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Rage Discrimination

Schools of Hard Knocks

Lilya (the fresh-faced Russian actress Oksana Akinshina) is betrayed and brutalized throughout—by her family, her friends and neighbors, the social welfare system, and every man she meets. She is also deserted by the deity in whom she has a childlike trust. Or rather, she is nearly deserted—the only comfort God grants her is the company of a glue-sniffing, dim-witted 14-year-old guardian angel named Volodya (Artion Bogucharski). His job is to remind Lilya that, however foredoomed, "this life is the only one you've got."

Making his first movie outside his native Sweden, Moodysson conjures up a convincing milieu of post-Soviet wreckage. Of course, Sweden—once Lilya finds her way there—is even more dehumanized. But although Lilya is a bummer, it's no documentary. The viewer is asked to take on faith that a mother could so casually throw away a child as seemingly well appointed and cared for as Lilya. The movie would have been more naturalistic with a plainer actress, but since Akinshina is in every scene, it would surely have been less commercial. (The movie nods to Bresson's Mouchette, but Moodysson, amply aware of his actress's jailbait appeal, contrives a suggestive comparison between Lilya and Britney Spears.)

As demonstrated in his teenage drama Show Me Love (a/k/a Fucking Åmål) and hippie commune comedy Together, Moodysson is an empathetic director of kids, with a particular interest in outcast children. Show Me Love and Together were a bit sentimental for my taste; the brutally overdetermined Lilya demonstrates that he can go to the other extreme. Forget Irreversible, this is the season's most piercingly feel-bad movie.

All about my mother: Diane Hazzard and Love Hinson in Love & Diane
photo: Jennifer Dworkin
All about my mother: Diane Hazzard and Love Hinson in Love & Diane

Details

Love & Diane
Directed by Jennifer Dworkin
Women Make Movies
April 16 through 29, at Film Forum

Lilya 4-Ever
Written and directed by Lukas Moodysson
Newmarket
Opens April 18, at Lincoln Plaza and Cinema Village

Anger Management
Directed by Peter Segal
Written by David Dorfman
Columbia
In release


Adam Sandler ropes a whole new constellation of stars into his orbit with his latest, Anger Management. Sandler's typically traumatized schlemiel is too timid to publicly kiss his adoring girlfriend (Marisa Tomei) or stand up to his exploitative boss, but thanks to a series of bizarre coincidences, he attacks a flight attendant (off-screen) and is sentenced to 20 hours of anger management training. The other participants are choice: Luis Guzman's Latin queen, John Turturro's psychotic vet, and a pair of porno stars convincingly played by January Jones and Krista Allen. The therapist is Jack Nicholson, a satanic Zen master whom, even if you had never seen another movie, you might suspect is hiding a secret heart of gold.

Nicholson's unconventional methods include forcing Sandler to stop rush hour traffic on the Queensboro Bridge and serenade irate commuters with "I Feel Pretty." He also fixes up his unwilling patient with such humiliating sex partners as Heather Graham's barfly and Woody Harrelson's German she-male, and compels him to confront his childhood tormentor (John C. Reilly), now a Buddhist monk. Winding up in Yankee Stadium, Anger Management is consistently wacky and sometimes nearly surreal. The free-associational lurch of the enigmatic Nicholson 12-step program is set to a familiar backbeat of juvenile gross-out and homosexual panic; what's truly illogical is the blithe conflation of anger management and assertiveness training. It's all therapy.

To the degree that one feels the U.S. might benefit from a national course in anger management, the movie—directed by Peter Segal from David Dorfman's screenplay—can be read as a chaotic allegory. "This is a very difficult time for our country" is the in-flight mantra. The billboard for something called "An Army of One" looms over Sandler's apartment. Turturro is a veteran not of Vietnam but our painless conquest of Grenada. And Rudy Giuliani is called upon to insure a happy ending.


Related Article:
"A Talk With Love & Diane Director Jennifer Dworkin" by Laura Sinagra

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