CONNIE AND CARLA | Ab-Fab to the
max! [April 14, 2004]
IN THEATRES April 16
Chris: Nia Vardalos’s new comedy
calls to mind something of a mix of We’re No Angels
combined with a small dash of Just One of the Guys. (I wanted to
use something other than Some like it hot and Victor/Victoria) Featuring
a female duo of talent show rejects hiding from the mob by
posing as drag queens instead of escaped convicts hiding from
the law as priests, this film seems almost predestined to
wallow in routine fish out of water clichés, or at
best further contribute to post 80’s slump of inane
gross out comedy. Luckily under Vardalos’ pen and Michael
Lembeck’s direction, what may have been the ultimate
trashy idea is fresh, funny, and surprisingly intelligent
In this tale, Connie and Carla are two vaudeville entertainers
for the airport diner dive circuit. Performing the same song
and dance routine they’ve used since elementary school,
they find their act unpopular even with the midday drunks.
When the duo accidentally witness the murder of their mobster
friend and moneylender, the two hotfoot it to the one place
they can hide “with no dinner theater, and no culture
whatsoever,” Los Angeles. After failed attempts with
a few odd jobs, the two unwittingly end up at the local gay
bar. As luck would have it, the bar is in need of a designated
act, so the two girls audition, doing their best to pose as
men…posing as women. Naturally, the two get the job,
and turn the ailing gay cabaret into the number one LA hotspot.
But with their newfound celebrity and Connie’s crush
on a straight man, it’s only a matter of time before
someone gets wise to their gender bending ruse, and the mafia
thugs track them down.
Vardalos and Collette are amazing, bringing twice the requisite
warmth and wit their two characters need. The film’s
messages of acceptance, understanding, and believing in your
self transcend the usual heavy handed, after-school-special-type
morality lessons so often found in films these days. Finally, the films treatment of gays
as real people with real concerns rather than hyperactive
eclectic hairdressers whose sole mission in life is to makeover
straight men is a wonderfully welcome addition.
In short, Vardalos has probably got another sleeper hit
on her hands with this one. If you see only one gender-bending comedy this year,
this one should be it.
Kris: I agree. There’s just enough
spice shown to edify its points and then it moves on. For
example, quick messages about Botox and body consciousness
are examined in a direct soliloquy, like a stand-up comedian.
Solid repartee from Toni Collette who, let’s face it,
never disappoints, whether she’s portraying the topless
wench in Peter Greenaway’s 8 ½ women or the suicidal
“yeti” in About a Boy. Here she plays the naïve
follower, shifting easily from bouts of anxiety to explosive
joy. David Duchovny proves himself as the coveted straight
guy, although I remember he dolled it up for Lynch’s
Twin Peaks (TV), so his confusion and minor quibbles with
discovering his brother’s identity is all an act. If
you can believe it, he’s a much better actor than when
he first started out, so I’m sure you’ll enjoy
all of his subtle stoic twitches and drunken slurs. Bit part
by Alec Mapa, who was in a slew of television roles, and,
although not listed in imdb, I’m sure was the “more
turkey Meester Chand-a-ler” guy from Friends.
The musical score shouts obviousness, with the ubiquitous
violin swells and clarinet solos, shifting the audience into
“happy” or “sad”. But that’s
what this movie is about. It’s not focusing on the grey
areas of life; the in-between areas that we don’t allow
the rest of the world to see. This movie instills that you
are in control of your own comfort level and self esteem.
Nia Vardalos wrote her character to say, “I want to
be happy” and to repeat twice: “You only live
once”, so live it up.