“Head in the Clouds” is a strange movie.
Set in the ‘30s, it tries to do too much and ends up not knowing, it
seems, whether it wants to be a comedy, a romance, or a war movie. It certainly isn’t a comedy, in spite of the smiles
generated by a first rate performance by Charlize Theron.
The first half of the film builds the characters, which is just fine, but
the second half changes the rules until coherence and credibility finally
In a promising opening, Gilda (Charlize Theron), rain soaked free spirit
seeking shelter, bursts into the room of Guy (Stuart Townsend), astonished
Oxford student. Charming, selfish,
and utterly self-possessed, Gilda springs from a rich American mother, an
aristocratic French father, and a Yale education.
Charlize Theron is radiant as Gilda, the rich American.
Stuart Townsend is both sweet and strong as Guy, the shy idealist.
“I feel guilty being around all the wealth,” he complains with great
sincerity, and she, with a wisdom that explains her style, replies, “It’s
just a game.” Unaffected by
cultural mandates or society gossip, Gilda plays her version of that game with
flamboyance and abandon.
The glamorous hedonist lives with her other lover, Mia (Penelope Cruz),
and lures Mia and Guy into a high profile threesome on the London social scene.
The ‘30s were full of strong women who paid no heed whatsoever to what
society expected of them, and Gilda is surely one of them.
Whenever the movie focuses on Gilda’s personality (thanks to Ms. Theron),
the movie jumps to life. When Mia
and Guy go off to fight in Spain, Gilda continues to lead her life with
glamorous superficiality in a world just beginning to go mad.
When the movie takes an abrupt turn, first into the Spanish Civil War,
then into World War II, it throws too much at us – too many surprises, too
little connective story tissue. Not
only do we have to wrap our minds around two wars, we have to accept a sudden
spy story. The intricacies of the undercover work aren’t developed,
and the spy game rarely works when movie stars portray it. The baggage
surrounding known faces is distracting. Spies
need to be played by unknowns.
Making movies about this period is fraught with problems because it is
close enough in time to be familiar, distant enough to be history. Part of the problem may be that we are looking backward from
a more complicated time. Identity
shifts were more common before instant communication, and the intelligence game,
after all, was very personal in the days before the technology revolution.
Make your own call
on this one. The scriptwriter let
his story get out of hand and simply wasn’t up to the transition between eras
or the reality of war; but for most of us, Charlize Theron is reason enough to
go to any movie, even a weak one
Copyright (c) Illusion
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