The Back Lot (film news & ruminations): Over “Tone”

Feb 5, 2008 at 8:36 pm

Please tell me I’m not the only one who wasn’t swept off her feet while watching “Atonement,” which received seven Academy Award nominations last month. Did I miss something? Has my heart grown as cold, fierce and bitter as the winter winds? I hope not. But lately the circles in which I run have applauded the epic romance as sincere, gut-wrenching and bittersweet. Well, I call bullshit, and here’s why.

First of all, word traveled as fast as my bitter winds about the must-see sex scene between the characters played by James McAvoy and Keira Knightley. Yawn. I’ve seen better sex scenes in PG-13 films — “The Notebook” and “Titanic” come to mind. The last time skinny yuppies were caught shagging in the library, Molly Ringwald had top billing on the poster.

Second, after the unsatisfactory sex scene we paid good money for, we got dragged along for two painfully chafing hours of he-said-she-said drama that eventually split up the couple destined for greatness. To allege rape or not to allege rape, that was the question. Fingers were pointed, and he was plucked from her bosom and dropped off on the WWII battlefields to serve his time. The couple remained separated — cue the dramatic pulls of a cello; pass the goddamn popcorn — until that one day …

Spoiler alert: Until that one day when the omnipotent narrator decided to alleviate her guilt and whisper sweet nothings in our ears about them reconnecting and living happily ever after ... but then 10 minutes later, she basically says,

“Psych! Had you goin’, didn’t I? Unfortunately, these star-crossed lovers never got together. You’ve been watching too many Freddie Prinze Jr. films! They both died in the war, silly. Alone and apart. I just wanted them to live long and prosper in my book, because, basically, I’m the idiot who broke them up in the first place.”
Do I look like your priest? This isn’t confession — it’s a two-hour romance that promised a decent sex scene. Can I be atoned for my $8.75?