Saturday, June 21, 2008

A New Agenda

Author(s): Daniel Crooke
Location: Ohio

"A New Agenda"

Produced and Directed by: James L. Brooks
Original Screenplay by: Mark Andrus

Main Cast

Carl Reiner as Danny Albertson
Parker Posey as Roxeanne Longford
Al Pacino as Edgar Suite
Louise Fletcher as Ethel Albertson
Christopher Lloyd as John Love
Angela Lansbury as Susanne Albertson

Tagline: "5 passengers, 4 over 60, 3 weeks, 2 eyes that don't work, 1 unfinished list"

Synopsis: Danny Albertson was a professor at Georgia Tech. He was a man who valued humor and was amazed by the world around him. His wife, Susanne, was an active journalist for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and a very enjoyable woman to be around. One night, they sat down to write a list of things to do, places to go, and people to meet during the last chapters of their lives. They retired from their jobs, collected their Social Security checks and some money in their savings, and moved to San Francisco and bought a condo near the bay (the first to do on their list).

Three years later and after half of the list was completed, Susanne entered a coma after falling down a flight of stairs. Danny practically lived at the hospital during this time and there he met Roxeanne Longford, Susanne's main nurse. After two months of being in a coma, Susanne died. Danny went back to the condo after the funeral where he miserably lived for another month. While cleaning out Susanne's closet, he noticed something: the list. He wanted to finish what he and Susanne had started so long ago. He went to the hospital that Susanne stayed at to pick up all of her records. There, Roxeanne stopped him and asked him how he was doing. Danny invited her to join him on a three week trip to complete the list. Roxeanne took all her days of leave and days for vacation to join Danny on his trip. They left to check off the twenty remaining "to do"s on Danny and Susanne's list.

Along the way, they picked up Susanne's gay and eccentric younger brother who lived in South Florida as an aging swinger, Edgar, Danny's cranky sister with a knack for complaining, Ethel, in Las Vegas, and a blind hitchhiker named John Love off of the highway. Together, the four tried to accomplish a list that included such tasks as meeting Paul Newman, kissing a Mexican prostitute, digging holes in Arkansas, sleeping in Abraham Lincoln's childhood log cabin, stealing a Volvo sedan and selling it for $5,000 above the Blue Book price, and posing as world diplomats outside the United Nations. Over the next three weeks, Edgar would get the group almost killed by a pack of angry mountainmen, Ethel would give up smoking, John would win the lottery, Roxeanne would meet her future husband, and Danny learned more about himself than he had ever before.

What the Press would say:

James L. Brooks' latest dramedy, "A New Agenda", tackles all kind of conflicts such as old versus young, life versus death, and living life versus staying still. The film is about Danny Albertson, played brilliantly in a career defining performance by comedian Carl Reiner, and how he comes to terms with his wife, Angela Lansbury, passing away. He attempts to complete a list (things that he and his wife had always wanted to do but never finished doing) along with his wife's nurse, smartly portrayed by Parker Posey, his brother-in-law, Al Pacino in his best role since "Scent of a Woman", his sister, Louise Fletcher in a remarkable return to film, and a blind hitchhiker, Christopher Lloyd in his best role to date. This is not a road trip film, most of the action takes place in different areas around the country.

I'll start with the acting by the best ensemble I've seen in years. First, Carl Reiner delivers an Oscar worthy performance as an aging professor who loses his wife. Reiner's comic roots shine here as well as some dramatic qualities that we've never seen in him. Reiner is hilarious and heartbreaking as he attempts to finish what he and his wife started. Next, Parker Posey plays Lansbury's vibrant nurse. Posey, like Reiner, shows comedy and drama. Posey serves as the younger balance to the mostly older cast. Parker Posey offers insight to the other characters about how life has changed. This monologue by Posey is hysterically funny but also very relevant. It defines her performance. Louise Fletcher delivers her best performance since "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest". Playing the chain smoking, cranky, tired, and menopause stricken sister of Carl Reiner, Fletcher is outstanding. Christopher Lloyd plays a blind hitchhiker. Simply put Lloyd is outstanding. Last but not at all least, Al Pacino plays the outrageous Edgar Suite, brother to Angela Lansbury. This is so unlike all of Pacino's past characters but this ranks as one of his best. The first time that you see Al Pacino he is decked out in a flowered Hawaiian shirt waiting for a car to pick him up. He clicks his tongue and emits a short and frustrated sigh. That sigh alone could win Pacino the Oscar. Pacino not only displays amazing comic ability but he also shows some classic Pacino drama when he talks about his dead sister. The Oscar is Pacino's, enough said.

The writing by Mark Andrus is top notch. He is a comedy writer but his screenplay is very well rounded with elements of both comedy and drama. He has written a fantastic screenplay, one of the best in years. James L. Brooks' direction is something great. A scene with Parker Posey and Al Pacino racing on top of Mount Rushmore comes to mind as one of the best directed scenes of the year (Posey wins in a landslide). "A New Agenda" is a hilarious, tearjerking, and profound film. With an amazing ensemble, exceptional screenplay, outstanding direction, and a very true statement about the world around us, "A New Agenda" should become the sleeper hit of the year.

Best Picture- James L. Brooks
Best Director- James L. Brooks
Best Actor in a Leading Role- Carl Reiner
Best Actor in a Supporting Role- Al Pacino
Best Actress in a Supporting Role- Louise Fletcher
Best Actress in a Supporting Role- Parker Posey
Best Original Screenplay- Mark Andrus

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