Movie Review: No 76. Chinatown

Movie Review: No 76. Chinatown

This movie has received the following accolades:

  • The line “Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.” was voted as the #74 movie quote by the American Film Institute and #71 by Premiere (it also featured on The Simpsons);
  • In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked it as the #21 Greatest Movie of All Time;
  • In 2008, the American Film Institute ranked it #2 on the list of the 10 greatest films in the ‘Mystery’ genre;
  • It’s number 76 on imdb’s Top 250 movies list; and…
  • It has now received 4 lousy, stinkin’, semi-rotten pumpkins on the Top 30 Countdown scale of overall movie whelmingness.

A much worthier film once posed the question, “I know you can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed?”

And to that I say “Yes. Watch this movie”.

I usually take notes as I’m watching my Top 100 movies so that I can remember what to write about in my reviews (bearing in mind that I have the memory of a dumb lamb).

You can then tell my love or hate for a movie by the quantity of notes I’ve taken. Both “love” and “hate” usually result in an equal measure of scrawlings (only some of which I will understand the next day).

I came away from this 130 minute special with exactly 5 notes. Yawn.

My brother’s girlfriend tells me she studied this film in school. It strikes fear into my little teacher’s pet heart to think how much bull she would have had to spin to produce an entire essay about this desolate wasteland of nothingness.

Yelburton: My goodness, what happened to your nose?
Jake Gittes: I cut myself shaving.
Yelburton: You ought to be more careful. That must really smart.
Jake Gittes: Only when I breathe.

I’m not trying to be clever. I’m not trying to shock and offend with my review – I’m just being brutally honest. This movie wasn’t bad and it wasn’t good. It was just… nothing.

Seriously, even the other movie quoted above (’10 Things I Hate About You’ for those playing at home), had more to offer from an English lit point of view. After all, English teachers LOVE their Shakespeare and ’10 Things’ managed to revive ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ from its 16th century slumber like a modern movie should. According to imdb the film’s writer, Robert Towne, was originally offered $125,000 to write a screenplay for ‘The Great Gatsby’, but felt he couldn’t better the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, and accepted $25,000 to write  ‘Chinatown’, instead. “Thank gawd” is all I can say. Bring on the Baz!

So, as I do when I’m short on material of my own, I have resorted to imdb’s “trivia” section to understand this movie more fully. From a thorough review I can share with you the following little factoids:

  • At the time of filming, Jack Nicholson had just embarked on his longstanding relationship with Anjelica Huston. This made his scenes with her father, John Huston, rather uncomfortable, especially as the only time Anjelica was on set was the day they were filming the scene where Noah Cross interrogates Nicholson’s character with “Mr Gittes…do you sleep with my daughter?” ~ ROFL
  • SPOILER ALERT Katherine Mulwray is raised believing that Evelyn Mulwray is her sister, but it is later revealed that Evelyn is her mother (or rather, both mother and sister). Shortly after the film was released, Jack Nicholson discovered that the woman he was raised to believe was his sister was, in fact, his mother. ~ Ouch.

Ok, now I’m just filling… which is pretty much what this movie did for 130 minutes. Just as a Chinese meal might leave you empty 30 minutes after eating, this film left me empty 30 minutes after watching.

I’ve got nothing else to say but “Forget it, kids, it’s Chinatown.”

Have you seen ‘Chinatown’? Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments below.


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