Bride's Head Revisited

There's Something About Marry

Another in a line of Dogme half-wits whose madness is posited as a state of tortured grace, the young wife in Kira's Reason is a woman well past the verge. After a stay in an institution, she returns to her husband Mads (whom we see breaking off an affair early on) and two young boys, but re-entry is not smooth. If the family's grand suburban home suggests pre-sanitarium stability, there's little evidence that Kira's domestic persona was ever as intact as that of, say, Cathy Whitaker in Far From Heaven. Rather, Kira (Stine Stengade) is an aging girl whose reckless energy desperately wants for context amid so much bourgeois bric-a-brac.

As things shakily unfold—director Ole Christian Madsen's handheld maneuvers capture the desire and ambivalence in the couple's weighted silent exchanges—it becomes apparent that while Mads (Lars Mikkelsen) seeks respectable yuppie routine, he also takes perverse pleasure in Kira's volatility, which tenuously evokes his own dimming proletarian youth. In a harrowing scene, she joins her boys in the children-only community indoor pool, competing to create violent splashes, until the lifeguards force her, twisting and howling, out of the water. After Mads fetches them from the center, she proceeds that evening to pick up a guy at a bar, and then calls her husband again for a lift after an illicit night across the border in Malmö.

Madsen's warm debut, Pizza King (1999), unreleased in this country, followed a group of roguish Pakistani and Lebanese immigrant pals in racist Copenhagen. And despite Kira's Reason'schamber-drama focus, it never achieves the first film's intimacy. Some scenes ooze contrivance, like Mads's surprise welcome-home soiree full of up-do'ed women and droll men whom Kira seems to hardly know. For her part, Stengade is a terror—her wide-eyed plastic mirth suggests a Jackie Kennedy-Nancy Reagan wax museum mix-up.

Mad love: Stengade and Mikkelsen in Kira's Reason
photo: Per Arnesen
Mad love: Stengade and Mikkelsen in Kira's Reason

Details

Kira's ReasonA Love Story
Directed by Ole Christian Madsen
Written by Madsen & Mogens Rukov
First Run
Opens January 17, at the Quad

Just Married
Directed by Shawn Levy
Written by Sam Harper
Twentieth Century Fox
In release

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The film concludes that problems are solved by near-suicidal catharsis and drunken reconciliation: Kira and Mads drop to the floor for a prom-style make-out session in a hotel ballroom after her pleas to dance nearly ruin his company's cognac-and-contractors party. It seems such an odd resolution that it can only be provisional—a wishful darning that will rend, later, beyond the camera's scope.


The marriage pressure-cooker also plots the hackneyed star-brite Brittany Murphy-Ashton Kutcher rom-com Just Married, in which we're rushed to the altar soon after our two cuties Tom and Sarah shoot pool and trade stats. (He gets her all wrong, "Marketing major. Stanford. Front row?" She coyly sets him straight: "Art history. Wellesley. Back row.") Her daddy's rich and her mama's named Pussy. He's a working-class Kelso. But even though they're still young enough to play faux-high-school roles, they just wanna get hitched. We get no Breaking the Waves wedding here, just a Let's-Go-Russian-Ark honeymoon whip through five-star villas Daddy has to spring for after each woeful mishap (wrong plug in Euro socket, rental clown car buried in snow bank, etc.), during which they find out how different they really are, almost cheat, and vow to unvow upon return. Cue up Say Anything ending with final smooches that seem Us Weekly real.

Unlike Reese Wither-your-spoon, stagy Murphy actually does deserve her own Philadelphia Story, or Singin' in the Rain. She's obviously a camp genius (see Clueless, not 8 Mile), but this dopey script, topped with too-pretty Kutcher's rote 70's Show blowups, ain't it. She may be cute as 50 buttons, but after an hour of her open-mouthed, tongue-in-tooth smile-snort, you start wishing for some good old Dogme-style calamity.

 
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