You don't get much more prestigious than the film version of a celebrated novel by a Pulitzer Prize winner. Jhumpa Lahiri's story of the son of Indian immigrants who is caught between his desire to fit in with his Boston neighbors and his family's desire to do the exact opposite is brought to life by director Mira Nair (Vanity Fair, Mississippi Masala). If that sounds like the plot to Bend It Like Beckham, well, it is and it isn't, and, at any rate, that doesn't mean there can't be another film about the struggles of someone trapped between two cultures, right? There's plenty of territory to explore in that premise. I mean, how many movies have been made about rogue cops who have to save the day while battling both bad guys and their own police departments? Like, 100? Here's another question: Will people take Kal Penn, star of such funny (but slight) comedies as Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle and Van Wilder, seriously as the lead here?
Sofia Coppola is - in fraternity/sorority terms - a legacy, and no one, and I mean no one, appreciates that more than Hollywood. But the good thing is she deserves the love; her second and third films, The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation, were beautifully constructed, fragile little movies full of style and substance in equal measure. Her fourth and latest is a stylized biopic, starring Kirsten Dunst as the 19-year-old queen of France, and features decidedly nonperiod music by the likes of New Order and Gang of Four. Here's hoping that gambit fares better for her than for the last film that tried something similar. That film was A Knight's Tale, and it almost made Heath Ledger reconsider his line of work.
The Black Dahlia
The Black Dahlia may be James Ellroy's most beloved book, which is a strange descriptor to apply to a novel that focuses on the grisly murder of wannabe starlet Elizabeth Short. Director Brian De Palma was one of Hollywood's young lions in the 1970s and '80s, and even though his career has been as hit (Carlito's Way, Mission: Impossible) and miss (The Bonfire of the Vanities, Femme Fatale) as a one-eyed sniper since then, he can still deliver the goods when involved in the right project. With a talented cast (Hilary Swank, Aaron Eckhart, Scarlett Johansson) and a script by Josh Friedman (War of the Worlds), The Black Dahlia could and should fall under that heading. Plus, as L.A. Confidential proved, Oscar voters love movies derived from Ellroy novels and movies that take place in and around Hollywood. Two potential red flags: The last time De Palma helmed an adaptation of a much-loved book, The Bonfire of the Vanities, it was such a debacle, a book was written about it, Julie Salamon's 1992 best seller, The Devil's Candy: The Bonfire of the Vanities Goes to Hollywood. And Josh Hartnett, who still hasn't shown he can carry a movie, plays the lead role in Dahlia.