Finally, a version of ‘Sundays At Tiffany’s’ I don’t hate

Last year, I read a little book called Sundays At Tiffany’s by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet. The premise sounded really sweet: little girl has an imaginary friend who “abandons” her as a child, then reappears later in life . . . in the flesh. And just at a time of great flux and turmoil in her life, proving that maybe first loves can be more powerful than anything.

Yes, friends, I had high hopes for that story — especially with Patterson’s name splashed across the cover — but it turned out to be utter drivel. Poorly written and lacking any possible nuance, I found it condescending and actually ridiculous. I would have been willing to set aside the completely improbably plot without difficulty had the book just not been awful. But it was. To date, it is the only book I’ve ever read and reviewed to get a one-star rating. And I think that was generous.

So it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I hunkered down with my mom and sister last week, watching Mom page through her DVR looking for a good holiday movie with which to unwind on a quiet weeknight. She stopped on a title that was was familiar to me — and my lip actually curled in disgust.

“How about this one — ‘Sundays At Tiffany’s’?” Mom began, looking over at my sister and me. Katie was on the floor wrapping a mountain of gifts; my nose was, as always, in a book.

I briefly looked up from my copy of The Love Goddess’ Cooking School to offer a look of utter contempt. “What? They seriously made that into a movie? That was the worst book I’ve ever read.”

I wasn’t feeling too charitable that Tuesday.

“Oh.” Mom looked away, stunned at my vehemence. “Well, I think it looks good. And it has Alyssa Milano in it.”

Not wanting to be a Negative Nancy, I figured I’d said my piece and would leave the ladies to their film . . . which, if it was based on that stunning work of literature, would be awful. I returned to Melissa Senate’s Blue Crab Island and the luscious world of Italian food, figuring I’d just ignore the Lifetime Original Movie glittering in the background.

Which, it turns out, was hard to do.

Considering how much I despised the novel (and have I mentioned I despised it?), the movie was actually . . . really cute. Alyssa Milano plays Jane, the theatre manager still stuck under her mother’s thumb and struggling to make any sort of wedding plans during her engagement to a self-absorbed actor. Michael is her erstwhile “imaginary friend,” a little boy who knew her better than anyone and swept her away from the tedium and loneliness of being her controlling mother’s daughter. They once enjoyed afternoons with her mother at Tiffany’s and made up “stories” about the people around them, wondering what their lives were like, and Jane dreamed of being a writer.

And now Jane spends her time trying to please everyone but herself — and Michael can see that. He appears after twenty years away, dropped onto a New York street and unable to process why he’s suddenly alive and feeling things. And visible. Jane believes she’s going stark-raving mad, of course, and thinks Michael is some sort of crazed stalker out to capitalize on her engagement to a famous man.

Well, he’s not. He’s there to impart some lessons. Show Jane how to love again, trust again, and so on and so forth.

What didn’t come across in the book — any real sense of connection or camaraderie between Jane and Michael; any heat or romance or passion between them — was definitely present in the film. Our movie version shows a pretty, successful but vulnerable Jane, a woman I actually liked and respected, while Michael is the innocent, kind and thoughtful opposite to Jane’s ridiculous fiance. Their chemistry was definitely there and very appealing, and the movie proved to be a sweet escape.

Like all adaptations, the film and book differ — but, you know what? I was completely fine with that. The movie drastically improves upon a story I found silly and boring, and the film was beautifully shot and well acted. A very cozy way to spend a few hours, and my Patterson-hating heart may have twisted a bit several times. Who doesn’t love a good Christmas movie?

It’s rare you’ll hear me (or any other literature lover) saying this, but skip the book and watch the movie. It’s airing now on Lifetime in the U.S.

‘Eclipse’ featured less mouth breathing and abs, but more disturbing relationship insights

Despite my one-time obsession with Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, something was preventing me from getting incredibly excited about seeing “Eclipse,” the third installment in “The Twilight Saga,” the film adaptations of the bestselling books.

I mean, like “New Moon,” I knew it would feature Jacob’s killer abs (though far less in this film — bummer) and Bella’s usual angst. Eclipse was my favorite novel in the series, leading me to believe that I would enjoy that movie most. I was right — this was the film I liked best. But why wasn’t I wandering around town all starry-eyed after, slobbering about how good-looking Edward was? Why wasn’t I rushing off to buy “Eclipse” T-shirts and Twittering it up all weekend?

Well, I’m going to chalk it up to the fact that I’m almost 25 now. And yes, I know there are plenty of Twi-hards of all ages out there — and more power to them. But for me? I just feel older. And more cynical about the nature of Bella and Edward’s obsessive relationship.

Hearing them talk about marriage — Bella is 17 and a minor, at least for a little while longer — actually made my stomach turn. My sister and I both cringed when Edward saw the bracelet Jacob made for Bella, featuring a little wolf charm, and the unhappiness it brought him. He’s trying to control her. And we can argue it’s for her own safety, sure, considering there’s a red-headed psycho murderess vampire after her. But it goes beyond that, too — it runs deep. Depending on your view, he’s protective — or controlling. Maybe both. But either way, it left me feeling strange about the whole thing. And if you have to give up everything — everything — in order to be with someone, as Bella would have to for Edward, how can that be a healthy, sane relationship?

I just feel like it’s . . . disturbing. Setting a bad example for young women, for teenagers like my own young cousin. It worries me to think that 13-year-olds are looking at Edward and Bella’s dependency on one another and finding it “romantic,” a model for love to which to aspire. I’ve been in love, out of love and (happily!) in love again, and I’m not saying I’m The Expert On Romance And Relationships, but I know this: I respect myself enough to never believe, even for a moment, that I have to sacrifice everything in order to be with someone “forever.” That I would die — or rather die — than be away from him.

I mean, get some self-respect, girl.

Am I reading too much into it? Maybe. They are, after all, just books — and movies, too. But books change lives and attitudes, and books change people. Books this popular have the ability to change perspectives, no doubt about it — especially when people are so engrossed in them. I just hope it’s for the better.

But the movie? Well, the movie was good. Entertaining, and finally featured some action. If I had to listen to Bella sighing and stuttering and making strange facial expressions and breathing through her mouth for two hours without any action, I probably would have shoved my face in a bag of popcorn and never come up for air. But “Eclipse” was better than I expected, and I enjoyed seeing the scenes I once treasured played out — especially the infamous tent scene where our vampire-wolf-human love triangle comes to a head.

And I believed Jacob — I believed he really loved her. God knows why because girlfriend is a mess, but I didn’t for a minute question his feelings for her. Jake doesn’t see Bella in the “I have to have you, I can’t live without you” way that Edward does, so maybe some see his feelings as less ardent — but not so. And when Edward says that if Bella chose Jacob over him, he’d let her go, you know I didn’t buy that for a second.

But if Bella makes a big, stupid, ridiculous decision, Jake really will let her go. He wants her to be happy — even  if it’s not with him. He’ll set her free.

And that’s love. Or closer to it.

We’re so glad it’s ‘Christmas Vacation’

“We’re kicking off our fun, old-fashioned family Christmas by heading out into the country in the old front-wheel drive sleigh
to embrace the frosty majesty of the winter landscape and select
that most important of Christmas symbols.”

— Clark Griswold, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”


Friends, there’s such a thing as tradition — and, try as I may, I just can’t seem to break from it. Though I’m now 24 and have no business scarfing down chocolate for breakfast, I dutifully open the windows on my advent calendar and remove my little treat each day in December. My Christmas stocking? Yeah, it’s got Cabbage Patch Kids on it. (What? I was born in the ’80s. Please don’t act like you don’t know.) My sister and I may or may not leave out cookies for “Santa” every year, though I’ve been lax and not baked them from scratch a few times in the last, oh, five years. (The store-bought ones are just as good. Right? Sorry to break your heart with that admission, Maw Maw — our family baking guru.)

And know what else I’ll never be able to part with each holiday season, despite the fact that I’ve now seen it an estimated 1,284,468 times? A movie so ingrained in my holiday rituals, I’ve memorized almost every comedic moment — and frequently quote it to my family and friends? A film that has become An Institution In the Meg Household — capitalized letters, if you please — but one my dad now refuses to watch, because he’s just so darn sick of it?

Yes, friends, I speak of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,that gem of a film starring Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo that is sure to bring tears (of laughter) to the eyes of all who view it. Released in 1989, our copy is on VHS — videotapes, whoa . . . remember those? — and is greatly weathered with age. Still, we pull it out every year and gather around with our hot chocolate, coffee and grins, ready to enjoy the magic all over again.

It’s recently come to my attention that my sister’s boyfriend Eric has never seen this movie. I swear, a cold shiver ran through my entire body. How have you lived 23 years on this planet of ours and never watched “Christmas Vacation”? It’s blasphemy. It’s ridiculous. And I feel as though I am personally responsible for remedying this Terrible, Terrible Situation.

Our annual viewing of this holiday classic has not yet taken place, but it’s only December 3 — I have plenty of time in which to torture — er, entertain — Eric with my favorite scenes, complete with voices and dramatic reenactments (I was president of the Thespian Troupe in high school, so don’t think I’m playing around). Until then, I’d like to provide a sample of what’s to come . . . a round of pre-Christmas dinner appetizers, if you will. All quotes taken from IMDB or my brain, as the case may be.

I have to admit I’m partial to sweet, senile Aunt Bethany — and to her fantastic one-liners sprinkled through the script. Uncoincidentally, I’ve worked hard to perfect my Aunt Bethany impression over the years! And I think I’ve just about got it. Because my jokey, giggly humor about knowing this movie inside and out? Not really so jokey. Stop by and see me and I’ll be happy to prove my “Christmas Vacation” knowledge! (Unless I’m in my afternoon caffeine-craving slump — then don’t bother.)

Cousin Eddie: You surprised to see us, Clark?
Clark: Oh, Eddie… If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn’t be more surprised than I am now.

Ellen: Oh, Aunt Bethany — you shouldn’t have done that.
Aunt Bethany: Oh dear, did I break wind?
Uncle Lewis: Jesus, did the room clear out, Bethany? Hell no, she means presents. You shouldn’t have brought presents.

Uncle Lewis: Hey Gris, if you’re not doing anything constructive, run into the living room and get my stogey.
Clark: Is there anything else I can do for you, Uncle Lewis?
Ellen: He’s an old man. This may be his last Christmas.
Clark: If he keeps it up, it WILL be his last Christmas.

Aunt Bethany: What’s that sound? You hear it? It’s a funny squeaky sound.
Uncle Lewis: You couldn’t hear a dump truck driving through a nitroglycerin plant.

Ellen: Clark! I don’t want to spend the holidays dead!

Art: [to Rocky] You got a kiss for me?
Eddie: Better take a rain check on that, Art — he’s got a lip fungus they ain’t identified yet!

Todd: [trying to fix a busted stereo] Obviously something had to break the window, something had to break the stereo.
Margo: And why is the carpet all wet, Todd?!
Todd: I don’t KNOW, Margo!

Eddie: She falls down a well, her eyes go cross. She gets kicked by a mule, they go back. [laughs] I don’t know!

Audrey: Do you sleep with your brother? Do you know how sick and twisted that is?
Ellen: Well, I’m sleeping with your father. Don’t be so dramatic.

Audrey: I hope nobody I know drives by and sees me standing in the yard staring at the house in my pajamas.
Art: If they know your dad, they won’t think anything of it.

Clark: Can I refill your eggnog for you? Get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead?
Eddie: Naw, I’m doing just fine, Clark.

‘New Moon’ a worthy chapter in my ‘Twilight’-obsessed drooling

So after devouring all four books in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series two summers ago and having quite the Edward Cullen-obsessed weekend this time last year, I figured “New Moon” would produce plenty more for me to gawk and cry and pant over this year. Yeah, and I was totally right. Because though I still pledge my loyalty to Edward for all his awkward, well-meaning devotion to Bella, Jacob Black? Dude stepped up to the plate. And became really, really ridiculously good looking.

No one needs a summary of the film, so I’ll skip all that nonsense and get to the good stuff: “New Moon” was well acted, gorgeous to watch and, most importantly, way more entertaining than the actual novel! Of all the book in the series, New Moon was the most painful for me to get through . . . maybe because I’ve had my heart broken, too, but probably more because it was droning and long. I felt your pain, Bella, for reals, but at some point you have to pick yourself up, stop diving off cliffs and just get on with your life.

But the Bella in this “New Moon”? Sassier. Still codependent and clearly unhealthily obsessed with Edward, for sure, but just . . . better. Kristen Stewart didn’t irk my last nerve nearly the way she did in “Twilight,” when I’d just about wanted to pop out of my seat in the theater and punch her rapidly blinking, constantly stuttering face.

I was sincerely worried that the lack of Edward in the movie would leave me bored to tears, because that’s just about what happened while reading the book. Every few pages or so, I’d start skimming frantically ahead to see when our undead lover boy was going to emerge on the scene — or if he was going to come back. Because as much as Bella loved and missed him, desperately wanted to see him? I was just as anxious — and couldn’t take much more of her misery or toying with Jake’s emotions.

My sister, Mom and I went to the 9:45 a.m. showing at our local theater — a time I thought (very, very naively) would be deserted. I mean, who goes to the movies before 10 a.m. on a weekend? Why do they even have movies before 10 a.m. on a weekend? Well, we showed up twenty minutes before the film started and still scrambled to find seats. Make a note on your mental scorecard ’cause it doesn’t happen often, but I was wrong.

Plenty of husbands, fathers and boyfriends were around, and let me say this: are you ladies feeling all right? The very last place I would want my significant other to hang out with me is at movie where Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner remain shirtless for extended periods of time! Grown women in our theater gasped when Taylor first stripped off his T-shirt. Adult women. And how am I supposed to enjoy all the delicious eye candy while holding some other guy’s hand, his eyes analyzing mine to see if I’m really buying into all this romantic stuff (hint: I am)? Dude, you’re no Edward. Just go home and watch a football game or something. I don’t need your constant sarcastic comments in my ear, totally ruining my serious reverie and reminding me that the likelihood I’ll meet someone as kind, perfect, intelligent and devoted to me as one of these fictional characters is, um, zero.

(Rants like this might be why I’m single, I should note. Or maybe it’s just because the tools I’ve dated in the past just don’t know a good thing when they hear her talking about Twilight. Hard to say, hard to say . . . Wait, it’s the latter.)

So all in all, “New Moon” was an epic win in my book! Plenty of action, suspense, romantic tension, family dynamics, cool scenery, bad guys (and girls), scenes in the Italian countryside . . . fantastic. My only gripe? The whole experience has left me with a serious tender spot for one Jacob Black, a character I’d never really paid any mind in the past. I’m still on Team Edward, but I can’t promise my alliance won’t shift if more images like the one above keep infiltrating my computer. And, you know, Jacob’s not all brooding and stalkery — unlike my boy Edward. Though I’ll keep running with the vampires . . . for now.

“500 Days of Summer” — a story about love

500_days_summer_posterEvery now and then you come across a film that sends little jolts of electricity through your body, making the tiny hairs on your arm stand up and your lips to part and your eyes to dialate. You see a movie that lifts you out of a sticky reclining seat and into the ether, where you’re looking at a screen for an hour and a half but it feels like thirty seconds.

“Garden State” was that kind of movie — a film that made me breathless after seeing it, desperate to grab the soundtrack and relive a little bit of what had me so transfixed.

And now I can say, unequivocally, that “500 Days Of Summer” is all of that — and more.

The movie’s tagline explains, “This is not a love story. This is a story about love.” And the players in our story about love? Tom, an L.A.-based greeting card writer and artist, and Summer, a woman who arrives from Michigan and promptly carries Tom’s belief about destiny around in her hairbow-laden ponytail.

Tom is utterly captivated by her — by her laugh, her smile, her eyes, her teeth. He’s smitten. And the film is a chronicle of his love for her . . . and his eventual return to himself. Because this is, after all, Tom’s story of returning to the land of the living — shedding his ambivalence and complacency, opening his eyes to the world and recognizing that he has something major to contribute to it.

500_days_stillOf course, it’s also a heartbreakingly realistic look at falling in love — the way in which the object of one’s desire consumes their thoughts, plans, energy. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is masterful as Tom — totally expressionate, moving, real. Zooey Deschanel’s Summer is ethereal, funny, beautiful . . . and, in many ways, unattainable. This doesn’t detract from Tom’s feelings of her, which are etched across his face in every scene.

And, as my sister and I frequently whispered to each other, “He’s like the perfect guy.” And one seriously fantastic dresser.

Though Tom is certainly an adult, this is ultimately a coming-of-age story. It’s a before and after. It’s a fantastic, goosebump-raising look at love, loss and having the courage to be vulnerable, open and honest in a world of, well, e-mail, text messages and greeting-card sentiments doing the hard stuff for us.

It’s too hard for me to say succinctly why I felt like someone had reached into my chest, wrapped their fingers around my heart and started pulling — but that’s just what happened. I spent most of the film with my head bent toward my sister, tears welling in my eyes, and I couldn’t have lost more track of time if I tried. When the credits started to roll and the music swelled, I felt like I’d been on a trip to Pluto and just been dropped back to Earth.

I guess I’ve just been there. And the fact that a team of writers, actors, producers and a director could make a film that feels as though my own heart has been laid bare is no small feat. I’ll be thinking about this one for a long time to come . . . and rushing home to download the soundtrack tonight!

Pattinson shows us ‘How To Be’

how_to_be_posterI’d like to believe it was fate that brought up the Comcast On Demand screen a few weeks ago — an out-of-character move that allowed me to realize that I have access to movies via IFC Direct, home of Rob Pattinson’s independent British film “How To Be.” Was I excited? Oh, yes, I was excited. Not so much when I realized it was $6.99 to “rent” the movie from Comcast (allowing me to watch it as many times as I wanted in a 24-hour period, but still), though you know I just went ahead and paid that!

Time has been scarce lately, so I hadn’t hunkered down to watch it since realizing I could until Saturday afternoon. And, oh — what a really crazy film! At just 85 minutes, we’re quickly introduced to Art, a young musician experiencing a massive quarter-life crisis (welcome, Art! Welcome!) and struggling to find acceptance from his type-A mother and aloof father.

Art laments to his quirky, funny friends that he “just feels sad all the time,” and I really felt my heart twist for him — Pattinson definitely had the awkward, morose expressions down. In an effort to help himself out, he lopes down to the self-help section of a bookstore and stumbles across It’s Not Your Fault, a book which inspires him to write out a £5,000 check in order to have the author come and “analyze” him at his London home. Needless to say, the ‘rents aren’t really thrilled about this — not even Art’s mother, who’s constantly lamenting that she “wonders about him sometimes,” is supportive of the doctor’s visit. But Art gamely presses on, wanting to find that one elusive thing to bring him true happiness . . . and he probably does.

For those of us lusting after Pattinson since his starring role as Edward Cullen in “Twilight,” I can definitely say this is a much different role for our man! Whereas Edward is the epitome of everything sleek, sexy, glossy and magnetic, Art is Cullen’s polar opposite: gangly, insecure and unkempt. Art is constantly batting his long, greasy locks out of his eyes, rubbing at a day’s worth of stubble, wearing ill-fitting pants and an unseemly plaid jacket. Art is awkward; he’s a little unstable. And I don’t think you could stand Edward and Art next to one another and really see any vague similarities at all.

how_to_be_robApart from Pattinson’s always-adorable mug, of course. Even the lumberjack clothes can’t really disguise that.

I have to say, I really loved this film — and not just because it poured kerosene on the wildfire that is my Pattinson obsession (though it did, of course). Art is symbolic of many people in their 20s, fresh from university and without a complete idea of where they want to go or what they want to do — aside from just being happy. Art finds solace in his music, the only hobby in his life that seems to give him real joy, and he relies on that as a compass to get him through his days. Ironically, I wonder if Pattinson himself is more an Art than an Edward in real life — someone searching, not quite comfortable with himself or his “fame” . . . someone just seeking happiness, like all of us. Regardless, I really recommend this short gem of a film — I felt happy after finishing it!

Meg’s Summer Movie Preview

Summer is full of excitement — standing in line at the ice cream shop; my stubborn wearing of flip-flops, even in the rain; the beach vacations; the suntans and barbeques and fireworks. Even though I haven’t had a whole summer sprawling before me, open and uncommitted, in years, I can definitely work up some enthusiasm for summertime!

Especially when I have so many awesome movies to catch! There’s just something about the season that makes me want to plunk down in a cold, sticky theater and lose myself for a couple hours. And if the next few months are any indication, I’ll be able to do just that time and again.

A few of highlights between now and August?


Summer Movies Meg Can’t Wait to Catch

my_life_ruinsMy Life In Ruins • Opens June 5 • PG-13

This comedy featuring “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” star Nia Vardalos and Richard Dreyfuss promises to feature everything I love about a great summer flick: awesome scenery outside the U.S. (here, the gorgeous Greece), a little steamy romance, funny characters and plenty of comedic timing. I’m a huge fan of Vardalos — and good on her for going from indie lady to star! — and can’t wait to see what she cooks up for this one. Plus, have you seen her character’s Greek love interest? Check out the preview — I’ll be there!



away_we_goAway We Go • Opens June 5 (limited) • R

I don’t think I could really love delightfully awkward and handsome actor John Krasinski (of “The Office” fame) any more, so I’m fully devoted to finding a theatre playing his offbeat new movie “Away We Go.” Krasinski and Maya Rudolph play an expectant couple who travel around the country looking for the perfect place to raise their family, running  into old friends and family members on their quest. It looks touching and just . . . different. Guess I’m headed to Virginia to get a glimpse of this one!



year_oneYear One • Opens June 19 • PG-13

A caveman comedy starring Michael Cera and Jack Black? Okay, I don’t really have to give much explanation here . . . because who can resist Cera’s deadpan comedic charm? I have to admit that “Juno” didn’t really do much for me, but his loveable baby daddy character completely saved the day. And Jack Black is a genius! I know that his films can be either, um, hit or miss . . . but since seeing his awesome, sensitive character opposite Kate Winslet in “The Holiday,” I’m a huge fan. And “Nacho Libre” was quite underrated! The preview already has me cracking up, so I don’t think I’ll be too disappointed.


my_sisters_keeperMy Sister’s Keeper • Opens June 26 • PG-13

I know it’s going to be just about impossible to find someone to see this with me, but I’m still (a little) determined that I’m going to check it out. Based on Jodi Picoult’s novel of the same name, “My Sister’s Keeper” looks to be the tear-jerker to end all tear-jerkers. Though I’m not completely sold on the idea of Cameron Diaz as the mother of a brood of teens (seriously? Cameron Diaz?), I’m willing to set that aside and let myself have a good cry. We’ll see how long I can make it without shedding a tear . . . I’m betting five minutes.



harry_potterHarry Potter & The Half Blood Prince • Opens July 15 • PG

Yeah, I won’t bore you with any descriptions here. I’m beside myself with eagerness to see this one — along with everyone else in the world! But each movie brings us a tiny bit closer to the end of the franchise . . . doesn’t it? I don’t even want to ponder that!





julie_juliaJulie & Julia • Opens August 7 • PG-13

Based on a blogger who embarked on a year’s journey preparing the recipes of famed chef Julia Childs, this film starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep (love them!) looks awesome. Of course, they had me at the mention of the blog . . . and since I’m ever the aspiring gourmet who just can’t bring herself to really buckle down and cook something, I’m hoping “Julie & Julia” will give me some needed culinary inspiration! It seems to fluctuate between the life of Julia (Streep) and modern girl Julie (Adams) as they separately fulfill their destinies. Yes!