Like tribute albums, remakes are tricky territory. After all, if you’re going to redo someone else’s work, how are you going to make it better or different so that it’s worth watching over the original?
A remake of the 1969 film by the same title, “Sweet November” provides fresh evidence (alongside “Gone in 60 Seconds” and “Psycho”) that it is generally a good idea for directors to steer clear of remakes. Possibly a few rungs above being a paint-by-the-numbers chick-flick romance, “Sweet November” still doesn’t manage to elevate itself up from its time-tested opposites-attract pretenses. Mostly wooden acting and lame dialogue also fail to contribute to a romantic atmosphere.
Square advertising executive Nelson Moss (Keanu Reeves) starts out the movie hitting it with his hot girlfriend in his posh penthouse. “That was good,” he says as he steps away from the bed, but we know it didn’t mean a thing to him. He turns on eight TV sets simultaneously, drinks his coffee and goes to the office, totally ignoring his needy girlfriend.
Every bit the cell-toting, arrogant yuppie, Nelson doesn’t know that he is in for a little surprise. You see, he’s gonna meet somebody totally different from him, a free spirit, wonderfully unencumbered by any care whatsoever for other people’s thoughts of her. And fortunately for Nelson, this spirit turns out to be an attractive 6-foot blonde who likes to invite men over to her apartment for exactly one month (and no more) of complete attention and pampering – no strings attached.
Sitting next to her at a DMV test, Nelson meets Sara Deever (Charlize Theron). Failing the test in order to help him, Sara is forced to ask Nelson for rides around town. Hanging out together, she thinks he’s an asshole and he thinks she’s a new age fruit. But Sara “likes to help people,” and wants to make him realize how to enjoy life by inviting him to her apartment for the month (at times, it’s a little confusing which month it is). After he loses his amazing job and girlfriend, Nelson takes Sara up on her offer and goes off to her apartment. Soon the sparks are struck, and we have this completely unpredictable and wacky romantic comedy on our hands.
In 1969, the story of a hippie reforming the drab institutional man had a lot more edge and immediacy about it. In 2001, when hippies and yuppies have co-opted and overlapped each other (San Francisco, after all, is the “bobo” capital of the world), the story comes across as a little silly and forced. In fact, Sara and Nelson’s archetypes of square peg and round hole are so stereotyped and dull that their characters are often not believable.
The main highlight of the film is the beautiful cinematography of San Francisco. Director Pat O’Connor (“Circle of Friends”) manages to capture the romantic and quirky elements of the city without drowning us with views of clich