Friday, September 27, 2013

MOVIE REVIEW Baggage Claim
Finding A Man To Bring Her Back Down To Earth

Djimon Hounsou as Quinton and Paula Patton as Montana in David E. Talbert's romantic comedy "Baggage Claim".  Fox Searchlight


Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                                           
Friday, September 27, 2013

Finding the love of your life sounds challenging enough, but flying around the U.S.A. to do so?  That's what Montana Moore (Paula Patton) does in David E. Talbert's "Baggage Claim", a sometimes uproarious, mostly foolish romantic comedy based on Mr. Talbert's best-selling novel. 

Montana is a Baltimore resident and flight attendant whose mother Catherine (Jenifer Lewis) has married and divorced five times.  Catherine pressures Montana to find Mister Right before her younger sister gets married in one month.  Surely she doesn't want to be the last woman in her family to get hitched?  Montana, a thirtysomething who lives next door to William Wright (Derek Luke), who proposed to her way back in grade school, has 30 days, and we're told, 30,000 miles, to find the man of her dreams. 

"Baggage Claim" flies high in the lunacy department.  Un-tethered from reality, the film plays as a craven fantasy of a lonely woman desperate for love.  Often Montana looks like OJ Simpson in a 1970s Hertz commercial.  She runs breathlessly through airports, leaping passenger lines in a single bound to barely make flights that her exes, for heaven's sake, are on, or to cities they're in.  Montana has her cadre of work colleagues who behave like air traffic controllers, bringing her in for landing and take off in this humiliating ritual.  Day or night, Montana suddenly drops everything and rushes to the nearest airport in search of man-dom.  Couldn't Montana simply go online to a dating website and take a chance there instead?

Every man Montana runs into is of upper-middle class pedigree.  Some are self-made, others self-centered -- the latter applicable to nearly all.  While a great number of men (and a fair share of women) aren't species of record on fidelity matters, every man in "Baggage Claim" is a self-interested or cheating cad.  There's no shading or variable in this lazy, broad strokes comedy. 

Mr. Talbert shoots the film with the rich, velvety decor of the covers of Mills & Boon novels or other duty-free trashy airline romance novels Montana has likely run past in her high heels in search of a man.  There's one or two beautiful images of Montana and Graham (Boris Kodjoe) on a boat as an American flag ripples and a sunset adorns but those cosmetics are but a dream as reality comes crashing down later.

The cardboard characters and shallow treatment of Montana and her bunch of merry, melancholic and miserable men, continues the reckless, asinine parade of more cliché than clever Hollywood romantic comedies.  Given such a poor film and premise for a comedy why would one even care about the needy, low-self esteemed character Ms. Patton plays?  There's as much "Mission: Impossible" action for her here in chasing men than bad guys in Brad Bird's film.  How does a flight attendant who misplaces or leaves everything behind manage to become one?  Can a woman in a Hollywood romantic comedy even be allowed to have self-love?  The answer is clearly no.

The class boundaries in "Baggage Claim", like those in "Blue Jasmine", are distinct.  Much of the behavior is a not so-veiled indictment of the rich, and, though to a much lesser extent than Woody Allen's film, the poor.  There's a scene where Montana, in Washington D.C., pretends to be a crime victim to get a ride home late at night.  It's a marginalizing of the poor.  A scene featuring Ned Beatty amplifies this as his racist character generalizes about black celebrities and blacks in general.  Curiously, Montana has an upper-middle class life yet flight attendants, last time I checked, barely get paid the peanuts they serve.  The decor of her house suggests Montana runs TransAlliance Airlines rather than works for it. 

The entire film is predicated on the oft-repeated fallacy that for a woman nothing else matters in life than finding a man, that that is the sole reason a woman lives.  (If anything there should be a romantic comedy about the truth: that most men cannot live without women.)  "Baggage Claim" floats the sexist notion that for a woman career and a love life are incongruous, since Montana spends more time running around man-hunting than doing her job.  She barely has time for herself.  What little time Montana has is spent hiding in garbage cans or on fire escapes of other women's apartments at night in the torrential rain.  It's that pitiful.

In short, "Baggage Claim" is almost over before it begins.  The film very quickly tells us everything about its beginning, middle and end.  The film's gender politics are clear too: family businessman William calmly waits for the inevitable while Montana goes nuts in search of it.  One flight attendant trades off on her excessive cleavage while another, a gay man, is calm and collected.  Telegraphing happens throughout, from the last name of Mr. Luke's character to the Bobby Brown song "If It Isn't Love".

Any redeeming qualities in "Baggage Claim" are in the performances of Jill Scott but especially its stand-out Adam Brody, whose comic timing is impeccable.  Both play Montana's flight attendant colleagues who enable this disaster of minstrelsy and keep it from being even worse than it is.  The laughs come cheap, sad and empty. "Baggage Claim", with all the talent it can harness in one 90-minute movie, just doesn't fly.

Also with: Taye Diggs, Djimon Hounsou, Tia Mowry-Hardrict, Trey Songz, Lauren London, Christina Milian, Rickey Smiley, Terrence J, Affion Crockett, La La Anthony.

"Baggage Claim" is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association Of America for sexual content and some language. 
The film's running time is one hour and 36 minutes. 

COPYRIGHT 2013.  POPCORNREEL.COM.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.                Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW