Walking and Talking (1996)
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Nicole Holofcener, the director, takes us to meet these two women as they go through their lives in present day Manhattan. Having seen this film when it made its commercial debut, we decided to take another look after almost ten years of being released and we can report the film is still fresh and quirky as when we first saw it. The director, whose "Lovely and Amazing" was also a worthy successor, treats her subjects with a light touch and the result is a film that gives the viewer a good insight about human relations in a cinematic form.
The best thing going for the film is lovely Catherine Keener, who is an asset no matter what she is playing. Ms. Keener seems to be a natural for the movies. The camera loves this actress who has a style of her own and who, in comedies such as this, makes perfect sense as her directors clearly capitalize on her uncanny sense of how to play the quirky characters in which she has excelled.
Anne Heche, on the other hand, makes a perfect Amelia come true. Ms. Heche is a good actress that always brings something to the roles she plays. Amelia, the young woman in this film, is at a point in her life where she has to make decisions about her relationship with Frank, who clearly adores her, and her own career as a therapist.
The supporting roles are basically the men in the two friends' lives. There is Frank, who is living with Amelia. He wants her to commit and marry him, but she has doubts before she says yes. Todd Field makes a good impression as Frank. Bill, the video store clerk likes Laura, but feels betrayed when he hears a message Amelia has left on the answering machine where she calls him ugly; he takes offense and decides to drop Laura. Kevin Corrigan is perfect playing this man. Finally there is Andrew, an old flame of Laura's who has broken up with her some time ago, but has remained friends. Liev Schreiber is good in this part.
"Walking and Talking" shows a talented Nicole Holofcener at her best. The film shows us a director who knows a lot about the complicated balance of the relationship between two caring friends.
I have seen "Friends With Money" which was a disappointment compared to this and "Lovely and Amazing". This film succeeds because we care about the characters, Anne Heche as the therapist, trying to control her wedding, Catherine Keener as confused and disappointed single again friend. Andrew and Laura (Schreiber and Keener), Frank and Amelia,(Ann Heche and Todd Field) two couples just trying to make things work. They have to find humor in minor things. Kevin Corrigan adds humor as Keener's sometime date, who finds out he is referred to as the "ugly guy".
Liev Schreiber adds a good element to the film. Keener's former boyfriend, he is there for her, even as she pursues Corrigan who works at a video store:..."Jeez look at him...I thought I could relax for once"... Keener says as she wonders why he has rejected her.
This has been compared to "Sex and the City", but there really is no comparison. A one hour TV show vs. film; this film has resonance; we will remember and want to see these characters again, they are not cardboard cut-out characterizations. TV has to be more polarized, due to the medium and time limits, hence the characters are more superficial and obvious.(Could we picture Kim Catrall in this film, I don't think so). I am surprised Nicole Holfcener has not surmised this, and realized the casting mistake in "Friends with Money"; if someone has a too-TV persona, they do not necessarily translate to film. That was one of the problems with FWM.
Also the performances in this film were not preceded by the personalities. Heche is believable, amusing and sympathetic. Catherine Keener is quirky, interesting and multi-layered. Liev Schreiber is funny, a good friend and we want to see more of him. Please, Ms. Holofcener, for your next film use film actors, not people who had a high "TV Q" or were married to a film celebrity for a brief period. It makes a great deal of difference, and the finished product proves this to be so. 9/10
Intriguing character study, from writer/director Nicole Holofcener. Ms. Keener's "Amelia" seems to have a lot going for her; she is funny and attractive, and, she manages to keep friendships while being excessively judgmental. Things may have started going wrong for her when roommate Heche moved in with boyfriend Todd Field (as Frank). Mr. Field becomes another supportive friend, however. Although Keener is cranky throughout, she eventually proves to be an interesting, supportive friend.
The performances are all terrific. Mr. Corrigan may be most memorable, as the horror movie geek Keener labels "The Ugly Guy"; watch for an outstanding scene as he overhears a message on Keener telephone answering machine. Some back-hair might have helped him look more ugly, though. Then, again, hairier Rafael Alvarez does seem prove excessive hair isn't so ugly. Wonderfully ironic to see Randall Batinkoff (as Peter) play a waiter so well, and an actor so poorly. "Walking and Talking" manages to be a story about meaningful friendship without being terribly meaningful.
****** Walking and Talking (1996) Nicole Holofcener ~ Catherine Keener, Anne Heche, Kevin Corrigan
A New York drama critic faulted Catherine Keener in a stage performance for not acting, but for being just herself. Keener is perhaps not the most versatile performer, but she's always compelling on screen and even just "being herself" is more than enough.
Holofcener has a way with actors coaxing credible and funny performances from all. It's a very talky affair with not enough meat on it to make a lasting impression. But her talent is crystal clear. She's way above most other independent directors with an assured feel for dialog and formidable directing skills.
While it might seem that the characters are spiritually bereft, the film does focus on everyday life, "walking and talking" and the vicissitudes of late 20's-early 30's finding their place in life. Perhaps some of the pleasure I took in this film has to do with the familiarity of relational themes of those years, as well as the setting which is mostly within 3-4 blocks of my home (the video store, alas, is gone now).
How you feel about the film will of course be determined by how much you care for the characters, and I found them likeable enough to give it a positive rating. Amelia (Keener) is the confused one here, who doesn't want any more than a platonic relationship with her longtime male friend, and can't figure out why she can't get a worthwhile relationship going with any other man. Her best friend from childhood is Laura (Anne Heche) who seems to have everything that either of them wants as far as a relationship goes. Laura is soon to be married, which doesn't help Amelia's frustration any.
The movie doesn't ever get overly serious about things and stays enjoyable throughout. Keener is fine in her role and Heche seems to do well in every film she's in. This is a strong first-time effort by the writer/director, Nicole Holocener. I think she made the film she set out to do. It will be interesting to see if in the future she has anything more or different to say.
What Holofcener portrays is a bond that has changed throughout the years for these two women but become stronger than before. They are open to each other, honest, judgmental without worrying about hurting each other. Feelings do get hurt but at the same time it is this honesty that is the strength of their relationship and what gets them through the tougher times.
The director has cast Catherine Keener in all her feature films and has done so in distinct roles. In all these films, Keener's character is searching for satisfaction whether it's in marriage, friendship, human nature. The characters, though similar in many ways, also have distinct qualities especially in the way they cope with their problems and the people surrounding them.
Of course, needless to say, Keener fits all roles to the T, turning in some of her best works. Anne Heche definitely holds her own. Liev Schreiber is adequate. Kevin Corrigan is great. Todd Field does a fine job too.
On the technical side, it's nothing too flashy. Everything flows smoothly. The score gives it the right level of whimsical touch. The locations are beautiful yet simple.
In the end, 'Walking and Talking' is a universal human story about friendship. Holofcener did a terrific job telling such a story in her first film and she has continued to do so in her following features.
Worryingly I could remember going through or witnessing many of the scenes in this movie, which made it even more poignant!
Amelia (Catherine Keener) is a single woman in New York City. She has a lifelong best friend named Laura (Anne Heche) who's now living with a boyfriend (Todd Field). Amelia doesn't have a boyfriend. She does have an ex-boyfriend named Andrew (Liev Schrieber) who hangs around like Cosmo Kramer from Seinfeld. Amelia's also got a cat dying of cancer and a video store clerk/horror movie fan (Kevin Corrigan) who wants to bone her.
As soon as Laura's boyfriend proposes to her, she starts fancying other men. As soon as Amelia gets comfortable with "settling" for the video store clerk, he dumps her for saying he's ugly behind his back. Andrew has a father with Alzheimer's and a pseudo-girlfriend in California whom he wants to dump right after he has phone sex with her. Amelia feels abandoned by Laura not always being there for her and Laura can't always be there for her because she's actually gone out and gotten a life of her own.
Now take all of that and coat it with 2 ½ inches of well written but mostly inconsequential blather and you've got Walking And Talking. It'll work for you if you like the performers, enjoy having a waterfall of very short scenes splash over you and appreciate examinations of humanity in utterly unexceptional circumstances. It'll feel like a potato peeler across your forehead if you want characters that are likable, need a story to have some propulsion and don't want to watch a motion picture that's less interesting than your own life.
Catherine Keener does a wonderful job playing a woman you really wouldn't want to know. Anne Hech is as good playing a woman you would want to know but would have a love/hate relationship with. Liev Schreiber is okay, except for the fact that Amelia and Andrew's relationship is written as though Nicole Holofcener has never met a man, let alone dated one. Ex-lovers can certainly break up and still find a way to be friends. That way is not going to be like it is here, where Amelia treats Andrew like her gay best friend and Andrew behaves like he's her gay best friend. That's an odd way for ex-lovers to relate and requires a lot more explanation than it gets in Walking And Talking.
Which is a complaint that could be levied against much of this script. While the film is already too long as 86 minutes, the story feels like significant parts of it are regularly being skipped in order to show you scenes that would normally be cut out of a film to tighten it up. None of it's bad, but you can't help thinking there's something more important you should be seeing.
If you like dramas where the drama is muted, comedies where the comedy produces more knowing grins than giggles and romances where you don't particularly care if the lovers get together or not, give Walking And Talking a try. If you can take pleasure from craft for its own sake, give Walking And Talking a try. If you want a movie that doesn't remind you of the inane conversations you've had with your own friends, find something else to watch
'Walking and Talking' is an impressive Nicole Holocenfer starter and possibly her best as it gets everything just right in that Nicole Holofcener way. It doesn't over due with the bonding motives drenched in the appropriate music that Nicole Holocenfer can't see the cheese in and has induced in her more recent films immensely. This first effort also spawns Nicole's signature comedy of finding the hilarity in smug, annoying and odd strangers(who we all loathe), and in the funny but horrible shallowness of her characters in which has made Nicole known for making comedic movies since then. The writing here is more raw and youthful with Nicole's feelings as a girl and a woman, maybe because of the times but this makes for more original, interesting, and entertaining dialogue and performances.'Walking and Talking' unlike Nicole's later films, also doesn't hit you over the head with the acts of one dimensional characters as each character properly goes through a vary of feelings and moods as they each go through various different situations of life, more so like real people. With this, (unfortuantely unlike her other films) she doesn't make the men in the movie side notes and props. They get a say too and convey almost as much emotion as the female characters. Nicole Holofcener's point in her movies maybe to make women the forefront of her movies and to make men the props, but I personally find it insulting and typical to do this, so it was perfect to see her first effort was true to everyone.
Nicole's direction style, especially with this entire, tells us shes not afraid to make things wacky to convey a character's thoughts and emotions even in a story of real-life, and with her camera direction as well, she always makes things feel interesting to watch as characters appear on the screen and as scenes coming along with a simple pan, although things going on in the movie are average life situations. And she never pushes a scene into a more sexually or exciting realm for interest of the viewer, as she keeps scenes in the reality of what it is depicting, which is wonderful because its real. She proves to be a big fan of the fade in and fade out into and out of sequences as its used here and in her later films, but it makes more sense in 'Walking and Talking'and brings certain meaning to certain scenes as appose to 'Friends with Money' but the fade out was interesting in that movie none-the-less. This direction style with the soft, awkward acoustic music to the scenes can be also seen as influential to the indie movie scene of 2000s with it's structure, to movies like 'Juno'.
This is a great 90's time capsule and even unrated as a definitive 90's movie with it's great 90's soundtrack and band references, it's geek-tom fan fair, and laid-back lifestyles of the characters so significant to generation x.
This first effort years ago, shows that Nicole Holofcener gets like no other the awkwardness of relating to ageing family members and ageing in general. The feeling of being lonely, and feeling that time is passing by and being wasted having your own ironic stupid superficial ideals hold you back from being with someone who wants to fill the void and who thinks your the bell-of-the-ball, and that you don't know someone can make you happy until you give them a shot, because you can't wait forever. This is also one of the most accurate films showing the jealously shared between to friends, of one having someone in companionship, and the other having no one in freedom. This is an important,intelligent and accurate film for females but at it's core its also a life study for men and women equally.
May I also add, that no wonder Nicole Holofcener has used Catherine Keener all these years.... Shes a great actress. And This is proof that Kevin Corrigan has always been amazing.
Walking and Talking is frankly about just that, the movement of life and the conversations we have along with way, conversations with people we love, people we hate, and people we want to love. It has a wonderful awareness that sometimes good intentions go bad, that sometimes jokes hurt, and that sometimes dull doesn't mean bad.
Amelia (Catherine Keener) and Laura (Anne Heche) are like sisters. Former roommates, they've always told each other everything, but now Laura is engaged Frank (Todd Field) and sometimes Laura, who works as an obviously pretty awful therapist, tells Frank secrets first. Amelia, on the other hand, is looking for love. She's proud that she can now be friends with her ex-boyfriend Andrew (Liev Schreiber) and that she can find attractiveness in the ugly video store clerk Bill (Kevin Corrigan). None of these characters are 100% successful at anything they do and they all seem to be living with illusions that there's something better out there for them. But rather than going looking for it, they rent videos, shop, and talk of the phone. And yet, as Holofcener makes clear, there's nothing unusual, tragic, or pathetic about this lifestyle.
Holofcener's greatest skill is that she doesn't judge any of these characters and she does a wonderful job with the actors making their performances seem real. Unlike so many movie characters, you don't leave Walking and Talking wishing you had friends that were this cool. You leave realizing that your friends are very similar. Holofcener doesn't force any of the action, displaying no particular personal directing style in both the best and worse senses of the phrase. She doesn't do much to move the story along, but she also never distracts you.
Since this movie came out we've gotten to know all of the actors better. Anne Heche became something of a media generated star. Catherine Keener was nominated for an Oscar. Todd Field featured prominently in Eyes Wide Shut, Liev Schreiber was in Screams 2 and 3, and Kevin Corrigan has been in 22 TV and movie projects in those 4 years. Several of these actors have resorted to schtick in other films (mostly Heche and Corrigan here), but in Walking and Talking they all seem casual and correct. It's a pleasure to watch them.
Walking and Talking is very slight, but it's also memorable for the performances, the unforced writing, and a nice depiction of New York City that doesn't seem overly familiar. This is a solid 7/10, a good rental that loses nothing on the small screen.