Sweet November

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Sweet November

It would be extremely easy to attack Sweet November solely because, like many movies before it, it miscasts Keanu Reeves—this time as a workaholic ad executive whose take-no-prisoners attitude has allowed him to achieve financial success but little real happiness. Yes, Reeves looks ridiculous barking into a cell phone, intently running on a treadmill while staring at a wall of TV screens, and making demands of underlings working on a hot-dog ad campaign. ("MORE cleavage! MORE dogs!") But November features so many indigestible elements that it would be inaccurate to focus on only one. A remake of a 1968 tearjerker, November lends further credence to the film-propagated theory that a whole subspecies of women exists solely to teach self-centered men the error of their ways by sleeping with them. The woman in this case is Charlize Theron, an animal-loving San Francisco bohemian who takes on a new lover in need of improvement each month, the motives behind her self-sacrificing romantic habits kept hidden for much of the film. After Reeves causes her to lose her driver's license, and subsequently loses his job, Theron decides to make him her next project, drawing him into her world and illustrating the error of his ways through carefree surfside runs accompanied by poodles. But when the duties of his profession come calling, will he have the courage to toss his cell phone aside? Much of what makes Sweet November such a pleasurably awful film—in addition to the unnavigable gulf between its intended profundity level and its shallow execution—is that every time it seems to have found its nadir, it introduces a new element to suggest otherwise. Director Pat O'Connor (Circle Of Friends, Inventing The Abbotts) not only includes a scene of Reeves talking to a hot dog, but follows it with one in which Reeves works himself into a lather while unveiling a series of proposed semi-pornographic ads for the product. Theron's nutty neighbor (Jason Isaacs) isn't just a colorful, thickly accented Scot; he's also a transvestite, a revelation played for the shock value it hasn't carried since Ed Wood's day. (More shocking: One scene dangles the prospect that Reeves will croon a few numbers before film's end.) By the time its screwball premise gives way to its tragic final act, November has long since crossed the border into unintentional comedy. There's a grand tradition of melodramas that balance ridiculousness with heft, and it's tantalizing to think what Douglas Sirk could have done with a piece of fluff like this. As it is, November plays like the most self-important episode of Dharma And Greg ever made.