"SEX IS an emotion in motion." -- Mae West
SPEAKING OF sex, movies centering on that theme can be fun or frolicsome or tiresome or unpalatable. But like vampires, super-intelligent apes or (more recently) zombies, the sex comedy genre never grows old. Although now they are often referred to as "rom-coms" (romantic comedies.)
However, even the best-laid (pun intended) plans of studio and stars can misalign. This weekend's disastrous box office on the Jason Segel/Cameron Diaz "Sex Tape" movie being a prime example. It's not as flat-out awful as the box office and some of the more dismal reviews suggest, it just doesn't know to what it aspires. Whether to be utterly gross, or amusingly accessible slapstick. It ends up being nothing much at all. Mr. Segel and Miss Diaz are appealing, but can't save a shaky, basically unfunny premise. Not even with the presence of Rob Lowe, inescapably and deliberately evoking his own sex tape scandal way back when such things were shocking.
I know Miss Diaz wants to be a good sport and participate in these types of movies -- women can do and say all the crude things men do -- and she's done several ("Bad Teacher" being one of the most recent, also with Jason Segel. That was a hit.) But Diaz is actually a good actress, wasting her time, and for all her good looks, making herself appear older than 41, because the public expects 21-year-olds in these films. (Even though the point of "Sex Tape" is that they are a couple in early middle age, "experimenting" to rekindle the old spark.)
MAYBE her Miss Hannigan in the upcoming remake of "Annie" will turn things around for Diaz. Not that I think she is particularly worried about her career, one way or another. She seems refreshingly free of actressy anxiety. She certainly works enough! And she was charming with Conan O'Brien the other night. If she had any misgivings about her movie, they didn't surface.
But you know, I wouldn't mind seeing her tackle Jane Austen material. Not kidding. Go against the grain of her outdoorsy, beachy beauty. I still remember the thrill of seeing her for the first time, almost stealing "My Best Friend's Wedding" right out from under Julia Roberts' nose. Or how effective Diaz was in "Gangs of New York."
I keep telling you that our longtime friend Marlo Thomas is a largely unsung wonderful actress!
Besides creating just about the first independent female on television in "That Girl" long ago, she was the best thing seen on Broadway in 2011, enacting a selfish know-it-all in Elaine May's little one-act titled "George is Dead." (Let's not bother here to go into all her good works keeping St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital raising millions for sick children in Memphis.)
Well, over last weekend she scored again at Guild Hall in East Hampton in Joe DiPietro's comedy "Clever Little Lies." She simply slays audiences in this hilarious play, which also offers another fabulous actor Greg Mullavey and two fine young performers Jim Stanek and Kate Wetherhead.
The event plays until Aug. 3. Names galore flocked to this opening, including Barbara Walters and Sandy Gallin.
Direction by David Saint was flawless. Quick! Somebody make a movie of this sardonic comedy about being unfaithful in marriage and be sure to star Marlo and Greg Mullavey.
Two of the best!
ONE NIGHT only! Art Garfunkel at the Queens Theatre in Flushing, New York, on July 24. Born in Forest Hills, New York, Garfunkel returns home for "An Intimate Evening with Art Garfunkel" -- songs, anecdotes, reading and Q-and-A. Tickets are very limited. Call 718-423-8394 right now!
GOOD NEWS for Patti LuPone fans (are we not legion?) The great Tony-winning Broadway star has signed on to appear twice a year at the increasingly popular club 54 Below (the site of the old Studio 54 on West 54th Street). Her agreement runs through 2016. Patti is the first artist to sign a long-term contract with 54 Below. I hope the brilliant Charles Busch is next. He has appeared there often. I became acquainted with the delights of 54 Below when I first saw Mr. Busch at that spot last year.
GREAT TO see a great-looking Ann-Margret guest-starring on Showtime's series "Ray Donovan." She was instantly recognizable, physically and vocally (that unmistakably sexy voice!) Her one scene with star Liev Schreiber sizzled. Hope there's more to come.
Oh, and Jon Voight continues to perform brilliantly on this show as one of the most loathsome/appealing characters on TV -- ever.
NOW THAT HBO's "True Blood" is winding up, this final season is turning into one of the most entertaining of the six-year run. Everybody seems energized, extraneous plots (fairies, werewolves) have been disposed of. Particular kudos to star Anna Paquin, whose character, Sookie, has tempted so many of the "undead," and also the delicious Kristin Bauer van Straten as tough-talking vampire Pam.
(E-mail Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com.)
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