Retro Review: Sweet November

Spoiled brat Keanu Reeves falls in love with an unstable free-spirit Charlize Theron. Hmmm, where does Hollywood dream up these combos?

“Sweet November” opens with advertising executive Keanu Reeves awakening in a typical rushed day. He ignores his voluptuous socialite girlfriend, turns on his nine televisions, slamming back a cup of coffee and the jumps into his Mercedes. His name is Nelson Moss and his only real out look on life is maintaining his workaholic existence.

As Nelson’s slick Mercedes skims across a San Francisco turnpike as he dials his advertising buddy, Vince (Ally McBeal’s Greg German). Nelson says he will be in the office in 20 and to have his stuff ready. As Nelson touches down in the ad-world, he is flooded with people and meetings.

His focus that particular day is to bring something fresh and tantalizing to a hot-dog company’s ad campaign. Nelson becomes so wrapped up in the development of the campaign that one of his assistants reminds him that he has to attend traffic school so his license isn’t revoked.

Nelson returns to the Mercedes and speeds off to traffic school. During the traffic school exam, a woman enters the room and spills her groceries all over the floor disrupting the whole process.

Nelson grumbles as he is disturbed and becomes even more frustrated with the exam. He taps the woman on the shoulder and asks about a question. Soon she is kicked out of the exam for cheating and Nelson blows her off.

When Nelson finally gets out of the exam the woman (Charlize Theron) is sitting on the hood of his Mercedes. She talks him into giving her a lift. Then she seems to latch onto him promising that she can change his life if only they could spend a month together. He would have to give up everything and move in with her. Will Nelson find happiness and a new lease on life? Who is this lady and does she belong in an asylum?

“Sweet November” has some interesting moments, a beautiful score and theme but for the whole film I kept shaking my head at the premise. It is completely obvious that this Nelson Moss is a complete self-devoted jerk. Since she can’t drive she has to shack up with him and change his life. No matter how you say it or try to describe it there is no logic or realism in that plot. Why does she care? We find out later that she has a new lover every month. What makes this guy so unique? Is it that he might have no emotional connection to her but the sex is good? This boggles the mind.

Another thing I don’t get is that this guy is being told by a very, very attractive woman that she wants to devote her whole life to him for a month and there is no real reaction on his part. Either the guy would runaway screaming (ala petrified of commitment) or he would be curious. Nelson seems to muddle but never really fleshing out the right questions. This aspect once again brought me into dwelling on how unrealistic this film actually is.

What is delightful about “November” is the haunting, passionate and sweeping music bellowing below a heavily in need of work script. I heard that there were a lot more scenes involving tenderness that ended up on the cutting room floor to avoid an “R” rating. I am not really sure if they would have helped given the fact that I never believed these two were actually falling in love. This I do believe has a lot to do with the daft acting of Reeves. In some of the scenes I truly believed that he skipped his emotion acting classes when he attended acting school. Maybe that’s part of his charm. I liked Theron whose performance really ignited towards the ending of the film where we were supposed to be faced with evident emotion. Somebody forgot to tell Keanu though.

The real gem of this film is Theron’s next door neighbor played beautifully by Jason Issacs. Issacs is known to American audiences as the vicious villain in last summer’s “The Patriot” but here he takes on a role so vastly different than he previous performance. With this character it was a breath of fresh air that often helped a stagnant scene. It was a great performance.

I do believe that if this film had been longer and had a stronger leading man it could have been classified as a homage to “Love Story” but in its current form it’s a little hard to believe.

(2 of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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