FRIDAY NIGHT MOVIE REVIEW: A few nights ago, I saw 2001’s “Sweet November,” which stars Keanu Reeves (The Matrix, John Wick), Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road, Snow White and the Huntsman), Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Black Hawk Down), Greg Germann (Ally McBeal [TV series], Child’s Play 2), Liam Aiken (Road to Perdition, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events), Robert Joy (Land of the Dead, The Hills Have Eyes), Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls [TV series], Because I Said So), Frank Langella (Captain Fantastic, Robot & Frank), and Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville [TV series], Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2). It is directed by Pat O’Connor (A Month in the Country, Inventing the Abbotts), with the screenplay being written by Kurt Voelker (Park, Rock Dog). An egotistical ad-executive (Reeves) has his life turned upside down when he meets Sara Deever (Theron), a woman who makes a crazy offer to have him move into her home for the month of November in the attempt to help him change his selfish ways.
A very random selection for a Friday night, neither recent nor relevant (unless you figure the recent Keanu-ssance we’re in now), “Sweet November” was one of those moments where I thought I’d roll the dice on something I’d never see on the regular. It has all the qualities: steamy romance, a kooky Charlize Theron, an ad-executive Keanu, and a transvestite Jason Isaacs. Talk about a recipe for drama. Oh yeah, and Enya’s “Only Time” plays out twice in this feature, making for some non-intentional laughable moments as I recalled the hilarious family photo scene from “Masterminds.” It’s not their fault, but who cannot listen to that song anymore without at least smiling? Not me. Anyway, “Sweet November.” If you enjoy your run-of-the-mill early 2000’s romance pairing two hot stars who fall head over heels for each other, you’re in for a treat. Forget unpredictability or character development that isn’t just surface-level. Those are for the film avant-guards who know nothing about watching movies. I want to see Keanu say lines like “time is money” and be so worked up over his workaholic life, only to be brought down to earth by meeting his true love; the journey is to realize that she is for him. Boy howdy hey, what a joy ride. Sarcasm aside, this was an average flick. It combines a lot of elements from films I’ve seen before, ones that came before and after this. Charlize Theron plays a role akin to Goldie Hawn in “Housesitter,” where she essentially drives our leading man nuts (because she’s a bit out there), only for our hero to fall madly in love with her. Keanu keeps up, for what it’s worth, and gives us that usual charm we’ve come to know and love, but it’s hard to dodge the on-the-nose dialogue he is forced to regurgitate for the sake of a simplistic theme. Yeah, we get it, he’s a selfish, egotistical ad executive. But do we have to hear him pronounce cliché monologues on how his work is important and he doesn’t need a vacation? At least not as many as he was given, that’s for sure. Soon enough, he does become a better character, even if it’s through predictable means. We know how this story goes about, maybe even how it ends. “Sweet November” isn’t a puzzle. It wasn’t meant to be. It’s merely a piece of cinema meant to capture a part of someone’s life; a specific conflict that’s filmed to give your popcorngoers something to potentially groove to or cry over (depending on how you take their sad “plot twist” in this story). It was difficult for me to jump on-board to this. There’s so much it takes from, without really being too daring. Of course, it has its experimental elements, like the transvestite character of Chaz played by Jason Isaacs, or the concept where this woman takes in losers of guys and tries to turn their life around in one month. But in its execution lies familiarity and simplicity. Everything is surface-level, never really wanting to be complex. What you see is what you get. I guess it’s a nice detour from bigger pieces of steak you could have watching more deep features, but I don’t know. It has its audience, and I wasn’t in the mood for much of anything that night. I like to think I have a soft spot for some romances, and will say that “Sweet November” has a somewhat fresh concept and nice feel to it. However, it just doesn’t leap off the page. I could’ve seen a lot more drawn out from this conflict, but it was kind of reserved throughout its duration. If it took risks and attempted to carve out characters that didn’t attach themselves to romantic tropes, we’d be given a better flick. But, I’m asking for too much when it comes to the target audience. If you’re in for a romance, “Sweet November” might have an idea worth something to you. The performances aren’t bad, Reeves and Theron have solid chemistry, and there are some good moments. It just couldn’t do much outside of its romance genre checklist. FINAL SCORE: 68%= Burnt Popcorn
Here is the trailer: