Sep 26, 2012

Blu Under Ten: Joseph Gordon Levitt ties the knot in 'HOLY MATRIMONY'

   This weekend, one of the films I've been looking forward to all year, LOOPER, hits cinemas. In honor of Joseph Gordon Levitt, who plays a younger version of Bruce Willis through the magic of makeup and vocal impersonation, I thought it would be fun to look back at one of Levitt's earliest film roles in a movie that can be had on Blu Ray for just five bucks on Amazon.

   HOLY MATRIMONY came out all the way back in 1994, and then quickly fell out of the public consciousness. Not because it was a terrible film, but because it was one of those films that just kind of existed. Directed by everyone's favorite Vulcan, Leonard Nimoy (sorry Kirstie Alley), the film told the story of two thieves hiding out in a Hutterite community in Alberta.

   The wannabe Bonnie and Clyde, played by Patricia Arquette (very much in her hotness prime) and Tate Donovan, steal a large sum of money from the carnival they both work at and have big plans to move to Hollywood. First, however, they have to lay low until the heat dies down. Fortunately, Donovan's character Peter is a former Hutterite so they decide to go back to his home - a small farming commune that is ruled by strict religious tradition.

   From the outset, Arquette's character Havana is looked down upon by the stodgy traditionalists. Whereas they are all modest, simple folk, she is a very modern material girl. Her midriff shirt and short shorts stand in stark contrast to their modest handmade dresses. She is definitely the proverbial fish out of water, and this is what a lot of the film's initial humor derives from.

   In order to stay, Peter has to convince the town elders that he and Havana are husband and wife. His uncle Wilhelm (Armin Mueller Stahl) is somewhat displeased with his nephew's choice in bride, but after a traditional Hutterite wedding ceremony the pair are welcomed into the community. Peter hides the money under a baseboard, and they try to live the Hutterite life, much to Havana's chagrin.

   She's not the only one who hates the new arrangement, though. Peter's little brother, Ezekiel, is happy his brother has returned home, but is distrustful of the girl from the outside world. He finds her immodesty challenging, and often faints in her presence. Joseph Gordon Levitt is very good in the role, and is quite amusing in his disdain for Havana.

   One day, after going into town for ice cream, Peter flips his car, throwing Ezekiel from the vehicle and killing Peter. Havana decides to take the money and run, but, alas, she doesn't know where Peter stashed it. Then, Wilhelm and the elders present her with one of their quirkier traditions.

  Apparently, when a Hutterite man dies and leaves a childless wife behind, tradition dictates that she must marry his brother. She can refuse to wed the twelve year old Ezekiel, but then she must leave the community (and the hidden money) behind. She agrees to the arrangement, and the film takes a turn for originality in concept.

   A lot of the fun in this film comes from that odd conceit. Not only is she a modern girl forced to be subservient to her husband, she is bride to a nervous child who hates her. Things really take a turn when Ezekiel finds the money and uses it to make her fall in line, before discovering it was stolen and choosing to return it to make amends for his brother's sin.

   All considered, this is a decent film that never really rises above being merely charming. It's the kind of movie that you find playing on a local affiliate on a Sunday afternoon.

   The best parts are the interactions between Arquette and Levitt. Their situation seems like it could have been mined for more laughs, but it pulls a lot of punches - especially for a film that marketed itself as a "sexy comedy".

   Other than that, it was nice to get a glimpse into a little seen and often misunderstood North American sub culture. A lot of people mix up the Hutterites, the Mennonites, and the more famous Amish. The big difference between the three seems to be the varying levels of modern technologies they dabble with. While the Amish shun almost all modern conveniences, the Hutterites use certain things like mechanical farm equipment while still living simply. I think the film could have used a few scenes of clarifying exposition to make these differences clearer to the average audience.

   The Hutterite setting also gives the movie one if it's big drawbacks in the Germanic accents that are prevalent in the film. While Levitt and Stahl maintain their accents effectively, others (especially Tate Donovan) seem to fall in and out of theirs. There are times when the thick accents are a bit hard to understand, and the Blu Ray has no subtitles to help out in catching what some characters are saying.
   The only other real issue I have with the film is how underdeveloped the subplot of the FBI agent tracking Peter and Havana is. We get one initial scene of him taking the case, and then he is completely absent until he comes to the community near the end of the film. Just one more scene of him figuring out they went there would have given his character a little more weight. As it stands, he feels like a stock 90's brash cop archetype.

   There's a bit near the end that kind of gets my goat, too. It involves some of the worst impromptu fake laughing I've ever seen from a group of cops. Trust me, you'll know it when you see it. It just comes off weird and reminds me of the end of JONNY QUEST episodes when everyone laughs at something Hadji says before going to credits.

   Overall, this movie is really only of interest to people wanting to see Levitt as a talented youngster, or wishing to see a bit of Hutterite culture. It's a cute little film, but it could have been better.

   The Blu Ray itself is very light on extras, by which I mean to say it has none at all. Just "Play Movie" and "Chapter Selection". A trailer, at least, would have been nice, but for five bucks I guess you can't always expect a lot.

   Anyone else remember this film? Did you find it charming and funny, or was it a waste of an hour and a half?

Previous "Blu Under Tens"
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
Blazing Saddles

No comments:

Post a Comment

What do YOU think?