The Calgary Sun (Ca), February 16, 2001
Few sparks fly in bland love story
Sara Deever the heroine of Sweet November, saves abandoned pets and those targeted for medical experiments. She lets them stay at her San Francisco apartment for a few weeks while she finds them a new home.
Not content with lavishing such affection and attention on forlorn puppies, Sara tries the same with men.
Each month she selects a new man who she feels needs liberating and makes him her pet project.
She takes him into her cozy little apartment, pampers and loves him for a month and then turns him loose newly invigorated.
Sweet November started its life as a stage play around the time The Owl and the Pussycat was such a huge hit on Broadway.
In The Owl, a prostitute reformed an uptight writer.
In Sweet November, a kooky free-spirited woman tries to reform an uptight workaholic.
When Sweet November was turned into a film, Sandy Dennis played the crusader with a mission and a tragic secret.
It was as difficult for the audience as it was for her subject played by Anthony Newley to be won over by Dennis.
She was an actress more noted for her quirky demeanor than her stunning beauty.
This is certainly not the case with Charlize Theron, who plays Sara as a hold over from San Francisco’s hippy culture.
When she invites workaholic ad executive Nelson Moss (Keanu Reeves) to spend a month in her bed, it doesn’t seem like such a bad proposition to anyone except Nelson.
Of course, he’ll eventually agree to become her November project, so the first 30 minutes of the film are superfluous though admittedly rambunctious.
Perhaps if Hollywood hadn’t churned out Autumn in New York just last year, the plot twist in Sweet November might not be so obvious.
Let’s just say that Nelson isn’t the only one with a time limit looming over him.
As its title promises, this is a sweet, saccharine love story.
It’s meant to tickle funny bone just long enough to make those tugs at the heart strings all the more poignant.
It worked 35 years ago because both Dennis and Newley were skilled at playing life’s losers.
The fact that they find happiness in each other, only to have it ripped away untimely, was sweetly affecting.
Theron and Reeves are hardly losers.
The camera loves both of them and they know how to pose and seduce it but that’s about all the emotional range they have.
Asking two notoriously wooden actors to try to create romantic chemistry is cruel to both the performers and the audience.
There are so few sparks between Reeves and Theron that it’s little wonder the affair never even smolders, let alone catches fire.
This is San Francisco, so it’s obligatory that Sara have a gay neighbor who is also her best friend.
This cliche falls to British actor Jason Isaacs, who was so hateful as Mel Gibson’s foe in The Patriot.
This Sweet November is a belated valentine for lovers of soap operas.