Sweet November
Sweet November

USA, 2001. Rated PG-13. 119 minutes.

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Charlize Thereon, Jason Isaacs, Greg Germann, Liam Aiken, Lauren Graham, Michael Rosenbaum, Frank Langella, Tom Bullock, Robert Joy
Writers: Herman Raucher (1968 screenplay), Paul Yurick (story), Kurt Voelker (story & screenplay)
Music: Christopher Young (score), Enya (song)
Cinematographer: Edward Lachman
Producer: Wendy Wanderman
Director: Pat O'Connor


Grade: C+ Review by Claudia Smurthwaite

I t could be said that the most precious gift we can give to others is our time. In Sweet November, that gift is given in monthly installments. While there might be better ways to spend a couple of hours, there are certainly worse–taxes anyone? In the traditionally abysmal early-year movie season, Sweet November will, at least, not leave you feeling fleeced.

Sweet November is a remake of the 1968 film starring Sandy Dennis and Anthony Newley. In this updated version, the action has moved to San Francisco, where we meet top advertising executive Nelson Moss (Keanu Reeves). Nelson is a driven man who spends every waking moment thinking up his next award-winning ad campaign. He has chased success to the exclusion of everything else in his life. Yes, he has a girlfriend, but rarely spends any time with her. He has a great apartment with a wall of TVs that allow him to monitor commercials as he runs on the treadmill. He even has a pet fish! But it is clear that Nelson is headed for a meltdown.

Sara and Nelson meet cute when he must go to the DMV to renew his drivers license–seems our Nelson has had a few tickets and must take the written test again. Stumbling into the testing room, Sara Deever (Charlize Theron) disrupts the group, Nelson, stuck on a question, asks Sara for the answer, Charlize Theronand, though she does not give it to him, she's dismissed from the test and losses her license for a month.

Back on the job, Nelson is charged with "updating" the Dr. Diggity hot dog image. Unfortunately, his solution of buxom blondes chomping on wieners doesn't quite suit the family-oriented client. Just like that, Nelson loses his job. Of course, since he must fall into a pit of despair to suit the story, once he arrives home, he discovers he has also lost his neglected girlfriend. As if things could get no worse... Sara shows up, guilting him into giving her a ride, since, after all, it is his fault that she cannot drive.

Sara has made it her mission to help men live fuller richer lives, but she takes on a project/man for one month and one month only. October's man of the month overcame his shyness with Sara's help, and now she needs someone for November. Sara informs Nelson he's her latest reclamation project (and what woman wouldn't like that undertaking?) Sara makes Nelson an offer: live with her for one month, and she will devote herself to him and help him learn to appreciate life. Currently free of obligations, Nelson reluctantly agrees and slowly begins to free himself from his "time is money" lifestyle, while Sara secretly battles her own time demons.

Initially hard to believe as a high-powered ad exec, Reeves' Nelson looks more comfortable in Sara's cozy surroundings than his stark, monochrome high-rise apartment. Perhaps his prior roles as the lovable goof in the Bill and Ted films and Parenthood or his quiet heroes in films like The Matrix and A Walk in the Clouds have hampered his believability as a ruthless business type. When Nelson is being fired, his cocksure attitude doesn't seem to fit. In their second film together (they starred together in Devil's Advocate), Theron and Reeves share an easy onscreen rapport that initially works against them. The conflict seems forced in the beginning, but once Nelson settles into his new living arrangement, the affection that grows between the characters becomes warm and natural.

Rounding out the cast are Greg Germann (TV's Ally McBeal) as Nelson's soulless partner and fresh off his turn as Colonel Tavington, the sadistic British officer in The Patriot, Jason Isaacs gives a nice supporting performance as Sara's neighbor and Nelson's business rival, Chaz.

Nicely balanced with laughs and a few tugs at the heart without becoming overly schmaltzy, Sweet November, is, as the title suggests, a sweet movie. It won't making you ponder the great questions in life, but if you're a fan of the K-man or in the mood for a romance, it is a nice diversion for a cold, rainy late winter afternoon.

Review © March 2001 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Images © 2001 Warner Bros.

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