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SWEET NOVEMBER
Reviewed September 16th, 2001 by David Nusair

 

Sweet November undoubtedly would have worked a lot better if it had been a novel. In a novel, the writer has pages and pages worth of time to tell the story, allowing for nuances and changes in the behaviour of its characters. But as a film, though consistently entertaining, Sweet November comes off as cheesy and corny because the main character has to completely change his actions over the course of two hours.

Keanu Reeves stars as that character, a man caught up in the relentless and fast-paced world of advertising. He doesnít even have time to meet his girlfriendís parents. One day, though, his whole life comes crashing down as he loses his job and girlfriend. Enter Charlize Theron. Sheís a bohemian who believes that life isnít just about work and money, but rather about having fun and getting to know people around you. What she proposes is that Reeves moves in with her for one month, during which time sheíll ďspirtually healĒ him. Considering that Theron sleeps with Reeves before heís even agreed to move in, his decision is not a surprising one.

Sweet November is incredibly schmaltzy but itís mostly entertaining. Reeves, an underrated actor (as long as he doesnít push himself too hard), is especially good here Ė playing the cynical, go-go-go businessman forced to slow down after a series of catastrophic events. This isnít a particularly original character (nor is his journey of self discovery), but as played by Reeves, he immediately wins our attention and (more importantly) our sympathy. Theron is just as good, if a little too flighty (I mean, come on. Is it even possible to be this free-spirited? Is there anyone outside of a movie that behaves this way? Doubtful.) Among the supporting cast, Greg Germann (of Ally McBeal) steals most of his scenes as Reevesí desperate former co-worker.

SPOILER ALERT! Youíve been warned. Much has been made of the ending, which features Theron dying of cancer. Itís been called a desperate move by the screenwriter, but within the context of the rest of the movie, the revelation that sheís dying fits. Why else would a woman take in a total stranger for a month at a time? Yeah, this wouldnít happen in real life anyway, but within the context of the movie, her motives make more sense once itís revealed sheís gonna be dead soon.

Look, Sweet November isnít particularly original, nor is it consistently entertaining (the running time has been padded to an overweight 112 minutes, when it shouldnít have been more than 90), but it does contain two great star performances. On that level, itís worth a rental.

Audio: A 5.1 DD soundtrack is included here, and itís acceptable. Thereís nothing earth-shaking about this track, but it gets the job done. Dialogue is clear, but surround sounds are non-existent. This isnít exactly a disc for showing off your system...
Video: But on the other hand, thereís the video transfer. This is simply stunning (itís also a Warner disc, so itís not terribly surprising). The majority of the flick takes place outdoors and it looks amazing. Itís almost as if youíre in San Francisco (well, okay, not really but you get the idea).

Extras: Besides a trailer and some production notes/cast and crew info, the only other extra is a 9-minute behind-the-scenes fluff piece. Itís interesting enough, but itís informational quotient is nil.

Conclusion: Sweet November is incredibly cheesy, but as long as you donít expect much from it, itíll entertain you (in a sort of thereís-nothing-on-TV-except-informercials sort of way).

 

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