IAMBIC: Abkarian, Allen in "Yes."
The poster for the movie “Yes” is deceptive. Joan Allen is pressed against the wall by a bare-chested Simon Abkarian, and he looks like he’s whispering something tantalizing and illicit into her ear. Look at the poster again and you’ll realize that the secret Abkarian is whispering to Allen is, “Oh my God, Joan, this movie blows.”
“Yes” has received a lot of press because the screenplay is written in iambic pentameter. On paper, this sounds like an interesting experiment. On screen, however, the effect is lifeless. There’s no story and no characterization for the poetic dialogue to accent, and the iambic pentameter becomes a gimmick to fool people into thinking something deeper is going on.
The basic plot is about a married woman’s affair with a man from Beirut, but the characters spend so much time performing soliloquies that we don’t care who they are. They pontificate endlessly. Pontificate is the only word to describe it, but even that doesn’t fully convey just how much they pontificate. These characters pontificate all over the audience. Repeatedly. Until you’re absolutely drenched in pontification. Characters drift off on tangents that in a space of minutes touch on love, birth, destiny, gardening, terrorism and Middle East politics. You are bombarded to the point of numb.
This movie tries to represent LIFE, all in capital letters. Every overwrought line of dialogue, every cliched image and every absurd, unmotivated camera angle reaches out and grabs you by the throat and loudly proclaims, “We’re being serious here, this is life, in all its chaotic glory, oh woe is me!” The problem is that this film is so busy preaching the intricacies of modern life that it never really shows what life is.
At its core, “Yes” is nothing more than a dull, humorless domestic drama. The actors approach the intricate dialogue with aplomb, but they can only do so much to maintain the viewer’s interest. The film is like having an interesting friend over for dinner who likes to hear himself talk. At first, it’s intriguing, but by the end, you just wish he would shut up already.
I’ve got a confession to make.
Back in the late ’70s and early ’80s, I was a “Dukes of Hazzard” fan. A HUGE “Dukes” fan. My brother and I would get into fistfights over who got to pretend to be Bo Duke (Bo Duke, as the most frequent driver of the “General Lee,” being obviously superior to Luke Duke). Too young to realize the appeal of Daisy Duke in her Daisy Dukes, it was all about the car. Any time a new refrigerator, hot water heater, or television set came on the place, we wore our orange Crayola down to an un-pinchable nub scribbling the box the right color, the “01” was slapped on the side, and we proceeded to rebel-yell said box to sweaty shreds in the back yard. It was so about the car that we even watched after Tom Wopat and John Schneider left, and the “Fake Dukes” — a generic blond and brunette who looked like Bo and Luke clones, but who were billed as their cousins — took over piloting the General Lee (though by that time my now-teen brother had started to get a little glassy-eyed any time Daisy bent over while hanging the laundry).
All that said, you can understand how excited I was when I heard they were making a big-screen version of “Dukes of Hazzard.” Sure, I had tried a few adult forays back to Dukeville courtesy of TNN and found the episodes unbearable. But surely the great minds of Hollywood — the starry-eyed denizens of that boundless dream factory — would be able to take the raw clay of “Dukes” and spin it back into the childhood dream I once loved. Right?
Here, in a fairly typical “Dukes” plotline stretched to its limit, Boss Hogg (Burt Reynolds) frames Bo (Seann William Scott) and Luke (Johnny Knoxville) for moonshining and seizes the Duke farm. Can Uncle Jesse (played with maniacal glee by the film’s one light, Willie Nelson), Daisy (Jessica Simpson) and the Duke boys save the farm, restore the crushed General Lee, win the Hazzard Road Rally, take a pointless mid-film trip to the darkest heart of Atlanta, and stop Boss Hogg’s plot to strip-mine Hazzard County? You bet your biscuits they can, but it ain’t going to be pretty.
While Knoxville and Scott work well together, sometimes eliciting a few “Dude, Where’s My Confederate Flag-Emblazoned Car?”-style belly laughs, mostly this movie is just like the series. That is: an excuse to jump a vintage muscle car real high, see a purty girl nearly nekkid (Simpson might have won an Oscar for her portrayal if Daisy had only been a deaf-mute), crash a bunch of cop cars and — with the PG-13 rating — watch Uncle Jesse/Nelson smoke more than hams in the smokehouse. Beyond that, while “Dukes” seems to struggle for the kitsch factor, it never quite makes it there, instead using a stream of inane jokes about horny Luke and clueless Bo to string together a series of car chases so impossible that they become a cartoon. What comes out the other end is a movie that is too condescending to appeal to even the most diehard fan of the original series, and yet too faithful to the original for the jokes to make much sense to anyone unfamiliar with the TV “Dukes.”
— By David Koon