RHETA GRIMSLEY JOHNSON: Adult films – nice, good ones – justify suspensions of belief

By Rheta Grimsley Johnson

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – There’s a wonderful old downtown theater here that takes cash only and shows first-run movies and has one small upstairs auditorium about the size of your living room. Its neon marquee says “The Peak,” appropriately enough, since Pike’s Peak rises just beyond.
I saw one movie in 2010: “Crazy Heart.” A wise choice.
Now I’ve been to two movies in one week, simply because it’s so nice to be in a place that has theaters showing films without car chases or Ninja warriors, ipso facto, adult movies, and not in the nasty sense. The Academy Awards means a lot more if you’ve seen at least a few of the touted movies.
I chose “The King’s Speech,” as good as its reputation, the story of England’s King George VI and his struggle to overcome a debilitating stammer. Actors Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush are splendid, as a Brit might say, and the only surprises are laugh-aloud moments as the king uses obscenities, singing and calisthenics as part of his cure.
My second choice was Paul Giamatti in “Barney’s Version,” a black comedy that’s ultimately so depressing you’ll want to join Barney in the bar for a drink. Dustin Hoffman plays Giamatti’s father, a nice touch, since Hoffman might have been the last actor until Giamatti not required to look like a male model in order to win the girl and a starring role.
Giamatti as Barney is not even a poor woman’s Paul Newman. He is a chubby, bald, alcoholic hockey freak. Women can’t resist him.
The only weak part of the movie, in fact, was the fault of some severely challenged makeup artist who failed to age convincingly Giamatti’s main love interest, the stunningly beautiful actress Rosamund Pike. As cinematic decades unfolded, her hair grew shorter, but nothing drooped or sagged or wrinkled. The thirtysomething Pike looked about 22 when, in the final scene, she visits Barney’s grave.
Barney falls in love with the Pike character, Miriam, just as he weds another. He spots Miriam at his own wedding reception and practically trips over the punch bowl to make her acquaintance. This is not simply inconvenient love at first sight. It’s darn inconvenient.
I’ve been suspending disbelief on such a regular and willing basis, in fact, that I refuse to be brought down by The News from Home. It’s all about trees at Toomer’s Corner, the ones “Al from Dadeville” claims he poisoned on the historic street corner where Auburn University football victories are celebrated with beer and toilet paper.
The University of Alabama quickly allowed as to how the suspect never attended school there, nor was he, and I quote, “a season ticket-holder.” One of Alabama’s many Greyhound fans. Once rode through Tuscaloosa on the Dog.
The national coverage has portrayed the Dead Live Oaks Caper as simply the latest in a destructive back-and-forth between Auburn and Alabama fans, tit for tat. Bull. In 50-odd years of watching the rivalry, this tops classless acts with permanent repercussions. Not to mention, there’s been no retaliation I know of, not even from a non-student, non-season-ticket-holder, Auburn fan.
Paul Giamatti is my choice for the movie: “Al’s Version.”

Syndicated columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson lives near Iuka. Contact her at Iuka, MS 38852.