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Memphis Flyer Tough Enough

Demi Moore shows her muscles in G.I. Jane.

By Susan Ellis

SEPTEMBER 2, 1997:  In films like Alien and Thelma & Louise, director Ridley Scott has made his female leads into legends. These women are tough, strong, and, if need be, deadly. It's in this line that he brings in Demi Moore as Jordan O'Neil, a woman who shows enough mettle to bite through steel.

In G.I. Jane, O'Neil is the guinea pig of Senator Lillian DeHaven (Anne Bancroft). DeHaven bullies the Navy into taking O'Neil as a SEAL recruit in order to put herself in the record books. If O'Neil fails -- like 60 percent of the all-male SEAL recruits do -- well, at least she tried.

What DeHaven and O'Neil's superiors and peers aren't prepared for is that she doesn't just try, she succeeds. She makes it through the horrifically grueling rigors of multilevel training despite the distrust and animosity of some of the men and without (for the most part) gender-based aid or, it seems, the added support of a sports bra.

The screenplay, written by Danielle Alexandra and David Twohy, doesn't have much to it. Basically, it's Demi playing war. O'Neil is put through a series of tests -- she pulls a boat, gets tortured, eats from a garbage can -- so that the audience is compelled to root for her. Her main obstacle is Master Chief John Urgayle (Viggo Mortensen), a man so menacing that the music slows down each time he enters a scene. But there is no question of her gutting it out and coming out of the ordeal a well-respected hero ("I'd go to war with you anytime"). The only real bit of intrigue is exactly when she'll get around to shaving her head.

There is, of course, more to this part than Moore's bald head. She is up to this very physically demanding role, and she should be commended for meeting the challenges of it. And while she does bare a little flesh, there's nothing overtly sexual about it. From her one-handed push-ups to her barking back at the men, she is in control and she carries the film.

And though this movie is about a woman reaching a goal, G.I. Jane, unlike Thelma & Louise, should not be construed as a female-power film. Her struggle is about survival of the fittest. This is made plain by three words spoken by O'Neil -- words that become sort of the mantra for the movie -- "Suck my dick." With these words any bigger meaning this film holds about the force of women crumbles. Certainly O'Neil could have picked something just as crude to say, such as "Get ready to dig my combat boot out of your rear." What these words mean is that O'Neil has become fully assimilated -- she is a lean, mean fighting machine.

Infertility is no laughing matter. It is especially no laughing matter when it comes to A Smile Like Yours, the new romantic comedy starring Greg Kinnear and Lauren Holly.

Kinnear and Holly play Danny and Jennifer Robertson, a very happily married couple. Danny is a successful elevator contractor, while Jennifer co-owns a boutique and dabbles in perfume-making. Their m.o. for remaining tight is to have sex all the time, everywhere, particularly in public. The only hitch in the Robertsons' bliss is that there are no children. Danny takes the no-fuss, it-happens-when-it-happens approach to parenthood. Jennifer, on the other hand, is more active and more covert.

Jennifer stops taking the pill, but after months and months of negative pregnancy tests, she grows concerned. She visits her family doctor, who tells her he needs to test Danny. Knowing her husband's feelings about the matter, Jennifer circumvents Danny's involvement until she has no further choice but to drag him to a fertility clinic.

As they go through the various processes involved at the clinic, Danny receives a tempting proposition to work on a project in Seattle, a project that is headed by a dishy architect (Jill Hennessy), who is interested in more than Danny's elevators. Meanwhile, Jennifer strikes gold when one of her perfumes has a big cosmetic company knocking at her door. These situations and Jennifer's sneakiness spell trouble and hurt feelings, posing a threat not only to the couple's babymaking, but to their marriage as well.

It is possible to sit through this movie without cracking a smile. Director and co-screenwriter Keith Samples, making his directorial debut after producing such films as Big Night, 2 Days in the Valley, and Kingpin, has come up with a film that is totally bland. The relationship between Jennifer and Danny is presented in an overly cutesy light. While both Holly and Kinnear are likeable enough, there is absolutely zero chemistry between them. Holly is stiff in this role, and Kinnear, though more at ease, is given no opportunity to demonstrate the charisma that made him famous.

The only marginally funny moment is when Danny's best friend, Steve (Jay Thomas), explains the real horrors of fatherhood. The talented Joan Cusack, who plays Jennifer's business partner, is completely wasted. Mostly, the gags thud. At the fertility clinic, Danny is led to a room called the "Masturbatorium," while Jennifer hallucinates that she is being prodded by terrifically huge gynecological instruments.

As romantic comedies go, A Smile Like Yours is barren.


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