Cate Blanchett in “Bandits’

A retread of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? A homage to the pop music of 1980s Welsh singing sensation Bonnie Tyler? The rare American studio film that celebrates polyamory? It’s all of these things; Barry Levinson’s Bandits (2001). It also has Cate Blanchett lip-synching, dancing and kissing both Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton. We also discuss our favorites in this year’s Oscar race for best actress as the nominations are announced. For this conversation Murtada Elfadl welcomes back Kevin Jacobsen host of And The Runner-Up Is podcast, who previously guested on our episode about Truth.

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Follow along, Bandits is available on HBO Max.

What is the film about?

From IMDB: Two bank robbers fall in love with the girl they’ve kidnapped.

When did it come out?

October 12, 2001.

Who does Cate play?

Kate Wheeler, a bored depressed housewife looking for adventure.

How is Cate introduced?

Kate Wheeler is talked about all through the first scene but then we have to wait 35 minutes for the iconic Bonnie Tyler lip sync dance Holding Out for a Hero / Total Eclipse of the Heart.

Box Office: Domestic = $41.5MM Int’l = $26MM

Critical Response: Metacritic : 60 RT: 64

Topics discussed:

  • Obviously A Butch cassidy and the Sundance Kid retread.
  • The initial car drive with Billy Bob – the best scene in the movie, certainly Cate’s funniest.
  • Bruce Willis’ wig needs to be seen to be believed.
  • Neil Young jokes? The humor in general seems not funny. The film drags, its comedic rhythm off.
  • Appreciated that the movie ultimately is on the side of polyamory. Can’t think of another American studio film that does that.
  • The framing device – a take on TV’s America’s Most Wanted – does it work? Or does it bog down the film and puncture its rhythm?
  • Billy Bob Thornton is too much. Too many quirks. Lots of telling us how quirky the character and not enough showing us.
  • Was this performance by Blanchett the blueprint for Jennifer Lawrence’s in American Hustle (2013)?
  • Barry Levinson, this came post his heyday in the late 80s (Rain Man, Good Morning Vietnam, Bugsy, Wag the Dog) and was perhaps his last big star driven film. Currently in the news gathering quite the cast (Oscar Isaac, Jake Gyllenhaal, Elisabeth Moss and Elle Fanning) for his movie about the making of The Godfather (1971), Francis and the Godfather.
  • Which of Cate’s upcoming movies are we looking forward to? James Gray’s Armageddon Time, Guillermo Del Toro’s Nightmare Alley, Borderlands.
  • How come she dropped out of the Lucille Ball movie? Let’s speculate.
Thornton, Blanchett and Willis in Bandits

Memorable quotes:

“Don’t argue I’m having a really bad day.”

“Kate’s an iceberg, waiting for the Titanic.”

”It’s the ultimate haiku to the complexity of love.” 

Blanchett, Troy Garity and Bruce Willis in Bandits

What reviews said of film / Cate:

A comedy that might have made Butch and Sundance jump off a cliff.” – Lisa Schwarzbaum, EW.

Bandits” is guilty of behaving like a petty thievery corporation; it steals from so many other sources that we’re forced to realize that it has little of its own to offer. But in isolated scenes, despite its photocopy quality, ‘Bandits” has a knockabout glimmer.” – A.O. Scott, NYTimes.

Films with context of Cate’s career:

We have talked about it before on the pod, another film in those post Elizabeth years where she was trying lots of genres to distance herself from her breakout role and prove she can do different thins. Here a rom-com.

Cate Blanchett with Helen Mirren at the NBR in January 2002


Golden Globes : Nominations for Cate (Actress in a Comedy) and Thornton (Actor in a Comedy).

Screen Actors Guild: Nomination for Cate (Supporting Actress).

National Board of Review: Thornton (Best Actor also for The Man Who Wasn’t There and Monster’s Ball). When you are hot, you are hot. Thornton was at a career highs (post Sling Blade, Armageddon and A Simple Plan). Cate won NBR’s supporting actress award that year for her other 2001 movies LOTR, The Man Who Cried and The Shipping News. This this is the one movie they did not cite.

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Cate Blanchett in ‘The Man Who Cried’

Glamour! Big Acting ! An Accent! A few hallmarks of Cate Blanchett’s performances that we love are present in Sally Potter’s The Man Who Cried (2001). It’s a commanding star turn that shows Blanchett at her best, and for that the movie is a must-see for every Blanchett fan. We discuss the film and performance. Plus revisit Mrs. America and the show’s chances at the winter TV awards (Golden Globes and SAG).

Hosted by Murtada Elfadl with guest Nathaniel Rogers of The Film Experience.

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What is the film about?

From Wikipedia: A Russian Jewish girl (Christina Ricci) is separated from her father in 1927 and escapes to England, where she’s rechristened Suzie. She grows up to be a singer in a Parisian theater populated by a glamorous Russian dancer (Cate Blanchett), an egotistical Italian tenor (John Turturro) and a handsome horseman (Johnny Depp). When the Nazis invade France, however, Suzie’s life is suddenly in danger, and she attempts to flee to the United States, where her father moved years earlier.

Who does Cate play?

Lola, a glamorous Russian dancer.

How is Cate introduced?

20 minutes in as the star attraction amidst a chorus of dancers. after she finishes the dance, she winks directly at the camera and the audience.

What year did it come out?

 Premiered at Venice September 2000. US release May 2001.

Box Office: Domestic = $747K Int’l = $575K

Critical Response: Metacritic : 40 RT: 35

Topics Discussed: The Man Who Cried

  • This movie hardly made a ripple in 2001. It is one of the very few Cate performances that I have never watched until now. Very hard to find…. youtube is your friend (wink).
  • Sally Potter as a distinctly visual filmmaker.
  • One of Cate’s early roles. Does the star quality appear? Of course, in fact this is a must-see for any Cate Blanchett fan because it shows her total command and allure as a screen star.
  • NBR awarded Cate best supporting actress for 2001 body of work including this, LOTR and The Shipping News
  • Again a very physical full bodied performance – a theme we’ve talked about on this podcast. There’s a nervous energy to it though. Lola is always moving, gawky, not graceful like some of her other characterizations.
  • Memorable look; albaster skin, red cherry lipstick, very blond hair – so very noticeable
  • Cate the droll comedian, we dig deep into one scene; when telling the rules of seducing men… “without my looks I wouldn’t have gotten out of Russia.”
  • Lola is a tragic figure . We talk about how Cate makes her so with emphasis on a couple of other scenes.
  • One of a few movies that Christina Ricci headlined – what do we think of her?
  • What’s with all the brooding Johnny Depp on horseback scenes – for a while both he and Ricci are silent in their scenes together.

Film within context of Cate’s career:

2000 – 2001 was the time when the choices she made post her breakout with Elizabeth began appearing for audiences. She chose a few supporting roles; all of them very far from that monarch and one lead role in The Gift (2000); previously discussed.

What reviews said of film / Cate:

“Blanchett’s role is the dazzler: Rolling her eyes, shrugging her shoulders and flinging her long limbs about insouciantly, she’s the soul of studiously artificial glamour, whether shimmying in a trashy revue or bewitching an unwary suitor.” – Maitland McDonagh, TV Guide.

“The movie is like a series of climactic moments from a World War II mini-series strung together without the undercurrents that might build character: it’s all big moments, the world’s longest and most sincere trailer. In fact, the title character doesn’t even appear until the end of the picture. (Before that the film should be called ”The Woman Who Cries,” since Ms. Ricci’s trembling chin gets quite a workout.)

With accents heavier than the melodrama going on around them, Ms. Blanchett and Mr. Turturro add comic weight and warmth as two predators sizing each other up before they realize they’re the same species.” – A O Scott, NYTimes.

“Ironically, in the midst of all this high caloric camp, the one performer who escapes with her dignity, Cate Blanchett, does so not by underacting but by getting in full shameless touch with her miscast inner ham. As Lola, a transplanted Moscow gold-digger with a borscht thick accent and lips as glossy red as the inside of a chocolate covered cherry, Blanchett is like Mata Hari played by Gwen Stefani impersonating Veronica Lake. It’s hard to take your eyes off of acting this knowingly overripe.”Owen Gleiberman, EW

Topics Discussed: Mrs. America & miscellaneous

  • Last time we talked Mrs. America was about to be released – our thoughts on the series.
  • Cate’s performance on the show is a major career highlight. Check out our recaps of the show.
  • Awards chances for Cate and the show at the upcoming winter awards (Glden Globes and SAG).
  • Looking forward to Nightmare Alley and her collaboration with Guillermo Del Toro and Bradley Cooper.

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