes along to help his dad.
Gaz is (reluctantly) joined by his best mate Dave (Mark Addy), an overweight, self-conscious, yet sweet man who feels unworthy of his wife. Eventually, Gaz and Mark find a few more down-on-their-luck men to join their endeavor. The guys pester their former supervisor Gerald (Tom Wilkinson) to teach them to dance. At first, the upwardly-mobile Gerald doesn’t want to help the men. But he relents when he sees their desperation. (And he’s jobless, too.)
Along the way, this misfit bunch have to overcome clumsiness, improve body-image, and summon up loads of courage. From their eyes and expressions, we see that they are not doing this “as a lark” (for fun), but for survival. They rent out a local pub for a one-night performance. Will the ladies buy tickets to see ordinary guys? Will the guys be able to go “the full monty?”