been a busy year for Mandy Moore – though not necessarily a great one.
She released her first album of new music in several years, one which got
the best reviews of her career. She did guest appearances on a few TV
series like How I Met Your Mother, The Simpsons and Scrubs.
She hit just about every talk show known to mankind.
also been in five movies that were released in the past twelve months
(although two of those were made the year before, but sat on the shelf for
an abnormally long time).
is, back in 1999 when Moore was a singer climbing the teen pop charts (her
biggest hits were the chewy pop nugget "Candy" and the swoony-pretty
first-love ballad "I Wanna Be With You") as a semi-minor league competitor
to Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Jessica Simpson, no one could have
known that she would eventually have an acting career that would dwarf those
of her competition. Deservedly so, because Moore is an extremely
likeable presence on film.
fairness, Aguilera has never really given acting a real shot (unless you
count her music videos), but check out Moore's work in comparison to Spears
in Crossroads or Simpson in The Dukes of Hazzard or
Employee of the Month to see how easily she runs rings around them in
terms of sheer acting talent. It must be admitted though that the
other singers have had more popular success in singing – which is where
they all started out. Moore has moved on – and has a real shot of
being a big star in her new field.
Moore ever wants to live up to her potential as an actress, she really needs to be
careful in choosing projects.
Three of the
Moore films released in 2007 were serious contenders for the dubious title of
"worst film of the
year": the appalling "romantic-comedies" Because I Said So and
License to Wed (neither were funny, nor were they romantic) as well as the pretentious failed art-film head-trip
Southland Tales (writer/director Richard Kelly's botched follow-up to
his cult favorite Donnie Darko). She also had a supporting role in the
interesting-but-essentially-futile musical Romance and Cigarettes
with James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon and Kate Winslet.
Dedication is definitely the best film Moore appeared in during this
period – though with the low curve her projects have set, that distinction is no great
prize. Dedication is not exactly a good film, but it's not all
that bad either, so it is a huge step up in quality for Miss Moore's
Dedication is also a romantic-comedy, although it also is trying
desperately to have indie-hipster-cynicism cred. This edge alone makes
it light years more bearable than the two pieces of Hollywood rom-com
hackwork that she had done earlier in the year. Still, in general, the
cynical and humorous parts of Dedication work a hell of a lot better
than the romantic parts do – and even those good parts are kind of hit or
Crudup – another actor who rarely finds parts which are worthy of his
strong talent – plays Henry Roth, a man who is a ball of neuroses. He
is selfish, manic depressive, hooked on drugs, obsessive compulsive,
addicted to porn and actively, antagonistically, proudly antisocial.
Roth makes his living (irony alert!) writing children's books.
partnered up with Rudy Holt (Tom Wilkinson), an artist who brings his books
to life and shares each of his vices – though he may still have a spark of
humanity which Henry has lost. This is best shown in a scene when the
two are at a book signing and Rudy offers their basketball tickets to a poor
little girl and it angers Henry so much that he spitefully punctures several
of the girl's childhood beliefs.
dies, Henry is forced to work with an new artist, Lucy (Moore), an
impossibly insecure goth. Lucy is so henpecked in life that she is
being evicted from her apartment by her own mother (Dianne Wiest) and
considers taking back a man who left her a year before for another woman.
Lucy hate each other immediately and can't seem to work together, but the
publishing house will not let either out of their contracts. They go
off to a beach house to try to work – getting on each others' last nerves
to the point that you just know they will fall in love. It happens,
though it really feels rather unlikely. They fight and break-up, which
also feels rote.
impossibilities tend to pile up – at one point to win her back Henry has to
find a single, specific rock on a stretch of land on the beach in the Hamptons.
Then he has to retrieve a book
which he threw out a car window somewhere in the middle of nowhere on the
way up to the beach – and he is successful in both endeavors. Even a man
who is obsessive-compulsive should not have that good a grasp on where these
items would have landed when tossed away. Besides, the whole idea that
Moore's character was so caught up in that one stone and placed such
symbolic importance to it as far as their relationship was concerned always
felt like a huge stretch.
the movie was much more interesting, funny and lively when it was exploring
the depths of Henry's depravity than it is when it tries to reclaim his life
by teaching him to open himself up. Not every character on film needs
to be saved by the power of love. Sometimes they are more interesting
when they are irredeemable. Dedication bravely starts down this
less-travelled road but then chickens out to take the same old, crowded
highway which every other romantic comedy does.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: February 16, 2008.