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Fri February 1, 2002
Nicole will win the Oscar for other films, not this one...
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
Nicole, Nicole, Nicole -— she’s everywhere —- in tabloids without Tom, in "Moulin Rouge" and "The Others," and now in "Birthday Girl." It might have been better if she were in her "Birthday Suit"; then we would have known what director Jez Butterworth had in mind. At any rate, here is a bummer birthday -- the humor is hidden and the pathos is annoying.
Are we to be amused by the Russian goons who visit "cousin" Nicole and Ben Chaplin, her future husband through mail order? Are we supposed to pity her as a con artist who may lose her life's love after she loses him his job and his innocence? Do we really care? I doubt it.
Chaplin is almost without pulse, and Kidman is doing a good-ol’ Ukrainian tart with too much vigor and not enough nuance. Her gift of a "Hog-tied Bitches" video to the closet porn-loving Chaplin just doesn’t seem amusing despite its potential, nor does her being tied-up a couple of times in the film make it sexier or scarier. Perhaps her lack of lines in English, though accurate enough for the plot, makes her character portrayal rely on body signals, and there appears to be only one signal for this babe -— yes and now!
On the positive side, Angelo Badalamenti’s score reminds us of his moody "Mulholland Drive" and Oliver Stapleton's cinematography saves this film as it did "The Shipping News."
One night, Kidman's Nadia gives Chaplin's John impressive service by hand, and the sex is off and running for the rest of the film. When the two stare at the camera in the end, we a reminded that this is not the groundbreaking "Graduate." Nicole will win the Oscar for other films, not this one.
John DeSando is co-host of WCBE’s "It’s Movie Time" and vice-chairs the board of The Film Council of Greater Columbus.