Head in the Clouds (2004) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Scoop's comments in white:

I suppose Charlize Theron is just about the hottest actress in Hollywood. She's extraordinarily attractive and approachable. She commands top dollar. On top of all that, she also has talent, and is fresh off a runaway Oscar victory for her incredible performance in Monster.

So what would you say if I told you that she made a big budget movie this year, in which she did two gorgeous topless scenes plus lesbian scenes and a really hot tango with Penelope Cruz. You never heard of it? I'm not surprised by that. The movie was released on a whopping 47 screens and grossed less than $400,000. I think you'd then say, "Whoa, that movie must really suck. The guys who sunk a bazillion simoleons into that puppy didn't even think they could recoup the additional cost of advertising and distributing it."

And you'd be pretty close to right.

To be honest, the movie doesn't totally suck. It has positives. It looks great in its own artificial way, has some magnificent location shots, is epic in scope, and contains a reasonably competent performance from Theron. It was directed by the guy who did Sirens, so he knows a thing or two about capturing beautiful, sensuous images.

So where did it go wrong?

This is just a terrible script, and the movie seems for all the world like it was made in 1961, complete with urban street scenes shot on back lots and sound stages. It's one of those stories about Europe in the thirties, in which the idealists fight for the Republicans in Spain and the resistance in France, complete with all the usual WW2 movie clichés. It's also one of those Dr. Zhivago movies where the world at combat and the conflict of philosophies is really only a backdrop for the love story.

Charlize was maintaining simultaneous affairs with Cruz and her idealistic boyfriend, all while the three of them lived together. Charlize played the empty-headed socialite intent on ignoring the war and concentrating on her bohemian hedonism, while her friends were always ruining her day by reading those icky newspapers and fretting about those darned pesky world-conquering fascists. When the Germans finally conquered Paris, the idealistic boyfriend, working for the underground, was shocked to see that Charlize was so oblivious to politics that she had actually become a Nazi girl-toy.

Or had she?

I had the feeling that I had seen the entire film before, several times, many decades ago, but what's worse than its familiarity is its pace. It moves about as quickly as tectonic shifting. I thought it had been playing for at least four hours, possibly even several days, when I checked the time on my DVD player and it was only 1:44 into the movie. I still can't understand why I had three days growth of beard after watching it. Must be a time paradox. I was thankful that it ended at 2:01. RT's site said 2:12, so I looked at it as having gained back 11 minutes of life, but that last quarter hour was the most excruciating of all, filled with regretful voice-overs and syrupy music and tragic  misunderstandings.

I did learn some interesting things from this film.

  1. I learned that no matter where and when you walk in Paris, you will see several ballet dancers dressed in their leotards, doing their stretching exercises in public. They are on every street, at all times of the day and night. They have like a 24/7 ballet franchise thing goin' on there Just think of it as the French equivalent of ATM machines.

  2. I learned that when you look around in Paris, the Eiffel Tower is visible in all four directions. If you sit at a cafe, the Tower will be over your shoulder and over the shoulder of the person you are facing.

  3. I learned that staging romantic scenes with a real-life couple is no guarantee that both parties will seem comfortable, nor that the couple will exhibit any chemistry on screen. The couple in question is Theron and the late Stuart Townsend. Oh, wait, I think he might still be alive. It's hard to tell. Somebody check his pulse.

Tuna's comments in yellow:

Head in the Clouds (2004) is a romantic tragedy that covers the period in Europe from the mid 1920s to the liberation of Paris in near real-time. It chronicles a romance among rich, hedonistic Charlize Theron, serious and idealistic Stewart Townsend, and Spanish former stripper Penelope Cruz. The plot was completely formulaic and predictable. To make sure everything happened as predictably as possible, they heavy-handedly telegraphed plot twists long in advance. For example, we see French patriots commenting several times on Theron's collaboration with a Gestapo officer. Gee, I wonder what will happen when Paris is liberated? I will give the writers credit for not resorting to the obvious story-book happy ending that was easily possible, but I do wish they would have done more with the Cruz character, and made more of the lesbian relationship.

There are positives. I found the photography top notch, start to finish, and found Theron's performance to be brilliant start to finish. The quality of her performance was never more obvious than a scene near the middle of the film just after Townsend returns from Spain. He has been waiting to se her again in the street. She senses his presence behind her, and turns around. There is an initial glad to see him smile, quickly replaced by an I am through with that SOB who ruined my life by running off to Spain with my female lover and getting her killed frown. The entire scene was done with no dialogue. I probably could have forgiven the trite material and the glacially slow pace, if every scene would have been of that caliber. I doubt if many noticed it, however, because they were probably all asleep by that point.



  • short featurette on The Making Of ....
  • widescreen anamorphic 2.35:1




  • Charlize Theron - breasts in two scenes in good light
  • Linda Thomassone - long distance nudity in an orgy. Maybe.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Roger Ebert was one of the very few reviewers to praise the film, awarding three stars

  • Metacritic.com. The average review was about one and a half stars out of four (40/100).

The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C-. Proof that lots of money and big stars have little value without a good script.

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