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Love and War
Starring Sandra Bullock and Chris O'Donnell
Directed by Richard Attenborough
Richard Attenborough is a name that Cranky always pays attention to. He has an innate feel for epic stories, and the inner visual eye to fill a film screen to the brim. His specialty, as seen in such tremendous flicks as Ghandi, Chaplin, and Shadowlands is to take real life stories and adapt them to the big screen. When he hits the mark, he hits big. When he misses, he misses just as big. In his latest film In Love and War Attenborough splits the baby, filling the screen with images of war and war-ravaged Italy, and delivering a love story that left the preview audience I sat with cold. It's all the more unfortunate, as the story is true and one of the participants became, perhaps, the most celebrated author of the twentieth century.
It is close to the end of WWI. A Red Cross volunteer named Ernie (Chris O'Donnell) has been assigned to aid troops in the north of Italy. He has a mouth that runs like diarrhea (that's how he's described in the film, folks) and a lunatic desire to see the war from the front lines. Ernie is assigned to a post too far behind the lines for his lusts, so he grabs a bicycle, several packs of cigarettes, and a handful of chocolate and heads for where the soldiers speak little English and the phosphorous bombs light up the night sky. Next thing you know he's back where he started, but in a field hospital as a patient in great danger of losing his leg.
An American nurse named Agnes (Sandra Bullock) knows the medical research of the time and violates orders and medical protocol to help save the leg. Ernie falls instantly in love, and spouts words in amount equivalent to the tonnage of water pouring over Niagara Falls in any given minute. Agnes doesn't bite. A) she's probably seen it before, and B) she's way too old for the boy. Furthermore, her medical heroics have brought her to the attention of a local, prominent Italian surgeon. There's also a friend of Ernie's who's interested.
In Love and War has all the makings of a great story. There's romance; romantic conflict; battlefield scenes; the Italian countryside, and the knowledge that Ernie's last name is Hemingway. Yep, that Hemingway. The story is true, and this flick lays out the root reasons for Hemingway's later behavior towards women and, eventually, himself.
In Love and War falls flat for the simple reason that there is no spark between lead actors Bullock and O'Donnell. None. Everything else is there, from script to production values. Each actor has his/her individual moments but taken as a whole, it is not enough.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to In Love and War, he would have paid . . .
. . . hoping that a big story that fails on the big screen will play better on the small. Rent it.
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