Working It, Hollywood-Style

Punching the clock in the movies means striking a costumed pose.

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EVEN IF CASUAL Friday has taken over the workplace, moviedom thankfully still believes in overdressing for the job. Hollywood resolutely clings to glamour, while the rest of us schlubs get by in chinos, button-downs, and sensible shoes. Even in a lackluster movie year like 2002, there are lingering traces of design legends Edith Head and Irene Sharaff. Somewhere deep inside the studio system, perhaps unknowingly influenced by the overwrought frocks of yore, costume designers persist in putting just a little too much thought into their creations. Bless them for their work:

XXX Is this a movie about Vin Diesel or a movie about his coat? Forget his stunts and the supposed sex appeal of mannequin Asia Argento—his fuzzy-collared, knee-length garment upstages them both. Perhaps a better title would’ve been XLXLXL. Why does the extreme-sports spy wear the thing? Wouldn’t something more, well, Bondian suffice? And why hasn’t the film’s studio, Sony, opened up a tie-in boutique to push such wares to Gen-Y fashionistas?

Star Wars II Here’s a sartorial dilemma for George Lucas: How should a surly young Jedi-in-training dress for a future career in evil? Horny teen Anakin Skywalker is attired like a Nazi Brownshirt for much of Attack of the Clones. (At least he’ll make the Death Stars run on time!) Meanwhile, virtuous queen-turned-senator Padm頥mbraces her plebian side by—gasp!–ripping away part of her blouse to bare her midriff during the film’s gladiatorial conclusion. Working way beyond good and evil (to say nothing of subtlety), Lucas devotes more care to clothes than character development.

I Am Sam Couture-loving type-A lawyer Michelle Pfeiffer takes time out of her busy schedule to win back custody of retarded Sean Penn’s adorable young daughter. OK, the movie was insufferable tripe, but how many attorneys could look so fabulous and frazzled at the same time? And Pfeiffer’s Armani suits are color-coded to match her Porsche Boxster (this is L.A.). Penn may be playing a low-I.Q. type, but he’s not too stupid to fall for her. Since she’s working on his case pro bono, and her billing rate is probably $500 per hour, the whole maudlin mess probably cost her three pairs of shoes at Prada.

The Scorpion King How many variations can there be on baby oil and loincloths, you ask? Plenty. And when that clotheshorse the Rock goes to work, he works it on whatever ancient Egyptian foes he’s battling this week. That demands all kinds of attention to his embroidered leatherwork pouch and those little tassels he’s so fond of wrapping around his biceps and bulging brow. Yes, it’s a little bit Village People, but what pumped-up action movie isn’t, really?

Harrison’s Flowers Andie MacDowell goes undercover as a Balkan war correspondent to find her missing journalist husband. Naturally, the battling Serbs and Croats are completely oblivious to the gorgeous American, a former model, in her fitted Ralph Lauren safari gear. Does Andie stand out in the fray? No—she’s cleverly daubed a little mud on her cheeks for that anonymous fashion commando look.

The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course It’s not easy to get Steve Irwin’s already overstuffed shorts any tighter, mate; his wardrobe artists have to painstakingly fit those khakis just right for him to manfully wrestle reptiles and the English language. Likewise, his short-sleeved expedition shirts need to reveal more of his doughy physique so we can appreciate his sweaty, environmentally necessary exertions.

Road to Perdition Fundamentally a movie about haberdashery, Sam Mendes’ overblown Depression-era gangster drama boasts impeccable homburgs and fedoras. Why should Paul Newman, Tom Hanks, and the other goons be so well dressed? Because, you see, they have a job to do: Loan sharking, rum running, and contract killing can’t be gussied up into something serious unless attired with vintage spats, vests, and overcoats.

Hollywood Ending Woody’s latest is a debacle as a comedy but another excellent showcase for T顠Leone’s pants. Why do women even persist in buying skirts and dresses when Leone’s leggy, brainy studio executive strides about so irresistibly? Unfortunately, as usual, Woody makes the movie about him- self when he should’ve centered it on the only compelling relationship in the picture: that between Leone and her personal shopper.

bmiller@seattleweekly.com


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