Sunday, July 18, 2004

Review: "The Thomas Crown Affair" (1999)

Youth is eternal in Hollywood, and that's mainly because the older people are pushed aside for young faces year after year. The fact that Hollywood has gone after the teen market with a vengeance (particularly after the success of "Scream") has not helped any. This trend is more towards women than men, and so we have older leading men matched with younger women all the time. Every once in a while, Hollywood does have the sense to cast with a less jaundiced eye towards age, particularly when both leads still look gorgeous even in their 40's.
"The Thomas Crown Affair" is a remake of the 1968 film of the same name. Pierce Brosnan takes on the Steve McQueen role of Thomas Crown, an incredibly wealthy businessman who has decided to steal art, not for the money, but for the fun of it. Rene Russo plays the Faye Dunaway role of the Insurance investigator who immediately suspects him of the theft that starts the film. They are immediately attracted to eachother and she finds herself incredibly conflicted between her job and her attraction to him. Fortunately for her, she's still having a whole lot of fun in the process.
Brosnan and Russo were 46 and 45, respectively, when this film was made. Russo, in particular, got a lot of press for this at the time because she was doing her first nude scene (several of them, in fact) in her forties. She need not have worried as she is a match for Brosnan in sexuality. One of the first sights we have of her character is a lingering camera shot of her thigh-high black stockings and garter. In fact, some might say her sexuality is a little over the top, but I was willing to cut her a little slack. By the time the two get together, the sexual tension is so high you're surprised they don't rip each other's clothes off there and then.

The idiosyncratic music lends the film much of its charm (this can also be said of "Sneakers" and the "Ocean's 11" remake, which are also extremely enjoyable lighter-than-air caper films). When Crown is in action at the museum, he is accompanied by a clapping and Riverdance-type tapping, which mirrors Crown himself: constantly dancing circles around the authorities. The light tinkling piano that accompanies most of the film echoes the elite New York scene that the film takes place in.
As for the capers themselves, they are wonderful and slickly executed. You only really get the ones at the beginning and at the end, but both are so good that the film doesn't need more. In between, we get the physical and psychological tango between Brosnan and Russo as they fly over the autumn trees of New England, dine atop islands in the Caribbean, and other things that poor people like us wish we had the time and money to do. The location photography throughout is as gorgeous as the two leads, and you find yourself wanting to plan a vacation after you finish watching the film.
As in most caper films, there is a big plot hole in the final heist, but by then you don't care as you have been totally charmed by the two leads. This is some excellent escapism and is a showcase for two stars who know the meaning of the term "chemistry".
Eight out of Ten

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