Love Letter to Alexander Payne
Dear Alexander Payne: How do I love thee? Let me count the ways:
1) You made Election and About Schmidt, two hilarious, probing comedies about suburban anomie and human angst.
2) You followed these with Sideways, transporting the same deep humor into a totally different milieu and combining a loser-buddy pic with an homage to the central California coast.
3) You cast Paul Giamatti.
4) You cast Virginia Madsen.
5) You turned down George Clooney -- who wanted the part of has-been actor Jack -- because nobody would believe he was a has-been.
6) Instead of Clooney, you went with Thomas Haden Church, an actual has-been, who aced the role.
7) You refused, in short, to sell out.
8) Even though your money was coming from a studio.
9) You knew how to maintain control, including in the casting.
10) And you trusted that your vision was superior.
11) Finally, you stayed intimate, resisting the temptation to make a grand, Hollywood-style epic with Big Themes.
12) Unlike some directors I could mention, but won't.
13) Okay, it's Jean-Pierre Jeunet, whose films are getting successively worse.
14) What is A Very Long Engagement? It is an overhyped, overly sentimental rehearsal of a thousand films we've seen before.
15) But enough about him.
16) Thanks, Mr. Payne. I love you.