Clearly Jerry Bruckheimer thinks it is, but is this the inevitable moment for a Flashdance redux, a shake-your-money-maker urban Cinderella fable that this time centers on a not-quite-notorious East Village dive where fully clothed barmaids pull stripper moves on the bar to Don Henley songs and spray the crowd with club soda? All I know is, that new Harry Potter book is super-duper. All that stuff, the Ragworts or whatever, just terrific.
Look, focusing your equipment on the happy horseshit of Coyote Ugly is like remembering a very bad burn—your body will do what it can to keep you from it. I’d rather eat ball bearings. Not that this Jersey-girl-comes-to-NYC-to-make-it-big-as-a-songwriter mendacity doesn’t know how to fondle your medulla, if that’s what you like in movies. Of course, the bar sequences’ boozy montages and circular jolt-pans are edited into an Eisensteinian throttle, but the dialectic here says: You’re a Barbary ape with a drinking problem, and we have your money. The movie’s Odessa Steps is a stompin’, Charlie Daniels-scored riverdance that could drive a dog to suicide.
While in, say, Rocky & Bullwinkle (to index thoroughly the Piper Perabo oeuvre) you are led to ponder why it is that Robert De Niro seems to have as much respect for his craft as a Grand Central Station toilet scrubber has for his, in Coyote Ugly everyone has found their level, except perhaps for tough-talking bar owner Maria Bello, who is too snappy and clear-eyed by half; she stands out like a seagull among slow-moving crabs. (Tyra Banks is one of the crabs.) At her best, Perabo is little more than the affliction of a wistfully crooked grin upon the sanity of the civilized world, whining through what drama there is in the stunning realization that your father (John Goodman) and new boyfriend (Adam Garcia) aren’t delighted when you pour bourbon on your shirt in front of a gaggle of power-drunk sailors. You don’t want to know more.
Whereas Ugly is distinguished by its irony vacuum, Frédéric Fonteyne’s An Affair of Love comes double-dipped, at least in terms of its title: Originally called Une Liaison Pornographique, this sweet, pensive gabfest is neither conventionally romantic nor pornographic. Framed as a talking-heads mock doc and structured like an introverted Last Tango, Affair tracks the sex-only spree between an unpretentious Him (Western‘s Sergi Lopez, resembling a lost French Baldwin bro) and an older, outspoken Her (Nathalie Baye, willowy and sharp), progressing inevitably from specific episodes of kink that are never revealed (the narrative contrivance cloys only mildly) to a more emotional bond that soon enough begins to fracture with great expectations and unvoiced desires. Too often fond of slo-mo subjectivity and joke cuts, Fonteyne makes sure the sex/love talk is concise and comprehensible—a relief—and there are some blessed interludes: The first “normal” sex scene is a hold-your-breath beaut, and a bathtub chat is stunningly intimate. A winner at Venice, Baye glows like an iron in the fire; if it’s inevitable, give the remake to Streep but not to Mike Nichols.
Starting out as a mock doc as well, TV director Michael Lange’s cheap indie Intern practically drops a grenade down its drawers with an early musical number, but recovers into a smartly written, unevenly executed Network on the fashion industry, complete with vanity immolations, inter-mag espionage, glamour accidents, Joan Rivers, Paulina Porizkova, and Peggy Lipton, as a head honcho editor with an exploded breast implant and a Deep Throat spy contact with Tourette’s. Center stage is lemon-chiffon-sweet Dominique Swain as a fresh-faced, impudent intern who has romantic dilemmas that drown the movie’s satire, which, as it is, targets barreled ducks the size of Cape buffalo.