Saturday, September 04, 2004

Connie and Carla 

Great movie! Nia Vardalos and Toni Collette are Connie and Carla, childhood friends who have been perfecting their cabaret act since grade school. Now adults, they are working at one of the lounges at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport in hopes of raising some funds for new costumes, when they witness a mob hit. Terrified, they hit the road in the hopes of disappearing from their pursuers. They end up in L.A., specifically in West Hollywood. There they discover their path to both stardom and the perfect cover - they audition at a drag club and become the new featured act. Mix Victor/Victoria, The Birdcage and Bosom Buddies, add a touch of To Wong Fu, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, and you get the idea.

The two develop friendships with the folks from the club, who also share the same apartment building. David Duchovny enters the scene as the estranged brother of one of the neighbors. Connie of course falls for him, but he only knows her as her alter ego. And hijinks ensue.

But what fun hijinks they are! Along the way we get lessons on body image, self-esteem, being true to yourself and your dreams, and why sometimes it's okay to call yourself a freak but it's not okay for someone else to call you one. And showtunes!!!! And Debbie Reynolds!!!!! I could have done without one particular call and response scene, but I'll let it slide. After all, they feature "Mame," and that allows me to forgive one edit that should have been made.

Vardalos and Collette are both fabulous, and Duchovny is dreamy and adorable as ever. Vardalos in particular brought the perfect combination of over-the-top dramatics (well-timed pratfalls, well-placed short shrieks of surprise) and quiet nuance (watch her facial expressions as the guys follow Carla's suggestion that they check out Connie's "falsies" to see how perfect they are. She doesn't say a word, but with her eyebrows and slight changes in lip tension she conveys, "What the hell?" to "Fine, I'll get through this." to "I'll get you for this." to "How can I exact my revenge?" to "Oh, thank god that's over. Now let me pick up what's left of my dignity and get on with things."

Reality Check: The first thing The Girl said as the credits started rolling was "Aw, nice!" That's high praise, especially given the central role held by showtunes. I'm a showtune nut, but they make her roll her eyes, plug her ears and run screaming from the room. But for Connie and Carla she sat through every one.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 7:12 PM