And time for my familiar complaint that the festival, now in its 15th year, has gotten pretty much out of hand. As a veteran of at least ten previous festivals, I've long lamented the festival's transformation from a more intimate, focused affair into the sprawling extravaganza it has become in the past few years. I'm not about to change my tune, despite the festival's proud claim that, at nearly four full weeks, it's now included in The Guinness Book of World Records as the world's longest film festival.
Such is the festival's growth that it now includes preview "minifests" in Hollywood, Pembroke Pines, South Beach, Sunrise, and Boca Raton, along with one specifically geared to children. In fact it's possible to see dozens of films in the 17 days before the festival's official "opening night" November 3. (The official "closing night" of November 11 is similarly, illogically, followed by another full day of screenings.)
Obviously there's no turning back. So do what I do: Arm yourself with the festival's hefty program, which now runs to nearly a hundred pages, and try to make some judicious selections, hoping you'll strike gold occasionally. Here's our first installment (look for a more extensive part two in next week's issue) of what this year's Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival has to offer.
This glib comedy breathlessly delivers a piece of information its makers apparently consider shocking news: The fashion industry is riddled with shallow, cutthroat people who will stop at virtually nothing to advance their careers, not to mention their own fashion agendas.
The setting is the offices of Skirt, a thinly disguised clone of Vogue and its ilk run by some extremely obnoxious people, including an imperious editor (Peggy Lipton of Mod Squad and Twin Peaks fame) who looks suspiciously like Vogue's Anna Wintour and a megalomaniacal creative director (Joan Rivers, hamming shamelessly), among others. They're surrounded by a staff of sycophants and hangers-on, one of whom is the naive title character, Jocelyn (Dominique Swain, who also played the title character in the recent remake of Lolita).
Jocelyn is less odious than most of the other people in this threadbare story, but only slightly. First-time feature filmmaker Michael Lange would have us believe that she lives in this glitzy fashion milieu but is not necessarily of it -- that she somehow remains purer than her environment -- even though she ends up ascending through the ranks at Skirt by means almost as devious as those of her cohorts.
The picture is sprinkled with mostly pointless cameos, including such fashion celebrities as designers Tommy Hilfiger, Diane Von Furstenburg, and Kenneth Cole, and editors from such magazines as Vogue, Marie Claire, and Harper's Bazaar. Gwyneth Paltrow puts in an inexplicable appearance as herself, and André Leon Talley, the flamboyant editor of French Vogue, has a few grand moments as himself. (The presence of so many of these people in such a mediocre, unflattering movie suggests a certain cluelessness.)
No less a filmmaker than Robert Altman has already braved this territory, in his disastrous Ready to Wear. Lange brings nothing to it here other than more tired stereotypes and obvious gags, and the Cinderella-style ending is completely unearned. (Thursday, October 26, 9 p.m., Shadowood, Boca Raton; Friday, November 3, 1 p.m., Galleria, Fort Lauderdale; Saturday, November 4, 9:15 and 11:15 p.m., Galleria; Sunday, November 5, 9 p.m., Galleria; 90 minutes)
A few scenes into this slow-moving drama, which was Norway's submission for last year's Academy Awards, it's easy to see that the title character, Siv (Hege Schayen), whose job is to cue the singers at the opera, and her soon-to-be husband, a recently divorced doctor, are more or less doomed as a couple. It's equally obvious that there's chemistry between Siv and the tuba player who has just joined the opera's orchestra.
Unfortunately it takes Siv another hour and a half to reach the same conclusions. By then she has married the dullard doctor and moved into his home, where she's surrounded by things that constantly remind her of his ex-wife, not the least of which are a sullen son and an intractable young daughter.
But even that's not enough: An accident leaves the ex-wife wheelchair-bound, and before you know it, the doc agrees to let her move back in. Faced with these indignities, poor Siv is still deep in denial, even when the mysterious tuba player makes his feelings for her clear.