Published Jun 17, 2009While it's often amusing to see what Hollywood starlet has found a new way to embarrass themselves by stepping behind the camera, the unfortunate truth about this particular group of short films is that none of them are outright bad. Well, aside from the one written and directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Alas, even Natalie Portman does a respectable job of directing, which is a shame, as something akin to Scarlett Johansson's singing efforts would have made the program that much more memorable.
Starting things out is Tom Everett Scott's short film "Glock," about a man who joins a secret spy agency only to go undercover as a janitor, never being sent on any missions. While Everett's concept is fun and loaded with potential, it never really pays off, which is only exacerbated by his awful attempts at stylization.
Faring better is Natalie Portman's exploration of aging, "Eve," where Lauren Bacall invites her granddaughter (Olivia Thirlby) out on her date with a new suitor (Ben Gazzara). While far from genius, Portman smartly relies on her actors to tell the story, keeping the direction professional and surprisingly mature. This one is actually a treat to watch.
Also making a surprisingly apt turn behind the camera is Courteney Cox, whose short, "Monday Before Thanksgiving," may be thematically similar to a tampon commercial but packs its punch and delivers its message of self-affirmation in a convincing manner. It doesn't hurt that Laura Dern is on board as a woman struggling to define herself in a culture that equates happiness with Valentine's cards and babies.
By far the best short in the bunch is "One of Those Days," where an older couple (Derek Jacobi, Joanna David) struggle with an administrative error on judgment day. You see, they've accidentally mistaken the morally righteous Jacobi for Vlad the Impaler. Woops. This is dark British satire at its finest.
"The Spleenectomy" is a routine and kooky short about a flaky actress that learns how to inhabit her character in an unorthodox manner, which would be forgettable if it weren't for the fact that Anna Faris plays the leading role. That woman could make an animal shelter infomercial hilarious.
Viewers should hold on to these laughs, however, as Joseph Gordon-Levitt's short film, "Sparks," based on an Elmore Leonard short story (of course) is painful. Eric Stoltz is an investigator questioning the suspected arson of Carla Gugino's home. There are sassy inserts. On the upside, Carla Gugino is always fun to watch.