Christopher Null Reviews:

Romy and Michele's High School Reunion - Fathers' Day - Chasing Amy
A Chef in Love - The Fifth Element - Addicted to Love
Night Falls on Manhattan - Lost World: Jurassic Park

A Chef in Love
3 stars - Average, Hits and Misses

The title character of A Chef In Love is a Frenchman with equal passions for his restaurant and his lover. These dual passions create an unusual love triangle which, like most of the film's political, romantic, and historical issues, is never quite resolved.

Like the contemporary The English Patient, A Chef In Love is structured around countless flashbacks and takes pleasure in confusing our sense of time and place. It ultimately becomes apparent that these flashbacks present a love story which takes place in pre-Soviet Georgia, and our chef's female love interest is a member of that country's aristocracy. Both of the chef's passionate romances become troubled when the Communist revolution threatens his prosperity, and he is forced to choose loyalty to one of his loves. This story is recounted in a compilation of old letters and diary entries which have been delved up by the woman's son and the chef's niece.

Originally, the woman's son, Anton, is completely unaware of his mother's past relationship and his parents's past identities. However, in an early flashback we see Anton's father chasing his mother with a knife muttering the name of this chef. This serves to quickly verify an unresolved conflict that Anton becomes eager to uncover. The flavor of this subjective flashback, in which the fleeing mother suddenly becomes a turkey and is slaughtered by her husband, establishes the confusion and complexities packed within this film. Throughout, we are taken by surprise as the narrative jumps from past to present, uncovering new evidence and then addressing the effect that the discovery of it has had on Anton.

This flashback structure also adds to the film's theme of repetition and circularity. For example, the camera commonly lingers over the same entrees and artwork in both the past and the present, creating a sense of timelessness for the film's subject. The settings and other decor in the film are also quite beautiful. However, throughout, the camera's persistently tight frame prevents us from enjoying the grandness of these exotic locations and feasts. This denial of spectacle serves to focus attention more tightly on the complex love triangle and the tension it causes, which is developed up to the last frame of the film.

Unfortunately, this preoccupation with the lovers forces most of the others characters into flat and subservient roles. For example, Anton, although he discovers a whole new side of both his mother and father, is denied the screen time to deal with these issues. Likewise, Anton's father is given just enough screen time for us to realize his complexities, but not enough for us to understand them. The most egregious oversight however, is of Marcelle, the cook's niece, who is not characterized at all, and ultimately serves to merely jump-start the narrative by bringing these diary pieces to Anton.

As a mature romance, A Chef In Love is the most compelling film to come along in a long time (far superior to The English Patient). However, it is almost regrettable to witness so many interesting characters and subplots being neglected for the sake of a single, albeit interesting, story.

More info about The Fifth Element at the Internet Movie Database

The Fifth Element
3 1/2 stars - Average, Hits and Misses, Almost Good

I have seen the future, and it is very French.

What can I say about The Fifth Element that you haven't probably heard already? Not much, but I will say that The Fifth Element is a mess -- a mess of grand proportions, full of dazzling colors, lights, explosions, outfits, and... hairstyles. Designer John-Paul Gaultier's involvement with Luc Besson's creation (the most expensive French production ever) is well-known, as is Milla Jovovich's role as Leeloo, supposedly the most perfect being (but I wouldn't have pegged her as being so flaky).

The plot, what there is of one, is your basic "cab driver saves the world from a big flying ball of evil using magic rocks" story, with Bruce Willis as the cabbie in question and Gary Oldman as the corporate tycoon who wants the rocks for himself. And while lots of things blow up, most of the film is just plain boring and idiotic -- especially Chris Tucker's performance as Ruby, an indecipherable, intergalactic Dennis Rodman-meets-Rosie O'Donnell talk show host. Plus there's the blatant rip offs from Blade Runner and Brazil that I won't even get started on.

Enough already. My bet? Wait until summer for the real sci-fi to fly.

More info about The Fifth Element at the Internet Movie Database

Addicted to Love
Four Stars: Good, Memorable film

The idea of a "revenge comedy" naturally appeals to my dark side, and I've always been a Matthew Broderick fan -- so what could keep me from getting out to this little film? Not much. Not the fact that the first act feels like it was put together while the writer was under anesthetic. Not the fact that the film's editing is better described as butchery. Not the fact that Broderick as a hick astronomer is a bit far-fetched. Not the fact that Kelly Preston is an unbelievable bore to watch.

No, none of this could keep me from laughing at the hysterics of Broderick and Meg Ryan trying to win back and irrevocably destroy their respective lovers. While Addicted to Love has more gaping plot holes than you can shake a stick at, it's still awfully funny when it wants to be, largely carried on the shoulders of Broderick's natural charm and a cast of thousands (of roaches). And Meg Ryan ain't bad, either.

More info about Addicted to Love at the Internet Movie Database

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