FilmJerk Favorites

A group of unique directors and the essential works that you've got to see.

||| Joseph L. Mankiewicz |||
Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Mankiewicz directed 20 films in a 26-year period, and was very successful at every kind of film, from Shakespeare to western, drama to musical, epics to two-character pictures, and regardless of the genre, he was known as a witty dialogist, a master in the use of flashback and a talented actors' director.

The 1950 Oscar for Best Picture and Screenplay brought Mankiewicz wide recognition as a writer and a director, with his sardonic look at show business glamour and the empty lives behind it. This well orchestrated cast of brilliant and catty character actors is built around veteran actress Bette Davis and Anne Baxter as her understudy desperate for stardom.

One of Mankiewicz’ more intimate films, this highly regarded and major artistic achievement is a spirited romantic comedy set in England of the 1880’s about a widow who moves into a haunted seashore house and resists the attempts of a sea captain specter to scare her away. This is a pleasing and poignant romance that is equally satisfying as a good old ghost story.

Mankiewicz wrote and directed this witty dissection of matrimony that has three women review the ups and downs of their marriages (with all its romance, fears and foibles) after receiving a letter telling them that one of their husbands has been unfaithful. Once again Mankiewicz deftly utilizes the skills of a well-chosen ensemble, which includes a young Kirk Douglas at his dreamiest.

Recommended by CarrieSpecht

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The Perfect Man

By BrianOrndorf

June 20th, 2005

Hilary Duff returns to screen again…with exactly the same type of film she’s been making for the last two years. “The Perfect Man” is redeemed somewhat by Heather Locklear’s interesting performance, but the rest is Hollywood at its most manipulative, tedious, and flavorless.


Holly Hamilton (Hilary Duff) is a frustrated teenager constantly moved around the country by her mother Jean (Heather Locklear) in an effort to find a good man she can love and marry. Finding a new home in Brooklyn, Holly takes it upon herself to create a perfect “secret admirer” for Jean, using a restaurant owner (Chris Noth, “Sex and the City”) with a special feel for women as her template. When Jean becomes wrapped up in this mysterious man, Holly quickly gets in over her head, and is soon looking for a way to let her love struck mother down without breaking her heart.

One cannot blame tween superstar Hilary Duff for strip-mining her appeal with film after film of forgettable quality; however, “The Perfect Man” is a cry for help. This mild, vanilla concoction, that doesn’t have a desire in the world to color outside the lines, is reason enough to start thinking that playing mildly perturbed teens is all Duff can do.

“Man” is the kind of softball Hollywood audience-pleaser that completely fails to register on any type of emotional or entertainment level. It’s hardly an attack on the senses, and the way it slowly takes a lap around cliché after cliché is maddening. The film clearly doesn’t understand it has no substance, no matter how hard it tries. “Man” is too creepy to be a thoughtful romantic comedy, for its foundation is poured with lies and deception, which the picture tries to pass off as tough love and devotion. And “Man” hardly works as a comedy. When faced with supporting cast of Mike O’Malley, Carson Kressley, and Caroline Rhea as the comic relief, it shouldn’t shock that “Man” doesn’t even contain a simple titter. The rest of the film is a maudlin mush from the screenwriter of “Coyote Ugly,” which should give you an indication of the quality and shameless, flavorless manipulation “Man” contains.

Inside this hollow creation does lay some interesting performances, none of which belong to Hilary Duff. The young star (teaming again with her lackluster “Cinderella Story” director Mark Rosman) has simply gone to this well of well-dressed adolescent awkwardness too many times, and “Man” asks nothing of her aside from some odd facial gesturing and to ignite some impossible chemistry with her bland love interest (Ben Feldman). Duff relies too much on her known persona. She needs an acting challenge right away, or she’ll morph into the new Sandra Dee before she knows it.

Keeping “Man” compelling the best she can is Heather Locklear, who not only bravely embraces her age with this role, but is also able to manufacture a lifeline behind the cartoonish screenwriting she’s given. Locklear seems to be the only human character on display here, exploring her character’s passionate feelings of insecurity and fear of future loneliness with unusual clarity. Frankly, losing Duff and her brand of Teen Beat nonsense in favor of following Locklear around would’ve done the movie a world of good. Locklear survives the material (even when faced with lame Styx jokes), but only barely, and provides the real reason why anyone should view “The Perfect Man.”

My rating: D+